The Daily Grind: Do old MMOs perform so much better now than at launch that they’re actually easier?

    
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The Daily Grind: Do old MMOs perform so much better now than at launch that they’re actually easier?

MMO blogger Wilhelm of The Ancient Gaming Noob fame recently posed us a question about old vs. new MMOs. “Our WoW Classic group has been doing instances a person short and has still been very successful, even when a bit under level,” he says. His group has theorized that maybe his teammates just suck less than everyone did during Vanilla, but it could also be that the new WoW Classic just runs way better than it used to – that fights are less challenging in large part because the game performs way better on our 2020 PCs than it did back in 2004. And it might not just be WoW. “Are other, older MMORPGs made easier by the progress of tech and time?” he wondered. “I feel like EverQuest, while smoother, doesn’t benefit all that much on its retro servers.”

I suspect the same, especially when it comes to clients that are old enough not to have proper support for multicore PCs. I’ve seen that myself with rogue servers where the client is ancient and the maintainers aren’t really in the business of rewriting the dang engine. But of course, WoW has been spiffed up along the way, as have several older games like RuneScape and EVE Online.

Do you think old MMOs perform much better now than they used to – to the point that they’re functionally easier? Let’s see some examples of some that do – and some that really, really don’t.

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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Jokerchyld

Or how about the history of all secrets in the game being available on the Internet for literal years, for digestion, studying, and memorization?

The game is easier today because players know exactly what to do and the most efficient way of doing it. Which to me is anti-climatic defeating the purpose of playing to begin with.

Now when you speak of new MMOs, they do offer more conveniences and less time sinks but their challenge and complexity are much less than the original MMOs that came before them. Mostly because the genre has grown since its inception, and today’s MMOs have to make themselves availablet to a wider base. Add in the segment of players who have grown up and have responsibilities add that adds to the demand of reducing the grind and difficulty.

Is that a good thing? I don’t know I’m torn. I’m all down for the genre growing, but think it goes too far when its at the expense of creating flexibility and challenge.

I’m the type of player who rather fail and play the same level over and over than to be able to beat all the levels and reach end game. I get more accomplishment out of the former than the latter and is why I play games to begin with. To be challenged in an entertaining way.

Mewmew
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Mewmew

So World of Warcraft was released in 2004, a quick search looks to show the majority of Internet users were on dialup modems at the time. Therefore WoW was probably made for slower internet speeds and with lag in mind, so yeah it would probably be easier today with fast connections and your commands always getting through immediately.

So it probably is both an increase in both game performance on the PCs of today combined with the updates of the internet speeds WoW was made to perform with.

When Wildstar first launched, it took higher than average hardware to run the way it was supposed to. It was one of those games that reminded a lot of people it was time to upgrade their hardware for the next generation of games. So things like the jumping puzzles were made more difficult at first launch for many players.

Bereman
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Bereman

I think you’d have to have played on some pretty low-spec machines* for it to noticeably impact your ability to do things like run dungeons.

Like, below minimum spec for WoW back in the day.

As long as the game isn’t frequently freezing, or turning into a slideshow of approximately 1 frame per 3 seconds, you were probably fine.

*I started WoW on one such machine – a laptop obtained for college that was designed for business, not entertainment, that had a whopping 32mb of video RAM, among other low for 2004 specs. Even then, the performance didn’t tank deeply all that often and short of the times it did (near the end of its life, to be honest) I was able to play the game just fine.

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styopa

I doubt it’s systems, I’d attribute it to vastly more information… and frankly I have to concede raw player skill.

The people running these instances now have (for example) a DECADE of muscle memory and reflexes – no, maybe not with that particular game, but with the whole genre – to avail themselves of.

When we were running it, even if we were hardcore, it was still a pretty fresh concept. Even with my reflexes of 15 years ago, a given comparable player today is a far, far better gamer than I was at that time.

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squid

“Are other, older MMORPGs made easier by the progress of tech and time?” he wondered. “I feel like EverQuest, while smoother, doesn’t benefit all that much on its retro servers.”

If you’re talking purely about FPS, lag, etc., EQ1 doesn’t run as well as you’d expect given the increase in PC power over the last 21 years. Even with old models on, I’ll get hitching/FPS drops around big MGB blobs and the servers crash during prime time every few days.

If you’re talking about the difficulty of the game, EQ1 players on progression servers are obscenely overpowered compared to the classic players due to a number of core changes that cannot be reverted for progression servers.

mosselyn
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mosselyn

I don’t buy it. We didn’t die to lag/refresh rate back in Vanilla WoW. We died to things like butt pulls, breaking CC, failing to notice pats, and wearing random pieces of gear.

WoW Classic is definitely easier than I remember Vanilla, but I think it comes down to player experience and add-on sophistication. We have many years of experience with game mechanics now, more and better add-on crutches, and, if anything, over-optimized gear.

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johnwillo

I know that I do a hell of a lot better in Classic than I did in Vanilla because, at launch, I didn’t understand ideas like proper skill rotation, gearing for my spec, roles in instances, etc. Sure, better frame rate and greater knowledge of the game by other players helps, too.

creationguru
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creationguru

I can look at both sides of the coin on this.

On one hand the games are easier now I feel as the leveling curve has been shortened and also the hardware today can brute force its way though many issues and also with minimal latency now over what was there was 20 years ago in online gaming.

On the other side so many games just run worse in loading times as I feel with the low cost of vast amounts of memory companies just don’t optimize games like they used to when they had to really look at every MB of space that they were able to use. Best example of this I have for is mostly in single player games but so many SNES era games ran with almost zero screen/menu transition lag what so ever and in the same games or newer games any time I bring up any type of menu there is alway noticeable lag to the point it can turn me off.

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Ironwu

I think the basic premise is flawed. For instance, LOTRO has not performed at launch levels of quality since Turbine died and all the LOTRO servers were shunted into one pile. Even the latest 64 bit client still cannot match the original performance.

Some games simply cannot be made to work better. Once Anarchy Online had its initial defective code sorted out, well that was it. Based on a software engine, not much could be done. EQ1 pretty much in the same boat.

From my experience, most of the noticeable actual improvements over time have been to fix the functionality of the game up to what it should have been at launch.

Alternatively, to upgrade the graphics and interface to a higher quality while maintaining current performance levels (think WoW).

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Schmidt.Capela

The reason I often say that I prefer (single-player) games on the harder side is exactly due to experience. I’ve been gaming since the days of Pong, so I have a lot of experience with any and every genre I enjoy playing; when you’ve logged many thousand hours with functionally similar games, it’s quite obvious you will find similar games easier.

The same thing happens with everyone who has been an active player and compares how hard a classic MMO felt at launch and how hard it feels now. Years playing similar games can make one heck of a performance difference for the player.

(It’s also the reason us experienced players need to dial down on requests to make things harder. A game designed to challenge players with hundreds or thousands of hours of gameplay under their belts will be brutally hard for a newbie.)