I was in Middle-earth last night, finishing up some crafting and generally shuffling things around between characters when I got a whisper…
I just downloaded and installed this today, you mind if I talk to you for a minute?
Oh, that is always a dangerous question. I’ve gotten that whisper before and it can mean anything from simple directions to the bank to a full on thesis-defense level of dissection of the MMORPG genre as a whole.
Still, I try to be helpful and social, so I said sure.
The question lay somewhere between the two extreme, but was one I knew well enough, at least in spirit.
I’ve been looking for an MMO similar to EverQuest in the sense that it requires grouping for success and promotes reliance on other players.
Would you say that LOTRO is like that?
Of course, I knew exactly what he meant.
He didn’t mean EverQuest today, or even EverQuest five years back. He wanted to know if this was going to revive the feeling that EverQuest gave back in the early days.
And as much as I am enjoying LOTRO now, I had to say that no, it wasn’t going to give that experience.
There are plenty of group quests and instances and skirmishes, but it is nowhere close to that dread you felt venturing into East Karana and seeing all that stuff between you and where you needed to go and wishing you had brought some friends along. And then, finally getting some people together and tearing your way through the place… or getting killed and having to coordinate that corpse run.
He also wanted to know if the people in LOTRO were more social. He’d been playing WoW and was tired of the general playing alone together feeling.
On that front I could be a little more positive. Certainly, relative to WoW, the social atmosphere is better in LOTRO, even with the influx of new players with the F2P conversion. In fact, the LFF channel seems to be quite busy with people looking to do things as a group. And not every question on the Advice channel is about where one can get a horse. Only most of the questions.
We chatted a little bit more. We had both played EverQuest on day one.
He was of the opinion that EverQuest started heading down hill with the Velious expansion.
Me, I’ve always felt that maybe Kurnak was a mistake. That started the change in the center of gravity of the game.
Then again I played TorilMUD on and off for 15 years, and they never had a single increase in the level cap. They just kept adding on harder zones to keep the higher end players happy.
But they weren’t worried about retaining subscribers.
I wished him luck in finding what he was looking for in Middle-earth. It is as good a place as any these days, and better than most in my opinion. It is a place where you feel there is a “there” there.
But it is not EverQuest… not EverQuest as it lives in the hearts and minds of those who played back in the day.
People trot out lists and plans on how to recapture the way things were back in March of 1999, when EverQuest came out. But I don’t think we can get there again.
The problem is that it wasn’t the game alone that made EverQuest what it was. It was the point in time at which it arrived on the scene. It hit at what must have been the exact right moment, and it was successful beyond the dreams of the team that made it.
And anybody who wanted to play a game like that didn’t have too many choices. EverQuest was the place to be.
Now though… now when autumn comes and I get that urge to revisit old Norrath, to see the sites of past adventures, and I wander through the barren lands that once seemed crowded with adventurers, I know there is really no going back to that sort of game with that sort of budget and support.
The weather is turning… even here in California… the leaves will start to change color… and some weekend when there is a bit of chill in the air I’ll go watch Sayonara Norrath again and get all nostalgic and resubscribe for a month and visit the lands again and wonder where all the adventure went.