The Point Of No Returning To MMOs

I am feeling a strong urge to play Anarchy Online again, if only so I could wear suspenders and a tie

I am feeling a strong urge to play Anarchy Online again, if only so I can wear suspenders and a tie

Although I had a long on and off again relationship with Everquest for several years (1999 – 2004 to be precise), there came a point when I couldn’t go back to the game no matter how much the nostalgia bug kept pestering me. I tried, oh yeah, I tried, but at some point along the line after 2004 the mechanics, UI and gameplay of EQ just seemed too dated and archaic to satisfy me. My once favourite game that I poured hours into every day had become incredibly irritating and about as user-friendly as an early 90’s Operating System. And here’s a hint, those weren’t very user-friendly at all.

It’s not just Everquest that I’ve had this experience with either. Anarchy Online and Dark Age of Camelot were the same. I adored them when they first came out but when I briefly tried each of them again a couple of years ago, I just couldn’t get past how terrible they looked, how frustrating their UIs were and annoying the grind was. On one hand it makes me a little sad to think that I can’t just reinstall some older MMO and enjoy it like I used to but then, on the other hand, I suppose it’s perfectly normal and logical. Aside from the fact that nostalgia plays tricks on our minds, MMOs (and video games in general) are evolving every day and the mechanics we take for common place in 2010 just weren’t available 8 years ago.

But what’s the cut-off point? When does a MMORPG go from being playable and current to being a lumbering and dribbling old beast? I have to wonder because two of the MMOs I’ve being playing a lot recently (WoW and EVE) are starting to get to the point when they’re long in the tooth and I can’t help but wonder how long it will be before one day I log in and I find I just suddenly can’t stand them any more. I suppose it’s like waking up one day and finding that your prized Ferrari has turned into an old Skoda.

Of particular interest to me is Everquest 2. It’s been out for 6 years now and I haven’t played in about 2. It was a fabulous game and probably gave me the best MMO experiences I’ve had to date but it was never the most streamlined or highly optimised in terms of either PC performance or in-game design and mechanics. Lately I’ve been feeling the itch to return but I’m not sure it will feel the same as when I left. Will it have aged behind my back and turned from my most precious MMO into an ancient disaster? And if so, will that sully all of the beautiful memories I’ve got of the game?

Although MMOs can live for a long time (and possibly even forever?), there definitely comes a point when an old player just can’t go back. And I’m OK with that because, heck, it’s the way life is. All I want to do is enjoy the games when they’re current and refrain from returning years past there sell-by-date in an attempt recapture old glories. I think I’d prefer they just slowly disappeared in a graceful and dignified fashion.

-Gordon

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18 Comments

  1. Tesh says:

    Seems to me that a fair dose of that diagnosis is personal. It’ll be different for everyone as their own experience with the game might be well past the population bulge.

  2. kaozz says:

    It’s (EQ2) really evolved in the last few years and it even better than before imo, it definitely kept me around after returning. Keep in mind that the standard MMO most still use as a gauge and comparison (WoW) is the same age ;)

  3. Naithin says:

    While true that WoW and EQ2 are the same age, I think WoW has done a better job of keeping itself ‘modern’ in respect to customer expectations. (Whether this is a good or bad thing is another debate entirely though.)

    That said, I do like EQ2. It has a more classic appeal that a lot of the current age themepark MMOs just don’t have. If you asked me to be more specific on this, it’d probably be quite difficult.. But in a general sense EQ2’s world felt more a ‘world’ and less a, ’series of places in which to do preset tasks’.

    THAT said, I’ve put more hours into and enjoyed more of WoW than I have of EQ2 to date. But a very wide margin.

    As to Gordon’s discussion though; I know exactly what he’s talking about. For me this game is Asheron’s Call 1. I loved this game. Played it for years from beta into retail, then on and off for years beyond. Then my off patches grew longer and longer. From a few months to a year or two, although I was still enjoying it when I did go back.. Then within the last 2ish years, I’ve gone back on a few occasions, and just… felt nothing. Well, nothing good, in any case. Well.. Not MUCH good. There was of course some nostalgia value, but the actual gameplay and controls.. Ugh.

    I couldn’t do it. As much as I loved the game, I don’t any more.

  4. Well said.

    I have the same with World of Warcraft. Although I have lots of friends still playing the game, and I still read a lot about it and stuff, I just can’t find myself returning to the game.

    It was great, I had a lot of good times there, but resubscribing again? No not going to happen. Not even Cataclysm can change that. The last couple of times I resubscribed (after WotLK) I had fun for about a week, and then this feeling of ‘This is not the game I grew up in’ crept upon me. And when that happens, it usually doesn’t take long for me to loose interest :) .

  5. Rhii says:

    WoW is my first MMO (never had an internet connection stable enough to play one before college), so I can’t answer your question directly.

    What I can say, is that this doesn’t seem to apply to me and old console games. I can’t stand to go back and play an old console game I NEVER played when it was new. For example, Final Fantasy VII, which by all accounts was amazing at the time is a ugly boring slow paced old mule to me, since I was an N64 girl. However, things I did play when they were new, like LoZ: Ocarina of Time, I can go back to and play over and over with the same degree of fascination I had the first time.

    I’m fairly certain this is not limited to me, because my boyfriend (a Playstation kid) reports the exact opposite. He will spend hours reliving the PS1 FF titles, but he couldn’t get out of the Kokiri forest because he said OoT was too ugly.

    I wonder why consoles and MMOs seem reversed when it comes to the nostalgia reaction? Or maybe the boyfriend and I are just odd when it comes to console games?

    • Gordon says:

      I pretty much can’t go back to any old game, console or PC. I know some people who will reinstall and replay PC games that are 10+ years old but I just can’t bring myself to do it. Maybe I’m just a gaming snob :)

  6. Stabs says:

    At the moment WoW and Eve are still state of the art. I can’t think of a single major MMO feature that isn’t done in one or the other except player housing. And done just as well as any one else can do it.

    EQ and AO feel old because there are much better modern alternatives. It’s horrible to have to battle an ancient UI that lacks what are now standard features.

    Point me to a game that has graphics or UI that make WoW and Eve look out-moded. I really don’t think there is one.

    • Gordon says:

      EVE has definitely done a lot of work to keep itself contemporary including overhauling the graphics and UI. Although EQ had a graphics overhaul in 2001 it hasn’t had anything since and that’s probably one of the reasons why it’s looking so dated now. AO is meant to be getting a new graphics engine (no date) yet so we’ll see what it’s like when it happens. EQ and AO are certainly games I would be more tempted to check out again if they had updated UIs, controls and graphics becaue their core gameplay was always solid.

  7. What’s the point of no return for me? I’m going to sound really shallow here, but for me a big part of it has to do with graphics. I’m a very visually oriented person, so when things start to look a little too outdated for my tastes, it gets a little hard for me to focus. I’d try as hard as I could to get past that to the meat of the gameplay, but in the end I’ll just be too distracted.

    There are exceptions to this though, for the games I really love, the ones that gave me good memories and warm fuzzy feelings when I first played it. They’re all non-MMO games though, I don’t think I have been playing MMOs long enough for me to feel nostalgic about any of them yet :P

    • Gordon says:

      I’m with you on the graphics although the UI and controls are probably a bigger factor for me. I need my mouse look and move and camera controls with zoom scrolling etc, I just can’t play a MMO without that now! The poor UI and controls are probably the biggest reasons why I gave up so quickly on my retrun session to AO last year.

  8. Mickey says:

    There’s also the novelty factor, those little things that keep the game fresh. After some point these unique features become old news and we look for the next amazing thing. This applies to either console or MMO titles, but more pronounced in the former because it’s a static product. At least MMOs can come out with expansions and updates to draw you back in, thinking “Wow, I’d better try that.”

  9. Shadow War says:

    It’s interesting (to me) that you mention EVE as getting long in the tooth. It’s one game that I’ve recently really been getting into. I never really played it in the past, and my dive into the game of recent has been a crazy fun and new experience, so vastly different from what I’ve been playing. The potential is there for almost anything, and the developer is just proving itself time after time in terms of quality and development.

    • Gordon says:

      I have to take my hat off to CCP for how they’ve grown and matured EVE and kept it so contemporary. Even though it is an old game, it still feels very modern and timeless. A lot of that is due to the fact that the developers keep updating the graphics and also because the player base is growing, not shrinking like other older MMOs.

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