The year was 1998. Two years ago I had bought a new computer (Pentium 133) and one year ago I took my first steps into the world wide web. I’ve been reading about this game “Ultima Online” for a couple of months now and was pretty intrigued, so I started playing my first MMORPG in 98.
I won’t bore you with endless details on how incredibly awesome and unique this game was (maybe later). From 1998 to 2004 I’ve been playing UO, but when the expansion “Age of Shadows” was released in early 2003, I started looking for an alternative. You see, UO used to be a completely open game, with no quest direction, no character classes or levels. Everybody had dozens of skills at their disposal and using them improved those skills, which was measured in points. However, there was a limit on the total number of skillpoints a single character could have (700), so you had to make decisions which skills to raise to grandmaster (100 points). The variety of character builds was completely insane and the game wasn’t focused on combat alone either. You could be a craftsman (carpenter, tinkerer, alchemist, fletcher, blacksmith, miner etc.) or pursue a profession more suited for serious role playing (beggar, cook, fisherman etc.) and of course be a swordsman, archer, mage or anything else you could think of. Equipment came in different qualities and a few pieces were magical with damage or armor boosts, but the main strength of a character came from his skillset and the player’s ability to make the most of it. Leveling a single skill to grandmaster level often took weeks, if not longer.
When Age of Shadows came along, they changed the focus of the game from skill based to item based. Raising your skills became much easier and the skills themselves became a lot more powerful. In addition to that, items got a lot of stats, armor got more resistances and the game introduced artifacts which made the good old vanq/power broadsword look like utter garbage…the investment of millions of gold instantly devalued, nice one.
Well, I didn’t like these changes and the new custom housing feature (player housing was in the game right from the start, but now you could design your own home), collecting rare items (something that never catched on in WoW, I’ll talk about this as well one day, since I believe I’m the only WoW rares collector) kept me playing for a while.
A friend introduced me to WoW in 2004, but he couldn’t really persuade me to play, because I knew how good the classic UO was and even the current UO sounded better than what WoW was supposed to offer when it was released.
However, this all changed when I got to play the beta, which both of us got invited to.
Now let me get one thing straight: I was NOT instantly hooked by WoW. In fact, it pretty much embodied all the things I hated about UO when Age of Shadows was released, so I wasn’t exactly sold on the whole experience.
But two things made me play: The first was having a friend in the game, since playing together is always more fun and the other was a change of scenery.
After 7 years the world of Sosaria didn’t really feel that fresh anymore, even if there was still content left to explore. The world of Azeroth was new, unexplored and seemed vast so I gave it a shot. I also really liked the art direction and overall visual style of the game. The soundtrack was incredibly good and the gameplay wasn’t very deep, but very fluent, especially compared to the clunky movement and action of UO.
So I bought the game in early 2005 to give the free month a shot, thinking it wouldn’t last very long. I also kept looking out for other MMORPGs and vowed for WoW to be just a stopgap solution until I found a worthy successor of UO…well I guess you know how that story ends, right? Over the years no game came close to UO, so I kept playing WoW. The only title I liked was EVE Online, which has fantastic character development and gameplay, however I really couldn’t stand the setting, I’m just not that much of a sci-fi guy when it comes to MMOs. Hopefully Pathfinder Online will be the High Fantasy MMORPG with EVE Online gameplay roots.
Now, constantly complaining about the current state of WoW would make you think that I had a grand ol’ time playing WoW (and maybe TBC), right?
Wrong…in fact: I’ve been complaining about World of Warcraft from day one! I absolutely HATED WoW Classic and was constantly ranting about the ridiculous limitations and linearity of that game. Here’s a few things I always got mad about in the early days:
- Why are there classes? It’s so limited…I want customization and freedom, not being forced to follow a strict path
- Why can’t I wield certain weapons or wear all kinds of armor? Does my character have some kind of brain tumor that makes it impossible for him to wield a sword without stabbing himself? And I get that plate armor reduces the efficiency of a stealthy rogue or casting mage, but I should still be able to physically equip these items. Do all mages have a leather allergy making them throw up when they’ve got leather touching their skin?
- But why can a mage become a blacksmith and miner if he has some genetic defect that causes him to be unable to even wear a plate helmet? How could he forge one with masterful skill if he’s too stupid to put one on his head?
- Why isn’t my ghost at my corpse when I die? Shouldn’t this be the logical place to be? I should start from my corpse, looking for a healer to resurrect me, not the other way around. My ghost somehow gets teleported to the next healer…how? Why?
- Quests…oh god the quests! UO didn’t have quests, you made your own stories and adventures. UO didn’t NEED quests! I hated quests with a passion. Each quest I finished I was hoping NOT to get a new one from the NPC and one I’ve finished an area and moved on to the next, I cringed when I saw a dozen exclamation marks (not on the minimap, that wasn’t implemented yet)…quests were a total chore and I always had to force myself to work through them
- And why are there “levels” anyway? Why does the game show me the level of an enemy and how difficult the encounter is going to be by even coloring the level? I don’t want to be able to see the encounter difficulty beforehand, that’s dumb! Engaging an enemy without knowing its strength is much more thrilling and was loads of fun in UO
- I have to wait HOW long to be able to ride a stupid horse? It costs HOW much? Are you KIDDING ME? My goddamn beggar in UO can afford a horse…they cost the equivalent of 6 WoW-silver. This was one of the few things I initially hated about the game, but I eventually really liked this massive hurdle which turned out to be a great reward
And a lot more…I stopped playing after 3 months but returned after a while. My first retail character, an undead priest, was probably not the smartest choice for a beginner and only got to level 13 (still didn’t delete that char). Since I already played a hunter in the beta (hey, everybody played a hunter in the beta), I decided to go for a rogue and start on a new server. Well I’ve stuck to this character and server until today (together with a new priest). But even through all of WoW classic I constantly raged about the game, canceling my account, resubscribing and throwing my WoW box through the room when I got angry (didn’t want to trash my computer).
Well, what’s the point of all this? Think about it! I started playing World of Warcraft and I hated it for the most part. Over the years WoW has evolved in a way that makes me look back on the way the game was, thinking: “You know…compared to what we have today, WoW classic was a LOT better…I wish I could play it again!”. The first time I had that thought I realized just how bad the game had actually become. Even playing on a buggy private classic realm with unfinished scripts is more fun.
When I started playing WoW I thought the game was way too easy, progress was insanely fast and players got everything handed to them on a silver platter.
In comparison to the current state of WoW, the Classic version seems balls to the wall hardcore and would be deemed unplayable by most newer players, I’m sure.
Seems like I’ve gotten slightly off topic again, but I just can’t help it. At least you know why I even started playing the game in the first place and what my initial thoughts were, because even I think it’s somewhat surprising to hear myself talk about good ol’ wow classic, when I actually didn’t like wow classic at all.
Another interesting topic would be why I’m still playing the game. Maybe tomorrow or whenever I feel like it 😉