Earlier this month, MOP’s Eliot penned a WoW Factor that doesn’t quote but certainly does evoke the ol’ Heraclitus quote about how you cannot step into the same river twice. Even if you’ve somehow not changed, the river has. Reformatted for MMOs, it’d mean that returning to an old game can be rough: Even if you’ve been frozen in time, the MMO has moved on without you, from its design and developers to its community and content. Whatever river you’re stepping into is most definitely not the same.
Of course, that doesn’t mean you won’t like the new river anyway, and that’s where I want to go in today’s Massively Overthinking. I’ve asked our writers to tell me about an MMO that they played and left for a long time, only to return later… and enjoyed it in spite of (or even because of) all the changes to it and to themselves in the meantime. Have you ever returned to an old MMO and fallen in love? How did it work out?
Andrew Ross (@dengarsw): Some long-time readers may recall me jumping back into Asheron’s Call 1 and 2 before the shutdown. Not only did I still enjoy both games, but I once again felt a stronger connection to Asheron’s Call 2. The latter’s more modern systems, racial ascetics without granting strong racial advantages (the big Lugians didn’t have higher strength than the little Drudges, for example), and imaginative classes made me severely disappointed that the game was shutting down. AC1 was great, but the things I liked about it largely had been upgraded/discarded (RIP spell research) or required a Live Team to run GM events.
In a similar vein, I also went back to Horizons/Istaria for a gut check when reviewing Crowfall and ended up spending a chunk more time there than I’d expected. If I hadn’t already paid for CF and felt the need to get my money’s worth, I probably would have skipped CF altogether. While Horizons really isn’t a great game for combat, the crafting was accessible and required, as even after the loot update, crafting felt like king. Tons of fantasy races, plenty of non-instanced housing, the music… man, it’s just a shame the playerbase is so small (though that’s also, weirdly, something I liked). I’m not playing it right now, but gun to my head, it’s the one non-privatized, non-upcoming MMO I’ve left but still think about jumping into once in a while.
Ben Griggs (@braxwolf): I log into LOTRO two or three times a year because I enjoy being briefly bathed in steep nostalgia. But it’s very fleeting. I find I can only stand it for a couple of days before the desire for new experiences pulls me away again. Even so, I think I love it in a different way than I used to. I appreciate the music the most, and the world/environment/characters next. Gameplay mechanics and progression are no longer of any interest. I appreciate the little things, but not enough to continue to splash around in the changed river for very long.
Brianna Royce (@nbrianna, blog): This has happened to me over and over, and it’s precisely why I get annoyed at the wrong-headed “that’s just nostalgia” routine from a certain segment of gamers and they know who they are. Not only am I perfectly aware the river has changed, that’s usually exactly what I’m looking for – a slightly different version of the river I left because of something I didn’t like. Games like City of Heroes, classic Guild Wars, and Star Wars Galaxies all changed with age – and ultimately got better, so I enjoyed my time far more with them the second (and third, and fourth) time around. I feel pretty much the same way about Lord of the Rings Online now.
Of course, not all MMOs improve with age…
Chris Neal (@wolfyseyes, blog): Sure, it’s happened before and is likely going to happen again. I also am likely going to fall back out of love with a game. Then back in. And then back out again. It’s all rather cyclical.
I think one of the one “old” games that has hooked me far more fully has been Final Fantasy XIV. Granted, that’s not quite as senior as the other games that this question is maybe referencing, but you do have to consider that I dropped out at Dreams of Ice, which came out in October 2014, and I didn’t really come back until just around the time Heavensward came out, which was in June 2015. By that time, I had gotten over my rage at the endgame grind and found friends to play with (as well as fell back in love with tanking).
I also found the way Lord of the Rings Online and Dungeons and Dragons Online did things to be a sort of comfortable staple of my “earlier” MMO gaming years, though both of those have kind of fallen back out of my rotation as well. Honestly, I don’t think I’m drawn in (or out) of any game for any reason other than feeding my fancy or exercising my prerogative to do so. Sometimes it’s just as simple as “I wanna.”
Justin Olivetti (@Sypster, blog): I’ve done this all the time. In fact, over the past couple of months I’ve been revisiting RIFT and finding that, despite its diminished population, there’s still so much to praise and enjoy about this MMORPG. Seriously, it’s slick stuff. And I’ve had multiple experiences where the first few times I’ve been so-so about a game, only to have it “click” with me later on.
Sam Kash (@thesamkash): I played SWTOR when it released for several months. I had a grand time playing it as a duo and crushing through the story. I enjoyed the combat overall, but the endgame PvP at the time still required PvP gear (I don’t think it does anymore, but it did then).
Well, a couple of years ago I stepped back into the game, and it wasn’t a great experience. While the removal of PvP gear was a boon, much of the progression system was completely foreign to me. Even the changes to classes and skill trees were too much. Also the PvP system was totally thrown against a wall and bullied for its lunch money. Gone was a normal queue for playing a single map. It was all random. Maybe a real map, maybe a sportsball map – it was totally crazy.
Needless to say, I didn’t stay. I just didn’t want to read up about what all the new systems were enough to make it worth it.