The Daily Grind: What was your ‘golden age’ of MMO gaming?

    
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All things go, all things go.

While history has yet to really settle this issue definitively, many MMORPG players seem to believe that we have already seen the great MMO golden age. This was the high point of MMORPG popularity and novelty, rising to the forefront by 1999’s EverQuest and pushing until 2008 or 2010, when (depending on how you view it), the “bubble” burst.

But not everyone’s personal history matches up with the overall genre. Some of us were MMO gaming in the ’80s and ’90s, while others among us only started relatively recently. I’ve found that several people I talk with tend to have a period of their life identified where their excitement and thrill at MMO gaming was at a peak — their “golden age,” so to speak.

So what was yours? When was your golden age of MMO gaming, and what titles were you into at the time?

Every morning, the Massively Overpowered writers team up with mascot Mo to ask MMORPG players pointed questions about the massively multiplayer online roleplaying genre. Grab a mug of your preferred beverage and take a stab at answering the question posed in today’s Daily Grind!

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Dean Greenhoe

DAOC from launch … Nothing else has felt as good nor will anything else. Today, with my declining health and high expectations I doubt another game will ever match it.

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Damon Anderson

For me it was really when I played UO, I got it the day it was released and played for almost 2 years. I moved on to EQ and most every other title for quite sometime, until there were too many to really keep up with. But nothing was the same as my time playing UO and honestly I have to really question if I even enjoyed MMO’s at all really after that, I did, but not, and not like that. I was kind of wandering from title to title, bouncing back and forth from game to game never satisfied really. It was not because of the games specifically, although there have been obviously some better than others. It was really a social thing for me, what is the point in playing an MMO if you don’t ever make lasting and meaningful connections with at least a few people, at least for the course of the game, or awhile, or whatever? When I moved on from UO, because I had really done all there was for me to do in the game and it was time for something new, as should be at some point no matter which game, I unfortunately did not realize at all that it was not the game so much that made it such an awesome experience, it was a few great online gaming relationships, one in particular, that made it special, and that could not be found again or repeated by the design of a game or it’s features or content. I came to understand that I had lost something important to me, that mattered much more than cool classes or content or anything at that had to do with any specific game I have played since then, and I never did find her again, but I never did stop looking. I lost someone who was my best friend at the time, and the person I had so many great times and adventures with, and that’s what this genre of games is really all about, that’s what makes massive worlds like these so real and unpredictable, and that is adventure that you can’t really get in other types of games, I think. New game, new name, but I still use the same name sometimes, not really anymore, it feels like it has baggage, or is something different…anyway. I did have alot of fun in Albion, very similar, tons of fun, met a few people that were cool, mostly solo’d tho, that was always what I was really best at, but have always enjoyed being able to have a good time here and there in group situations. Archage is very cool so far, just started playing, still learning, but there new games that like these that really impressed me, as well as a few older ones, like VG (RIP), TSW, SWTOR, and yes WoW, EQ2 cool too, to bad about EQ3. It seems to me as tho MMO’s seem to be going in a really great direction, in many ways, and it’s like the genre is maturing but perhaps in some titles going back to things that worked from the start, as well as some very cool new innovations. Perhaps the best is yet to come, I kind of think so, there are some very cool games in the works I am looking forward to, and lots to choose from now.

And if you see someone named Nina who keeps needing to get her ass saved tell her Nem is looking for her.

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Gamhuin

1999-2001
EverQuest

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Ald

2004-2008 for me. If i wasn’t at work, i was on my MMORPG of choice. Sleep didn’t exist. I haven’t found anything worth sinking my time into since.

Everytime i try and log into any MMORPG today, i only make it to character select before i log off. I’d rather put on some streaming service and binge a show now.

Vaeris
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Vaeris

Talking graphical MMORPGs…1997-2004(5). After that everyone that had the funds to actually pull off a polished game basically wanted to be WoW and (IMO) the genre went down hill. It has (IMO) yet to recover and the prognosis (IMO) isn’t good.

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David Blair

Trade Wars 2002 was in… 1986? Legend of the Red Dragon was ’89…

Max players in Trade Wars was 200 per server. The BBS Doors games are probably the Golden Age of MMOs leading into Silver, Bronze, etc… eras.

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Barnoc N'Draak

Tradewars and Red Dragon were some good games!

BigAngry
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BigAngry

Man, takes me back to when I ran a 3-line Renegade software BBS out of my bedroom in 1995-1997. We had the most door games in the entire area code, and I maintained the hell out of them. 4 games of TW2002, one with a money planet, one with the Crystalline Entity… 4 games of LORD, I think we were beta-testing LORD2 because a sysop friend was helping write it. Other fun and obscure stuff like Lore, Barney Splat, Pit Fighter, etc… good times!

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Anstalt

We haven’t had it yet.

We had a “golden age” of experimentation – 1997 to 2004. during this period, there was no template so each studio was genuinely experimenting with what was possible and how to build an MMORPG. Some of the ideas were great, some were terrible, but that experimentation pushed the genre forwards and gave us the foundation of what we have today.

We then had a “golden age” of themeparks – 2004 – 2010. WoW changed the landscape and virtually everyone followed their design. These 6 years gave us a ton of themeparks with loads of great IPs. Experimentation and progressing the genre went out the window in favour of fine-tuning a single design idea. It gave us some very good themepark games, but all other design styles suffered.

We’re now in a slump.

The themepark route has been fine-tuned about as far as it can go with current technology and will require some radical thinking to take it further. The sandbox has still yet to receive AAA investment and so is languishing in the dark ages. Current devs are having to resort to gimicks to get us to play their games because they can’t think of innovative ways to improve their games or the genre as a whole.

I think history will repeat itself a few more times – a hit game with a new design style will release (the new wow), other studios will copy them to the detriment of everything else and then we’ll stagnate again – before we can reach a true “golden age”.

What will be required for a Golden Age?

1) Variety of design – we still see mostly themeparks following traditional single player RPG mechanics that just don’t work. We need a world that includes lots of sandboxes, themeparks, hybrids plus whatever other paradigms we can invent.

2) Variety of gameplay – a large majority of MMORPGs look and play exactly the same. A golden age will include much more diversity in gameplay.

3) Variety of monetisation – this is already getting better, but it feels like devs are giving us opportunities to pay every way; games have a sub, AND box cost, AND cash shop. There still isn’t much distinction. Where’s my game with a £5 sub and nothing else? Where’s my epic game with a £50pm sub that funds all content forever? Where’s my game with only an upfront cost and nothign else?

4) Variety of IP – this is still a genre mostly routed in fantasy. Even the sci-fi stuff tends to feel like fantasy with a sci-fi skin. A golden age will have a lot more variety.

5) Volume! If you view the MMORPG genre as only containing games that have a Massively Multiplayer component (which you should, that’s what the genre is defined by…..) then there simply arent that many MMORPGs out there (in comparison to other genres). Personally, I’ve gone 6.5 years without finding any MMO worth playing, despite looking around a lot. It cannot be a golden age if there aren’t many games being released. It is only through volume that we’ll get the variety we’re after – from the small indies up to AAAs across all design styles and types of IP. A lot of people think the current MMO market is over-saturated, but they’re wrong! The “fantasy themepark based on single player mechanics” segment of the MMO market may be saturated (though i’d argue otherwise) but most of the MMO market is completely underserved.

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Castagere Shaikura

For me all the MMO’s that came out between 2000 and 2005. AO, Neocron, AC2, DAoC, Earth & Beyond, Auto Assult. DAoC and AC2 were the only fantasy MMO’s I played back then. And at one point I had subs going for some at the same time. To me, this was the best time in the genre.

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Tandor

For me the Golden Age was from the beginning of the first generation MMOs such as EQ (as well as UO, AC, DAoC and AO all of which I played but found inferior in sundry ways) that pushed the boundaries of a new genre up to the start of the second generation MMOs such as WoW that dumbed everything down. One or two MMOs have risen above the dross of a crowded marketplace since then, notably LoTRO and ESO, but there haven’t been many gems and some of them – including Vanguard – got cut down in their prime.

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NecroFox4

I think I’ve personally experienced two separate and distinct Golden Ages of MMO Gaming.

My first is easily Asheron’s Call: Dark Majesty. No other MMO expansion has excited me so much, and delivered years and years of fantastic fun and exciting new systems. AC:DM was the very first pinnacle I ever experienced in relation to MMO gaming.

Three years later, World of Warcraft launched. And while I played it extensively, I wouldn’t experience what I would call another MMO Golden Age until 2009, when I got to enjoy Wrath of the Lich King with my then-girlfriend, now-wife for the first time. Questing across Northrend on our Hunters was some of the best fun I have ever had.

Nothing since has quite compared to the fun of AC:DM or Wrath with my wife. It’s all been down hill since then…