In August 2002, my friends built me a PC. Why? Well, they wanted me to experience epic MMO EverQuest. I was reluctant at first, although having seen them play SoE’s online epic, I was beginning to come around to their way of thinking.
Eventually I caved, buying all the parts I needed before they beavered away long into the autumn night crafting the PC which would take me on some memorable journeys across Norrath, the moon of Luclin and on to the fabled Planes of Power.
What started as nothing more than a mere curiosity soon took hold and blossomed into a two year obsession.
From a gamer whose only RPG experiences until that point came from console games such as Zelda and Final Fantasy, EverQuest’s open world freedom simply blew me away.
With my friends at my side and a friendly guild at my back, we explored much of what EverQuest and its subsequent expansions had to offer. It might be the norm now to team up via PC, 360 or PS3 and battle strange beasts and hoover up shiny new trinkets, but eight years ago, it was something of a novelty.
My guild, Twilight Brethren, were then thrown to the wind due to the arrival of EverQuest 2 in 2004. Some people stuck with EverQuest, others - including myself - jumped straight into the sequel on its first day of release.
I loved EverQuest 2, and played it religiously. However, when I received a beta invite for World of Warcraft a few weeks before general release, all other gaming endeavors were hastily shoved to one side.
Eventually, I was playing both EverQuest 2 and World of Warcraft - and as any MMO player will tell you, playing more than one just isn’t possible due to the time demands and costs involved.
Warcraft won out in the end and I’ve been playing it on and off since launch as a strictly casual player. Part of my job revolves around playing games for review, which curtails my MMO time. Not that I particularly mind, as the lure of the MMO has been fading for me in recent years.
Now, a session on Warcraft usually feels more akin to a single player experience, with a distinct lack of chatter on the guild channel, while gold sellers constantly spam the airwaves with their offers.
I’m looking forward to Knights Of The Old Republic and have recently started dabbling with Rift, but the genre needs a hefty kick up the backside.
Evolution and MMOs don’t really go together - even Rift appears to be a 'greatest hits' package of what has gone before. While many have tried to tinker with the tried and tested fetch quest formula, the whole thing is getting a bit long in the tooth.
I only hope that future MMOs at least try and push the boundaries, because the whole genre feels stale and unloved. If things continue to trundle along, I'm sure more and more players will jump across to MMOs which feature a free to play model, leaving many so-called big hitters face down in the dirt. That might be a bold statement given the size of World of Warcraft's player base, but nothing lasts forever.
Players in general don’t have a great deal of time to play games given their other commitments, something which has undoubtedly led to the rise in the casual games market.
Let’s hope developers take a fresh stance and re-invigorate the genre and move away from the usual array of MMO trappings...God knows it needs it.