Becoming Hardcore: Dark Age of Camelot

My wife still bears a grudge against Dark Age of Camelot. That’s fair. I started playing around the time we moved in together, and I played it a lot.

After college, my group of friends spread across many time zones. At various times we had people in California, Texas, Arizona, Michigan, Japan, Australia, China, and the Philippines. We decided to schedule online gaming a few times a week, plus however often we could catch each other in-game. Our attempts at taking a pen-and-paper game online were not entirely enjoyable (software for that has come a ways, with voice chat these days if nothing else), and many of us were excited about Dark Age of Camelot, so we joined Albion.

In retrospect, there are only a few nights together that stand out in my memory. The first was very early, when we started crafting. The first tier of crafting has (had?) positive-sum quests around Camelot, so were all exploring the new and glorious capitol, skilling up madly, making a decent trickle of silver, and chatting as we ran around.

It was a great, simple night. Crafting has become known as a hardcore solo social gameplay style, and this was our first exposure to it. I think we used that night as fund-raising to found a guild officially, and we were all grouped so we could chat and share the occasional run speed buff. I cannot remember a thing we discussed, apart from how to find people and places around town, but it was a great session of digital hanging out.

It was also a great night for sights. If you have never played DAoC-Albion, that first moment of entering Camelot is magical. You will more recently have heard of that first time you crest the hill and enter Rivendell in The Lord of the Rings Online™, which is another magical moment backed by our shared experiences with the books and the movies. Now combine that with your first time in Thorin’s Hall, with its oversized architecture and majesty. Your DAoC starter town is the usual small town, humble beginnings, you know this. After the newbie levels, you are sent to the capitol. You follow the path, go by the farms, wind through the trees, and suddenly there it is: Camelot. I assume that Camelot is better known than Rivendell, and it is this huge castle with towering statues. To help the contrast, there is a mini-town just outside, a bunch of merchants in wooden stalls looking to sell by the gates. You pass them, you cross the drawbridge, and you really get a sense of scale as you enter the gates.

Entering pre-Shattering Stormwind was a lesser version. It has that same Western castle motif, complete with exiting the woods as you get there. But it is not Camelot, and the contrast with the newbie zone is not as severe (in scale and given its distance). DAoC also had a less cartoony and more low-magic style, which helps the contrast between the darker bits and the majestic ones. They both have that “lost in a huge fantasy city” feeling, and I imagine WoW gave most people their first virtual experience of that.

Very little of the mid-levels stand out in my mind. We must have spent time together fighting giants in the Salisbury Plains, but everyone in Albion spent a lot of time there on every character, and so it blends.

I more recall the late levels, before the last zones. We spent a fair while in Cornwall before the Lyonesse revamp. One night we just camped evil trees and talked. It seems like one of the first times we felt completely unguided, in a dead zone where you grind. There was a camp of trees not too far from town, we were all on, so we wandered over. I recall some of that being spoiled by having a non-guild Wizard ask to join our camp, which was my first experience with “look at my damage, I’m awesome!” folk, back before we started referring to people as “DPS.”

These were the levels when you were fully competent, both as a player and in terms of your character’s skills. It was one of those times when everyone could play the game without thinking about how to play the game. This frees up attention for better socializing and better play, which was good because the enemies were mean and increasingly social around then.

They changed the models on the local demon-things just as we were getting comfortable with the zone. Those things were mean, and they were spread so that someone running to catch up with the group usually brought a few; I recall monsters being willing to follow you for MUCH longer distances back in the day, including people who were killed back in town when enemies just kept following; I do not recall an “in-combat” indicator that let you know you were still being chased. There were some haunted ruins, great places to fight ghostly soldiers for an hour or two. I remember our first time visiting Lyonesse, with its haunted scenery and sudden jump in monster levels; the survivors met the folks coming from the bindstone.

The band started breaking up soon after that. We simultaneously hit the 3-4 month point at which most of our folks got bored of games, the leveling wall so steep that DAoC added half-level rewards to encourage players, the chance to spread out into different activities (PvE, RvR, alts), and changes in schedules. Some dropped, some drifted away, some began to play more with other groups of people. I obviously got into this whole MMO thing.

: Zubon

18 thoughts on “Becoming Hardcore: Dark Age of Camelot”

  1. Camelot at night was really a sight! :)
    At least the Albion players won’t forget that moment.

    Many people did not know the concept of tank-healer and
    CC/DPS from previous games, knew neither UO or EQ. Nowadays it is rare that you have to explain someone not to steal “aggro” (“WTF is that?”) from the tank (which they like to do nevertheless).

    I wonder why this unnatural system got copied over and over by so many MMOs.

    But the really cool and still outstanding PvP concept of open yet still consensual PvP with three factions fighting over “Relics” in “Border Keeps” did not get copied. Instead almost every MMO got instanced battlegrounds.

    There is also this thing that Camelot or Rivendell are connected with so many stories and memories, King Arthur and the works of Tolkien. No matter how grand the looks of Stormwind, Sanctum in Aion or Rift are, they are simply not Camelot or Rivendell. Neither was this wooden fort that Midgard got as starter city. I forgot the name. :)

  2. “Nostalgia hits you for 5000 dmg”
    Thanks for that, Zubon.
    And also, curse you!

  3. The first time I entered Camelot, I fell through a hole in the world on the way to the mercenary trainer. Beneath the world, there were clouds.

    Then I hit the invisible barrier beneath the hole in the world, and died. It wasn’t such a thrilling experience. So I went to Midgard.

  4. Surprisingly, a large number of the guild I ran with in early DAOC is still together. We are desperately searching for an mmo which can recreate the early daoc experience. Sadly not one has even come close. Now we are waiting to try Rift (yes, we already know it won’t be anything like daoc).
    Several of us started playing daoc again concentrating on the lvl 39 Molvik bg. Hopefully that will be enough rvr to make us happy while we give Rift a shot.

  5. I still don’t understand why no one has copied DAoC’s take on BGs. They are instanced, but they persist, and rather than being scoreboard themed, you just fight over a castle until you have had enough. Very fun bite-sized content and in good contrast to RvR.

    1. It sounds as though Guild Wars 2 is going for this, as something of a hybrid between the practice Keeps and RvR, in the Mists. They’re even copying one of the unheralded things that made DAoC’s RvR so great: three sides.

    2. I got a pain in the pit of my stomach reading this but I’ll tell you why nobody has copied DAoC. It is too hard core and that does not make you money.

      I had a discussion on LotRO kin vent this evening about the difference between tactical and melee damage. Caster vs toe2toe. Thats about as big of a response someone can give you in a game like LotRO. I remember when I first started the game, having come from DAoC, and asking someone what dmg type the mobs were weak to and how should I acquire said dmg type.
      Anybody, especially an DAoC assassin, who didnt know dmg types in DAoC was pretty much cannon fodder.

      The people playing these games cannot deal with tweaking equipment and worrying about how you spend your skill points, or gawd forbid, repeatedly pressing one button hoping to gawd that will be the last button you have to push trying to max the craft out.

      like the old ’65 mustang I dreamed about, with the 1960’s suspension and brakes and steering, it doesnt come up to todays standards. I remember Salisbury Plains… I remember it as a cleric getting tells to come rez. The last time I logged in my cleric I had rezzes refused at Caer Boldiam. (yeah, looks like I have played the game)

  6. Great post. The funny thing was DAoC was so much less hardcore then its contemporaries, EQ or UO. Your gear didn’t stay with your corpse after you died, you lost experience but could never lose a level by a pve death, and there was little or none of the “I must camp this area for a rare mob spawn for 14hrs so I can get item X”. So yea we were carebears relatively speaking : p

    1. True but I don’t recal everquest or UO having 150 a side battles either. Perspective is everything and from my perspective of loving large battles Daoc was very hard core.

      Even slow nights often featured mile gate fights with 50 albs, 50 mids , and 50 hibs slaughtering each other.

      1. Don’t forget the strategy with multiple groups coming in from different areas of the zone — actual flanking! Stealthers giving scout reports!

        Some of my fondest memories are sneaking from one area giving scout reports on enemy activity and running into an enemy stealther.

        RvR gameplay is what made DAOC the game it was. Mythic hit the nail on the head (or maybe they stumbled onto it) when they did RvR.

        And yes, 50+ people from each realm battling it out at mile gates and assaulting keeps with 100+ realmmates make very, very fond memories. Many of us are still waiting for those feelings to resurface in a new MMO.

  7. My guild, Order Swordbrüden, came to DAoC to help beta test it. I ended up staying for 7 years.

    In the beginning, we had a blast. Once Trials of Atlantis was release, my game play fell off as I hated that update and didn’t have the time to grind through it. I stuck around for years afterwards struggling to remain a viable asset to OSB’s in-game participation.

    I am still miffed that Mythic decided to nerf the Armsman class until it was totally useless. It was originally designed to be the ultimate tank which wouldn’t need any special magic to survive almost every attack. But then every support/alt-tank class got magic attacks/defense and the armsman became obsolete. They should have just dropped the class from the character creator.

    I am disappointed that Mythic decided NOT to create an Origins server with pre-TOA version of the game. I and most of OSB would come back for that server. Oh well. -(

    1. Ditto on the Origins server. I think that EALouse guy (who said why WAR sucks and why SWtoR will suck) mentioned that there was going to be a DAoC 2 and it got canceled for some gay buttsecks or somethin. :(

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