Thursday, August 27, 2009

Why Do I Play - Part 1, Life Before WoW

Blogger Tobold has been doing a fascinating series called "Why do we play?" wherein he looks for the various reason people play an MMORPG. That got me thinking about the question of why do I play?

This is really important to me right now because at somepoint in 2010 I'll have a decision, a major decision, to make.

So I went back to the beginning. Why did I get started in WoW in the first place?

Before I ever started WoW, video/computer games were already a big part of life.

I started out on an Atari 2600, and then moved up to an Atari 7200. My sister would play Pac-Man with me. In that game, you alternated turns so when she died, it was my turn, and when I died, and it was her turn. When it came my turn, you would make a big deal of getting some pillows and getting really comfortable, because she was going to be there a while. My Dad and I played Atari Baseball.

Then I got a Commodore 64. I played games like Summer Games and my first RPG game whose name I can't remember. I got seriously hooked into Red Baron, and Aces of the Pacific. I played a text based game called Zork.

It was around this time that my Dad remarried. I didn't get along with my step Mom, or my new step Sisters. So I pretty much holed up in my room with my C64. I'd play and play and kind of forget the chaos that existed on the other side of my bedroom door.
I moved on to consoles as I got to college. My best friend in college was named Daniel, and he would come over to my dorm room about 7 or so. Our girlfriends would show up about 8. They sat and talked (sometimes about us) while he and I would play Techmo Bowl. Then about 10 when the clubs opened, we’d head out for the evening.

Then Daniel got a new computer, a 486DX WITH the math coprocessor! It was hot stuff.

Suddenly I was introduced to games like Civilization, X-Wing, and Dune (which was the precursor to all modern RTS games). He also introduced me to Curse of the Azure Bonds. That game was a blast.

After college, I got myself established and bought a computer of my own. It was first generation Pentium. Around this time, games began to demand a separate Video Card. The first games I bought for that computer were X-Wing Versus Tie Fighter, Civilization II, and Sierra's Football Pro 98.

I had missed the original Quake, but was intrigued by a game using the Quake engine called Dark Forces II: Jedi Knight. This was the first video game where I could play out a childhood fantasy and be a Jedi. It included Full Motion Video cut scenes (with actors). I played that game through at least 3 or 4 times. It also had an online death match mode. I got involved in a clan and found the wonders of IRC and message boards. I was married by that point and my wife enjoyed watching me play, and even helped me solve some of the games puzzles. It was cool.

I played the expansion pack Mysteries of the Sith and the sequels Jedi Knight II and Jedi Knight Academy. I played just about every game that Lucas Arts made with the Star Wars IP including the bad ones like Rebellion. I continued to play the Civilization games, and got into the Madden NFL series.

I had always had fond memories of Curse of the Azure Bonds, and really wanted someone to make a modern game based on that. You can imagine how excited I was to hear about Baldur's Gate, which was exactly what I was hoping for. I became immersed in the world and played the follow ups Tales of the Sword Coast, The Shadows of Amn and the Throne of Bhaal.

My buddy Adam and I got into the Rainbow Six series of games. He would be a sniper and I would cover for him.

Then he recommended to me that we try a game called Starcraft. I had never been in RTS games much, but Starcraft really hooked me in. My friend and I played many a game both with and against each other. I loved the Terrans, but he had a Protoss Zealot rush that was really tough to beat. There is something very satisfying in hearing a dozen Siege Tanks go into Siege Mode and just leveling a Protoss base. When my friend moved to California, we still played Starcraft.

Blizzard had a new RTS coming out, Warcraft III. Adam and I dove into it. The single player campaign was compelling and the online game play was a ton of fun. I preferred Humans and loved Tanks, Riflemen, and Mortor Teams. I still have found memories of sending my mortar teams into battle with their yell of "MORTAR COMBAT!!" Still brings a smile to my face. We played Warcraft III and the expansion pack The Frozen Throne. My favorite Hero was the Mountain King.

BioWare teamed up with Lucas Arts to produce Knights of the Old Republic. It was the gameplay I had loved in Baldur's Gate, but now set in my favorite IP of Star Wars. KotOR joined Civ as what I call a 4am game. A 4am game is one that I found myself staying up to 4am playing. In Civ it was called the "One more turn" syndrome. You just wanted to play one more turn, and the next thing you know its 4am. It wasn't any surprise that I enjoyed the follow-up Knights of the Old Republic II.

The MMO market was dominated by Everquest, and Galaxies had come out. Blizzard had its own offering in World of Warcraft. I maintained that I had neither the time nor the money to get involved in an MMO. Galaxies probably had the best shot, but certain design decisions really turned me off from trying the game. Sorry, I want to play a Jedi, and I knew my luck. I wouldn't have been one of the 'lucky' ones that was force sensitive.

Early in 2006, my friend Adam got hired on at Blizzard as a GM for World of Warcraft. One of the perks was that he got two free World of Warcraft accounts. You got the game and your monthly was free. I lobbied for him to give one of his 'freebies' to me, and he was kind of enough to do that.

We rolled a couple of humans on the server Rexxar. I was a Paladin; he was a Warrior, if I remember correctly.


Anonymous said...

I just regard players are getting old, because I have nearly the same history of computer and games. And I started 20 years ago.

Atari 2600 -> C64 -> Amiga 500 -> 486 DX -> Pentium 500 -> dual core

I also played many games you´ve mentioned. Here are some which I remember just for nostalgia:

Galaxy Defender
Giana Sister
Kings Bounty
Maniac Mansion
Dungeon Master
Monkey Island
Age of Empires
Planescape Torment
Neverwinter Nights

Galdoron, EU-Kargath

Anonymous said...

Jedi Knight: Dark Forces II did NOT use the Quake engine. It was written from scratch by LucasArts and used DirectX 5 for graphics, sound, input and networking.

Honors Code said...

I didn't remember that. Thanks for pointing that out.

Anonymous said...

no final fantasy? 7 was emazing!

Anonymous said...

Wow.. Before I played WoW I loved to play Warcraft 3. The Mountain King had to be my favorite hero too. It was either the Mountain King or Archmage, but the Mage was too squishy lol.
One thing I loved was how everything from Warcraft 3 translated into WoW and I got to dwell deeper into WoW's lore. Plus my favorite part of leveling is when you learn Muradin isn't actually dead.

Anonymous said...

Its 4 am here and i just got up to play WOW and to read your article. Thank you for your great blogs and thank you so much for a bit of nostalgia and as Anon said above, I find myself having played similar games from 20 years ago when I was in high school and then University.

I loved the old Amiga 500 and lamented its death, and the AD&D series featuring games like Curse of the Azure Bonds were my favourite. I also loved all the other games you described and had one favourite which i love to this day called WINGS - it had an amazing feel and story line that made you feel like you were really there in World War I flying a bi plane and going up against aces like the Red Baron.

Other games I loved included the Monkey Island Series, and Diablo. Personally I have always loved character development types of games seeing the character grow, promotion through the ranks, that was what did it for me. I guess i had a bit of a thirst for recognition even in gaming.

Thanks again for a nice stroll down memory lane