Don a small conical cardboard hat, bake a cake and place ten candles thereupon, hide behind a sofa and prepare to leap forth and shout “surprise” for the Earth has spun around a giant burning ball of gas ten times since words first appeared on this here thing known to some as a “blog” (or at least its predecessors, which have since been subsumed herein so it still counts and stuff).
10 years, eh? Gosh and crikey; back then Tony Blair was Prime Minister, the iPhone was yet to be unleashed on the world, and making cakes in a tent wasn’t a matter of national importance. Different times. Melmoth and I had been MMOing for a few years, Melmoth on the console with Phantasy Star Online and the PC with Dark Age of Camelot before jumping in to City of Heroes, which was my introduction to the genre. We played CoH on a US server before the official European release, in those crazy days of MMOs before World of Warcraft; when WoW itself came along we naturally ventured in to Azeroth along with the rest of the known universe.
By late 2006, then, we had a bit of campaigning under our belts. Not proper Old Guard stalwarts from Ultima Online, Meridian 59, or indeed MUD1, but we’d been hyped up and burned out over a few games, got to the level cap in a couple of them (at least if you added up Melmoth’s City of Heroes alts), done a bit of beta testing (the late not-particularly-lamented-though-I-quite-liked-it Auto Assault, possibly one or two others though the old memory is a bit hazy); enough to have made it out of the Young Guard, at least.
The whole “web two point oh” business was starting to gather steam back then (as, indeed, was Steam), and after stumbling across and commenting on a few MMO blogs it seemed like a natural step to take the plunge ourselves, signing up individually with Blogger. I like to think we took to the new format like a duck to blogging: swimming around quacking loudly and demanding bread from passers by.
There was plenty going on for MMOists. The huge success of World of Warcraft had made the games industry sit up and take note, any number of new and potentially interesting games were releasing or in development. WoW wasn’t resting on its laurels with its first expansion, The Burning Crusade, imminent. Blogworthy subjects pinged back and forth across the blag-u-spore (as they had for years before) sparking further posts like neutrons in uranium-235 (complete with occasional fallout when things got a bit too excited).
By 2008 the shiny new blog smell had worn off a bit, and it was starting to look like shades might not be required to deal with the brightness of the post-WoW MMO future after all. Duo-ing in an MMO often strikes a sweet spot, amplifying the power of each character without the administrative overheads of larger groups, so it seemed worth a try on the blog front. Seeing the glorious success of Choco Krispies and Consignia we hired some enormously expensive consultants for a rebranding exercise, and came up with the very site that you now sit reading (unless the content has been scraped by some disreputable scoundrel, in which case we disavow all knowledge and urge you to contact your local Intellectual Property Tactical Armoured Response Division). Melmoth’s blood, sweat and web-hosting plan brought Killed in a Smiling Accident into being, and rather more thoroughly life-changingly Mr & Mrs Melmoth welcomed the arrival of Mini-Melmoth around the same time.
Despite occasional dalliances with books, television, Mesopotamian woodcrafting techniques and the fauna of Lord Howe Island, games have remained the core of KiaSA (as all the cool kids call it) with MMOs a strong part of that to start. Hopes were still high for forthcoming titles like Warhammer Online and Star Wars: The Old Republic, regular development news, new releases and the changing landscape and business models of gaming provided ample blog-fodder. Our blogroll continued to expand as new voices regularly appeared on the scene. Slowly, though, the popularity of the genre and our enthusiasm for it petered out over the next few years, variations on well-worn MMO themes proving diverting but hardly world-changing.
Around August 2012 things really slowed down. Melmoth had no time for writing as work and family life got busier; I’d had a good old run at Star Wars: The Old Republic and a bit of a stint in The Secret World so was rather MMO’d out and didn’t get into Guild Wars 2 at all, the big release at the time. GW2 stoked up some flames from the embers of the MMO blag-u-spore, but in general things were cooling down there too. Following blogs via RSS feed had been our standard method of keeping up to date but other forms of social media were taking over, perhaps best exemplified by Google closing down Google Reader in 2013. The blogroll in the sidebar over there has always been pretty sprawling and inconsistently maintained and is now more of a museum of curiosity, a mixture of defunct domains and moribund musings with a few stalwarts keeping the blogfires burning. Brian posted a nice reflection on blogging a little while back, and like him I still enjoy writing; I just don’t get fired up by games very often.
Case in point, playing structured PvP in Guild Wars 2 jogged a memory of similar hold-the-objective PvP in Neverwinter. Until then I’d forgotten I even played Neverwinter, despite spending 6+ months with it, hitting the level cap and dipping a toe into endgame grinding; rummaging back through posts here I found a few references (including the fact that I gained the best part of the final 10 levels just by logging in each day), but little to stick in the memory. It’s not just MMOs; I played through Wolfenstein: The New Order, Fallout 4, XCOM 2, The Division, to pluck four random titles, over the last year, all fine games (though The Division fell apart a bit in its endgame, possibly remedied by a major update that I ought to have a look at sometime), but they prompted little in the way of posts here, more aide memoirs than attempts at anything deeper, as much for my own benefit as anything else as memory fades.
MMOs certainly aren’t dead. I’ll go through spells, sometimes lengthy, where I can’t face another ten rats but I’m rather hooked on Guild Wars 2 at the moment, only four years late to the party. Blizzard announced 3 million sales of Legion, the latest WoW expansion; the juggernaut might have stopped accelerating but still has momentum. Blogging isn’t dead either, there’s life yet in Newbie Blogger Initiatives and Blaugust and such, but as I’ve become a bit disconnected from MMOs and games in general, so too their wider community, with a finite amount of time and ever-increasing competition for it.
I don’t mean to sound too maudlin, we’ve met some splendid people in blog comments/Twitter/Steam groups/newfangled browser-based chat-type-things/semaphore messages/telegrams and in a few cases even that strange ‘real life’ place. Interests naturally fade in and out (see also: GAFIA); starting to play War Thunder and a visit to the Chalke Valley History Festival in 2013 rekindled my interest in history, particularly aviation history, so I get a bit of writing exercise penning occasional articles, and odd answers on Reddit’s AskHistorians (Reddit, like the internet in general, has its hives of scum and villainy, but the tyrannical AskHistorians moderators rule with an iron fist, sweeping through comment threads and crushing unworthy responses with weapons including fear, surprise, ruthless efficiency and an almost fanatical devotion to verifiable sources; the end result, when people have the expertise and time to contribute, is in-depth and interesting answers to wide-ranging histroical questions, rather than floods of half-remembered tangential anecdotes).
So things will likely tick along here as they have for the past few years, an occasional post here and there as inspiration strikes. Perhaps time and circumstances will change, never say never and all that. In the meantime, thanks for reading.