Personally, I still play Everquest. I’ve played it since about 6 months after release. I do take frequent breaks from it, but I keep going back. There are still plenty of time sinks, but I find all MMORPGs have them. I know you bashed on EQ pretty hard. It’s not for everyone. However, I do feel that they continue to improve the game. Everquest is definitely unmatched in size and scope of the game world.
Currently, I’m really liking the latest expansion called, Lost Dungeons of Norrath. This expansion adds in the dynamically spawned content that you see in some other MMORPGS. To get an adventure, you need a group of at least 4 and you need to be at least in you mid 20’s in level. Your group leader then clicks the “adventure merchant” and gets missions until they find one that the group wants. Missions are your typical themes, slaughter, collection, rescue, or assassination. Once you get your mission you have 30 minutes to get to the dungeon to start the mission. The dungeon entrances are anywhere from in the same zone to two zones away. Travel isn’t an issue though, nor is the 30 minute timer.
Once your party enters the dungeon, you have 90 minutes to complete the adventure. This dungeon is a spawned dungeon. Only you and your group can enter it. The dungeon starts with the creatures spawned. There is no respawn, so it’s basically a classic dungeon crawl. Fighting is generally fast and furious, not to mention a lot of fun. When you either succeed or the 90 minutes runs out, there is an addition 30 minute period where the dungeon remains spawned. If you have failed you can finish the mission for a partial reward. If you succeeded, you can continue killing for loot and experience. Your reward for success is in the form of “adventure points” which can be spent at special merchants for some pretty nice stuff.
There are a total of 5 themes in LDoN. Depending on the theme you might be fighting orcs, undead, or other creatures. I’ve had a lot of fun so far in my adventures. The timers keep things moving along. I think it’s a great thing for a casual gamer. I can usually log in and do a LDoN adventure in a few hours.
Also in regards to EQ, they have added and continue to add things to speed players through the early levels. They have removed the death penalties at low levels and improved experience rates. There have been many improvements to the user interface. It is now .xml based and fully customizable.
As far as other games go, I did play Asheron’s Call when it first came out. I really couldn’t get into it at all. The chat and inventory systems seemed too clumsy compared to EQ. Also, I prefer a first person view and AC seemed to force you to play third person. A friend of mine who has played about every MMORPG out there tried Asheron’s Call 2 and told me not to even bother. I took his word for it, so I haven’t tried it myself.
Dark Age of Camelot was an ok game. I started playing that at release time. Unfortunately, I got very annoyed with the constant “tuning” (aka nerfing). It made me feel that they needed more play testing before releasing the game. It’s very frustrating to level a character up only to have most of their abilities taken away. It really makes it feel like a waste of time.
I played Star Wars Galaxies for about 2 months. If you like the Star Wars universe, I would even recommend it. The graphics are nice. I’m sure it will be very cool once they add in player owned speeders and star ships. However, I again started playing this game at release and again the initially tuning just really took the fun out of it for me. I swear that none of these software companies actually do a proper beta test. I also can’t believe that EQ has had the premier in game chat system for years, but that SWG’s (also a Sony game) chat system sucks so badly. To summarize, it’s probably worth a try, but it wasn’t the be all, end all of MMORPGs.
I haven’t played Shadowbane. It’s sounds like griefer hell to me. I will do PvP, but I don’t want it forced on me.
There are a few others on the radar such as Everquest 2, Horizons, and World of Warcraft. I know many are looking forward to WoW due to Blizzard’s skill in developing the Warcraft series.
So far, I think the biggest thing that I’ve learned about MMORPGs is to give them a few months after the release. The various software companies seem to be releasing them in beta form, so you can save yourself pain by waiting a few months to play them.