Playing Mostly the Same Game for Nearly 30 Years

My wife was looking over my shoulder and asking what I was playing the other day.  I said, “EverQuest” which to the response, “The same game you were playing back when we lived in the condo?”

I had to clarify that it was EverQuest II, a subsequent title from the original, but still not all that new, having passed the 17 year mark back in November.

This made me think for a bit about how long I have been playing some of these titles and, more broadly, how long I have been playing what might be accurately a specific lineage of a sub-genre of video games.

Regular readers know that I do not play a lot of new games.  The title of the blog itself includes the word “ancient,” which was in part a reference to the fact that I was likely going to focus on titles that were not exactly new, as well as reflecting the fact that, in my early 40s, I was starting to feel a bit old.

That latter bit feels burdened with more than a bit of hubris now, viewed from the back half of my 50s.  I was literally at my peak in many ways.

Anyway, It occurred to me that conflating EverQuest and EverQuest II was not all that inaccurate.  EQII was clearly created as a response/update/continuation of the the original.

Likewise, if I am going to go for that point, then World of Warcraft could somewhat accurately be so named.  It was, after all, also built in response to EverQuest, an evolution of the game created by a team of Blizzard employees that were hard core raiders in Norrath, using the RTS IP that the company was known for as a shell in which to house their vision of how the EverQuest experience should evolved.

And, naturally, in thinking that the game that is/was EverQuest evolved through those two other titles, I felt that it must naturally have its own antecedents.  I mean, I know it does, that Norrath didn’t spring out of thin air.  It has often been pointed out the similarity between it and the Diku MUD mechanics and, more specifically, Sojourn and TorilMUD.

All text, all the time, login page from the past

EverQuest was, in many ways, directly pulled from TorilMUD, a MUD that both Brad McQuaid and I played over the years.  Some aspects of the new game were lifted wholesale from the old, and one of the aspects that drew me to the game was the interesting mix of newness… how to even describe day one EverQuest… and the scattered familiar aspects.  The races, the classes, the multiple hometowns as starting locations, and even some of the gear, were all influenced heavily by TorilMUD.

I’ve been down that path before.  There is a whole TorilMUD category here, at least 75 posts deep.

I have also covered before how long ago I started playing… that would be some time in the fall of 1993.  And TorilMUD was the only MUD I played, it was just the one that caught my attention and that I stuck with for many years.  So there were some others before that, including Gemstone on GEnie.

So, if we take it as read that all of these titles… TorilMUD to EverQuest to the EverQuest II and World of Warcraft branch… are essentially an ongoing evolution of the same basic game, then I have been playing that very same game for about half of my life, or almost 30 years.

Of course, it isn’t that simple or clean cut.  They are not literally the same game.  In fact, all four still exist, in parallel, today.  I could log into each of them if I wished.  And the games did not cease to grown and change as the newer variations appeared.  TorilMUD still gets updates and EverQuest, which will get to its 29th expansion before the end of 2022, is being updated to 64-bit server and client this month, a move necessary to ensure that it will continue to run for years to come.

And certainly EverQuest II and World of Warcraft, which were born very different titles as evolutions of EverQuest, have gone down very different paths.  The two have grown and changed in ways that have moved them even further apart as the years have passed.

Yet they still seem to be following some similar threads.  I have mentioned that EverQuest II has opted for a path that gets players to the level cap of a new expansion fairly quickly, then gives the players a lot of instanced dungeon content, including solo versions of that content, as the ongoing end game.

That seems oddly similar to WoW and the Shadowlands plan, which set brisk pace to level cap and then led players off to faction building and instanced daily content.

The two certainly feel different in style and mechanics, yet still share something in their roots and direction.

Of so it seems to me.

Addendum:  And just as an afterthought, even at times in the past 30 years where I wasn’t playing one of the four games mentioned I was most likely playing something that was very much an off-shoot of these games.

Lord of the Rings Online tried to steer a bit of a different course, but eventually found its way into more WoW-like mechanics, like the skill tree… which, oddly enough, WoW had abandoned at just about the point LOTRO jumped on that.

And then there is Rift, which was very much an attempt to out-WoW Blizzard for a bit.

Very much the same game in different guises.  But I guess that is what appeals to me, given the evidence above.

4 thoughts on “Playing Mostly the Same Game for Nearly 30 Years

  1. Jeromai

    You’re in very robust company. From back in the MUD days, I remember speaking to lots of other players who were tired of the one MUD we were playing and wanted to try another MUD, but they hard drew the line at learning a new style of MUD. It had to be variants of Smaug MUDs, period. No funky branches of the Diku tree or even worse, MUSH or MOO variants. Just wasn’t the comfortable same, old for them.

    It blew my mind then, since I was the opposite style of player. I loved bouncing around trying out different variants to see what cool spins on a similar concept people would come up with next. But folk like me were a lot fewer than the vast majority who liked what they knew and knew what they liked.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Telwyn

    I do feel about left behind by the genre- I was perfectly happy with the standards set by the heritage you outline. But then the industry didn’t make enough money or overreached or whatever and now it’s all action, all survival gankbox, all RvR, all player led emergent gameplay or whatever latest trend and good old expansive world’s with story that you can play coop are not around. Except all the old ones are but most of my gaming circle cares too much about graphics or story you don’t have to read or challenging combat for there to be a game to settle on, old or new…

    Liked by 2 people

  3. SynCaine

    I’ve always believed that basically all MMOs are fundamentally rooted in progression, and if we zoom out the definition of ‘progression’ a bit more, basically all PC games. And I think where MMOs really separate themselves is the length of that progression path, along with the fact that you can (sometimes must) do it with others.

    From that perspective we have all been playing the same core ‘game’ for many many years. I’ve played dozens of city builder sims over the years, and now before buying the next one I always pause, thinking “how is this one any different/better?”. Still usually end up buying, and enjoying the initial 20-30 hours of discovery, but the entertainment window closes faster now than 20 years go.


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