Podzilla 1985

Saturday, July 14, 2012

A Promise to Keep pt. 1

I knew this day would come eventually.

Guild Wars 2 finally has a release date, and it's a very hot August 28th.

This is fantastic news as I've been watching and waiting for this game very patiently since I first caught wind of it years ago. But with that sense of excitement comes a feeling of dread as I now have to own up to a promise I made to myself and my fiancee.

You see, as an MMORPG addict who is certainly no spring chicken now, I decided to give up my passion once and for all. Guild Wars 2 would be my final hurrah in the world of persistent online gaming, and I swore to myself and my beloved that I would follow through with my decision.

I don't know why I made such a boast. Maybe I felt like it would take so long for the game to come out that I would get the MMO blood out of me before it hit shelves. Maybe years upon years of new releases had tainted whatever good will I had towards the entire genre. It's no secret that my love for the industry has definitely waned over the past few years especially.

Now this isn't the ramblings of some Johnny-come-lately noob with a couple of seasons under his belt. No sir-ee, I've put my time in on a scale I like to think is both grand and sad depending on your tolerance of nerd devotion. I've traveled through more alternate realities than the cast of Sliders.

Let me give you a brief history lesson and touch on what I like to call the “Big Three.”

My introduction to the world of MMORPG's was the first for a lot of my brethren, and it's a title that I still hold dear to my heart. Richard Garriott and his Ultima franchise wasn't new to me, I had played some of the single player titles on the Commodore 64, which happened to my first computer. I found them charming, but they never blew me away like they did so many others. I was more of a Nintendo player at the time, and spent more hours in games like Final Fantasy and Super Mario Brothers.

But one day a frequent visitor to the diner my mom worked at, the same one who sold us our C64, told me about Ultima Online. He described it as an honest to God second world where you could do pretty much anything you wanted. There were no levels, no stat bonuses on items, no quests and no dungeon raids.  You weren't just slaying monsters, you could be a lumberjack, or a blacksmith, or a damn fisherman if you wanted to be. The world was yours to explore and there were very little restrictions in what you could do

The game had so many possibilities it still boggles my mind how they got “it” so right back then and titles now somehow have less features.

I spent many a year in UO, and it was the most rewarding game experience I have ever had. I still remember the first log in screen and the haunting MIDI song that greeted you. I would ask other beings if they were real or NPCs because I couldn't tell the difference sometimes. I started as a simple fisherman, casting the waters of Britian and selling fish steaks to a local bartender. In retrospect it may sound a bit boring, but the concept of an online persistent world was new to me. It was one of those “you had to be there” type of things.

I hooked up with a guild, the Crusaders of the Soul, and they taught me the ins and outs of Sosaria. It really felt like a brotherhood, and it was a kinship I have yet to find in another game. I gave up my fishing rod and learned the art of magery, and years later when my time in the world came to an end I was a grandmaster mage with a lifetime of virtual memories.

Expansion after expansion came out for Ultima, and each time I felt like the world dwindled a bit. I knew the good times couldn't last forever, and the introduction of artifact items and stats killed my love of the game. So eventually I moved on to what became the second biggest addiction in my gaming life- Star Wars Galaxies.

This is what an MMO should be. You take a popular IP, you give people the freedom to live their life how they see fit, and watch the profit roll in. Star Wars is one of my biggest obsessions (a nerd who loves Star Wars, go figure amiright?) and Galaxies looked amazing.

Make no mistake, the game had its faults. It was clunky in some aspects, the animations looked a little odd, and the combat didn't exactly set the world on storm. The same could be said of UO, but none of that mattered. It was freakin' STAR WARS and I was in it!

Like in my previous title I started simple as a stylist before I moved on to being a pistoleer. My best friend went with combat from the beginning, and he also made the mistake of rolling a Wookie that he joined the Empire with. It was funny to me that he had to work harder than other Imperials because they didn't like aliens, so to them he was a second class citizen. But once he climbed the ranks he could spit on NPC officers and they would apologize to him!

Fantastic!

But me, I was a covert rebel, and we had a strange friendship where we would help each other even though we were supposed to be enemies. We fought the Tusken raiders, we built our houses, sometimes we just stared at the beauty of Naboo.

Then the Jump to Lightspeed expansion came out and I finally realized my dream of being an X-Wing pilot. It even mostly played like X-Wing vs. Tie Fighter, so I found new use for my flight stick that had been collecting dust since I lost interest in Microsoft Flight Simulator.

Like Ultima though, the good times couldn't last forever. Sony decided to change the game completely in a slight fiasco you may have heard of. Gone was my hybrid of a stylist and pistoleer, and my love for the open world Star Wars experience.

By this time the number of MMORPG releases were starting to grow in size. I hopped from game to game, never quite settling my bones anywhere in particular. There was fun to be had, but it felt like the same kind of fun everywhere I went. Honorable mentions at this point go to Ragnarok Online, and Final Fantasy XI, as they were both fantastic games that kept my interest for more than a month.

But, like most MMO gamers, my next big thing was World of Warcraft.
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