27 January, 2012
So, I lied, but only a little bit. I have been getting into EverQuest 2 lately. But, as I said, it wasn't the new content sucking me in, but the old content.
Turns out, it's the really old content that's been keeping me playing.
While puttering around on my main, a level 71 Necromancer, someone logged on and made an announcement about a new guild on another server. They were forming a guild and wanted to try to recapture the feeling of the game in the older days when it was harder. The goal was to forswear the features that had been released in expansions over the years, under the theory that they made advancement too easy. This wasn't merely an exercise in masochism, but rather a way to really enjoy the low level content again, rather than blasting past it in the race to level up another alt. They linked to a forum thread where they announced their intentions and state the rules. My curiosity was piqued.
The Rules, basic version
If you read that post, the rules are exacting. You can only join the guild at first level. No item or money help from characters outside the guild (including your own). No loitering around the newer areas (that have a better crafted newbie experience). No abusing the broker (AH) to make scads of money from the inflated economy. No using various features until we advanced to the content that was part of the expansion those features were part of.
Initially guild members would stop at level 20 so that we could raid content at the appropriate level. As the guild conquered content and progressed, characters will advanced to higher levels. The goal is to take time to enjoy the content in the game.
Camaraderie through adversity
I initially just wanted to observe, but I got sucked in. It's currently a small guild, but it's been a very supportive guild. Since we aren't creating übercharacters using outside resources, we need to rely on each other. It's also a group of like-minded people, who want challenge and to tackle content that often gets overlooked.
It's kinda interesting stumbling upon an item that would normally only be good for a character for maybe an hour of its life, but saving it because there isn't that much equipment to go around and we're going to be at level 20 for at least a little while. Finding something like a low-level collectible becomes exciting again because many someone might need it instead of being able to buy a dozen cheap on the broker.
Make no mistake, these rules are a lot more fun since there's a (small) group of people willing to follow along. Without this community, these rule would likely descend into pure masochism. Instead you get a lot of cool people who share a common goal in the guild. Stopping xp as you're just building up a character would be less fun, in my opinion, because you don't have others to share stories and run raids with.
The Rules, devil's edition
One interesting element is how far do you want to take it. For example, someone pointed out that cloaks weren't in the game at launch, so were we going to ignore cloaks until we got up that high? The decision was that no, we'd wear cloaks. As that forum thread states, there are already enough rules, so things like race and class selection wouldn't be restricted. Too many restrictions and the bulk of game time goes from enjoying content to creating endless rules (and probably exceptions).
It's also interesting to consider how harsh the rules need to be enforced. Someone joined the guild but hadn't left the new starting area immediately and had earned a few levels. The guild leader asked the person to reroll the character. When asked for reasons why, the guild leader explained that it wasn't fair to others in the guild already who had done things the "hard way". Plus, being a stickler for the rules means that others who agree to follow the rules have the right mindset to fit within the guild. People who chafe at something simple like rerolling a low level character might not have the fortitude to stick with the rules in the guild.
Player-generated content using game tools
This an example of why I like to make the distinction between "User Generated Content" (UGC) and "User Created Content" (UCC). UCC is when a player uses development-like tools to create content for others; this is what the Storybricks tool is for. UGC is when players generate content in the game for others; I see this guild as falling into this category. Players are setting up special rules for themselves and inviting others to join them. It becomes a way to extend the game in interesting ways without editing a level or writing a quest.
It's really the tools within the game that allows the guild to do this. Being able to stop xp earning to stop at a specific level is what makes this possible. (Most people are putting the experience toward alternate advancement points, even if they can't spend them yet.) The big thing, of course, is the willingness to follow the rules.
I've noticed there have been a few other "progression locked" guilds on the server. They stop at a specific level and fight through content at an appropriate level. But, I haven't seen any of them have such strict rules about how the game works. I suspect you could do something similar in WoW since you can stop xp earning. Although, the Cataclysm expansion makes it almost impossible to recapture the true feeling of "vanilla" since the old world was essentially wiped away. Something to be said for preserving the old world, I guess.
The sudden but inevitable backlash
It's been interesting to see how people in the game have reacted to the guild's announcement. Even reading the announcement thread you see people mocking the concept. Pretty much every time the guild leader has made an announcement about the guild on global chat channels, there has been quite a bit of mockery at the concept. This once again shows that some people in a game take what other people do perhaps a bit too seriously. One of the big arguments over free-to-play is how much other people buying advantages affects your character; some people claim it's unfair, others state that it doesn't matter as someone else's behavior doesn't affect you directly in a PvE game. I tend to fall into the latter camp, but it's obvious that even if someone else intentionally makes it harder for them to compete with you, there are still people ready to mock and deride your choices.
Enjoying my time
I've been enjoying my time with the guild. I suspect I'll fall behind eventually, as I've been traveling a lot for work. Even if I did want to play from London, spending a few hours in the middle of the night and sleeping in late might not be the most productive way to spend my time with the team. ;) I already feel guilty taking time away from Storybricks development given that we have a deadline for next month. But, it's been interesting to watch the guild develop at this early stage, and a lot of fun to participate. There's also the chance that the guild falls apart or shifts focus. As we climb in levels, people might find they don't enjoy the pace. Or, they might just not have time in the future. Will newcomers to the guild be willing to work up from low levels under the strict rules? Time will tell.
What do you think? Do rules like this help you enjoy the game more? Or does it seem like just a lot of hassle?