Category Archives: Misc MMOs

A Glimpse of Anarchy

I wrote my 2018 MMO outlook post a few days in advance, as I tend to do with those sorts of end-of-year posts.  They lend themselves to stewing in the drafts folder for a while.  I think I only had 5 choices on the first draft.

So I had already been thinking about those titles for a bit, enough so that when I was sitting around on New Years Day I decided to poke my nose into one of them, a day before the post even went live.  I picked Anarchy Online for my pre-post peek, a game which has since stayed near the top of the poll results.

Anarchy Online is Loading…

I went to the web site for the game, made an account, downloaded the client, and got stuck into things.

As a pre-WoW MMORPG outside of the fantasy genre, I really wasn’t sure what to expect.  I can’t even recall having ever seen a screen shot from the game before I logged in.  And back in 2001 the conventions for even the simplest things… like how hot bars ought to work… were not yet set in stone.

Still, the first steps seemed familiar, as character creation hasn’t changed too much since A Bard’s Tale back in the 80s.  First up was race… or I guess breed in the case of AO.

Can I achieve best of breed?

I opted for the Solitus… the ones on the right… simply because they were the most human looking of the choices.  The others struck me as bordering on space elves, save for the space troll on the other end.

Then there was the bit of character customization.

Where I make myself look like a space elf anyway

That is some old school level of polygon count right there.  I think my head has as many facets as that old marmot model in WoW… which is still in game.

Then game the tough choice, that of which vocation to follow.  In fantasy your classes tend to shake out into three or four standard categories.  But what can one say of the future when the possibilities are limited only to the imagination?  And there was quite a list from which to choose.

Which path will you choose?

I could probably guess well enough at what a Trader or a Soldier or a Martial Artist or a Doctor might do, and even a Shade, or an Enforcer, or an Engineer hinted at what they might hold in store, but what is the Metaphysicist play style like, how does a Bureaucrat gain levels, and what is it that a Keeper keeps?

So I tabbed out and used Google to search on the best class for a new player and got Adventurer as the top result, so I went with that.

In search of adventure!

The description seemed to paint it as the jack of all trades class, so why not.  From there it was just a matter of giving my character a name and getting into the world.

With a game this old though, one expects that getting a reasonable name might be a chore, and doubly so when the game has had a free to play option for so long.  So I decided to let the name generator come up with some options for me.  Let it do the work.

The first name it rolled up was Sammy, which seemed suspiciously likely to have been taken.  But still, it was offering it to me, why not take it.

You will not be Sammy

However, when I tried to take the name it popped a window saying that the name have already been taken or was reserved.

I gave it another try, just in case that was a one-off error.  This time it threw up Bred as an option and, not unlike that time I threw up bread after a party, the results were not the best.

Nor will you be Bred

A pity, thinking that being Bred after choosing my breed was amusing.  Anyway, a couple more tries made it clear that the name generator does not in any way vet the availability of names it offers up, making its utility for a game of this age somewhat dubious.

So I put in one of my standard names, Tistann, which was accepted right away.  Go me.  Then it was off to my new life in the off world colonies on Rubi-Ka.

Behold the many splendors of Rubi-Ka

That splash screen belies what came next.  Rather than a glorious future on a modern new planet I was transported back nearly 20 years in time when polygon counts were low, UI design consisted of throwing windows about at random, and 1024×768 was deemed a large enough screen resolution for anybody’s needs.

Seriously, I went into the settings and told it how large my screen was and turned up all the other settings… or both of the other settings really.

No, I have a BIG screen… well, big for 2001…

But as you can see, all the screen shots are 1024×768 and the world is dark, grim, and full of the sharp edges of polygons.  Welcome to history.

Meanwhile, there wasn’t much of a tutorial.

Shift plus Click equals?

That is about all I saw, and I couldn’t get it to do anything, so I was left to the occasional pop-up tip and my own imagination as to how to proceed.

Of course, the first thing I had to do was figure out how to take screen shots.

Ironically, my first screen shot

And then I had to figure out where the game actually stored them, which was a bit more challenging.

I pottered around a bit with the UI.  I like that you can move almost every piece of it at need, though it does seem crowded in that resolution.  Still, it is better than 1999 EverQuest with its little square window view of the world in the middle of the UI.

I tried equipping the two melee weapons in my inventory and then attacking one of the many malfunctioning cleaning robots in the area, the obvious newbie fodder, but that did not go well and I died.

I then swapped to the two pistols they gave me and plinked away at a cleaning robot at range, which went better.  It was still a near run thing, but I lived and managed my first kill.  Something seemed amiss though, so I started digging through the skills.  This does seem to be a skill based game and there are lots of skills.

Skills to pay the bills… and kill the mobs…

I put points into ranged weapons and some defensive items.  I wasn’t sure how useful some skills would be, but I had a lot of skill points, so why not spend them?

Ducking explosions and thrown objects seems like an odd combo

With some shooting skill I was able to shoot up malfunctioning cleaning robots with abandon, boosting myself up quickly to level two.  I moved on a bit and took out a few more and a garbage flea, which got me up to level three.  High on that success I went after bigger game.

My attempts to take on the Cleanmeister Intelligence Robot… is that a named boss NPC… however did not go well.

The war on automation continues

I pulled back and the Cleanmeister let me go.  I settled down to rest and heal in the time honored tradition of the era, only to walk away from my desk then come back to find another garbage flea, no doubt avenging a fallen comrade, had slain me.  Oh well.

That was enough of a preview, so I logged out. (Though I did go back in later to take a few of these screen shots.)  While the summary sounds like I spent about five minutes with the game, that all transpired over the course of a few hours.

It was an interesting glimpse back into the past and, while I am sure Funcom has updated a lot since the game launched, it still feels very much like a game of its era.

At this point I am not saying that Anarchy Online will be my eventual pick to play seriously for a at least a month later this year, but I wouldn’t rule it out either.

Meanwhile, if you want to read about another game from my list, Jeromai has an excellent post up about a return to A Tale in the Desert.  Another game that looks to be still a part of the time from which it came.

My 2018 MMO Outlook – Mining for Old Gold

Here we are again, a common refrain at the top of these annual posts, but what else have I got going for me?  This will at least be the last of the annual posts for quite a while.

Last month I posted my review of my annual MMO outlook and found that I had played nothing on the list.  That was in part because most of the list didn’t ship, but also because I just reverted to the mean and played what I always play, which is WoW, EQII, and EVE.

So this year I am going to eschew the looking forward aspect of my annual post.  Let’s face it, there isn’t that much coming that both interests me AND is likely to ship in 2018.

I am going to, here at the start of the new year, buckle down and commit to playing a new MMO in 2018, but only one that is new to me.  There are plenty of old MMORPGs still knocking around, classics of the genre, storied in their time, that I have never touched.

I will spend at least a month playing one of these titles seriously and blogging about it, because that it the point of the exercise to a certain extent, so that old timers can come by and mock my ignorance and tell me how things were back in the good old days and all of that.

So here is the list I am mulling over with some pros and cons as I see them from the outside.  Each game has some minor claim to fame in my mind, has come up occasionally, and is more than ten years old.

1RuneScape

A re-tread from my last year’s list and a bit of a cheat since I have actually spent a few minutes playing this.  But it is an old title, having launched back in 2001

Pros:  I have, in fact, tried it so know that I can get it running, create a character, and play.

Cons: Was not in love with the camera and controls.  Also, as it has been modernized so much that I wonder if I should go play the “old school” version of it.

2 – Ultima Online

Hard to leave this one off the list seeing that it was the first of the big wave of popular titles in the MMORPG genre.

Pros: Really getting to the old school thing, might be a free to play option soon.

Cons: Isometric, third party camera view always seemed odd to me in screen shots.  Might indirectly lead me into giving money to EA.

3 – Dark Age of Camelot

I had some friends who left EverQuest back in the day and found it a pretty decent time.  At that point I was living in a house with spotty internet at best so wasn’t keen to invest in it.  But now connectivity is no problem.

Pros:  It was supposed to take the “suck” out of MMORPGs and also has some sort of free plan.

Cons: It is really a realm vs. realm sort of game as I understand it.  Am I ready for old school PvP?  Also, as above, some of this money goes to EA, which does not please me.

4 – Anarchy Online

The original MMO launch disaster movie and one of the early free to play titles by necessity.

Pros: It is one on the list that isn’t fantasy based and Funcom is talking about rolling a new server.

Cons: The stories about it might be true and most MMORPGs are fantasy for a reason.

5 – Silkroad Online

Token Asian MMORPG?  There were some people in an old guild that went off to play it and reported having a decent time.  It is old-ish, and still around.

Pros:  7th century Chinese theme, a bit different, free to play, and has survived this long.

Cons: PvP-centric, grindy to get you to pay, everything else on this list has survived even longer, and I might be thinking of a different game when it comes to where those old guild mates went.

6 – Maple Story

Why wouldn’t I put a 2D side scrolling MMORPG on the list?  Another one of those “been around for freakin’ ever” titles that I have never tried.

Pros: Low system requirements… hell, there was a single player Facebook version of the game at one point… free and it has lasted this long.

Cons: Browser based 2D side scrolling MMORPG might be warning enough, right?

7 – Entopia Universe

Unbridled virtual capitalism where some guy bought a moon and then resold it and because rich or something… the details are kind of vague.

Pros: Very much free, storied, and still around.

Cons: Very much designed to make you spend money and I am not sure what the real objective of the game is besides the Burnsian “make more money!”

8 – A Tale in the Desert

A non-combat, social MMO that resets to a new “telling” of the tale every so often, one of those games that gets mentions a lot but rarely by anybody actually playing it.

Pros: The first 24 hours are free.

Cons: Social might be a problem for me going in solo, especially since the current “telling” has been going on for over two year now, so I might feel late to the party.  Also, after the first 24 hours you have to subscribe.

So that is a list of eight possibilities.  I won’t be jumping straight into any of them.  This will likely be a spring-to-summer sort of event.  That means if I am missing some vital option from the list you can chime in via comments or the poll below using the “other” field.  Otherwise take a moment to pick which one of the above might be the most worthwhile venture.

If there isn’t a poll above this line AdBlock may have eaten it.  It happens.

I won’t say I’ll follow the will of the respondents, but if one title seems to be leading the pack substantially I will give that some weight.  Also, a bit of trivia; I had previously made tags for every game on the list above.  I suppose that says something, though I am not sure what, besides that I have mentioned them all here at some time before.

And, of course, if you want to see how this sort of post has played out in the past, you can check out attempts from past years:

The Fall of Club Penguin

No.  No more kids games.  Kids don’t spend well and it’s very difficult to run a kids game.  Turns out Kids do mean stuff to each other a lot.

John Smedley, Reddit AMA

Time for another MMO for kids to fall by the wayside.  Club Penguin, the 12 year old kids MMO with over 200 million registered users (as of 2013), has been closed by Disney.

We are no strangers to Club Penguin at our house.  My daughter was a fan of the game for a stretch and used to participate in events, was in a band in the game, and collected the various in-game items including hats and puffles.

Waddle around

In fact, it was a desire to collect some special in-game item that led my daughter to get her account banned when she gave her login information to a classmate who then gave it to somebody else.

Forever…ever…ever…ever…

That was a serious blow to her relationship with the game, as she had collected quite a bit of stuff.  If fact, she recently read that post I wrote about that incident and got mad at me when she realized I could have probably gotten her account unbanned if I had set that as a goal, as opposed to teaching her a lesson in account security.  She still misses some of her stuff even though that was half of her lifetime ago.  I cannot recall when I was 15 if I was nostalgic for things that happened when I was only 8.

But it really does not matter now as all of her stuff in Club Penguin is gone.  Disney announced back in January that the game would be shutting down and yesterday was the last day.  Sales have been down, Disney had already laid off some staff and closed down some of the overseas sites for the game, but that was not enough.

In a bit of an ironic turn, at least for our household, getting banned from Club Penguin became a new sport for people playing the game, and my daughter joined in

He last encounter with Club Penguin was trying to get kicked off of Club Penguin.  And that fun is over for good as well now that the game has been shut down.

Of course, I am dubious as to how badly Disney needed to shut the game down.  The financials are all buried in the numbers for the corporation and we are all pretty aware that online games in motion tend to hang onto a core audience that can keep them viable.  I doubt if the game were still independent that it would be closing.  But Disney is in the business of growth, not mere viability, so Club Penguin was sent off to join Toontown Online, another acquisition of theirs they subsequently shut down.

Anyway, the real reason to kill Club Penguin was to keep it from drawing customers from Disney’s new mobile venture, Club Penguin Island which, surprise surprise, went live on iOS and Android yesterday.

Penguins go mobile

The plan was obviously to channel Club Penguin player to the new game.

Of course, the usual reactions from the player base occurred, with people angry and threatening boycotts and the like.

Players like to settled down in their MMOs for the long term.  They want them to remain so they can come back and visit.  They get invested in their virtual goods and hate to lose them.  So expecting people to pick up from a long standing MMO to invest in a new game is a faint hope, and all the less likely when you chase them out of the old one with a stick.  Sequels are difficult as we saw with EverQuest II and Lineage II, neither of which ever outshined their predecessor.

And when the replacement isn’t even on the same platform… well, that seems like a faint hope.

Not that I think Club Penguin Island will fail.   It is a Disney product and will have Disney marketing behind it and will be featured on the Disney channel and on Radio Disney and in the Disney Store and so on and so forth.  It is just a completely different beast and will have its own fans and followers who may not have played the original.

High Noon for Asheron’s Call

We learned last month, the money making MMOs at Turbine have been split off to be run by a new company called Standing Stone Game.  That meant Lord of the Rings Online and Dungeon & Dragons Online would both be leaving Turbine.  That left Asheron’s Call and Asheron’s Call 2 in the lurch.

asherons_call_full_logo

Staying with Turbine rather than being spun off with the new MMO running entity Standing Stone Games seemed to indicate a short future for the two titles, something quickly confirmed in a statement from Turbine:

It is with a heavy heart that we must announce the end of our support for Asheron’s Call and Asheron’s Call 2, and will close both services on January 31st, 2017.

This decision did not come easy, and we know this is disappointing for many of you. This game is a labor of love, and it’s not easy for us to bring it to an end.

We have had a phenomenally long run; one of the longest in the world of MMORPGs, and that in and of itself is a spectacular feat. We are proud of our legacy, and the entire Asheron’s Call team has been honored to adventure with you for nearly twenty years. We thank you very much for being a part of it.

It’s been an amazing run. You’ve done Asheron Realaidain proud.

Between now and January 31st, 2017, the game will remain available to play, completely free, for any player currently with an account. New account creation will be disabled.

Yet hope springs eternal… only to be stomped on.  In an earlier time of greater optimism at Turbine, there was talk about letting players be able to setup private Asheron’s Call servers, a promise that immediately led to, “Hey, maybe we’ll get something!”  And then Turbine came back and said no, private servers would not be a thing.

We had hoped to be able to hand off our servers to the community, so our most loyal players could continue their journey through Dereth. Unfortunately, this is something we were unable to do.

So that was that.  Turbine further clarified the end time for Asheron’s Call, saying that the game would go dark at noon Eastern Standard Time on January 31, 2017.  If this post went live as scheduled, that was two minutes earlier, so the game should be down by the time you read this.  Hopefully, if you were a fan, you got in your final look at the world and didn’t get hampered by the last minute attempt to ruin the closing.

MMORPGs are strange beasts, and their passing are always sad and strange.  The social nature and persistent world aspects of them make them different from games where you play for a session and then everything resets.  As we have gone on about, and demonstrated ad nauseum, people get invested in MMORPGs.  And Asheron’s Call, being one of the “Big Three” late 90s MMORPGs that, along with Ultima Online and EverQuest, popularized the genre, all the more so.  It was a “first” MMORPG for people in the pre-World of Warcraft era, with its own special features, quirks, and lessons.

It is hard for me to imagine the day that EverQuest goes dark.  All those memories… mostly good, since we forget or repress the bad over time… that I could no longer pretend were just a patch update and a login away.  I don’t play anymore, but I could… and that I could makes a big difference.  So I feel for those who are losing their first MMORPG today.

That said, I do wonder at hope continuing to spring up.  Some are pinning hopes that there will be an announcement of some sort about Asheron’s Call tomorrow.  As the somewhat detached outsider, it is tough for me to see the hook one can hang that idea from.

Asheron’s Call was one of the big three, but it was the smallest of the bunch, topping out at half of UO’s numbers and a quarter of EQ’s subscription peak, so it doesn’t have the legacy of success that the other two had.  Furthermore, in the pantheon of Turbine titles, Lord of the Rings Online is their big success.  For Origin and SOE, their first MMORPGs remain their most popular, while Turbine has long neglected AC in favor of the two games that went with Standing Stone.  And then of course, there is Turbine, a shell of its former self, and WB, a media company from which one can expect no favors.

So while I don’t want to stomp on anybody’s dreams, I haven’t seen anything that would make me think there will be a post-closing announcement.  But we shall see tomorrow I suppose.

But whatever happens tomorrow or in the future, today we mark the end of what once was.

Amazon’s New World

Amazon’s new game studio announced three games that they are working on at TwitchCon yesterday.  (Amazon owns Twitch, so there is that connection… and you can now get some Twitch bennies for being an Amazon Prime customer.)

Of the three, the one garnering interest in this corner of the internet is New World, because they used our three favorite letters, M, M, and O.  Or, at least they said “Massively Multiplayer,” but the “online” part is more that implied at this point.

New World is the one for us though.  I think.  I hope.  I guess.

Just how new and how worldly?

Just how new and how worldly?

It was hard not to roll my eyes a bit, mostly because the acronym “MMO” has been so stretched and otherwise abused by now that I don’t trust my gut when people use it.  Everything that can get a dozen players online at once seems to feel entitled to that tag these days.

Yes, yes, cynicism is my thing here, but after the last decade of MMOs I think anybody trying to use the designation has to earn our trust.  I am a product of my environment.

Where I am headed...

Old man yells at cloud base gaming… and AWS…

We have a description of sorts, right there on the store page over at Amazon.

New World is a massively multiplayer, open-ended sandbox game that allows you to carve your own destiny with other players in a living, hostile, cursed land. How you play, what you do, and whom you work with or against is up to you. Live on your own amidst the supernatural terrors or join with others to build thriving civilizations. In this evolving world that transforms with the changing of the seasons, weather, and time of day, the only limit is your own ambition.

And for those who don’t like their information in paragraph format, there are bullet points as well.

  • New World is a massively multiplayer, open-ended sandbox game that allows you to carve your own destiny with other players in a living, hostile, cursed land.
  • How you play, what you do, and whom you work with or against is up to you.
  • Live on your own amidst the supernatural terrors or join with others to build thriving civilizations.
  • In this evolving world that transforms with the changing of the seasons, weather, and time of day, the only limit is your own ambition.
  • A release date for New World has not been set.

Of course, tossing in the word “sandbox” got an audible sigh from me as well, as it is also a favored term of late and seems to mean something like, “We’re not going to completely copy World of Warcraft.”

At least we know it will be released on Windows.

Minimum System Requirements:

  • Processor:   TBD
  • RAM:   TBD
  • Hard Disk:   TBD
  • Video Card:   TBD
  • Supported OS:   Windows

However pricing, business model, and whatever have yet to be announced.

I like the price so far... unless that means F2P cash shop hell

I like the price so far… unless that means F2P cash shop hell

And given how long it can take to get a real MMO together… if it is a “real” MMO, by which I mean a worldly, persistent, shared experience, multiplayer RPG… I suspect it will be some time before we get enough details to begin projecting even our most optimistic fantasies on it.

But it has been announced, so I figured I had best take note.  And, of course, because it is already listed over at Amazon, it has reviews.

Only 4 stars for a non-existent game

Only 4 stars for a non-existent game

The other two titles that were announced:

  • Breakaway – Breakaway is a 4 vs. 4 mythological sport brawler built for fast action, teamwork, and live-streaming.
  • Crucible – Crucible is a battle to the last survivor on a hostile alien world. Players choose and customize heroes, making alliances and betraying allies on their path to victory. An additional player heightens the drama by triggering events, live-streaming the battles, and interacting with viewers

So that sounds like a streaming optimized MOBA and something that might be Overwatch meets The Hunger Games maybe?  I don’t know.  Not MMORPGs.

New World is the title that fits here, though I have to say that all three of the titles chosen seem likely to have problems standing out from other uses of those words.

As I noted above, others in our little internet tribe are talking about it as well.  They might even be less cynical than I.

Torn on MMORPGs

That headline doesn’t mean what you think it means.

Back at the start of November I got an unsolicited email asking me for something.  Not an uncommon occurrence.  I get a surprising amount of offers on the blog email address, most of which I delete out of hand.  This one, however, appeared to be from an actual person.  I was still skeptical.  If you send me a note asking for something on that account, expect that.  But wanted to know what he was really up to.

Kevin, Head of Digital at Chedburn Networks Ltd, the makers of the text MMO Torn (from which I draw the title of this post, so there is that question answered) wanted to know if I would provide feedback on something akin to an MMORPG white paper project they were working on and, also, would I like my blog to be listed on the finished product.

After a bit of back and forth and cynicism on my part, set off by trigger words like “brand exposure,” I said I would look take a look.  After seeing an early draft, I said I would be okay with being listed as an example of an MMORPG blogger along with Syp, Murph, Jewel, Chris from Game by Night (where is your handle, man?), and some John Doe guy that used to write about MMOs, then stopped, but who can’t stop reminding people that he could have been a contender or something.

(I also appear to be the only one of the six that can follow instructions, judging from the final product, where I am the only one with an “established” date.)

That was in late November, after which the whole thing dwindled into silence… until this week, when I got an email with a link to the finished product.  You can go see it here.

There is actually quite a bit of information packed into that.  There is a nice little history of online games with a timeline that starts with Ultima Online and carries through to today, picking out some events that have happened along the way.  It is interesting, in its way, to see what got included.  I’m not sure that the EVE Online T20 scandal ranks up there with the advent of Leeroy Jenkins.  And did nothing happen in 2009 besides the launch of Aion?  It is also hard for me to see these two next to each other like they were totally unconnected events.  And no mention of Warhammer Online, which killed the genre.

SWG was closed because of SWTOR

SWG was closed because of SWTOR

There is also a chart listing out the top MMOs out right now that contains some hard numbers that I am sure people will want to see.  You can, I suppose, extrapolate total player bases by multiplying players per world by the number of worlds they list out.  Of course EVE Online is the top MMO when you sort that way, though the total players is a bit gloomy, while the WoW numbers seem to add up to a total not seen since 2010.

That is a lot of daily players...

That is a lot of daily players…

I asked about the source for some of those numbers, as some of them seem quite questionable, like the ones listed for EverQuest Next.

Daybreak dreaming here?

Daybreak dreaming here? These can’t be Landmark numbers…

But there it is, a pile of data ready to be argued over.  I can foresee some doom and gloom coming from a few entries on the list or what it means to be in the top five, depending on how you sort things.

Anyway, if you are a general MMORPG nerd there is probably something in the report that will interest you.  If nothing else, there ought to be something to spark a blog post.  I will likely write something further once I have had time to sit down and digest what is there.  And it is nice to be told how popular I am again.  It says so right there in that last section.  All right, Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my authoritative close-up.

Avoiding Guild Wars for a Decade

Guild Wars occupies a strange spot in my gaming history.

To start with, I am never sure if there is a space between the two words...

To start with, I am never sure if there is a space between the two words…

It came along ten years ago this week… something I only noticed when another bloggers mentioned the anniversary… at a point in time when the future of MMOs seemed golden.

EverQuest had brought a lot of players into the genre in a way that no MMO or proto-MMO before it had.  It confirmed that there was a bigger audience out there than was suspected, and that audience would pay to play.  Other games came on the scene like Dark Age of Camelot and Star Wars Galaxies that were clearly differentiated for EQ.  It seemed like we would have all sorts of unique choices when it came to MMOs going forward.

Meanwhile, EverQuest II and World of Warcraft had both launched the previous November (we hit my 10 year anniversary with WoW last month and I totally forgot) but, while WoW was clearly taking off, we were not yet at a point where “must make a WoW clone!!!” was the dominating developer thoughts.

The market was also small, at least when it came to the number of titles.  It felt like you could realistically know something about all the major titles on the market as well as those under development.  The whole VirginWorlds podcast era was predicated on the idea that you could talk about the MMO market segment in detail in a weekly one hour or less session and pretty much cover all they key players.

At the time I was just back into the MMO thing, having quit EQ and the genre back before Planes of Power launched.  As noted in the relevant anniversary post, Gaff got me to play EverQuest II at launch.

By the time Guild Wars launched in 2005 I had given WoW a try and wasn’t really thrilled, something I mentioned to a co-worker who had played EverQuest over lunch.  A surprising (to me) number of my co-workers ended up playing EverQuest.  This particular one had also burned out on EQ and was somewhat reluctant to get in on the subscription MMO level grind again.  It wasn’t that he hadn’t enjoyed some, or even most of his time in Norrath.  It was just that feeling you get when you’re too busy to use something you’re paying for.

He told me the game he had his eye on was Guild Wars.

He was keen on the MMO, or MMO-like, multi-player experience without the whole monthly fee.  Buy the box and you’re done, like a REAL video game.  That is what made it stand out among the so-called third generation MMOs. (And this ignores the whole Guild Wars isn’t an MMO thing, which I can’t even begin to address.  As with H1Z1, the company simply saying it isn’t an MMO doesn’t make it so.  The definition is both complex and situational in my mind, but there is also a certain amount of “quacks like a duck” in there as well.)

He was kind of our scout into this game.  He picked it up at launch and I would go by and ask him about it now and again.  He talked about the character models and the way cities were shared but that zones or content was all instanced and the skill system where you were limited to the number of active skills you had.

And the graphics.  He was effusive about the environment.  Most people with whom I have spoken to about the game over the years have praised that aspect.

At the time though I was fully committed to EQII, a game that had been changing and evolving… and breaking now and again… since launch.  Too much to keep up with there to start a new MMO-like game.

Then we all defected to WoW and the focus was on Azeroth.  Then I started EVE Online for a bit, then the blog started, then there was the instance group and so forth.  Somewhere in there I entered the VirginWorlds sphere of influence and would listen to Brent and sometimes co-host Brenden talk about other MMOs, which got me both more interested and more aware of the wider genre which, as noted above, seemed like a thing a single person could know about.

And Guild Wars was a common topic.  Brent and Brendan would talk about it, Van Hemlock was big on it, there were other former bloggers keen on the game, so it was always part of the mix.  Eventually I bought a copy.  I know this because the box is still sitting in my bookshelf.

MMO Boxes on my shelf

MMO Boxes on my shelf

At some point in the past I dumped a bunch of boxes but, for whatever reasons, I chose to keep these particular ones.  The EverQuest and the EverQuest: Ruins of Kunark CD jewel cases are on the far left, while the original EverQuest manual is next to A Theory of Fun on the right.

And you can see there isn’t just one, there are TWO Guild Wars boxes.

Yet I cannot recall ever really playing the game.

I remember taking a couple of runs at it.  I found exactly FOUR screen shots from Guild Wars after sifting though my hard drives that indicated that I made at least two characters, one male and one female, at some point.  I think that might have been after a podcast discussion where somebody was effusive about the female character models in the game.

Sexy or Sexualized?

Sexy or Sexualized?

I also recall at one point trying to get a group together in Guild Wars with Potshot and Ula during one of the hiatus periods of the WoW group.  I have a distinct memory of us in a small town with very pretty and detailed flowers… and being unable to jump over an ankle-high obstacle… but little else.  Something didn’t click because we clearly did not stick with it.  I did not even make a blog post about it.  I have literally written more about games I never played myself, like LEGO Universe, or games that never launched in the US, like KartRider, or games that never even existed, like Planet Michael, than about Guild Wars.  I have certainly written more about games the instance group has tried and dropped.  Runes of Magic has gotten many more words than Guild Wars, for example.

This might be my first Guild Wars post in more than eight and a half years.  And despite having been aware of the game since before launch, I have very little to say about it.

Meanwhile the landscape of the MMO market has changed.  The golden age ended, for me at least, with the crash of Warhammer Online, which killed the idea of being both popular and different from WoW. After that the tomb was sealed when the idea of another mass market subscription MMO, the now cringe-inducing idea of a WoW-beater, was laid to rest when Star Wars: The Old Republic went free to play.  Now we talk about niche games and funding and variations on business models and funding and fanciful ideas about developer independence and funding and cash shops and what went wrong back in the day and how it is all Blizzard’s fault.

And yet Guild Wars is still there, which is kind of amazing given the propensity NCsoft has for shutting down games that simply are not making enough money.  It has been overshadowed by Guild Wars 2 (which I can actually remember playing still!) and is never going to see any further expansions or content updates, yet it still abides.

Anyway, it has been ten years.  Happy anniversary!

Other places writing about Guild Wars at age ten: