Thursday, August 14, 2008

My Dark Age of Camelot Experience

Rick from /random was surprised that Van Hemlock didn't play Dark Age of Camelot. So in the interest of full disclosure, I'm going to tell you about my Dark Age of Camelot experience. Because I fully agree with Rick that one's DAoC experience might well influence one's impression of Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning.

I did play Dark Age of Camelot when it came out in October 2001, but only for a few months. RvR had nothing to do with me joining or leaving DAoC. In fact, at the time the very idea that the endgame would be important didn't even occur to me. I had played Everquest for 19 months, and my highest level character was level 42. There was some EQ guild drama, and a couple of unlucky deaths resulting in me not gaining a level for a month. Yes, hard to believe nowadays, but a death in EQ at that level could set you back a week's worth of xp. I felt stuck, and DAoC offered a chance to see something new, and to level up again.

After some experimentation with character classes, I chose the friar as my main character. Very cool class, combining standard priestly healing with extremely good-looking martial arts maneuvers, using a quarterstaff. I actually had other players stop and watch me fight, the moves were so cool. The PvE adventuring was great. What was also a big improvement over EQ was the tradeskill system, where you would level up by doing crafting quests, which not only rewarded you with skill points, but even earned you some money. Even the death penalty was less harsh than in EQ, you still lost experience points (and constitution) on every death after level 5, but didn't have to do the naked corpse run any more.

I hadn't come alone, a couple of friends from EQ joined me in DAoC, and we founded our own guild, the "Waldmeister", with me as the guild leader. I learned HTML and created my very first website for the guild, having a simple guild roster and some maps. The guild wasn't big, and it was neither a raid nor a RvR guild, we just hung out together to have some fun. Among the members there were a girl and a young man who had met in the game, lived far apart from each other, but began to form an online relationship. Totally harmless, I don't think there was any cybering involved. And while we weren't really much into roleplaying either, somehow the idea of an online marriage came up. With me being a friar and guild leader, I ended up performing the ceremony in the big cathedral of Camelot, after which we moved into a tavern to party. That was pretty much the highlight of my DAoC experience, but unfortunately also the beginning of the end.

First there was trouble at the marriage party, with one other guild member obviously jealous about all of the attention the "couple" received, and trying to grab some of that attention for himself by misbehaving. Words flew, matters escalated, and in the end I had to kick the guy out of the guild. But the trouble didn't stop. It turned out that the father of the girl was also playing DAoC, and he didn't approve of her having an online relationship. So what did he do? He deleted the girl's character and forbade her to contact the boy or our guild again. Lots of guild drama about this and some other events, and somehow my guild expected me to fix everything, which I of course couldn't. I felt under immense stress, until I really didn't enjoy playing any more, and quit the game. Being a guild leader is a tough job, I don't envy anyone doing it.

So, as I said, RvR had nothing to do with me leaving Dark Age of Camelot, I quit because I had bitten off more than I could chew when founding my own guild. But what I had seen up to then in RvR didn't really convince me either. You must remember that this was very early in the game, and the ruleset wasn't the same as it was later. This was before the patch which prevented high-level characters from entering low-level RvR zones. So the first time I entered a RvR zone I was one-shotted by some high-level archer. Later I participated in some larger battles and keep fights, but was disappointed when I found out that the keep we had fought so hard for to conquer was taken back by the other side at 3 am in the morning when we were sleeping. And being a healer I got shot *a lot*, archers were a huge nuisance in early DAoC, before they got nerfed. But this was all just casual PvP in pickup groups, I never was part of a big guild with well-organized RvR. Maybe I would have liked PvP better if I had had a better experience of it, but DAoC wasn't really a good game for casual PvP. It only taught me that the bigger side wins most of the time, and that skill isn't really part of a zerg rush.

Looking at WAR now, I recognize the improvements, well, improvements from my point of view. This isn't 2001 any more, we are now in the much gentler, post-WoW era. We have the anti-ganking chicken, and generous PvP rewards even for the losing side. We don't have an experience point penalty on dying any more. A DAoC player using a time-machine to move from 2001 to end of 2008 would probably consider WAR to be pretty carebear. But me, not having enjoyed the harsher original DAoC version, I'm having more hope that the gentler WAR PvP will have a broader appeal, also to the more casual players. Whether it can also provide the "impact PvP" that the PvP-fans are dreaming off remains to be seen. Me, I'm mostly wanting to play the PvE part of WAR, just like I did in DAoC.

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