Some things just never get old. No matter how old we get, no matter how jaded we become, there are some things in life that will never fail to bring a smile to our faces.
As it is in life, so it is in MMORPGs. If you play such games long enough, it’s easy to become bored of their standard tropes and numb to things you once enjoyed… but there are some things whose appeal is ageless. Some things just never lose their thrill, no matter how many times you experience them.
This list might be a bit different for different people, but to me, the following are those moments in MMOs that I will never tire of.
I’ve been playing MMOs for close to ten years now. In that time, I’ve become jaded to almost everything this genre has to offer. That’s not to say that I don’t have fun anymore, but it’s very hard to wow me these days.
But if there’s one thing that always makes me catch my breath in wonder — even now — it’s that moment when you first set foot into a capitol city within an MMORPG.
I’m not talking about mere towns or quest hubs. I’m talking about proper sprawling virtual cities. Your Stormwinds, your Elden Roots, your Pandemoniums. Places whose streets are choked by NPCs and players alike, where your chat window blows up and your screenshot key gets a workout.
Whenever I enter a new in-game city for the first time, I invariably wind up losing at least an hour or two as I walk down every street, investigate every nook and cranny, and talk to every NPC. A good virtual city is almost as full of color, flavor, and character as a real city, and I make it my mission to soak it all in.
Growing up in the world of DOS and pixel graphics, it never ceases to amaze me that video games can now produce environments as big and beautiful as MMO cities.
Creating a New Character
I am an unabashed and unapologetic altoholic. In The Secret World — a game that provided no good reason to ever play alts — I had five characters. In other games, my character select screen gets even more bloated. I just can’t seem to stop making new ones.
And I think at least part of the reason for this is that there’s something strangely addictive about creating a new character. Every time I start building a new avatar, my mind fills with the infinite possibilities of the adventures I might one day have with them. Each new character promises new experiences and new memories to be made.
For role-players, creating a new character is especially exciting, because it’s also an opportunity to forge a new backstory. Character creation almost becomes a form of story-telling unto itself, as you spin yourself the tale of this new avatar.
But even if you’re not into role-play, creating a new character can still be addictively alluring. Trying a new race, class, or faction lets you experience an old game in a new way. You can recapture the excitement you felt when you first started playing, if only for a time. It’s a way to keep things fresh almost indefinitely.
If there’s one trump card the MMO genre will always have over single-player games, it’s in-game events.
Not just the generic, canned holiday events every MMO trots out. Those tend to be pretty lame. I’m talking about the big, epic events that only come around once. Events that change the game, or bring the community together in a unique way.
In the old days, in games like Ultima Online or Asheron’s Call, it was common for game-masters to take on the roles of NPCs and play out major story events with the community. Nowadays that’s much rarer, but live events have not entirely vanished. Guild Wars 2 has made in-game events a major selling feature of the game, with somewhat mixed results, and World of Warcraft has its pre-expansion events, as well as other occasional one-time story events.
There’s just something uniquely thrilling about major in-game events. They bring the community together, forging bonds and memories that will last a lifetime, and they transform simple games into evolving virtual worlds that almost feel like real places.
Live events make memories in a way that nothing else in the gaming world can. Even years later, we can find some joy in looking back and saying, “I was there.”
These days I find the best way to recapture the feeling of excitement I felt on Christmas morning as a kid is to keep an eye on MMO expansion announcements.
Content patches aren’t the same. They might be exciting for avid players of a game, but expansions are a good way to attract the attention of the entire MMO community.
An expansion — a true expansion — isn’t just a content update. It alters and enhances the way a game is played forever. Expansions are literal game-changers. And that is exciting in a way little else in the gaming world can be.
A good expansion can bring in a total renaissance for an MMORPG. Legacy of Romulus got me to give Star Trek: Online a second chance after writing it off entirely. Knights of the Fallen Empire changed me from someone who didn’t care about SWTOR at all to someone with all eight class stories completed.
And so for this reason I continue to follow expansion announcements with anticipation, even for games I don’t play. Expansions can change everything, and that never stops being intriguing.
Helping Another Player
MMOs are a social medium, and oftentimes the best experiences they offer are the bonds we form with other players. For me, there are few things as satisfying as simply doing something to put a smile on another player’s face.
Of course, lots of people may think of major accomplishments they helped their guild achieve, or assistance they’ve provided to long-time friends, and those are very good things, but I think there’s something very special about offering random help to strangers.
Back in TSW’s heyday, I used to use the cash shop currency stipend from my lifetime subscription to buy the event bags that granted loot to everyone around me. During one such bag-opening, someone on their free trial got the Revenant Polar Bear, a rare pet that was one of the most coveted rewards from that event. It honestly made me far happier than if I had gotten the pet myself, and I like to think it helped give that person a positive impression of the game.
It’s memories like that that stick with you. Good feelings like that are timeless.