To celebrate the effort’s 10th anniversary—and, somehow, the 20th anniversary of the release of the original game—some very passionate Everquest fans have revealed ambitious plans that are aimed at letting players go through the game’s release journey (including expansions) all over again.
The team behind Project 1999, already running a server recreating the vanilla Everquest experience, have announced the release next month of Project 1999: Green:
Project 1999 Green is a new PVE server without any patches or expansions enabled upon release. Old-style mechanics and drops will be enabled, including legacy items such as Guise of the Deceiver and Manastone. The server will then progress through all patches on the same timeline as Everquest’s original launch, all the way up to the last patch in Velious.
The server goes live in October 2019, and in keeping with Everquest’s original timeline, January 2020 will see the release of Plane of Fear, November 2020 Ruins of Kunark, etc., running all the way through to July 2021, when Scars of Velious will be released.
This is such a cool idea I don’t even know where to start. Letting fans play through all this stuff is good as it is, but getting everyone back onboard the hype train, then making them live it out in real time, is something else. Hopefully it’s more fun to play than the official attempt at something similar.
World of WarcraftClassic is allowing tons of dedicated and longtime fans to relive the early days of their favorite game. For someone like me who never had any experience with World of Warcraft, it’s a different sort of time capsule. It’s strange to be a total newbie to one of the biggest games in history, but there’s also joy to be had in not knowing what to do or where to go next.
I know almost nothing about World of Warcraft. I know the Alliance and the Horde, I know that Tempest Keep was merely a setback, I know Jaina’s done some questionable things recently, and I know “you no take candle.” My knowledge of Warcraft is secondhand. I picked up fragments from things like Hearthstone and that one time I saw the World of Warcraft movie with my girlfriend. WoW Classic is totally alien to me. Ever since my curiosity got the better of me and I started playing two days ago, I’ve bumbled about as a fresh-faced priestess and found myself happily overwhelmed by the game’s scale and design.
MMOs aren’t new to me. I’m an avid Final Fantasy XIV player. I played Star Wars Galaxies, Guild Wars 2, The Old Republic, Lord of the Rings Online, and more. When I dropped into Azeroth, I had some fundamentals to work on: learning the leveling process, how to get new spells, walking the path to the infamous town village of Goldshire. All of it has been a fascinating peek at a world I’ve never known. There have been surprises—I have never in my life seen a Tauren before, so that was a shock—but they’ve been a lot of fun. And while it feels strange as a games journalist to admit my lack of Warcraft knowledge, I’m content to wander from quest to quest and observe the game’s bustling community.
Last night, I found a green quality bow while slaying a murloc on a quest. Not the highest-quality weapon and also not anything I could use as Priestess. I could have sold it and made a little more money for buying new spells, but instead, I asked in General chat if anyone wanted it. Someone messaged me asking to see the item. I linked it in chat. He passed.
“I hope it goes to a worthy hunter,” the stranger said.
My reply came quickly: “I figure why sell it if I can help someone out.”
“That the spirit of Classic,” they offered in turn. I’m not making this up; that’s just how nice this stranger was.
I’m level 10 right now, and although I don’t plan to power level, I’ll eventually get to 60 even if I only play one or two nights a week here or there. It’ll be a long, relaxing journey. I’m not going to raid in a hardcore fashion; I won’t have multiple characters; and I’m not gonna role play, even though I found a weary traveler on the road last night and struck up a quick chat. Instead, I’ll amble through Classic and finally get a chance to see what the fuss was about all those years ago.
On a large computer monitor or television set hooked to an Xbox One or PlayStation 4, DC Comics’ eight-year-old, free-to-play massively multiplayer online superhero role-playing game looks pretty rough. On a lesser-powered console like the Switch with its smallish handheld display, DC Universe Online is a perfect portable MMO.
DC Universe never was a looker. Released in 2011 on PC and PlayStation 3, the online game has always sported a generic comic book design reminiscent of the DC comic books I remember reading as a young teen. Not a lot of personality, but the powers and costumes are cool. Over the past eight years, Sony Online Entertainment and then Daybreak Games have released a bunch of new powers, costume bits, and story content for DC Universe Online, but the core game has stayed the same. Now the game is out for the Nintendo Switch and it’s exactly as I remember it, only smaller and more convenient.
The story remains the same. Brainiac is on the verge of conquering the Earth. In a last-ditch attempt to save the planet, Lex Luthor from the future travels to the past (technically the present) to release “exobytes” into the atmosphere. Exobytes are super-powers which are stored as data. They transform normal humans into superhumans on contact. Players take on the role of these new supers, fighting for truth, justice, and the American way. Or fighting for evil. That’s always a choice.
The coolest aspect of the Switch version of DC Universe Online is that it gets its own dedicated server. Crossplay between platforms is nice, but a dedicated Switch server means everybody playing the game on Nintendo’s console starts at level one. Payers familiar with how the game plays on other platforms will have a leg up on newcomers, but for the first week or so, everybody will be busy chasing thugs and leveling up.
It also means there are plenty of free character names available for players to apply to their superhero or villain creations. The game begins with players creating a hero or villain, selecting their powers, weapons, appearance, and creating a costume from an available selection of parts. Players can create a completely original hero, or start with a costume inspired by iconic DC characters.
Character creation is one of the places DC Universe Online’s free-to-play nature is felt most acutely. There are 15 different power sets in the game. Only six of these—nature, sorcery, mental, ice, fire, and gadgets—are available for free. In order to unlock more, like Green Lantern-style light powers, players must purchase downloadable content packs in the in-game store. The same goes for creating heroes with powers inspired by any actual DC heroes. Some heroes’ powers, like those belonging to Superman and Wonder Woman, are available for free. Others, like Livewire or Black Lightning’s powers, must be purchased.
In order to create my dream character, I had to purchase the quantum power set and the skimming movement type via microtransactions. There is also an option to purchase a membership to the game, which provides instant access to all available DLC packs plus marketplace discounts, the ability to form a league, unlimited in-game currency, and more. For now, I am happy with the stuff I bought to bring my quantum brawler, Entanglement, to fruition.
Once inside the game, DC Universe Online is very handheld-friendly. It’s an action role-playing game. X and Y buttons perform light and heavy attacks. There are eight spots for powers and items on the game’s hot bar, activated by a combination of shoulder and face buttons. The B button jumps and activates a hero or villain’s travel power, allowing them to jump, fly, run, or float through Metropolis or Gotham City.
It’s a very structured MMO. Players take on a series of story-based missions which generally culminate in a dungeon of some sort. Entanglement had to battle Scarecrow’s cronies on the streets of Gotham, as well as help doctors treat patients affected by his fear gas. Eventually, she uncovered Scarecrow’s underground lair, rescuing Batwoman and serving quantum-powered justice to the deranged villain.
That caper complete, Entanglement headed back to the Gotham Police Department, where Batwoman gave her a hot tip about Bane, setting the next series of missions in motion. Eventually, Entanglement will have to group with other players and maybe get a nickname so I don’t have to type out her full name every time. But there’s plenty of solo content in DC Universe Online to keep me occupied until I’m ready for a team-up.
I wasn’t sure I’d even get this far into DC Universe Online for the Switch, having played a large chunk of this content of different platforms years in the past. But there’s something neat about playing the MMO on a small, portable screen. The graphics don’t feel quite as dated when I’m laying back in bed staring at a 720p display. I also was easily able to take the game with me earlier today when I was at my doctor’s office receiving an infusion of antibiotics. (I imagined it was superhero serum. I am a giant dork.)
If you can wade through the mess of microtransactions (maybe avoid the in-game shop), there’s plenty of fun to be had in DC Universe Online. Pretending to be a superhero or villain is one of my favorite things to do, and this is a fine, free way to do it.
After playing massively multiplayer online games for over two decades, it’s time to pass the legacy on to my offspring. My seven-year-old son Seamus is playing Adventure Academy, a new educational MMO that teaches him important skills like quest log management, maximizing experience point gain and buying cosmetic items. And probably some math, science, and reading.
Seamus and his twin brother, Archer, are both more computer savvy than they should be. Both like to look up logos, research other languages, play kid-friendly web games and watch questionable YouTube videos until we turn off the internet.
Seamus prefers to do his own thing on the computer, which means if you try to get him to do something else, he will get angry or ignore you. To get him to play Adventure Academy with me, I had to employ mild trickery. Instead of playing with him, first I had to play near him. I made myself a character, styled after Seamus. I logged in, performed a few activities like reading books, playing math and word puzzles and watching short educational videos. Soon enough, he was glued to my side. Kids learn better when they are tricked into it.
Created by Age of Learning, the company behind popular early learning website ABCMouse.com, Adventure Academy is a massively multiplayer online game where elementary and middle school children can learn, level up and, should their parents allow it, socialize. Parents create a subscription-based account, paying either $9.99 a month or $60 a year, with an option for a free trial. Once signed up, parents can create characters for their children, designing their basic look and setting their learning skill level, which can be adjusted at any time.
Parents also choose how much communication their children can have with other users. There is a chat filter so robust that I’ve yet to see any offensive chatter (or offensive names, for that matter) since the game’s May 1 launch. Parents can let their children type freely or turn off chat completely. Fearing what Seamus would attempt to type unrestricted, I chose the third option, which lets children see chat but limits them to a series of preset phrases.
So far Seamus has been much too busy exploring the in-game campus and gathering quests to worry about chatting with other players. Girl and boy avatars with names like ShimmerCat and Spacegirl are background noise as he wanders the academy’s main hall. It’s an ivy league institution for the younger crowd, with its wood-paneled walls and warm amber lighting. Children’s avatars shuffle between the math hall, science hall and library.
Every area has activity kiosks, where players can instantly access various learning activities. There are games to play and puzzles to solve. Videos, both animated and live action, cover a wide variety of subjects. There are full books, which children can read or have read to them via voiceover. Completing these activities rewards players with experience points and coins, the latter used to buy cosmetic items at various in-game shops.
There are no microtransctiions, and there are no ads. Players unlock new items in stores by leveling up, and the only way to earn the gold to buy things is by completing activities and quests.
And oh boy, are there quests in Adventure Academy. Every time Seamus sees a yellow exclamation point over a character, the universal symbol for quest giver, he must click. His quest log is a source of both motivation and anxiety. These are tasks which must be done, pulling him in different directions. Should he work on assembling a guitar or run and read the “Book Club” quest’s current assignment? Someone needs him to find a durian for lunch. Maybe he should do that? When we open up the quest log he gets this look on his face that I must have when I go quest crazy upon entering a new World of Warcraft zone.
I am proud of how Seamus is playing. He methodically completes his goals, guiding me toward them during moments when I take control of his character. He has yet to realize, as I quickly did, that all he needs to do to level up is open up a book on the activities page, set it to read automatically and then wander off to do other things. He seems determined to learn. Good boy.
He’s bought himself in-game clothes, because he likes options, just like his old man. He quickly discovered that the game does not limit boy and girl characters to clothing items that are traditionally geared towards one gender or another, so he’s wearing a skirt and tights, a top hat and Elton John glasses.
Unlike other MMOs I could mention, Adventure Academy includes a housing area where every player gets their own home to decorate. It’s nowhere near The Sims level complexity, but it’s a start.
Math, science, art, music, literature—Adventure Academy covers all the basic school stuff. But it’s also teaching Seamus how to play games with others, or at least with other nearby. Age of Learning plans to add a bunch of features to the game in 2019, including daily challenges, crafting, achievements, guilds and more. If Seamus sticks with it, he’ll be ready for the big boy MMOs in no time.
One day he’ll swap quests involving reading books or building musical instruments for ones about killing orcs or killing extra orcs. Instead of ignoring children asking him if he wants to play hide and seek in the commons area (which is the cutest thing), he’ll be ignoring children making Chuck Norris jokes in the Barrens. He’s off to a great start.
Kotaku Game DiaryDaily thoughts from a Kotaku staffer about a game we’re playing.
I flippin’ love theme parks. I loved them as a kid, and I love them as a grown-ass man. I also love anything that reminds me of a theme park—and for me, the game that feels most like a theme park is The Elder Scrolls Online.
Unfortunately, when it first launched on consoles four years ago, ESO embodied all the worst parts of the theme park experience. First of all, it was overcrowded. Also, the vibe was altogether strange, a weird simulacrum of a series of games that looked like something people liked, but wasn’t. It all felt off.
No game that’s plugged into the internet stays the same for long, and across the last five years, ESO has become much more endearing. It’s still strange, but in a good way. It’s become a place I love to get away to a couple times a year.
By now, I’ve gotten over the incongruous feeling that comes from playing a famously solitary series with other people milling around. Hearing NPC quest-givers greet seven other people like they are Tamriel’s Last Hope and then going on to greet you the exact same way has gone from disconcerting to endearing and funny as hell. Watching a scripted scrying ritual conducted in Artaeum—the Elder Scrolls version of Asgard, as far as I can tell—in order to determine who the Big Bad might be, only to have some dark elf and their baby griffin just splash through the scrying pool, also cracks me up. I’ll walk through the beautifully landscaped fields of Summerset, and then some goofy-lookin’ knight in gold armor will appear and shout something heroic. Will he take photos with guests? Will he sign one of my skyshards?
Granted, this is the kind of pleasure you can take from being more of a dabbler than a regular player. Every six months or so, I’ll pay a brief visit and check out the latest chapter—ESO nomenclature for what other MMOs would call an “expansion”—then see the sights and spend a solid twenty minutes fumbling my way through the menus as I try to remember how to do, well, everything.
I’m not the biggest expert in what’s going on in Tamriel, but I like it that way. I like visiting a place that feels bigger than me and making my own fun in a corner for a while. I like knowing there are totally new zones to visit if I ever got the chance. Maybe this summer I’ll visit the Morrowind Park. Or maybe I’ll check out the land of Elsewyr when that opens. I hear that’s where khajit are from, like my favorite cat-bro Razum-Dar. (Razum-Dar is not only my best bro, but also everyone else’s. He’s always happy to see me, even though I’m barely around.)
Theme parks are built with the understanding that you don’t go all the time, so their design is intended to make your one single experience something interesting and novel. Stick around a little bit longer, and that magic will fade. A lot of that charm comes from the kitschy re-thinking of something I already like—regular ol’ Elder Scrolls games. The feeling of making my way through a fantasy, alone. If I stick around in ESO too long, all the accommodations made in the service of other people will become increasingly prominent. I’ll start to notice the man behind the curtain, the mundane machinery that made all the whimsy around me tick. In a theme park, that’s the moment when I’d know I should bow out here and be satisfied, happy to return again next year.
Stick around a little more, though, and the relationship can change again. You can learn to appreciate that machinery, and engage with the game for what it is: an MMO. You could also find yourself wanting to poke at the world more deeply, to find out what urban legends its denizens hold, if any ghosts haunt its delves and halls, take in the history of a place that’s always changing, even as it presents itself as one made solely for you. That way, when you share it with someone else—and that’s what loving theme parks always leads to—you can see it all as new again, and understand what it took to make it feel that way.
Recently it was discovered that Anthem was causing some PS4s to crash and possibly even stop working until fixed. Red Dead Online’s latest and biggest update ruined the game for many players and didn’t add enough content. Fallout 76 seems to always be in a constant state of barely working.
Many players, even after all these problems and setbacks, keep playing even if the game is making them unhappy, angry or disappointed. Folks, it’s time to stop playing. It’s okay to take a break.
I’ve played something even after the game has done nothing but upset or disappoint me. Years ago when GTA Online first launched I poured hours into it. After a few days, my friends stop playing as much and ultimately many stopped altogether. I didn’t. I stayed with it. I kept hoping that the next update or patch would help fix everything.
“Heists are coming any day now!” I would say to myself. Months passed and eventually, I realized that I wasn’t having fun and I just needed to walk away.
Sometimes it is easy to fall into a pit where you keep playing because the game has a really fun core experience to it or because you paid for the special edition or maybe you just don’t want to fall behind. I remember taking a few days off GTA Online and returning to see players triple my level already. I remember panicking. I needed to catch up. But I really didn’t. Falling behind isn’t a big deal, even if your brain disagrees.
It is also possible to guilt yourself into playing a game. I know someone who bought Artifact and plays it even though they don’t like the grind, there aren’t many players still active and Valve seems to have forgotten about the game entirely. Their reason? “I spent money on the game and the cards and I don’t want to waste that cash.” I’ve felt that way too. I remember buying The Division and grinding and grinding for days and weeks because I didn’t have a lot of money and every game was an investment for me. Most of that time I wasn’t really having fun, especially when I played alone. Long after I should have, I finally did stop playing it and I felt better.
Many games these days launch in various states of finished. It seems nearly every major game release has a roadmap. It can often feel like these roadmaps are plans for when the game will become better. When it will finally be fun. Maybe even when it finally becomes good? Yet these roadmaps are also a great indication that perhaps it’s best to stop playing and wait.
Except I’m not really talking about waiting to play a game. I’m talking to you, the person who might be playing something right now that isn’t clicking with you or is making you frustrated. You keep checking Reddit, watching dev streams or popping into the game’s forums. You are hoping to find solutions to problems and wanting more and better things to do. Odds are these things will come, but don’t suffer while you wait.
I spend a lot of time in the Red Dead Online community reading forum and Reddit posts. Many of these comments today are angry or negative, which is understandable. The game isn’t where many fans want it to be. Still, I can’t help feeling a bit sad reading these comments. I really want many of these folks to just step away from the game. Come back in a few months or a year and see if things have gotten better.
Don’t just stop playing either. Completely disconnect. Stop thinking about it. Play something else, maybe a game on your backlog. There isn’t any reason to keep making yourself angry or upset over something that you have nearly no control over. I’m not saying don’t leave feedback or suggestions, but realize that at some point if you are spending more time hoping and talking about fixes on Reddit than playing the game, it might be time to step away from it.
Whatever your reason for still playing that game that is upsetting you or making you feel bad, it’s probably time to stop and take a break. Play something else. You’ll probably feel better. Plus when you finally come back to that game it might just be worth playing.
This is an important thing to remember as more and more games become “live experiences”. I like the idea of a game growing and updating over time, just don’t feel like you need to stick around through all of that evolution.
When Final Fantasy XI was released for PlayStation 2 in 2002, it was part of the first wave of massive online experiences for consoles. Alongside games like Phantasy Star Online, it helped bring the MMO experience to the living room and pushed the Final Fantasy series to explore new frontiers. While the PS2 and Xbox 360 versions were shuttered in 2016, the PC version is still going, 17 years later. Last night, I logged in for the first time as a new player to find a clumsy but engaging world full of kind and enthusiastic players..
In order to play Final Fantasy XI, you need to sign up for PlayOnline, an online gaming service created by Square (now Square Enix) in 2000. For a while, it was one of the go-to launch applications for accessing online games, particularly in Japan; it also hosted Everquest II andthe short-lived online mode for Dirge of Cerberus: Final Fantasy VII. And you’ve still got to use it today, I found when I loaded up the PC version of Final Fantasy XI last night.
After downloading all of the necessary files, I booted up PlayOnline and was greeted by the sort of early 2000s internet home screen you’d see in a series like .hack. PlayOnline is a bubbly little thing, its menus home to jazzy music and other ambient tones. When I signed up, I even received a unique email account that I could access through the application. After navigating its menus and accessing Final Fantasy XI, I endured a six-hour patching process and then finally logged in.
What I found seemed hostile by modern standards. Final Fantasy XI exists in a sort of stasis lock where all of its old-school sensibilities make it incredibly hard to get started. When an NPC initially directed me to a quest giver, they laid out strict directions as if I was talking to someone on the street in New York City. Beyond that, there was little guidance. I had chosen the baroque-looking city of San d’Oria as my home, and the game dropped me there and left me to my own devices.
There were no quest markers or any form of guidance. A tutorial existed, but it was buried deep within menus and I only later found out about it when another player walked me through some basics. Final Fantasy XI doesn’t exactly get too many first-time players anymore. It’s a game of old-school veterans, and it is designed to facilitate their gameplay habits. If, like me, you are nearly 20 years late to the party, you’ll find that Final Fantasy XI doesn’t particularly care about making the onboarding process smooth.
While this apathy can initially be frustrating, it also leaves the player with an overwhelming sense of freedom. Unlike the series’ other MMO Final Fantasy XIV, I didn’t need to run around unlocking basic services. And where games like Star Wars: the Old Republic limit newbies to a starting zone whose story needs to be completed, I was completely free to choose a direction, walk wherever I wanted, and chat with NPCs in the hopes of stumbling upon adventures and quests. There’s a purity to that experience that guides players to create their own goals. I settled for leaving the city and beating up wildlife in order to level up and increase my skills.
Final Fantasy XI’s combat experience is remarkably passive compared to those of modern MMOs. Whereas most current games have you cycling through a collection of abilities with a variety of effects and cooldown lengths, much of Final Fantasy XI is automated. You pick a target, select the attack option, and watch as your character begins to duke it out with whatever orc or wild rabbit you’ve set your sights on. As you defeat enemies, you gain experience that raises statistics like health and strength, and you also gain individual points for special traits like hand-to-hand combat or dodge. Punch more and you’ll get better at punching. As that skill increases, you’ll gain access to skills that you can use in combat.
It’s somewhat opaque, and means that a lot of the experience is spent watching things play out instead of actively participating in moment-to-moment combat decisions. The result is a process that’s oddly meditative. You wander from area to area, size up enemies, and maybe occasionally select an ability to use. As you explore, maybe you’ll find a quest-giving character or sometimes run into another player. But the raw experience is something more solitary, at least at early levels.
To compensate for this isolation, I streamed my initial hours on Twitch, and found myself interacting with a chat that held many fond memories of their time spent in Final Fantasy XI. This was a formative MMO for many people, either as a point of contact with the genre or a long-lasting adventure. My misadventures—running as a goblin chased me through a zone, getting lost in the winding San d’Orian streets—were amusing echoes of other players’ experiences. I was bumbling but in good company, and my stream managed to attract some in-game help.
To my surprise, I suddenly found myself face-to-face with a diminutive thief who found me in the wild. Without so much as an introduction, they offered to trade with me, and I opened the menu. They offered me 500,000 gil, a significant amount of money for a newbie like me. After a few hours of beating up monsters, I only had around 30 gil. It was confusing. Was there simply some small, dapper philanthropist wandering the game world and tossing money at newbies? As it turned out, they’d stumbled upon my livestream and decided to track me down to lend a helping hand. It speaks to the kindness of Final Fantasy XI’s community. This is a game that resists easy learning, but some established players who suffered through the early game are eager to help dimwitted adventurers like myself.
My subsequent education at the hands of this tiny master player revealed that Final Fantasy XI is largely a single-player game with occasional personal interactions—that is,until you reach the massive endgame hunts against notorious monsters. In the years since its release, quality-of-life improvements have shifted Final Fantasy XI into a game that’s remarkably friendly to lonesome adventurers if you can penetrate its initial layer of obfuscation.
Much of this rests in the “Trust” system that was added to the game in 2013. It allows players to assemble a party of NPC allies to help them progress through the massive amount of content that’s accumulated over the years. Quest givers and limited-time events grant players access to allies of all classes and utility. After some help from my gentleman-thief benefactor, I was able to summon beefy paladins, stalwart samurai, and healing mages to assist me in my dungeon crawling.
Playing Final Fantasy XI today is a crash course in both old-school sensibilities and adaptation. The unrestricted freedom to explore wherever you might wander, without much of a guiding hand, captures an older and more romantic notion of digital worlds. Final Fantasy XI is less a theme park and more a national park, a loose connection of distinct landmarks connected by wandering trails and surrounded by barely-tamed wilderness. But as the player base shifted to a hardcore collection of stubborn holdouts and long-term veterans and left newbies without easy entry, it became necessary to provide tools that empower solitary journeying.
After getting over this initial hump, I’m left with a massive world at my fingertips. Between kind players, enthusiastic friends eager to join me, and my collection of NPC Trust companions, I have nearly 20 years of rich storylines and areas to experience at whatever pace I want. I had expected to find an abandoned world, limping along thanks to die-hard players. Instead, there’s an entire chapter of Final Fantasy history for me to explore now even though I missed it back in the day.