To preface, I grew up playing EQ for about 6 years back when I was in highschool. I also played Runescape and FFXI and many other MMO's. After playing so many MMOs, I couldn't figure out why I didn't enjoy MMO's anymore. After thinking about it, I finally think I've figured out. The below points are merely my opinions and probably shrouded in nostalgia goggles but this is why current MMO's don't really do it for me and I'm not really all that hopeful for things going forward.
- The worlds are meaningless.
Simply put, MMO worlds nowadays are just there to be there. Modern conveniences are good, don't get me wrong, but one thing I like about, say BDO is the fact there is very limited fast travel options. You can actually move around the world and see other players as you travel. After playing games like TERA and FFXIV, fast travel is convenient but it really makes the worlds feel empty. When you compound this with the fact that most quests don't take you across the map, you run into an issue to where the world is there just to be there.
In EQ, back when I played actively which was early 2000's, there wasn't many fast travel options. If you wanted to travel between continents for example, you found a wizard to teleport you there or you tried to swim / boat across. In FFXI, going to the airship docks or the ferry docks wasn't a cutscene like in FFXIV that ports you to the next area. It was literal ships with 5-15 minute rides on a schedule. It made the world less convenient, sure, but being on the ferry and seeing it get attacked by skeleton pirates was awesome. Random events like that are what give life to games.
Furthermore, quests are linear and the storyline just handholds you. You log on and you have recommended quests to do, you do your dailies, do your dungeon runs so on and so forth. There is little incentive to actually get out and explore the world since most loot is acquired through dungeons and instanced. One of my most fond memories is exploring a dungeon north of Neriak in EQ in the lava zone. It was a low level dungeon and I accidentally clicked on a wall which actually opened a secret door. In it there was a book with some lore and while I explored, a very, very pissed off Dark Elf ghost mob came at me. It was literally double the level of other things in there and i got absolutely smashed. It was fun though because I had never seen it mentioned.
Another good example is TERA in it's early days. During it's initial launch into Free to play back when Chandra Manaya was the biggest, baddest boss, the game was actually quite good. People were out in the world killing world bosses, collecting crafting items and the world felt full. It felt alive. Pair this with the fact that th vanarch system back then allowed you to control a zone and turn pvp on / off, people had a reason to be in the world and explore it. This leads me to my 2nd point..
Items and crafting sucks…
Nowadays, most of your best loot is acquired through dungeons. Crafting can, in some instances, get you gear as you journey to end game but overall, the crafting systems are there just to be able to cheaply get gear until you get to end game.
Early game TERA I felt done this right. In order to get gear you had to craft it. Dungeons dropped crafting mats. Those mats would need to be made into armor. In fact to get some of the end game armor you had to level your own crafting up to, I believe it was at least 400 to make most of the gear / weapons. If you played the markets right, you could do this by buying materials. This gave crafters a reason and it gave running dungeons a reason. Even if you had the best gear at the time, you could still run dungeons to make money. Later on, they changed the formula.
After a while they took out crafting entirely. They started phasing it out by no longer making weapons and armor require crafting levels. The dungeons still dropped mats but you still had to craft the gear. Then in later matches they made it so dungeons drop gear. This lead to the current treadmill we see nowadays in the game. You run the dungeon, get the gear…And then you have no other reason to really run the dungeon afterwards. After that was done they removed crafting in it's entirely. Alchemy was the last to go, but apparently stacking potions and buffs was too much work for players so they dumbed the game down even more and took it out.
Another thing I remember fondly was the sense of success when I finally got the mage epic in EQ. It was considered by most to be the hardest to get and having to travel to the plane of air was always a hit or miss experience. I don't miss the tedium of it, but I did enjoy the scavenger hunt to get various items to eventually combine and get it. This leads me to the other half of this. Items just suck anymore.
In MMO's nowadays items are just skins and stat boosts. While not an MMO, PSO (Phantasy Star Online) was a great game originally. It was full of hacks and shit, sure, but I remember first seeing the Heaven's punisher or the Lavis Cannon. These weren't just simple reskins of a handgun and sword respectively, these weapons had unique abilities no other weapon had. The heaven punisher would create beams of light that rained down over an entire room but only on certain "beats" or minutes of the in game time system. The lavis cannon's special would produce a ranged sword wave attack. The Tsumikiri J sword would use your photon gauge to create shockwaves. There were all sorts of ultra rare weapons that really stood out.
EQ especially done this right. The "clickies" as they were called had all sorts of effects ranging from awesome (levitation to prevent fall damage and invisibility to undead etc) to useless but neat, ie changing you into various races like an Iksar etc. Items nowadays in games are just skins and stats. They're boring.
When I went to play PSU (Phantasy Star Universe) and PSO2, one of the things i missed were those unique weapons. Weapons were just reskins and you had photon arts. The weapons didn't have their own unique photon arts, they were just…skins with better stats. It's like in FFXIV the armor is just flashy and pretty with better stats. It doesn't seem to do anything special.
While FFXI didn't really have things that done stuff too special (Ancient armor i think for example enhanced class abillities like the Kabuto giving samura an extra 20% TP for using meditate) they at least done something. Furthermore, there were some items that, while low level, were actually best in slot like the peacock charm. This made farming it lucrative, even after it was made unique / bound on acquire. This circles back to my first point of making the worlds useful as the peacock charm was dropped by a low level NM.
Finally my last point…
- The games are too simple.
MMo's nowadays are simply too simple. I don't know if this is just a byproduct of myself becoming older and better at playing games or if MMO's are simply being dumbed down. Not all MMO's should be hardcore full loot / corpse run on death. I get that. However, most games have no penalty for death. There is no fear. In FFXI you could actually delevel. I did. A lot. There was nothing more demotivating than that accursed level down sound effect right after you just dinged level 70. However, it actually made me want to not die. It made me want to assess things and not just leroy jenkins my way to victory.
In games nowadays, you die, you're sent back to the nearest revive point and there is very little, if any penalty for death. It's simply an inconvenience.
There is probably more I could think of, but this is the beginning of my thoughts anyways. Personally, I'd like to see an MMO actually utilize it's world more. Bring back world bosses and non instanced dungeons. Make items that actually do things make crafting armor actually lucrative. I would love to see a new MMO with old school vibes like that. Unfortunately, it seems most are content to be themeparks. BDO would be awesome were it not a glorified casino with its enhancement and it's crappy 1 shot combat. TERA, despite my unrivaled hatred of Elins, is still a game I hold dear as it destroyed tab target combat for me. I literally am sad over how that game devolved to its current state. It used to be such a good game…
Anyways, feel free to share your thoughts. Any stories you remember fondly?
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