Bhagpuss has a post ruminating on attracting old players back to MMORPGs; while it’s mostly focused on the particular challenges facing Guild Wars 2 in this regard, there’s some discussion of other games in the genre also. It made me start thinking of my early time and somewhat unusual experience of these nostalgia trip servers.
I came to the genre later than many: I started World of Warcraft in early 2007, but then didn’t start branching out into other MMOs until 2009 through 2011. In most of those early games except WoW (e.g. Warhammer Online, Dungeons & Dragons Online, Lord of the Rings Online), I joined an already elder game where the vast majority of the player base were at the level cap or near it. The perennial problem of subscription MMOs especially, new players had a very sub-optimal experience since you’d only get to group up with veterans racing new alt characters to the cap for the most part. It meant zones were very, very quiet for the most part and any mandatory-group content was nigh on impossible to complete without sympathetic guild-mates.
In the next wave of MMORPGs that followed I did get to start with the masses (e.g. Rift, Guild Wars 2, Star Wars the Old Republic), so this post isn’t just some tale of woe. However, nostalgia for those earlier games doesn’t work so well for me as it wasn’t that great an experience. In the case of DDO and LOTRO, I’ve already experienced a fresh start when they re-launched as free to play games, so I’ve had all the server reboot excitement I could care for. With Everquest 2 I started on the first free to play server, Freeport, and had a very positive experience as a result of starting that game. Naturally I was soon left for dust by the bulk of the player base because I do not rush in any game. Still, I do not feel that motivated by nostalgia in EQ2 because I do not have the older memories to tap into that this kind of marketing relies on.
I’m about to be afk for some time and that has sapped my motivation for levelling on Kaladim, I could have joined a guild, but was it worth it for barely over a week of sporadic playing sessions? I’ve been so busy socially and in other games since my last EQ2 post that my character has only advanced one level (to 11). Instead I was tempted back to play some more of the Planes of Magic timeline and in-fact finished that for the first time Sunday morning. It feels very satisfying to have completed an expansion for the first time in a while, and has motivated me to want to go back and complete other stories that I’ve left unfinished – Shadowknight is a much better solo class for me, personally.
Nostalgia servers do offer the one attraction of busy starter zones, I do like to know that I’m playing an MMORPG by the presence of other player characters running around. Yes, competition for mobs or harvesting nodes or whatever can be occasionally annoying, but on balance I’d rather that than my early MMO experiences of empty, monster-crammed zones. So if friends end up in WoW Classic this summer I may well join them at least for a time. For the most part though I want to keep pushing onwards with my main characters in any game, there’s still so much to do on the live services.