This is not a trolling thread. If you disagree with me, ( which I'm sure there will be those that do ) if you can't articulate yourself in an appropriate manner don't bother. Also if you are one of those pretentious people that love to try to argue people into submission, do us all a favor and leave. This is for the gamers that have been around for a while, the gamers what experienced early MMOs and fell in love with the genre before it's demise, not in actuality but in principal. Fair warning, this thread will probably be longer than most.
With the eminent shut down of vanguard I began asking myself a question, what in the world happened to the real MMO? Most of you that have gotten passed the first paragraph already know what I'm talking about, but by the off chance you don't I will elaborate. MMOs began their decent down a slippery slope ( starting with Everquest 2 and accelerated by the unfortunate success of WoW ) of catering to the masses and becoming linear grind bore-fests, and have rendered the genre unrecognizable. The real MMOs being those in the same lineage as ( to name a few ) Runescape, Asheron's Call, and Everquest.
What made them different? I understand that the core concept has not changed much over the years, but the principal has. I remember the first time playing Asheron's Call. ( It was my favorite MMO of all time so I will reference it ) I was dropped off in a large world with nothing to go off of, half naked and afraid. No question marks on my map. No exclamation marks over the surrounding NPC's, NOTHING. I remember I thought at this point " What SHOULD I do?" I decided to walk along a random road ( those that have played the game know this was a bad idea ) and wound up running into a level 15 or so armadillo of sorts that made short work of me. Upon respawning I realized I was naked and had nothing. In a panic I asked someone in a local town ( who was working on CREATING SPELLS ) what to do, he laughed and escorted me to my remains where all my items still were. Why bother telling the story? It brings me to my first difference, CONSEQUENCES. In AC I quickly realized that I would have to not only think carefully about what enemies I engaged but also where I traveled alone. This consequence system added an element of fear and strategy that has not been seen in the genre for some time. This was only amplified when considering what dungeons and instanced quests to embark on, since sometimes it would be nearly impossible to get back to without a substantial party. All this contributed to a sense of immersion that doesn't exist in the genre today. In today's MMO all I have to worry about is a few durability points of armor taken away at death, or a few minutes of decreased stats which can easily be overlooked as I go grab a drink and a snack
Now that I have hit on the topic of consequence I would like to advance to questing. Questing isn't questing in today's MMO. Let's look at the definition of quest in proper context for a moment. Medieval Romance. an adventurous expedition undertaken by a knight or knights to secure or achieve something. What exists now hardly fits this definition, you're not finding or achieving anything worth mentioning. A quest by today's standards is an NPC with a sign over his head meaning "Talk to me" that usually has a problem with a random indigenous creature, and gives you an arbitrary number to kill. Once finished you usually head back to the same spot and say "Yup, killed ( insert arbitrary number here ) of them" at which time the NPC responds with " Thanks here is the piece of gear you see every other "adventurer" wearing in this vicinity!". At this time your hand is held to the next NPC with a sign so you can kill the next arbitrary amount of creatures. BORING! It used to be you could talk to almost any NPC and they would have something to say, a location where you could search to find a dungeon to explore, or a general location to find a monster ( a lot of times elite ) which you would have to hunt down and kill. Maybe the NPC would give you a clue on the right ingredients to create ( not to be confused with being handed generously as you level up ) a spell! Those were quests! This also all but guaranteed you would not encounter some random dude that looked just like you, with the same gear as you, which I might add is an epidemic in today's MMO. This again added to the immersion, giving you a sense that you might find anything anywhere, and you were on your own distinct path.
The last part of the previous paragraph brings me to my next point. Player progression is now pointless. You are given a set number of levels with a set number of stats ( which are usually allocated for you ). Even if the stats are not distributed the game's structure forces you to put them somewhere. i.e. archer putting stats in dexterity. This did not used to be the case. In AC I could distribute my points to ANY stat and have it matter. I remember putting lots of points in jumping so I could make it to an obsidian dagger in a dungeon that had large chasms to cross. Later on I found an ever so useful strategy of jumping on top of structures or trees to kill enemies above my level or to avoid PKs. ( That's right, true player kills, which was activated by a quest, where you became a red dot on the map and PVE players parted like the Red Sea ). I would simply like to iterate that any player of any class could level any attribute and could play the way THEY wanted to. This again, added to immersion by giving you the illusion that you were your own, unique, hero OR villain.
I planned to present all the points I could think of that the original genre excelled over their current counter parts, but writing this thread has made me realize it would only make this already long thread longer. There are so many more elements that I wish still existed. There were raids on other guilds houses randomly, there were trading towns that actually traded, houses to be bought in game not instanced ones, there were spells that HAD to be created to be learned, different weapons would effect different enemies in different ways, and communicating with others was essential not a tacked on mechanic with a match making server. I miss the days of being invested in my character. I remember how sad I was to delete "Areion" from AC when the time came. It seems as if I could go on forever. Since Everquest 2 I have jumped from game to game hoping for the same type of experience and have yet to find it. I am not saying there is no place for the "modern" MMO, I'm saying there still IS a place for the old school one. Let me know what you think. Here is to hoping I'm not alone.