“The legendary learning curves of yesterday’s MMOs have been severely smoothed in the post-World of Warcraft era….”
So begins an intriguing article by Sean Kavanagh on a new player’s perspective while playing an older mmo detailed in the September/October edition of Beckett’s Massive Online Gamer magazine. I’m not going to spoil the article for you guys, but suffice it to say that Kavanagh’s premise that gamers can actually enjoy a classic mmo experience (in his case adventuring through 1999’s Asheron’s Call) is a valid one.
I found this article interesting because I have come to the same conclusion playing Dark Age of Camelot, a game which along with Ultima Online and Everquest, is probably as classic in the mmo genre as you’re likely to get without going as far back as the graphical MUD days in which some of the conventions now associated with the genre were not yet invented.
The interesting thing is that I myself rolled a toon in AC not too long ago, only in my case it wasn’t a low population that turned me off the game, but I just could not get used to the graphics. As Kavanagh points out in his piece, a game like Asheron’s Call is no match visually for a modern mmo theme park like RIFT, but if you can get past the limitations of playing in a world whose graphic engine hasn’t been updated for several years, you can get some excitement out of the unique features the game has to offer. I experienced one of those features right off the bat on my first night adventuring through the game’s open ended world.
I was befriended by a long time player who agreed to be my patron and I bound allegiance to his character. This was a cool thing, but I must admit to having been perplexed by the myriad of buffs, spells and gear I was given in order to advance my noobish character. Even with the extra help, I just could not stomach those ancient graphics, Dark Age of Camelot has been an entirely different story.
That is not to say that there aren’t some things which newer MMOs have taken from a game like AC and improved upon. The interface isn’t as polished, for example, and it is true that the learning curve for this game is higher than other games, but someone willing to put in the time can get much enjoyment out of it. Turbine still updates the game and continues to manage it along with its newer properties like Dungeons and Dragons Online.
As far as DAoC is concerned, playing it has left me astounded in regards to how many of the conventions now taken for granted by players in a game like wow were present in this game: flying from zone to zone, trading items between characters, etc. etc. I like DAoC’s combat mechanics better than wow’s myself, with the familiar D&D phrasing (“You hit the rat for 10 points of damage”) refreshingly intact.
I can’t really say if some of these conventions were in place in DAoC prior to their adoption by modern games like wow because I wasn’t playing DAoC back in the day and warcraft was one of the first truly modern mmos I tried, so maybe some of you mmo veterans can help me out. I know DAoC predates wow by at least 3 years, but there have been expansions along the way. It’s really a question of the chicken and the egg: which game adopted which convention from which.
No matter, if you feel like trying an old mmo like Asheron’s Call or DAoC I say more power to you, you will find there are those along the way who are willing to help. The games may have seen more popular days, but it’s refreshing to see players come back to them and it’s good to have them around as alternatives to the more modern games.