Archive for the ‘The Wanderers’ Category

WoW. I’m now closing in on TEN full years as a card-carrying original member of a little gaming guild on the web called The Wanderers. Has it really been that long? Concurrently, since we moved to our second or third website (I lost track), I’ve somehow managed to have so many unimportant things to say and comment on that I’m going to have posted 10,000 times (on this particular forum). 10,000! 10,000 little bits of my life, covering nearly 10 years as well, it just boggles my mind. If I spent even an average of 3 minutes per post, that’s 500 hours of typing. I wonder how many words I’ve put down, I probably could have written a book or 2 in the same amount of time.

Now I wanted to do something really special and fancy to commemmorate the occasions, but I never thought it would come up so quickly, i.e. I’m running out of time (I think my buffer is something like 8 posts as I write this). Somehow I thought I wouldn’t be here until the middle of the year but oh well. It’s hard to wrap my brain around how it all began, so I need to take a step back and soak it all in, the good, the bad and the ugly.

Back in the late 90s, when the internet was just getting revved up, I happened upon a website called Gonegold. I had been an avid gamer since I was a kid, starting with a handheld Coleco and Atari, eventually moving to PCs. This site was devoted to PC gaming news, and run by an awesome guy named Rich who would post PC game updates, in particular when they would hit the “gone gold” state – meaning they were ready for release. At first I just jumped onto the site occasionally to check for release information, but eventually I joined onto the “forums” – a new concept to me at the time – where a bunch of people would discuss games and other topics.

At some point, and again I don’t remember who or how, somebody mentioned in a thread that they were getting people together for a new game called Dark Age of Camelot (DAOC). Turns out it was a MMORPG that featured player vs player (PvP) or more specifically, realm vs realm (RvR), combat. I had never seriously played one of these type of games with other people (I had a very brief jaunt in Everquest that involved killing snakes by myself and then dying repeatedly), so I thought it would be an interesting experiment to go in with some other folks whose names I was at least familiar with. I signed up just as the deadline approached and soon enough I was in the game.

I still vaguely recall the first character I created, a Thane I named Aishan. In those early days I was under the impression I should try to “roleplay” or at least create a character who I had a backstory for or whatnot. So I had this guy all thought out, but ultimately he didn’t really “fit”. I think most people end up eventually finding their own niche in terms of class or playstyle within these games, something that appeals to their innate personality and just ends up feeling more natural than the others. For me it turned out to be support classes, and the one I ended up with longer term in DAOC was the Healer class. To this day, that ended up being my general style, though obviously I’ve diverged on numerous occasions. I named him “Rittchard” (surprise!) and slowly but surely he kind of became my online persona, or should that be vice versa? I tried to be the nice guy, the funny guy, the supportive guy, the reasonable guy, kind of like the real me but maybe with a bit of a bigger mouth. I guess it’s always easier to spout with the anonymity of the internet. I’m generally very quiet and shy around people I don’t know, but loud and obnoxious with people I’m close to. Clearly over time I started feeling closer to everyone.

We wandererd from game to game, and there were a lot of changes to the personnel over the years. I can’t even remember all the games we played/tried, or even how many times we went back to playing DAOC. After a year or so things started to die down, but early 2003 a major expansion was being released and along with it a new server type that allowed you to play all of the classes together. A few of us who weren’t as much into the PvP aspects thought it would be fun to experiment out there for a bit. So we formed up an alternate Wanderers guild there (I found out much later this was apparently not appreciated by some of the members, I never did quite understand all of that). In any event, I have to say this was the beginning of the the “golden age” of MMORPG gaming for me. We didn’t have a big group playing but the group was as tight knit a group as I’ve ever played with. It essentially felt like we were a true online family, and the friendliness and fondness we all had for each other was remarkable. Literally we’d be waiting for each other to logon, and any time someone came on, there’d be a resounding, genuine calling of their names (kind of like “Norm!” on Cheers). I know it’s cliche, but really to me it all boils down to the people you are playing with that end up making the experience last in your memory. The games and content are fun and have their addictive qualities, but ultimately it’s the guild and your friends that are the difference maker. For me, as soon as the majority of people moved on, there’s just no incentive to logging on.

From there we had some epic stints in Star Wars Galaxies (SWG) and Shadowbane (SB). The games were racked with technical and other issues, but the core of the family was intact, and we broadened our userbase with each game. We had some great and crazy times in all of the games, some incredibly memorable moments I’ll never forget. In SWG, it was a classic snapshot in time when a buddy and I put on some incredibly garish gogo outfits and danced in the middle of town underneath some bizarre dinosaur creature. I can still see the animation and the dancing and the outfits in my mind’s eye, and the reactions we got around the area were priceless. Man I wish I could get a screenshot of that back, it was just such a surreal and hilariously spontaneous moment. In SB, I still have tons of powerful and dramatic memories involving the building and falling of our guild city and some epic battles – but the thing I remember the most was a small group of us forming a gang of elves and running around roleplaying, speaking only in Elvish to outsiders and basically being rude and obnoxious and killing everyone we saw. It was fantastic. Definitely an epic year for MMORPG gaming, but the end of the year was just the beginning.

At some point around this time, I was invited to join the main officers of the guild. I don’t know exactly how/why it happened (discussion threads on this are always removed before the officer joins) but it’s been something I’ve always cherished and considered an honor and a responsibility. Sure, sometimes it just devolves into just one more silly forum to complain in, but most other times we’ve pulled together to (hopefully) make the overall guild a better experience for everyone involved. The remaining few active amongst us are probably the people I’m closest to in the guild.

I’ve skipped over some other stuff like Final Fantasy XI and a stint in Everquest when they added some fun new dungeon content. In early December of that same crazy year, I won my first volleyball championship in a league I’d been playing in for years – we played (apparently) for 5 hours that night and won 10 games (all the same night) to bring home the championship. It was one of the most awesome moments of my life. But what happened next was an even bigger surprise. Seemingly out of nowhere, the officers of the guild had been secretly invited to the “Friends and Family” Alpha testing of what would later become the biggest MMORPG in history, World of Warcraft (WoW). We all went a bit crazy and I remember thinking this was the best birthday ever, between winning the championship and getting to test WoW, I was on cloud nine. Career-wise, I was very unhappy at that poing in time, so these little things meant even more emotionally.

Unfortunately sometimes getting what you most dreamed about can ultimately be disappointing. While the early moments of first trying WoW were awesome memories, eventually the excitment dulled and the reality of testing sank in. We argued a lot in the Alpha forums about the direction of the game, about death penalties, about leveling pace, about content – it was pretty fun and fruitful and I always like to think there’s just a tiny bit of me in what eventually launched. When the game finally released (I’m skipping over a lot of drama here), there was a horde (no pun intended) of excitement and for the most part I think everyone enjoyed the bulk of their time in the game. But all good things come to an end, and suffice to say, the guild members eventually split into a more “hardcore” group (which persists successfully to this day) and the “rest of us” group, which still tends to wander from game to game, ever waiting for the “next big thing.”

It’s funny and a bit scary to go through the “Tombstone” section in our forums, where you can see all the stops and starts we’ve gone through over the years following. You can check out a couple of posts I made to the blog a while back to see what I had to say about the genre in general to get a sense of the problems I saw that seemed to be tied to the unrivaled success of WoW. But whatever else you say about it, you can’t deny WoW’s staying power, now closing in on 7 years.

In the mean time, many of us have had some strong outings in other games like City of Heroes/Villains, Guild Wars, and what we’d hoped to be the grand resurrection of the guild, Warhammer Online. Each of these games had strong followings that lasted on the order of a year or so, counting multiple stops and starts, and each offered small upgrades and updates to the genre that favor the more casual playerbase. But ultimately none of them created long lasting homes for more than a few months at a time. More recently we’ve had a consistent group religiously playing a small free to play game called League of Legends (LoL), and in present days we’ve embarked on another traditional MMORPG called Rift. For a while there was a long dry period and we lost a lot of people, and even diehards like myself started losing faith. But there are a few shining hopes out there, amongst them Guild Wars 2, that may yet bring a renewed vigor to the genre.

Through all of that there’s been the forums, and of course by forums, I mean the people that sustain them, read and participate. I’m most thankful to everyone who’s stayed with us through the rocky and/or boring periods, as I know how easy it is to just drift away and move on to other pursuits. At some points in time over the years, there’ve probably only been a few active folk, myself among them, and there were moments where even I almost gave up on the whole thing. We’ve had some extraordinary dramas (rare) mixed with tons of good times and good memories. And recently a bunch of babies to start the next generation of Wanderers 🙂

TLDR? It’s been an incredible and magical 10 years of gaming and friendships, and I for one am really looking forward to the next 10.

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