Perfect Ten: The 10 MMO memories we all have

    
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You sit there in your heartache, waiting on some beautiful boy to save you from your old ways, you're sinking easy, watch it now, here he comes.

I have been playing MMOs with varying degrees of intensity for the past 12 years. That is really weird to me. It also means that I’ve had time to develop a robust set of memories, and not everyone has the exact same memories. But I’ve also found that we all have the same general categories of memories despite that, even if you weren’t first playing Final Fantasy XI when I was.

So let’s be a little bit universal. Not everyone has the memories I do of running through Qufim or dealing with goblins in every leveling spot ever, but whatever your first game was, I’m pretty sure you have these same memories. The details just change.

1. Your first character

The first character you create does not need to set a precedent for the remainder of your online gaming experience, but more often than not it says something about the sort of character you like to play. Sometimes it becomes nearly hard-wired into you, that you always make a specific sort of character with a certain style; otherwise it might just indicate that you’re probably going to play a lot of characters vaguely related to such-and-such. It’s variable.

But we all have that first character. Sure, maybe you don’t make a whole lot of choices when rolling that first character that you can’t reverse later, but the point is that there’s a reason you made that. Even if it’s just by clicking “random” a few times.

Less has changed than I might like to admit.

2. Your first goal

MMOs are games of long-term projects. The first time you have one is significant. You see someone ride by in a city in World of Warcraft and think, “I want that guy’s armor,” or you get a really awesome weapon in The Secret World and you think, “I want to learn how to use this.” Or it could be as straightforward as starting a story in Star Wars: The Old Republic and thinking, “I want to see where this goes.”

My first goal? I wanted pants instead of the hot pants that my character started with. Sure, it’s a little goal, but it was enough to motivate me to get some gil, which led directly to…

3. Your first interaction with another player

I begged someone for money when I was a little bit short on funds and bought my pants. I was polite, it was a loan, and I paid it back, so it’s not quite as bad as it might sound. But it was still the first moment that really brought into focus the idea that this wasn’t just a game you played around other people; this was a game you played with other people.

On some level, sure, that’s is in the whole genre description. But I think it has a bigger impact than we like to think when you first see another character played by someone you don’t know and you strike up a conversation. You get to know people. They become a person on the other side of the screen, not just a name and combat stats.

4. Your first major setback

Back in the long long ago, we would play games where you could easily lose a level after you got killed, or you could have all of your items torn from your corpse once you died. I will not say “and we liked it like that” because the fact of the matter is that we most definitely didn’t like it like that, which is why most games quickly eschewed those options and then we forgot how bad they were amidst a fog of “oh, back when there was real danger in the world.” But you could lose quite a bit when you died.

Even if you never played in that particular kick-in-the-pants era, you have suffered setbacks. You spend a bunch of time on a dungeon and you don’t clear it. You mess up crafting with rare items and lose everything. You buy something you didn’t mean to and your in-game savings are wiped out. Bouncing back from that loss provides more than just a story; it provides a context.

Like when the Fellowship completely failed to actually defend what they meant to defend.

5. The things you would never do now

I think it goes almost without saying that I would never ask another player for money now in any game. I would go out and get it myself. But that’s hardly the only thing I did back then that I wouldn’t do now; my entire approach to quests, character building, and roleplaying is different now than it was then. We all look back on our early days in MMOs, and I think we all recognize them as having a bit of the wild west to them, when we would do things that we would never do now.

6. Your first difficult victory

Just as you remember your first big setback, you also remember the first time you cleared something and felt great. A difficult quest, a complicated weapon, a hard journey from one point to another, something you had tried and struggled to reach for some time. We thrive on these memories, but the first one – the first time you were really pushed to your limit and triumphed – is that one hit you keep trying to get back, despite the impossibility.

7. Your first guild

In some ways, this is an extension of the first time that you find another player and really interact with him, but the guild thing is a bit larger and more important. There are people who are still basically running with the same guild they joined in the beginning, which is at once awesome and sometimes a bit limiting in making new connections. Similarly, there are people who join a guild and immediately think that they’ve found a swarm of suckers to exploit in a move so charmingly cynical that P. T. Barnum sheds a tear in spirit.

Your attitude toward a guild, your first taste of organization, your idea about what a guild should be – all of these things, again, are formed by your first memory of one. Sometimes that means that your first guild gets lionized or made eternal, sometimes it’s a cautionary tale, but it always has a lasting impact.

Want to get some structure with me?

8. The first hangout

There’s always a place where players congregate. Maybe it’s at a major hub, maybe it’s just a good place for traveling, or maybe in an older game it’s a leveling spot. The point is that it exists, and at least in my case I remember just sitting around in Selbina with other players for the first time waiting and looking for a group that came far less often than any of us would have liked.

For some players, this isn’t always a great memory. Sometimes those first hangouts are places of supreme boredom where you get stuck instead of playing the game. But you still remember them, even if they lead directly into the next point.

9. When you left for the first time

I have never left a game without feeling sad about it, but for a long time I never even consciously left a game. You just realize at one point that you haven’t logged in, and you don’t want to log in, and given the choice you won’t log in again. And that’s it, and it’s goodbye, and it feels like an anticlimax. And the first time it happens, when a new game has supplanted the old favorite to the point that the old game is just a vestigal memory… you remember.

Even if you go back in a couple of months.

10. Being the experienced one

We don’t tend to notice how we change over time because we aren’t comparing ourselves to hypothetical “past selves” from months ago; we’re comparing ourselves to what we were a week or so ago at best. So even after you’ve played a game for a while – maybe your first game, maybe one that you’ve found as your new home – you tend to think of yourself in much the same way.

Then you meet someone who is genuinely new to the game, asking the same questions and making the same mistakes that you did at the start, and you offer a bit of help and maybe some money and equipment before waving goodbye. And you realize that somewhere along the line you stopped being the new player and started being the expert, the veteran, one of the people who others look at with a feeling of “one day, I want to look like that guy.”

And that’s pretty great.

Everyone likes a good list, and we are no different! Perfect Ten takes an MMO topic and divvies it up into 10 delicious, entertaining, and often informative segments for your snacking pleasure. Got a good idea for a list? Email us at justin@massivelyop.com or eliot@massivelyop.com with the subject line “Perfect Ten.”
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Amazing Aluminum Man
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Amazing Aluminum Man

As far as #9, well – sometimes the game leaves you:

http://kotaku.com/5964842/city-of-heroes-goes-out-with-a-roar-and-a-bang/

schmidtcapela
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schmidtcapela

This list doesn’t work for me.

Context: before I started playing MMOs I had already been playing RPGs, both of the pen and paper and computer varieties, for a couple decades. I also fully research any activity I might be engaging with others before I even start. So:

1. My first MMO character was just a port of an old character I already had elsewhere. I don’t even remember its exact name, I just remember that it was some variation of my typical naming pattern.

2. From having fully researched the game, I already had a game plan for my first few weeks. So, no noteworthy unplanned goals for a long time.

3. I wasn’t really interested in the other players; rather, I was interested in how having other players around would change the game and my perception of it. As such, I didn’t care enough about the details of specific early interactions to remember them.

4. I don’t like setbacks in games; rebuilding what I lost is not something I ever want to do in a game. I do save scumming all the time. Specifically for MMOs, I waited until I found something where completely avoiding the risk of major setbacks was possible before starting with MMOs. To this day, I never had any setback I consider major, and if I ever have I will immediately and permanently leave the game where it happened.

5. Playing computer and pen and paper RPGs for decades, plus a cautious nature and the fact I never, ever, ask for help in a game, means that I never interacted with other players in a way I regret, and my approaches to about everything I would do in MMOs were already consolidated.

6. Having planned from the start my first few weeks in the game, plus having been playing computer games since Pong, means that there was nothing soloable in the game that could even give me pause. As for the group content, I never felt that it was legitimately hard, never felt that one such victory was noteworthy; mechanically even the hardest group content in MMOs is easier than, say, a middle game level in Mario, it just have the added frustration of other players causing you to randomly fail due to no fault of yours in the same way an overactive cat might make you lose a live by jumping on your lap (and the possibility of your own failure causing the rest of the group to fail, which is for me even more frustrating).

7. My first attempt at getting into a guild convinced me to never, ever, trust other players upfront, and to never, ever, bow down to anyone in the guild, even the guild master; to this day, if anyone in a guild attempts to order me around I will immediately /gquit. My first effective guild was nice, but convinced me that organized raiding, or even organized dungeon running, simply isn’t for me; too much frustration for too little fun.

8. Oh, I remember the first time I got stuck somewhere trying to assemble a group. It’s why I flat out refuse to ever again assemble a group myself, or even help someone else assemble one. I would rather delete a game from my computer than go through that again.

9. The first noteworthy time I left a game was in anger and without a different MMO to fall back to; it almost drove me out of the whole genre. Definitely not a nice memory to hang on to.

10. I fully research any MMO before I start playing, going as far as to reverse-engineer some of its systems. Compared with the typical player that starts playing without as much as reading the manual, I’m always “the experienced one”.

ZenDadaist
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ZenDadaist

That’ll be Eve Online back in 2004 for me.

1) I spent ages and ages in the character creator picking over every empire, every option until I finally settled on a Sebiestor Minamatar, a graduate of Pator Tech School with just the look I wanted. In all the years I played until they released the new avatar system, I never changed the portrait because it was just right. The character itself had a strong concept and RP background which I played to the hilt. Small ship specialist/scout/tackler/covops/blockade runner.

2) Get a better ship! That Reaper was pathetic, even as a brand new player. I saw someone fly past me in Ryddinjorn in a Slasher and I thought that looked like a fun fighter/interceptor sort of thing, so I resolved to figure out how I’d go about getting one. A friend of mine who was one of the folks that convinced me to give it a try gave me a present of Probe and I dedicated the next week to a mixture of baby L1 missions with the Probe’s awesome 2 light drones, and ninja-mining rare ores in Amamammamamamamake being chased by a pirate in a goddamn pirate ship! (The back end of the Rupture cruiser looks like a spanish galleon.)

3) My first direct interactions with other players were with a couple of my friends who were already playing. I saw lots and lots of people in chat channels but it seemed spammy, and I saw other ships flying around which I thought was extremely cool. Other people sharing your system getting on with their own thing.

4) I was pretty lucky. I was a cautious pilot and a careful observer. Ship loss wasn’t really a thing for me. I don’t even recall what my first setback was. Might’ve been something like wasting ISK on a bad purchase.

5) Thing I would never do now? Agree to take on Officership in a Corp*. I joined my friends’ Corp right off and after a bit I was helping to run various things so I got promoted. In the end it just made me a huge target for infighting and bullshit and I got very thoroughly backstabbed by people out of game as a result. I actually lost some RL friendships as a result.

*Caveat here is unless there is literally nobody else that can do the Thing. This is how I’ve ended up being the leader of my TSW Cabal, AO Org and Rift Guild. I never chose it, it just ended up falling to me when no one else would or could! By then they’re sort of my groups anyway so it’s not really much of a change.

6) My first difficult victory would be successfully evading that Rupture pirate in Amamake in my little Probe and escaping back to Ryddinjorn (I lived in that noob system for a good month or two) with my cargohold full of rare ores. I sacrificed a drone, though, and back in those days you could name them. RIP Nipper, you did your job.

7) The first guild would be that first Corp I was in. It was RL friends from another thing I’d been involved in, and it grew in the same vein. RL friends of the members would join. In fact it wouldn’t be until a year later that we accepted someone who wasn’t an RL friend of anyone in. It was someone whose Minmatar-space corp office was in the same station in Abudban as ours so several of our members ende dup meeting and getitng ot know this guy in game quite well. In hindsight it was not one of our better decisions because he turned out to be a RL creep. But then in hindsight our Corp recruiting policy was highly flawed as well. We were not united by common goals or themes, just the fact we knew each other IRL. That led to a lot of friction as some wanted to do X which meant closing off Y, and others wanted Y which prevented Z etc.

8) First hangout, best hangout! Rens system for me. After realising that the tiny nooby dead end system I began in wasn’t any good for regular play as it added a bunch of pointless additional jumps to all my journeys, I discovered Rens was way more than just a busy hub stopover – and this was back in the days where each of the 4 Empire hubs had short, high-sec routes through Concorde held space culminating in Yulai. That was the central Eve-wide hangout, but it was always too busy back then so I stuck to Rens. 

9) I left Eve when my enthusiasm for the game reached an absolute low, not long after RL friend backstabbing implosion. I started shopping around for other games and found Anarchy Online. Initially I was playing both, often at the same time. But then as I picked up more and more in AO I logged into Eve less and less util I realised one day I hadn’t logged in in over a fortnight, and didn’t much care to. 

10) I always try and help people out and in a new game I’m the noob that is trying to help other noobs who are even noobier than me. There’s something interesting about sharing the noob perspective in trying to figure things out – something you lose as you progress to Veteran. As for the Experienced one, I guess that moment came when one of the higher ups in my Corp asked me for fitting advice for a hit’n’nrun Rifter. An officer was asking me! The 2-month noob!

Anyway that turned out to be a much longer tl;dr than I anticipated. Doh!

finsbury
Guest
finsbury

Nice article, and was fun thinking on those early mmo experiences again – and I probably spent too long thinking about it when I should be working :)

1. Your first character
First character was short-lived, as he died outside of Britain and I didn’t know what to do as a ghost. Deleted and after some research the replacement mage quickly learnt the art of spirit speaking so would be able to interact with and help others that made a similar debut :)

2. Your first goal
The earliest thing I recall setting my mind to was owning a home. A small, one room wooden house in the desert. My brother and I spent the best part of a couple of weeks doing nothing but mining (including a week’s holiday for my brother), in order to sell ingots to get that house. And we did :)

3. Your first interaction with another player
Very first wouldn’t have been very memorable – probably someone at the bank shouting out their wares for sale

4. Your first major setback
Not a major setback, but PK’s that would gate in and kill you for your ore while mining with little protection.

5. The things you would never do now
Never say never, but I certainly wouldn’t delete a character because I didn’t know to resurrect :) I’m also not sure I’d get up early now for the server start to try and grab a rare.

6. Your first difficult victory
Seems a minor victory in hindsight with all the fun that has followed, but killing my first Lich. They were tough early on and I’d been slain by a number of times, so was giggling away to myself the first time I killed one solo.

7. Your first guild
ToL – Temple of Light. A small but very helpful guild that really helped capture my imagination/interest in mmo’s. Guild activity dwindled after while, but wasn’t long before I found a home that I’m still with to this day (16 years later).

8. The first hangout
It was the same player-created town in the desert where I owned my first house – Valendor. Other than that, the town of Jhelom. 

9. When you left for the first time
Although I had tried other mmo’s along the way (AC and EQ), I played UO for a few years before moving on. The first time I left I kept up the subscription up for more than a year as I just couldn’t let it go and expected to return. I have returned a number of times since, though not for very long and not for some time now.

10. Being the experienced one
I’m always learning with mmo’s. I’m pretty casual, and far from a min/maxer, so always experimenting with builds and play styles that might be fun.  I did help a number of players that could only interact through spirit-speak ooOOOooOOOOoOo :)

Valcan321
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Valcan321

paul2724 Valcan321 paul2724 Yep Rip. Was my go to in the close in DPS department. Cheap and tough.

paragonlostinspace
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paragonlostinspace

After near a quarter century online, it’s all by and large a blur of random memories that bubble up to the service at odd moments. Just like my life for that matter.

Maggie_May
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Maggie_May

Things I would never do now … (Or would I ?)
Get killed by a lvl 6 boar like in LOTRO thus losing my un killed status early.
Look with enormous envy at someone wearing Iron armour like in Runescape (I was wearing Bronze).
Fall off every ledge, mountain, hill, stairway, roof …(who am I kidding I suck at heights).
I won’t even go into all the dumb things I’ve done in dungeons.
Try any kind of voice – I don’t know what it is but my voice goes really odd and I get horribly embarrassed.
I used to get very stressed running dungeons which I am largely cured of except for healing …. Still a lot of pressure there.
Being the experienced one …. The kiss of death for me, I usually leave. I love learning to play ….

Maggie_May
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Maggie_May

runescape 2005 I remember yelling out in chat warning people not to trust the Armour dyers and other scammers offering great deals ….

Zsokorad
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Zsokorad

I barely remember 7, and I do remember 9 and 10.
The rest, I don’t remember.

kimowar
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kimowar

I remember drowning in an aquarium on eq1, it was in neriak down under and I fell in, didn’t know how to swim, games were a lot different back then so the tavern was filled with folks who stood there watching me die……