Pic of the day: Things were pretty dark for Dark Age of Camelot for a while. Several servers were almost deserted. But the game recently got a surprising boost, thanks to something as simple as humility.
DAoC: Back to basics
I still play Dark Age of Camelot from a few minutes to half an hour every couple of weeks, in order to maintain guild membership for one of my characters. And the truth is that I would probably still have been playing the game regularly, had not City of Heroes come along. But it did, with its vibrant colors and optimistic, future-oriented atmosphere. (And of course the best character creation tools of any game online or offline.) It is hard to go back to a medieval game now, especially when it also has medieval controls for some functions. (After a week with CoH, I couldn't remember how to do even fairly basic things in DAoC.)
But DAoC has made progress too. The latest expansion pack, Catacombs, implements some of the good ideas from City of Heroes. You now have instanced areas, where only you and your team play in a small pocket universe for the duration of a mission (or quest, as it is called in medieval parlance). Character creation now allows more customization. And the user interface has been shined up a little, although I still find it clumsy. As usual, the newest expansion is able to make better use of graphics cards, where much of the progress has been in PC hardware lately. The improved game engine can be downloaded for free if you have an older version of the game, although you will of course not get access to the new races, classes or areas. (In City of Heroes, all expansions are free; but I have not seen any other publishers do that.)
In addition to the expansions you can buy or download, there is a steady trickle of new content going into the game. Despite this, the population seems to have been shrinking for the last couple years. In all fairness, part of this may be because there have been set up local servers in other parts of the world, such as Europe and Korea, and some of the players there probably played on the US servers in the past. Mythic Entertainment has adapted by clustering the servers, so that players on one server can cross over to other servers, especially for the purpose of realm wars.
But ironically the greatest success lately has been the introduction of "classic servers". On these servers, gameplay is mostly like it was before the introduction of the second expansion pack, Trials of Atlantis. There was a lot of frustration after that expansion was released. Many players felt that it created too big a difference between the casual players and the power gamers. There were many who felt that they could simply not compete, since they could not invest the time required for the long and complex quests for superpowered artifacts.
The controversy and exodus happened a couple years ago, but it is only just recently that Mythic Entertainment has been able to stomach the humiliation. Currently the classic servers are the most densely populated, and also seem to have drawn in new players (or more likely old players). The idea has clearly been a success, and it came after asking the players what they wanted. If only they had done that in the first instance, they could have saved quite a bit of money. Anyway, if you are one of those who left DAoC because of the Trials of Atlantis controversy, you may want to go back now. It is better than it was back then, although it is still not City of Heroes...
Visit the ChaosNode.net for the older diaries I've put out to pasture.