Monday, December 3, 2012

Five Tips About Returning to Older Games

I recently made a valiant, but ultimately ineffective attempt to return to Everquest 2 (EQ2).  It's a game that I feel never really got a fair shake (not just from me, but from the gaming populace as a whole) - mostly because it was released within three weeks of  a little known game called World of Warcraft.  Quite honestly, because of that alone, it never really had even half the chance it should have gotten.

So what's the game like now?  Well, let me start from the beginning by stating that I'm starting from the beginning.  I began with an entirely new character because I didn't remember anything about my old ones and knew that the game had undergone some pretty heavy changes - I wanted to start fresh.

Truthfully, I had a blast.  They've done away with a lot of the archaic methods of MMORPG's past; like forcing you to visit a trainer to get new skills, or leaving you in the dark regarding quest locations and how to complete objectives.

Now - a part of me still holds onto a significant amount of nostalgia for the first Everquest simply because of the fact that questing was actually hard.  Crazy hard.  You were often left with no idea where to go, who to talk to, or what to say - and when you did know, you needed a LOT of people to help you, and even more spare time to wait for the thing you needed to spawn into the game.

I can't imagine what it was like for the first players attempting to get their epic weapons - it must've been a nightmare - but eventually they figured it out and their knowledge found its way to all corners of the internet.  I digress.

While I enjoyed the gameplay in EQ2, after about 20 hours and a few dozen levels passed, I began to notice something I was somewhat unfamiliar with;  I hadn't really seen anyone else playing the game.  I panicked for a second and logged out to make sure I had created my character on the correct server (the most popular one), and I had.  I logged back in and immediately headed for Freeport, one of the game's major cities.  Also empty. 7 people total, which is a dismal amount at best.  Throughout the first 35 levels of the game, I never saw more than 15 people in a particular area - that includes towns and the starter zones, which as far as I can tell are are completely abandoned.

I took to the forums, I found a guild, I made friends.  All of them pretty much confirmed my previous, all-but-certain conclusion; the entirety of the game's population occupied the higher levels.  I was faced with getting another fifty levels on my own before I had a chance of finding a group.  And even then, those chances were slim unless I wanted to raid full time.  Which I don't.

And that's that for EQ2.  I'll never go back, simply because as much as I enjoy a game I have no desire to play an MMORPG completely alone, walking through vast ghost towns and abandoned cities that are teeming with eerily-robotic NPC life.  That's just not for me.  What a shame; these vast, detailed worlds are all but forgotten now.  So much time wasted.

This is a problem I've experienced before.  When Everquest (1) opened their time-locked progression servers I played there and enjoyed the resurgence of players starting over on squeaky-clean servers without decades of work tainting the new-player experience.  This faded quickly as 'content locusts' sped through areas, abused bugs and exploits, and ruined the game for many people.  They left in droves.  Now, Everquest's servers are a more-or-less mirror image of EQ2's, vast barren ghost worlds sparsely inhabited by bored individuals that occasionally want to raid.

So what do you do to avoid this?  Sadly, there's only a handful of things you can try in order to shield yourself and your free time.  It's worth noting that if you're the kind of person that enjoys the journey more than the destination, and doesn't mind playing alone 95% of the time, then this entire article probably doesn't apply to you.  Carry on.  If you're not that way, read below, maybe I can save you some time.

Tip #1 - Check the server status for that particular game.

Sony Online Entertainment (SOE) makes this easy for us by putting a ton of information about multiple games all on one page, that updates in mostly real-time.  Now, if you were trying to go back to a game on that list, you'd hopefully noticed that most of the servers sit at the low population mark (doesn't matter which game, in SOE's regard).  A few are dotted with medium-levels during key points in the day, and a very rare few hit high.

Why so many servers are still running for EQ1 baffles me - but these days server mergers are taken as signs of impending doom by stupid, nonsensical forum trolls everywhere.  Server mergers are always a good thing.  If you're waiting for a server merger to tell you that a game is failing, you're probably stupid.

Server status can give you a good indication of where you want to play, if that's an option.  If you're picking up an older character, it's an equally good indicator of what to expect.  If it's your prime gaming time and that server status is low on a Friday night, you're on a dead server my friend.

Tip #2 - Check the forums.

Forums leave a bad taste in my mouth.  I honestly believe them to be a complete waste of time and a detriment to the internet as a whole.  Coming from a blogger that's a big statement.  But 99.9% of all the junk you read on forums is a waste.  Meaningless, incorrect information and/or unrelenting hate spewing from the mouth of someone that can't tell their ass from a hole in the ground.

The VERY few people that get helped on forums could've gotten their questions answered somewhere else, easier, if software designers would just do their jobs and write meaningful tooltips and descriptions.  I digress again.

Yeah, sometimes they're productive.  Again, in comparison, that's win-the-lottery rare.

But, if the forums are inactive, there's a GREAT chance the game is inactive as well.  If you hit up a popular fan site, or the official forums, and see the last post was weeks ago, warning bells should be going off.

Asking about the population in the game never hurts either.

Tip #3 - Is there any up-to-date, detailed information about the game out there?

Most of the information on fan sites pertaining to games that are 5+ years old is completely outdated and utterly worthless.  Some of it is so incorrect that it might actually do more harm than good.

If fan's aren't actively participating in their own community, and neither are the developers, you probably shouldn't be either.

Tip #4 - Don't listen to

 If you head over to (which is still in beta, after years. . . ) you'll notice a few games in the lower right hand corner.  It shows how many hours people using xfire played those games.

I have been a hard-core video game junkie, addict, nerd, and/or gamer for the better part of twenty years.  I have never once met someone that has used Xfire.  Nobody has suggested it to me.  Nobody has mentioned it.  The only reason I know it exists is because I read a comment about it on a site similar to mine a few years ago.

Xfire is kind of good at showing you trends - and that's about it.  While it's 100% correct that League of Legends is the most popular video game in the world at the moment, pretty much everything else on there is unbelievably misleading and/or flat out inaccurate.

If you want to know about the latest expansion's effects on the player population, Xfire is a good place to go.  Noticing that their numbers ran up about 50% when a major event in a game's life happened is probably close to correct.  Thinking that Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare is the second most popular game in the world is not.  And Call of Duty 2 isn't 3rd either.  I didn't need to say that, did I?

Tip #5 - Don't play games that are 4+ years old and still require your money to try.

If it costs $15 for a monthly subscription, and that's the only way you can get back into the game, it's probably not worth trying.  Good games, popular games, have free trials, or some way for you to get back into the game, albeit briefly, for you to try it out again.  Don't do what I've done in the past - it's not worth it. 

Look, ultimately you know what you like.  You've got a good idea of what to expect when you return to an older game.  Truthfully, I've rarely found the experience to be worth anything more than a few-days-long nostalgia rush followed by an overwhelming feeling of sadness for what used to be, and of course the time I wasted.

Hopefully, this'll save a few people some of that time.  Thanks for reading this long, drawn-out entry about my recent disheartening experiences into games long-past.  One day, they'll all be up in that big server in the sky together.


  1. xfire has 3 call of duty games on there. Speaks for it self.


Got something to say?