Tuesday, November 23, 2021

Killing Time

If there's one thing that ticks me off it's finally settling down to play an mmorpg, only to find the servers are down for a patch. Or an update. Or a hotfix. Or whatever. Lots of names for the same thing: Closed. Come Back Later. 

It's not like the dark days of the twenty-oughts, of course. Back then, mostly, if your online game of choice was offline, so were you. You might, if you were lucky, still be able to read the forums, although as often as not they'd be Undergoing Maintenance at the same time. 

Before the free to play revolution, most of us didn't play multiple mmorpgs. I'd take a bet that an overiding majority played just one. Subscriptions cost money and making any kind of progress in the games of the day required a major investment in time. Even if the cost wasn't an issue, you didn't want to spread yourself too thin. 

Nevertheless, even from the start I always had a back-up plan. I applied to every mmorpg beta I heard of and sometimes I got in. There were more than you might imagine, too, although by no means all of them made it to launch.

Some of those betas seemed to go on for years. Even now, a couple of decades later, I can remember a few of the ones I'd turn to, when the servers in whatever game I would much rather have been playing went down. 


I can remember them but I can't necesarily remember what they were called, although a few stick in the mind. There was Endless Ages, of course, supposedly the first mmofps and also the first game I played where I had a character who could fly. Or use a flying mount. One or the other. I forget the specifics but I know I used to flap up and land in trees. 

That one did eventually launch. And fold. And relaunch. 

Another, Planeshift, is, amazingly, still running. Even more amazingly, two decades on, it's still in alpha.

I'm kidding. Sorta. It's in "Unreal Alpha" so I guess it's not a real alpha after all. Boom tish! Tip your waitress, I'll be here all week. 

I never really liked Planeshift. At that time it was one of those typical prototypes, where all you could really do was wander around and wonder why you were there. I used to fire it up now and again, more out of desperation than desire. I'd spend half an hour doing nothing very much then log out and wish I'd just read a book instead.

There wasn't a whole lot more you could do in the vikingesque mmorpg being developed by some obscure Scandinavian studio I used to visit every few months. I can't recall the name of either the company or the game. I think it began with a "D".


I liked, whatever it was called, even though it never really ofered even as much content as the most fly-by-night early access game would give you now. The shovelware floodgates hadn't yet opened and anything that let you make a character and walk around a couple of acres of barren tundra seemed like a gift.

It wasn't all alphas and betas. For much of my EverQuest/Dark Age of Camelot/EverQuest again career I did actually subscribe to a second mmorpg, The Realm. It, too, is still running. As I've observed on many occasions, mmorpgs are hard to kill. 

The Realm had one great advantage over other subscription games - it was cheap. The sub cost less than half the going rate. I forget exactly how much it was but $3.49 comes to mind. Or maybe it was £3.49. 

It seemed a fair price. In the age of 3D mmorpgs, The Realm was 2.5D. Playing it felt a little like moving cardboard figures with a stick, an approach adopted even more enthusiastically by another game I used to play, whose name also escapes me, although I remember it was being developed by a company called Missing Ink. No, wait, that was the name of the game. Gone now, all gone.

In the realm of The Realm, very much still with us, not much seems to have changed in a quarter of a century. These days a subscription will run you $4.99 although there is, inevitably, a free to play option. 


Who would choose to play any of these games today, given the overwhelming choice available, much of it for free, is an intriguing question, albeit one for another day. I didn't come here to wax nostalgic about these long-forgotten, even if still played games, nor to exhume them in exhaustive detail.

I could, quite easily. I could research the missing names, give historical context, describe the arcs of anticipation and disappointment, achievement or failure. It's all there in the strata. I've done it before, too. No doubt I'll do it again.

Not this time. The point of this post is to kill an hour while I wait for the EverQuest 2 servers to come back up, so I can play that game while I wait for New World to come out of "downtime" (As Amazon innocuously describe today's small adjustment to the recent, giant, disruptive and controversial patch.)

I could, naturally, have played any number of other mmorpgs while I waited, maybe Fallen Earth, Elyon or Allods Online, just to name three I've recently said I'd like to find time to play, but you know how it is. When the servers are down in the game you want to play, somehow all other games lose their luster.

Now if you'll excuse me, I've just checked and the servers are back up, so I'll be off. I have a Necromancer to dress and with luck it should take me just about as long as it takes Amazon to finish putting right those things they got wrong last time.

The little things, that is. Not the big ones. Fixing those could take a little longer.

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