My next notable foray into the MMO style of game was with one that was a far cry away from anything else I had experienced thus far. Through Asheron's Call and Everquest, my fantasy tastes had been well satisfied (or so I had thought), but NCSoft's City of Heroes reminded me that there was more to my interests than just dwarves, dragons and magic.
It's sleek, blue, near-future design was very appealing. The HUD and menus all made me feel like I was moving through the pages of a Marvel comic book. The characters around me were as varied as those in the comic universe; there were spandex-clad classic superheroes, like my own Ironfist, but there were also cybernetic soldiers, or clunky clockwork robots, or undead heroes, or celestial-born mental masters, or spirits and ghosts and demi-gods and aliens and mutants. Every team I joined had a vastly different composition, and I learned through this game that MMO's meant more than role-playing.
I got my first sense of community through City of Heroes. I learned that the people here didn't just play it because they liked shooting lightning or punching out enemies. They also played because they liked each other, and tried to play with each other day after day. A strong community thread was interwoven into my City of Heroes experience, and it all started in the sewers.
From the game's central area in the city, it would never fail; you'd hear others calling out for help in a 'Sewer Run'. The sewers were a massive zone under the city filled with all manner of enemies, ranging from levels 15 all the way up to 50 (if I remember right). The deeper you went, the harder it became, and it was the best way to quickly gain levels for lower characters.
I joined more than a few Sewer teams, groups of five players that worked together and paved a way through the endless mobs of enemies, fighting zombies and clockwork soldiers and taking on minor super villains. It was always an edge-of-your-seat, tense and exciting experience, since death was a very real threat that loomed around every corner. Especially for me, since my character was a hand-to-hand fighter with little survivability. If there was no Tank to soak up the damage, or no Healer to keep our health bars full, I would have been dead in no time.
And so these Sewer Runs also taught me the importance of teamwork, though in ways very specific to a Sewer Run. The Tank should be the first in, and everyone else should join only when the Tank is thoroughly surrounded.
Unless the enemies are far too superior, and located a long ways away, then a ranged character would 'pull' the closest enemy to a more manageable location.
And more tips like this, things that are common knowledge now in the MMO sphere, I was learning for the first time in late 2004.
It was in this game that I first learned the phrase "If the tank dies, it's the healer's fault. If the healer dies, it's the tank's fault. If anyone else dies, it's their own damn fault", and, since I was in the 'everyone else' category, I stuck to that.
Stay alive, stay out of the way, and help bring the baddies down.
There was a real sense of accomplishment in a 'successful' sewer run. It was rare to make a run in City of Heroes without at least one death, but it was easy to spend two, three, five hours traversing the tight corridors and green-streams of the under-city zone.
It was also in City of Heroes that I had my first experience in a Raid-like setting. To my knowledge, City of Heroes didn't have Raids that we know today, but instead had story arcs that a group could complete. A story arc was a series of missions all linked together to tell a full story. I only ever took part in one of these, but it was a six hour long endeavor that glued me to another set of four heroes - other players - for the entire run as we uncovered information about the clockwork activity in the city, and followed it all the way to its head, facing off and defeating the Clockwork King. It was exciting, even during it's down time, and I learned that, while creating your own stories in these game worlds was a very real and fulfilling experience, it could easily be amplified by the assets already available in-game.
It was through City of Heroes that I learned to see the game itself as a tool for my role-playing, rather than a limitation.
One expansion released for City of Heroes, aptly titled City of Villains, and I played the hell out of this title as well. It let you do much the same, but in new locations, with some new powers, as the bad guys, starting it all off with a prison break. I was hooked to all of my villains upon creating them, and fell in love with the game all over again, even if only for a short time.
And then they released Champions Online shortly after, which I never experienced until 2013. A free-to-play superhero MMO? Why not give it a try? Well, it was fun, but, as with any free-to-play experience, it was marred by it's over-abundance of various currencies. Tokens, Coins, Sigils, Signets, Symbols, Points, it got very out of hand, and as a new-comer so late in the game's life cycle, I had no idea what half of them did.
Yet my MMO knowledge and experience, while defined by these three early games, would come to a head in the final step of the MMO gaming world with my next foray. My longest-running MMO game, my most involvement, and my most memorable experiences, all stem from one, easy-to-guess title. Next week's MMO Monday post will take this maturing MMO gamer to the world of Azeroth, and explore what gaming as Dloin Steeleye was like, once again.