Gaming started at an early age for me; my first computer was a ZX Spectrum 48k, we did own a rubber key Spectrum, however it was poor and it was returned to WH Smith quickly and we were issued with a spanking new Spectrum 48k+. Clearly games on the Spectrum were not on par with those we see today, but it gave me a good grounding in playability rather than looking at the graphics first as most people do these days, because let’s be honest, the Spectrum was inferior even to those with glaucoma.
So gaming as you see for me started at an early age, I kept that Spectrum rolling for many years until finally I had saved up enough cash from my paper round to buy my very own Atari ST, yes I know, I could have gone for the far superior Amiga 500, but frankly the Atari ST looked all forlorn sat there on the shelf… Besides, a friend had one and was collecting games through illegal routes like they were going out of fashion.
As I entered the 90’s the computer became more important for college and eventually university. My first PC was a 286, 15” monitor and various other bits and bats that came with PCs back then, keyboard and mouse I believe. This was the beginning of the end for me with regards gaming.
I failed my first year at University due to being thick, nothing to do with the amount of time I spent on the Internet (when I should have been in class) and playing late night games of Doom, much to the distaste of my roommate who I’m sure hated me. Doom was my bread and butter for gaming until QuakeWorld came along. Suddenly the internet opened up before me. A regular on Barrysworld, I spent much of my time on University PCs playing QuakeWorld. For those that remember the UKCL they may remember the QuakePolice Department (QPD), they won the UKCL a few times from what I remember in the early days. They played out of De Montfort University, made up of staff and post grads, they where something to aspire too, however I failed to do this due to crappy grades.
University ended and gaming continued back at home, interrupted by work, luckily I had a girlfriend that put up with late nights and long gaming sessions and that led to quite a few LAN parties, in Glasgow, Hull and Cheshire. The overall gaming frenzy was contained within QuakeWorld, however new and interesting games where coming out that required bigger and better systems.
1998 saw the advent of my first ever MMORPG, as with most games, I was introduced to it by a friend and they then promptly stopped playing, leaving me to become addicted, Everquest was the game for me, I loved it and played it unendingly without actually getting any good at it. I started my life on the Povar server, however with no actual European server, our mailing list started to migrate to Bristlebane where I eventually rerolled my character and joined Unseen University, a guild that was officially endorsed by Terry Pratchett who had originally penned the name in one of his many books. Unseen Uni was one of those guilds that you could tell was never going to go anywhere, infighting of those who wanted to play the game as a raid guild and those who wanted just a casual gaming time soon came to logger heads, leading to a bust up and half the guild leaving to join United Kingdom’s.
I was in two minds as whether to go at the time. I was mates with those that left, but rarely grouped with them as I wasn’t a fast leveller. Eventually I decided to stick around and helped rebuild the Unseen Uni guild back to its original stature. Eventually the game started to dry up and Ozbub soon pestered me to join United Kingdom and after a few weeks pestering I relented and left Unseen Uni for United Kingdom.
The game took on a whole new appeal, I’d gone from a casual guild to people who wanted you to do well because that led them to do well and in turn you spent time working with others to better the guild. At this time I met up with new people and got on well with quite a few of them.
World of Warcraft soon came out and this game never really took my fancy. Quite a few of my old guild migrated to the WoW and I was invited to join them, however I was still enjoying Everquest with my new guild and never got caught up in the WoW madness. I also had one eye on Everquest 2, which was just around the corner and offered a lot more than WoW for me at least.
Once Everquest 2 came out, I was kinda hooked, the game struggled at first and the game felt awkward compared to EQ Classic, I got my first character to just shy of Level 30 and I found a new game to play, a game that has continued to be part of my week ever since in one shape or another.
I hadn’t heard of this new game at the time; however Koz (of Unseen University) was adamant that this game was the bee’s knees and I should get involved in playing it. I remember to this day him selling the game to me, “It’s great, I’ve been hiding under this tree for 2 hours and all I’ve seen are two panzers and that’s it”. I was hooked and my World War II Online experience that continues to this day was born.
I played WWIIOL as a player and an officer, two very different experiences, where one is directed and the other is directing. Being an officer in the game has an entirely strategic layer that envelops the game and if you’re good you can lead an army to do your bidding. The game was by no means perfect, but I was never one to complain about it and just accepted the game for what it did, being a developer probably helped in that sense, as I can sympathise with the developers under time and resource constraints.
Soon I was dabbling back and forth between EQ2 and WWIIOL and just to throw another spanner into the works I played EvE Online for a good number of months. Well, I say play. It was more like watching bars move, most of the game was played AFK, either travelling or skilling, something that was epitomised in a flash video by Zero Punctuation.
Other games of note that I have played and enjoyed on varying scales include, Star Wars Galaxies (Pre & Post), Planetside, Asherons Call, Vanguard Saga of Heroes, Warhammer Online, World of Warcraft (demo), Dark Age of Camelot and Anarchy Online. Of all these games I had high hopes for Vanguard and Dark Age of Camelot. Of the rest, I wish I hadn’t wasted my money on them.
Finally, the only game that I wish I had bought and played in its hay day, would have been Ultima Online. This came about just before I left University and I would have enjoyed it I’m sure.