What do you do with Your Old Worlds?

One of the attractions of MMORPGs… and MUDs before them… and role playing games before that I suppose… has always been, for me, that when you make progress, you keep that progress.  Unlike, say, an RTS where every game starts you over at the beginning, you get to pick up where you left off and carry on.

Not always obviously.  I can tell you about losing levels on deaths and other horrors that came out of the 90s.  But for the most part when you made some progress, accumulated a bit more wealth, got that next piece of gear, it was an accumulation that added up over time.

It is why wise developers are very hesitant about purging the player database.  Would I be interested in playing EverQuest II if I didn’t have 18 years of this and that piled up on various characters?  Perhaps not… and all the less likely if I had stuff that got taken away.

Anyway, that is all well covered ground, part and parcel of the sunk cost fallacy that keeps many of us going back to the same old MMORPGs.

But in the last decade or so we have had some games that are MMO-like, titles like Minecraft and Valheim, where you get your own persistent world.  You can share it with your friends and play together and still get that MMO feeling, on a smaller scale, with the progress fix that keeps us going.

But the small scale of those worlds, the limited groups we venture into them with, mean that they are also more disposable.  Sometimes we like to start again fresh.  That can be fun.

And sometimes we have to start over again because the games in question add new content which cannot be accessed unless you start over with a fresh world.  That can be okay too.  I started fiddling around with Minecraft a bit on my lunches because of The Wild update that hit last week.  And, of course, we re-started out adventures in Valheim again to try some of the new things that were added since we left off a year ago.

But then we are left with the old worlds, the places where our efforts went, where our progress gets left behind, where to monuments to our creative time wasting linger while we go on to newer versions of the world and the game.

And, again, sometimes that it fine.  Sometimes we don’t have all that much invested.  Sometimes there wasn’t anything special or meaningful completed.  But sometimes there was.  I tend to think of Skronk and Ula and the Italian town they built in the big Minecraft world we played in for several years.

The work of Skronk and Ula

And that is just one of the highlights.  Other people constructed amazing machines or giant monuments across the land.  Even I spent ages building kilometers of roadways and minecart tracks, bother overland and in the nether.

We move on because we want to see the new content, but I always wonder what to do with the old worlds.  I have backups of a few Minecraft worlds and our original Valheim world.  I hate to delete them.  But I always have trouble letting go of things like that… sunk cost fallacy again, the thing that keeps me playing MMORPGs.

9 thoughts on “What do you do with Your Old Worlds?

  1. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @PCRedbeard – I have campaigns I put together that were never run still the bottom drawer of a dresser that is in the closet of my home office. I went 20 years past the last campaign I was involved with before I stopped buying rule books and modules just to pretend I might play.

    But I also have no illusions about ever running/using/playing any of them either. On the other hand, out big Minecraft world… it is 29GB thanks to our wide ranging explorations and Notch’s idea of using the file system as a database… I can log into that today if I want and go ride a minecart around to see all we’ve done.

    So I see the parallel, but I also see a difference.

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  2. PCRedbeard

    I suppose there’s a visual difference involved, but I can see clearly via the mind’s eye the game worlds I visited in the past. The dungeons and wilderness that I plotted out for people to discover are still around, and when I look at the sheets and graphs I’m transported back to that time. Just like how when I pull out my old MERP stuff –which I did for an upcoming post– I feel 30 years younger, DMing a campaign for people who have never experienced RPGs before and for whom this became their first step into a lifetime of gaming.

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  3. Jeromai

    Interesting question – my background was a MUD that purged player characters after a month or so, if not logged in regularly, and I hung around and clung to it way longer than I should have due to sunk cost. I finally got around that by making text logs (the equivalent of screenshotting memories in graphical games) for myself to keep for posterity as memory prompts and said my final goodbyes. In the decades since, I’ve only referred back to it twice or thrice, but I still enjoy the preservation of those memories of that time.

    Ironically, a few days ago, I rage-deleted some Don’t Starve Together worlds I was soloing in, and might be on the brink of doing so to a Minecraft Farming Valley mod world. The common factor seems to be having the world be effed up beyond recognition and loss of progress due to monster activity. Don’t Starve Giants had come in and wrecked a good portion of my base; and I’d just had a sequence of consecutive creeper attacks blowing up all my Minecraft chests. Faced with the prospective of picking up so many things, cleaning up and sorting and rebuilding, it’s more attractive to wipe things clean and start with a fresh blank slate.

    For less attacked worlds, I tend to just keep them around on the hard disk, but recognize that I’m rarely going to go back in and seriously restart play. I might pop in to just fly around idly and see what was built once, but it’s hard to remember what was done and restart in media res. A lot of Terraria worlds share that fate. I go in, see a castle/tower base full of chests stuffed with things, an arena here and there, blank out on what else I could be doing and log back out. Easier to generate a new world.

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  4. evehermit

    @PCRedbeard – I was a teenager when I was introduced to MERP. I never had the money to buy much of the material back then. I’ve been collecting it via E-Bay for more than a decade now. I would have spent thousands – but I don’t expect I will use it in a game. It is meaningful just to have it. I still have all my table top RPG character sheets…

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  5. PCRedbeard

    @evehermit–
    I’m still amazed at the love and dedication the ICE team did when they created all of those splatbooks. Sure, the system kind of breaks down at really high levels, but the material is frankly quite amazing.

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  6. Mailvaltar

    @Wilhelm – Replying to this
    “But I also have no illusions about ever running/using/playing any of them either.”

    Don’t be too sure / too pessimistic. I hadn’t played a Pen&Paper campaign in over 20 years despite always wanting to, but a few months back a friend of mine decided out of the blue to start a new D&D 5E campaign, so I’m finally playing again.

    Of course a new campaign isn’t quite the same as playing in an old world as described by you. On the other hand, it’s located in the Forgotten Realms once more, so it kind of is after all.

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  7. Pallais

    I mostly kept a few pen and paper rulebooks, character sheets, and the little bit of world building I did. As far as computer games go, I really didn’t save much that was multiplayer, other than some group Diablo 2 characters and (possibly — I’d have to look) a tiny Neverwinter Nights module I tried to create.

    Mostly I saved my single player save files with the thought of revisiting things. The idea of being a tourist with a ‘completed’ character was appealing. At least, for those games that supported it. I have at least one game series where it was worth saving things as you got additional unlocks if you played through the game the second time around (No One Lives Forever).

    I also kept a few save files from Morrowind that my late wife was working on. She loved the Elder Scrolls series and had just started playing when we got the news about her condition. She never completed the game as she decided to focus on tangible things she could leave us in the time that remained. When I eventually gave away/got rid of her old computers I kept some of the files as a bit of a memorial. They are there, frozen in time, as a tribute to something she enjoyed. (Yeah, it’s weird, but in those days of grief I wasn’t always firing on all cylinders mentally.)

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