I’m sorta torn on this topic, because the research nerd in me loves to let my fingers do the walking and get instant answers to pretty much any MMO question I have. But there is definitely something to be said about the “good old days” of Everquest, when fansites, wikis, databases, and, yes, even bloggers, were few and far between. Sometimes it really is best to leave something to the imagination.
“Back in the day,” I remember people arguing about what the spell harmony did – some insisted it was a mana buff, and would cast it on other players, while some, correctly, said it was a threat reducer (although it was still up for debate on whether the spell should go on the player or on the mob).
I also remember being half dazed from doing our second guildie camp of Zordak in a row, (my 16 day proof of insanity) taking an afk, and feeling the blood drain from my head when someone told me that I screwed up the timer because I was sitting on the Zordak spawn point. Practically every night in /ooc, as adventurers settled in to their nightly camp claims, the neverending debate about the Anti-camp code would always find a way to surface.
There were lots of mysteries in Everquest – some true and some still unresolved. Don’t kill bixies or you’ll spawn griffons; don’t fall in the lava or you’ll die and have no corpse to loot; Lake Rathe is home to the Krakken, a giant underwater beast; the Tower of Frozen Shadow has a secret 8th floor; don’t organize monk protests outside Freeport or you’ll face the wrath of a 100 foot gnome named Smedley….
For better or worse, Everquest had a lot more of “the human element” in it than current MMO titles. On the downside, players survived the upheaval from such scandals as pie tin exploits, and tumpy tonic turn in abuse. But we also had the thrilling metagame called vendor diving, where you could explore the recently sold items on any particular vendor’s inventory and, possibly, find a real steal or two. Some poor sap’s careless sale was another man’s phat platz.
The content of Everquest was also more varied than the crisp decorum of level tiers and linear progression that so many MMOs sport today. Some zones were definitely better experience than others, but we didn’t have the benefit of a numerical exp tally with every kill, so patchtime often brought on careful exploration to see what the new best hunting spots were. Market prices were also unpredictable due to changes in drop rates – or the discontinuation of an item altogether. Rubicite armor was valuable to begin with, but skyrocketed once it stopped dropping. (and while it was a quest item, I still /mourn the end of the BFG). The fluctuating drop rates made the market a lot more interesting, because that certain worthless trash drop could suddenly become an overnight diamond.
Over the summer, Everquest 2 has had a lengthy in game event about the invasion of the void, and the murder of the Priestess in the North Qeynos temple. I’ve participated in each part of the live event quests that launch with every game update, and while I’m impressed with the unique rewards and storyline, I found myself thinking, “why did they have to tell us about it in the patch notes?” They have kept it vague enough that the mystery is still up in the air, but it would have been cool to log in one day this summer and, out of the blue, run into one of the black void clouds, with no warning or explanation. We wouldn’t know what these clouds were all about, and we wouldn’t know why the creatures nearby were suddenly afflicted with some sort of tempest-illness. There would be lots of in-game discussions about the back story, and eventually players would track down and share the locations of the quest NPCs. These in game chats about the quests would not only do a better job of getting the word out to the playerbase about the live event, but would also help to build *ta-da!* Community! I’m sure there is a very good reason why so much is revealed in patch notes these days, but I still think it would be cool if we were kept in the dark a bit more.
Warhammer suffers from this a little…..ok, a lot. By the time the game was launched, so much was written, screenshotted, podcasted, and video’d about it, there is little left to solve. Heck, a bunch of revelations came straight from the official site, in the form of regular journals, videos, and site guides. It’s almost like George Lucas blurting out that Darth is Luke’s father. Or Orson Welles announcing that Rosebud is the sled. The bright side is that the game is PvP heavy, so no one can predict exactly what’s going to happen (larger side will win).
Developers are, in a way, playing the role of MMO gods. Why not imitate the ancient gods of Greek and Roman mythology, and keep us on our toes a little more? More giant Smedley gnomes, less talk.