Will Nostalgia Be Solely the Domain of EverQuest?

The discussion of problems in the Progression server area of the EverQuest forums generally falls into two categories; specific issues and general issues.

Specific issues are things you probably expect.  A given NPC isn’t spawning or doesn’t drop the right item.  A specific quest is broken.  (Or in the case of the newbie armor quests, a whole bunch were broken.)  The Station Cash store is selling things that shouldn’t really be available.

These threads are generally not that interesting, unless the issue in question affects your play.

And then there are the general issues, which often boil down to “people are jerks.” (Which, I think is necessary for the authentic EverQuest experience.)  I find these much more interesting.  The topics can range from hacking to player behavior to the rate at which the various expansions are unlocked.  There was a good one started recently.

These threads bring out the various faction, which include those who want a server locked in time at some past expansion (though which expansion is always up for debate), those who see the whole thing as a race to be first to slay the key bosses and get geared up, and those who just want a taste of the “good old days,” along with various views in between.

And in those discussions, one of the points often brought up is what people think SOE should do for the NEXT round of progression servers.  People seem quite confident that there will be a next round.

This is because SOE seems to be quite happy playing the nostalgia card when it comes to EverQuest.

The path to nostalgia is paved with old textures

SOE plays up every anniversary.  They used the “hardcore heritage” as part of their marketing in the Living Legacy campaign.  And they have seen fit to roll up special servers in the past.  Fippy Darkpaw and Vulak are the second round of progression servers, the first being The Combine and The Sleeper, which showed up back in 2006.  And then there was that 51/50 server back in 2009.

Does any other company play the nostalgia card as vigorously as SOE does with EverQuest?

Yes, some games note the passing of anniversaries.  And there is a always a “come back and play” promotion going on for one MMO or another at any given moment of time.  But that seems to pale in comparison to the lengths to which the EverQuest Live team goes.

Then again, I think EverQuest might be in a unique spot when it comes to playing that card, and not just because it is old.  WoW is as old now as when EQ was when the first progression servers were kicked off.

EverQuest has all of those expansions, with 18 to date in its 13 year life.  While the expansion train started off slowly, it took a year to get to Kunark, after that SOE was dropping two expansions a year for quite a stretch, each with its own additions to the world of Norrath.  Every single one of those added zones to the game, and quite a few added levels or classes or races new game mechanics or some other change to the game.

At the time SOE seemed obsessed with getting out two expansions a year whether they worked or not.  Broken content certainly plagued them and caused problems in the community.  It wasn’t until WoW came along with its more stately expansion pace that SOE seemed to get the idea that less quantity and more quality might be a better plan.  And even then the pace was still one expansion a year.

In hindsight though, this crazy pace of expansions set EverQuest up nicely for the whole nostalgia/progression server role.  Each expansion was sold separately and required purchase to access the content.  So the game has 19 built-in layers of content, including classic, that can be opened up, each of which expands the world.

Which makes me wonder if anybody else could even pull off this sort of progression style server.

Is there an MMO out there that should be playing the nostalgia card?

Ultima Online and Dark Age of Camelot both seem ripe for the nostalgia treatment, if only EA were willing.  Have they done anything along that line?

EVE Online, with its single server and ongoing quality of life improvements, seems to have excluded itself from nostalgia.  Or does somebody really want to go back to the days before “warp to 0?” (I know somebody does.)

Blizzard seems to see World of Warcraft only as a going and growing concern, despite some subscription setbacks, and has no plans for nostalgia.  Plus they went and killed all the original content with Cataclysm, so setting up something like a classic server would take a lot more than just turning off the expansions.

EverQuest II is also getting old enough for nostalgia, but I think SOE will leave that card for its older brother.  EverQuest II’s role in the world seems to be to push the player tolerance envelope for ugly mounts.

Lord of the Rings Online… might be too young yet.  And how different would a server feel with Moria and beyond turned off?  Maybe if I had gotten further in the game I could answer that.

And even if these games rolled a server based on original content, it would likely have to follow constraints similar to those that SOE faced with EverQuest.  You might be able to play in the old world, but you would likely have to do so with class abilities from the current version of the game.

So what do you think about nostalgia focused MMO servers?

Who else should be playing the nostalgia card?

And is anybody in as good a position to do so as SOE is with EverQuest?

8 thoughts on “Will Nostalgia Be Solely the Domain of EverQuest?

  1. Dril

    I’m not sure; on LOTRO, whilst I would *love* to play it as it was back in the day, I’m not sure that it would be what Turbine want. How would the CS fit in, for instance? Would they make it so that only VIPs could access the server, but have no CS on it?

    I honestly think WoW would really benefit from time-locked servers (or progression servers, but time-locked would suit the older expansions better). The turnover of players must be extraordinary. and I’d bet there’s many bittervets who would love to see Silithus, Shadowmoon or, hell, even Storm Peaks in their original glory (I know I’d play on a Wrath locked server, even if it was a post-ToC one). And, let’s face it, if Blizzard wanted to they could easily create four teams to update all the different versions with new content that sticks to the design philosophy of the expansion, and they could probably do it quicker than the current single team does.

    Perhaps A Tale in the Desert? I know they had epochs or something like that, although fragmenting the playerbase seems daft.

    Still, I wonder if people looking for classic WoW-esque surrogate might be sated by Vanguard’s F2P transition.

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  2. stnylan

    My gut feeling is that LOTRO wouldn’t work as a progression/time-locked server. I mean, the idea is to follow the fellowship … starting over again doesn’t click (for me).

    WoW I think could very easily go back to Wrath. Wrath felt like it was pretty much a whole game. Right at the low-levels in the vanilla content the Lich King lurked and influenced Azeroth. Wrath took us out there and made that storyline complete. Cataclysm was a massive change (I un-subscribed beforehand largely because of the wiping away of old Azeroth and have never had any desire to go back). Likewise a progression from vanilla to Wrath would make sense.

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  3. Machination

    I dunno, I feel like there’d be a significant interest in a “Vanilla WoW” server hosted by Blizzard. Still, Blizzard has Titan — it’s important to slow the leak of subscribers, but it’s really not that big of a deal.

    If they had the inclination to do so, I’m sure a vanilla nostalgia server would be well-received. Many people look fondly back to this experience.

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  4. Telwyn

    I suspect Blizzard wouldn’t want to risk the PR blunder of a massively popular progression or time-locked server, it’d validate the failure that was Cataclysm in a very visible way. Besides, despite nostalgia I wouldn’t want to start again on a vanilla server or even a TBC server – I’ve done my journey in Azeroth, with the crowded market now there’s too many other world’s to explore (Tyria ho!).

    “EverQuest II’s role in the world seems to be to push the player tolerance envelope for ugly mounts.” I laughed at this one, great line!

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  5. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    I suspect with WoW that Blizzard is aware of the idea, but feels that it is not something they need at this time.

    But the dynamics would be interesting. SOE had to open a second progression server with each round because of crowding. That is for a game that peaked at 450K players eight years ago.

    The non-Asian player base for WoW peaked beyond the 4.5 million mark. How many nostalgia based servers would Blizzard need to spin up in order to handle the load?

    And they could really stoke the fires if they played up the competitive aspect by putting up a “Server First” score board for each server for every instance and raid. Heck, they could start a competitive server like that today and it would be a rush to get on board.

    Personally, I would be happy with something simpler, like a “hard mode” server where everything outside of the starter zone is a group quest and mobs at that point are all elites. They would have to make sure that all the quests work as group quests (which they mostly do at this point), tinker with the exp rate, and extend dungeon finder to be a group finder as well. But imagine an Azeroth where you dare not roam without your group.

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  6. bhagpuss

    Beats me why the big MMO houses aren’t designing this in from the start. Maybe they are. It seems like such an obvious way to make more money.

    What’s the argument against doing it? I can’t see that having time-locked or progression servers would cannibalize your existing playerbase. If they’re already playing, do you care which server they’re playing on? Most of them will only play on the old-school server for a month or three anyway, then they’ll be off back to their high-level characters on the regular servers. No-one who was already giving you money is going to *stop* giving you money because you opened a Time-Locked server.

    So you keep all your current players but you get a big surge of nostalgists. You have all the email addresses of everyone who ever gave you money so you invite them back to give you some more and some of them take you up on it. Now you have more people giving you money than you did before.

    And the best part is, provided you were organized and planned to do this from the start, it’s cost you nothing more than the extra hardware, a few more CS people and whatever it cost you along the way to make sure the old version of the game still runs on current versions of Windows etc.

    Of course if you never kept the old code untainted and discrete from your five-plus years of “improvements” and just have the one current iteration, then it might cost more to retrofit than you stand to make out of it. Although looking at the Everquest example, probably not.

    As far as WoW goes, I can only assume Blizzard think they have enough money. I can’t see but that it would make them a second fortune to stack on top of the first. I have no nostalgia for 2005 WoW but I’d play on a reasonably accurate retro server like a shot. I’d love to know what it was like. I think they’d not only get millions of former players but plenty of new starters too.

    Like you, I don’t think all that many MMOs could offer a different enough experience to bring in the crowds. DAoC certainly could. I am amazed they haven’t tried it. I just posted something about Runescape today and they already did it officially with a Classic server option a while back and their playerbase is doing its own version with a Project 1999 style thing to which well over 100k people have already signed up. FFXI has enough expansions to do it. Not sure who else…

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  7. Richar

    I find that even though SOE has the progression servers with EQ, it still doesn’t have the old EQ feel. It still has the current changes and implementations. I have turned my nostalgia to something that can actually give me the nostalgia feel along with my first experience.

    Shards of Dalaya is a EQ emulation server with it very own custom content. So you can experience getting lost in Qeynos all over again. If anyone is interested http://www.shardsofdalaya.com/?referrer=richar

    I feel even with progression servers, EQ has changed too much. It tried to evolve the game into something it wasn’t. I thought that was what EQ2 was for

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  8. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @Richar – We had a discussion about Shards of Dalaya here in the past.

    For the most part, I would prefer to play on an officially sanctioned server as opposed to a private/pirate/gray server. (Choose your term.) And since SOE hasn’t upgraded the graphics for Qeynos and the Karanas areas, it has enough of the old feel to it for me.

    I am not really after a perfect reproduction, but a reminder of what it was like back in the day. For me, the progression servers were good enough.

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