Every MMO represents a journey, starting with an idea, progressing to a fledgling beta, launching as a production title, and growing thereafter. All of the games we know now aren’t exactly the same as they were one, two, or more years ago by virtue of change.
Thus, it’s often easy to remember that many MMOs launched without what we would consider fairly important features, particularly those specific to the game’s vision or name. I list these today not to make fun of the games (well, not just to make fun of them) but to illustrate how features are often sacrificed in the pursuit of getting a title out of the door — and how far these titles have come.
1. EverQuest: A robust questing system
For a game that sports the word “Quest” (with its own intra-word capitalization) in the name, EverQuest couldn’t have been more misleading than the book The Neverending Story. “I’ll take, ‘Things this game doesn’t really have’ for $200, Alex.”
Oh, EverQuest had some quests of a sort, but as veteran players will tell you, they were hard to find, difficult to finish, and not really the core of the game at all. A more accurante title for the game circa 1999 would have been EverCamp or EverGrind.
We’re going to be picking on names a bit here in this column because your name helps to sell your brand and experience in a huge way. Dungeons & Dragons is a gamer’s household name; it conjures up specific fantasy tropes, including the two words that make up its title.
? Hint: It had plenty of dungeons.
Sure, dragons are usually high-level critters and shouldn’t be frittered away on lowbies, but it does seem like a development oversight. Of course, if they were looking for dragons, they should have been talking to the person who probably absconded with them: Daenerys (level 12 Queen/Fighter multiclass).
Woo boy, I can hear the fanboy defense coming out right now: “‘Guild Wars’ is referring to a historical event that happened well before the events of the first game, so it’s stupid to hold them to that as a feature!”
My rebuttal: I’ve always thought that that was a silly reason to give for the franchise’s name, and in any case, the first Guild Wars had, y’know, wars between guilds. The sequel, now even further removed from the historical event, still doesn’t let guilds go at each other in some sort of epic struggle. I guess it’s one of those names that the devs hope you don’t look at too closely these days.
For a game that was all about superheroes, it was downright strange that there was nary a cape to be seen in Paragon City from April to September 2004. I guess I understand that capes are difficult to program and animate, but it still was an odd omission.
The game owned the eventual inclusion, however, as Issue 2 included a storyline and quest that explained the absence and return of capes.
Oh, you knew I was going here eventually. SWG’s rush out of the door in June 2003 meant that certain features had to be postponed until later on, one of those being any semblance of space travel or ship-to-ship combat.
The wait for space combat would take a while for fans: Jump to Lightspeed didn’t come out until well over a year later in October 2004. When it did, however, fans finally felt as though the game was finally “complete” (in a sense).
6. Anarchy Online: Had anarchy, wasn’t online
OK, this is low-hanging fruit, but the irony of a title boasting to be “online” while being very opposite that case when it launched back in 2001 was not to be missed here. Yes, Anarchy Online got its issues sorted out, but for weeks and even months the game was nigh-unplayable, making all of the features it did have a moot point.
7. World of Warcraft: A fleshed-out endgame and structured PvP
It’s easy to look back with rose-tinted glasses and remember how many of us had a blast leveling in World of Warcraft back at launch. It was probably a good thing that it took us so long to do so because WoW circa 2004 had incredibly little to do once you hit the cap. Most high-level dungeons and raids were still under construction (leaving Molten Core and Onyxia to shoulder the raid burden), and there was no such thing as structured PvP in the game (such as battlegrounds or arenas). Maybe the devs thought they had months or years until the bulk of the playerbase would be at a level to require such content. I dunno.
8. Destiny: Group finder
For an online game that has an awful lot of group content, it seems absolutely bizarre how little effort Destiny put into creating tools for communication and cooperation. A group finder? That might as well have been some alien language for this dev team, which is only now reluctantly including such features for some of its content.
Devs: It’s 2015. Group finders should be a mandatory, automatically included feature. Accept it.
9. Ultima Online: A functional user interface
I’ll let Bree explain this one: “UO’s original UI was really ad hoc. By default, most everything was hidden. There wasn’t no hotbar system or a fixed map or unit frame. Everything was pulled out of nested panels and via macro and just floated on your screen wherever you put it until you dismissed it, even unit frames and spells. Classic UO didn’t have chat in the sense of a chat box originally, either. Where a chatbox normally goes in an MMO (and where it goes now in the advanced UO clients), there was a single-line entrybox reserved for admin messages and guild broadcasts. All other chat in the game was overhead, the ancient version of chat bubbles, and you could see it only if you were in range.”
10. Warhammer Online: Four “living cities” and four classes
A couple of months before Warhammer Online’s launch, the team announced that a large amount of content could not be finished for release. This included four out of the six racial cities and four classes (the classes would later be added in but the cities never were). Considering that this was a realm vs. realm title with an endgame that focused on sieging and conquering enemy cities, it was a major hit to the titles prospects as the next big PvP event. I always wondered what it would have been like to explore the Dwarf capital, but alas, that was never to be.
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