Interlude: Playing the System

Sorry about the lack of images. This post got eaten in a server outage and has been reconstructed.

No heavy stuff today, after the last couple of days. This week is apparently “old MMO memories” week, but rather than jumping a year gap to talk about more relevant lessons learned, I figured I’d take a short break to talk about Dark Age of Camelot.

I played DAoC after EverQuest, on a lark. I knew it was a PvP game and my only prior experience with PvP had been in Ultima Online, where I had become an awful griefer after spending a lot of time getting griefed myself. It left me with a sour taste in my mouth regarding PvP, particuarly because my UO tricks were simply that– tricks– and for the most part I wasn’t able to hold my own in a straight-up fight. I was very good at stealing things from unsuspecting people and setting up awful traps for them, but my successes there were based on me being clever, not me being good at the game.

Post-EverQuest, I started to think that I possibly could actually be good at games rather than just trying to use smarts to make up for a lack of skill. I was done with EQ, and the games I was following weren’t yet out. I didn’t want to go back to UO, and Anarchy Online didn’t hold my interest very long, so into DAoC I went. At the time, a couple of local friends joined me, getting multiple-month subscriptions for their birthdays and jumping into the game with me. They’d missed the EQ boat but liked my stories, so wanted to try a new game where we all started at the same point.

By the time we got into it, Camelot was already fairly populated and a lot of stuff was going on. I quickly realized how far “behind” I was and wanted to catch up. I rolled an alt to play alongside my friends (knowing that I was going to leave them well behind as my main) and started trying to understand the game. It happened quickly, and I flew through levels as my Nightshade while hopping to a different server to level my Friar with my local friends.

I quickly found myself in RvR (DAoC’s large-scale PvP game), and spent a lot of time watching people’s movements and scouting. I realized quickly how important unified fronts were, and I started getting in on assassin teams, there to disrupt lines, break ranks, and drop reinforcements. I was good at this, but it wasn’t until a bit later where I found an edge.

My friends stuck with the game for a while, but it didn’t stick. They still had a few months on the accounts, so they gave them to me because they weren’t going to use them. I had no idea what to do with three accounts, other than multibox, which I did a little bit of but never really excited me. It felt too mechanical and not enough like I was playing the game, though having a buffbot was nice. On the other hand, I had a second computer next to my main gaming one, that I’d set up for when friends were over and we wanted to play something on LAN. I’d loaded up the game on it but started thinking about how else I could use it.

DAoC only allowed you to play on one faction on any given server, to prevent spying. You picked a faction when you entered a server to create a character and couldn’t change it unless you deleted all of your characters on that server. My friends had never made characters on the server that my main was on, so I could easily make two characters in the two different factions on that server, then camp them in specific places to watch the flow of chat, particularly the organizational stuff. I set up my second computer to run the game at the lowest possible settings in a tiny window, only showing me the chat boxes and occasionally the map. It was unplayable, but those accounts weren’t there to play on.

Instead, I used them as a direct, live feed to plan my assassination runs with my stealth team. We went from attacks of opportunity to coordinated lightning strikes at key targets, and I would occasionally run the group by places I knew big forces would be moving so that we could “scout” them and report their location. Spies were heavily looked down on in DAoC, at least on my server, so I kept it very quiet how and where I got the knowledge I did. We became a terror on the field– neither of the other two factions felt safe reinforcing their lines with anything other than large groups, which made them clumsy and unable to react.

I got a taste for PvP, and especially organizing groups subtly and in ways most people didn’t expect. I felt pretty bad about my duplicity, but it was incredibly effective. I wound up wanting something more permanent, though, and that’s about the time I started heavily following both Star Wars Galaxies and Shadowbane.

Source: Digital Initiative
Interlude: Playing the System

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