Sunday, March 10, 2019

A New Career In A New Town

Every so often I get the urge to start a character and level up for the sheer fun of it. It could be in a game I've played for years or it could be somewhere completely new. When the mood strikes I'm not that fussy.

Well, perhaps I am. In the back of my mind I always have a template and it's drawn directly from the DIKU-MUD playbook. I want to goof around at low level in a western fantasy, quasi-medieaval setting. I want to fill XP bars by killing monsters and kit out my new characters in gear those monsters drop or that NPCs give me for killing them.

That's the minimum entry requirement. For bonus credit I also want to be able to play someone three feet tall or less, preferably with fur and/or a tail.

I have a mental list of games that work: EverQuest, EverQuest II, Lord of the Rings Online, World of Warcraft, Allods Online, Rift... The problem with those, though, is I already have established characters in all of them. After a whle I start to feel that perhaps I should "work" on those instead, make some "meaningful progress", push into the higher echelons of the game, see new zones, spend my time "profitably"...  stop goofing around, basically, forgetting that goofing around was the reason I rolled a new character in the first place.

That's one reason "New Start" servers work so well. I can start over on a brand new server and feel like my efforts are meaningful, even though I'm doing something I've done many times before in the exact same place I did it every other time.

Anarchy Online has a New Start server called Rubi-Ka up and running right now. I have some small nostalgia for AO. I was in the closed beta, for which I received an installation CD in the mail. At the turn of the Millennium, no-one could be expected to download an entire MMORPG through a 56K modem. If you even had a 56K...

I never played in that beta, though: I couldn't get it to run. Didn't stop me buying the game when it launched but I couldn't play it then either. It was one of the first, worst MMO launches. It set standards of unplayability seldom matched since, although hardly for want of trying.

Eventually, Funcom got that sorted. It took them a couple of months as I recall, during which time subscription charges were waived. When they started the subscription clock running I played on until the end of the thirty days that came with the box and then stopped. I liked the game but not enough to pay $14.99 a month on top of my EverQuest sub.

AO was one of the first Western MMORPGs to go free to play, as far back as 2004. I've been back a couple of times since but never for long. There's a whole new introduction, tutorial and starting area for F2P and although it's undoubtedly more user-friendly it has zero nostalgia factor for me.

I would quite like to see the original starting grounds again, though, and now I can. In theory. Rubi-Ka features the "classic Arrival Hall and backyards". It also requires a subscription. I don't want to see them that much.

Reading through the FAQ, Funcom's take on the concept of Progression or New Start servers is unusual to say the least. Requiring a subscription is standard practice for milking the nostalgia market but setting the server to last just 12 months and then deleting all the characters on it definitely isn't:

How long will the server be open?
The current plan is to run the server for 12 months- however, if near the end we see the community wants to keep it going, that is an option we are not taking off the table.

If the server closes, what happens to my character?
If the server does end, characters do not carry over from RK2019 to the original server

Other than bringing back the old starting areas, Funcom isn't even paying lip-service to re-creating the original Anarchy Online experience:

What about balance, mechanics, and systems?  Are those being reverted?
We are not reverting any code, systems, or balance changes with the new server.  Existing mechanics and systems such as damage caps, falling damage, XP loss, Improvement Point (IP) menu, profession balance, PvP, etc. will not be reverted from how they currently are.  

The actual "progression" aspect is unusual, too. Firstly, the server begins with a level cap of 10. As I recall, even around launch that wouldn't have taken very long.

What about the level caps and expansions? How will those be handled?
The server starts with no expansions and a low level cap (10)... expansions will be added to the server over time.

If that sounds vague it's because it is. Intentionally so. Funcom appear to be running the whole thing as some kind of democratic social experiment. All the things that other developers wrangle out with the players before launch are going to be decided according to feedback as people actually play:

You’re steering this ship - We’ll be on deck to listen to your feedback and thoughts on when level caps should be raised as well as when expansions would be added to the game.

If it wasn't for the subscription I'd give it a go but I know I wouldn't even last a month so I'm going to save my fifteen dollars. It's not like Anarchy Online is the only New Start in town.

As previously discussed, EverQuest and EQII are each launching not one but two new start servers later this month. I'm still in two minds about those but I'll probably at least roll a character on Kaladim and possibly one on Selo.

Later in the year we have WoW Classic to look forward to, of course. It's odds on I'll resub for that although I imagine that sub won't be renewed. A month is probably two weeks longer than I'll need before my curiosity is satisfied.

There is at least one other upcoming option for some kind of a "fresh start" that hasn't been getting anything like the attention. It's not a new server and it's definitely no kind of time-limited progression: it's the long-postponed transition of Dark Age of Camelot to a Free to Play model.

DAOC must be just about the last subscription-based holdout from the first wave of MMORPGs. It's astonishing it's taken this long to get there but supposedly "early 2019" is the target for the launch of what Broadsword is calling Endless Conquest:

What is Endless Conquest?

Dark Age of Camelot: Endless Conquest is a way for players to experience the core features of Dark Age of Camelot without a paid subscription.

Who is eligible for Endless Conquest?

New accounts are eligible and previously-subscribed accounts that have been closed for at least 120 days can downgrade to Endless Conquest status.

What do I get with Endless Conquest?

Endless Conquest accounts receive complementary access to all Dark Age of Camelot expansions through Labyrinth of the Minotaur. Endless Conquest accounts have access to Dark Age of Camelot’s core features and can enjoy exploring Albion, Midgard, and Hibernia, leveling their character to 50, and fully participating in realm vs realm combat, and much more!

That does sound quite appealing, especially the part about being able to play your old characters. I probably still have my original login and password details lying around somewhere. Or I might just start over from scratch. I always rather liked DAOC's low-level PvE game - it's about the closest anywhere to EverQuest's and unlike EQ's I haven't played through it for about a decade and a half.

At the very least I'd like to take some screenshots. I don't seem to be able to find anything I took in any MMORPG from before about 2004, meaning nothing at all from DAOC.

I wonder who's going to be next on the New Start/Progression bandwagon? Are there even any likely candidates left?


  1. I did a DAOC trial back when I found it it wasn't free, but struggled to get my login and password since I don't have the email address associated with the account. I really wanted to see my old characters again. I'll definitely try again when it goes Free to Play.

  2. I'd go try DAOC again - It's my second favorite MMO after EQ. I loved it there until Trials of Atlantis, and the regular test server destruction by the devs =) I think a comment was eaten here, so sorry if this is a duplicate - I made it different enough just in case!

    1. Both comments turned up! They disabled the free trial last year, apparently, in preparation for the F2P conversion, which seems a bit weird. Last time I tried, which was several years ago, they didn't have a free trial at all, as far as I could tell. I hope they do actually come through with the F2P offer eventually because I'd like to have abnother look around.

  3. If you create a character on the PvE EQ2 server, let me know. Although I am limited in play time lately, I will probably give it a try.


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