The Daily Grind: How did your early MMOs shape your expectations for the MMOs you play now?


I was chatting with MOP reader and commenter Bruno Brito a while back when something he said about player expectations in MMOs struck me. I’ll paraphrase him here a bit:

“I see that a lot of people on MOP started with EverQuest; others started with World of Warcraft. WoW was my first game that had quest design, but I started by playing games like Mu Online and Priston Tale. In those games, grouping was more of a convenience tool, since you were grinding all the time, like in Diablo, where the idea was just farming drops until the best one dropped. But when I started playing World of Warcraft during Wrath of the Lich King, I got really used to quality-of-life features like the random dungeon finder. It’s made transition to other games without those features quite hard for me.”

What he was getting at is the idea that the early MMOs you played become the cultural luggage of the games you play, essentially setting your expectations for everything you try later. I certainly think it’s true for me; I am constantly comparing new games to experiences I had in the first six or seven years of the genre (and often, though not always, being let down – but that’s another topic for another day). I wondered whether that was true for other folks too and how it differs from my take. How did your early MMOs shape your expectations for the MMOs you play now?

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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For me it means all games get compared to Ragnarok and pretty much everything comes up short. It’s the only time I’ve ever been able to get really into the community and it was an absolute blast. I think RO is also why I’m perfectly find grinding for levels, and actually tend to gravitate towards that game style. The funny thing is while I’m happy to grind levels, in almost all cases I refuse to rep grind lol (RO didn’t have that).

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Ashfyn Ninegold

Knight Online was my first MMO. 99.9% of the time I had no idea what was going on. I just tried to get my various tasks done and have fun doing them. That’s still what I do.

WoW sucked me in sorta by osmosis from Diablo 2. I raced my guildmates to level cap. Again, I knew nothing about any greater game, end-game, or gearing. I’m still that way about end-game, but I pay closer attention to gearing and the game’s overall arc.

LOTRO became my home MMO. I moseyed about ME, paying little attention to much beyond crafting, looking for adventure and knocking off achievements. I just liked riding around and killing stuff. I still do.

My expectations are that I’ll be able to play the way I want. If a game is too restrictive, I get disinterested. This is why I dislike gated content. If “the game really shines at end-game” is true, then I’ll likely get bored and move on long before that. If a game is on rails so that there’s little adventure to be had, I usually find it unsatisfying after a short time.

Based on my track record, for the longest time I thought MMOs were about experiencing content with different classes and trying different things just for the heck of it. The Modern Approach of having someone tell you what the (ugh) meta-game is and only playing to that is terribly stifling. I generally don’t like games that have only one solution (like meta) because it short circuits imagination and creativity and possibility.

Chris Walker

I dabbled a bit in UO, but the first MMO that I really sunk a lot of time in was Dark Age of Camelot (DAoC). It showed me how fun it could be to team up with others to face and defeat shared challenges in an online world. It also taught me realm pride and the joys of meaningful pvp.

Almost 20 years later, I still play it. It’s clunky, no doubt, but it still has a certain magic.

Rolan Storm

SWG was first MMORPG that I was actually in for some length of time. I caught some of Asheron’s Call, was even in Everquest for a bit (played it much later, when it had it ton of expansions already).

Old MMORPGs set bar way too high. New MMORPGs seemed empty or lacking on adventure. I was readily greeting themepark hand-holding only for a moment – I realized soon enough it is barely camouflaged cycle. It took a while to find myself on WoW-defined landscape.

Castagere Shaikura

For me, I started with the first generation of MMOs. To me, this means any MMO that came out before Wow. So I have had to get used to a lot of things in them. Some I like and some I didn’t. I don’t know how to explain it but I feel you had more freedom in the first generation MMO.

Bruno Brito

If by more freedom, you weren’t locked into shallow “class fantasy” bs, then yes. You had, because character development was way less static and streamlined than it is today.


I ended up knowing what I like and what I don’t like… >.<


I find that each MMO I have played for any length of time has taught me valuable lessons. My first MMO (SWG) definitely had the advantage of being able to teach me the most, because before it I knew nothing.

– SWG taught me the potential of the genre. Virtual worlds! Virtual societies! Nothing that I’ve played since has even attempted to achieve the same thing, but I remain (17 years later…) excited about the possibilities of the genre. It also showed me a good way to create a virtual economy, although I wouldn’t learn this lesson until much later in my gaming life as I wasn’t a crafter in swg.

– LotRO taught me the potential of combat mechanics. LotRO had the deepest combat mechanics I’ve ever played in any genre, ever. Nothing else has managed to match this game, I absolutely loved combat and the endless decision making that comes from depth. Through it’s expansions, it also began to teach me about the evils of vertical progression, and also how to create a great community (and how bad decisions really harm that community).

– WAR taught me the true meaning of being massively multiplayer. 100s of players involved in the same fight, using proper battlefield tactics and coordination. Sadly undermined by the evils of vertical progression and shit loot systems which drove away most of the people I played with.

– SWTOR taught me how not to make an MMO…..because the game isn’t massively multiplayer. It also showed me the problems with building a really shallow combat system on top of rampant vertical progression, resulting in boredom during combat. Also taught me the lesson that no matter how bad a game has been designed, if you have a good IP, you can probably make it work.

– ESO and Wildstar taught me just how much I hate action combat and how bad it is for long term retention. All action combat games are shallow (they don’t have to be, but they are) which means I just get bored within a few hours. I saw my feelings repeated by most people around me. This has resulted in a design style and business strategy that revolves around the churn: you cannot retain players with shallow mechanics
Problem I have now is that with so much learnt and experienced, new games have a really hard time getting me to buy in. I can accept a low amount of content, it is a new game after all, but I can no longer accept bad design decisions. Devs should have learnt enough lessons from their competition to avoid most of the common mistakes, but for some reason they don’t.

For example, vertical progression: the problems it causes are numerous, and the only strength it has is in it’s familiarity. So, when I see a game built around vertical progression, I can already guarantee that the leveling process is either nearly all solo, or will become solo in the future when devs have to remove the group content due to lack of players. This in turn results in a playerbase that only knows how to play solo, so grouping becomes harder, and the community will remain weak. I can already guarantee that gear grinds will be there. I can already guarantee that any PvP in the game will suck, because new blood will be driven off by the more powerful vets and most encountered will be unbalanced by gear, as well as by skill and player numbers.

So, if I see these mistakes being repeated, and can already predict the effects of these mistakes, why on earth would I play?

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Paragon Lost

Tabletop rpgs then MUDS/text and then graphical. Each one impacts what I want and expect from today’s mmorpgs.

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I’ll second Loopy below, it’s more about what parts of games I enjoy and appreciate that shapes my future expectations.

– Guild War’s instanced quest areas. Don’t need instancing per se, but it had some neat side effects that I miss whenever someone’s killing the last boar I needed… also, it gave the world a sense of isolation and bigness.

– Guild Wars 2’s zone flow. Most of the areas were so well-built that you could start at one end, get caught up in all the quests you needed, join a zone boss event, and by the time you were wrapping up your last couple scenic vistas you were ready for the next zone. Not a lot of retreading ground or wasted time.

– EVE’s… essence? The music. The visuals. The sense of real risk. The slow learning of new skills, of refitting a ship, of earning the ISK to buy a battlecruiser… I probably played EVE the least of any MMO, but the idea of it resonated with me more than any other. Whenever I think of my ultimate MMO, the weight, intricacy, risk, and heart of EVE is kinda my starting point. Just… not all the shenanigans that come with it.


I think most of the examples are negative “oh I don’t like this at all”; where they aren’t, current MMOs have the unenviable task of not only being the best in their generation, but they have to be better than all the ideas we’ve previously been exposed to.

That must suck!

I’ve played what, maybe 20+? MMOs I guess? There were some things I liked about them, some things I didn’t. But if I sit down with a new potential love, I’m comparing it against all that experience. Oh, a crafting system? It’s not as interesting as EQ2. Graphics? Well…it’s ok but it’s not as good as Black Desert. Controls are good, but they’re not as responsive as WoWs. Action combat …eh, it’s no Blade and Soul.

In essence, I now have a litany of things I really liked (nearly none of which appeared all together in any one title) against which this new product is inevitably going to be found wanting in most cases.

That’s a tough bar to try to get over.