It’s not something I’ve done in a while. If anything, I’m the complete opposite and have been a long time. Thinking right back to the days I was on dial-up and downloading a new MMO or game could be a multi-night affair, it became a big part of my ‘process’ to dive deep into any game I was downloading. It was a source of great enjoyment actually, to have something like the Anarchy Online client on the way — ever so slowly, down those most narrow of internet tubes — while I dove deep in the class options, the best stats, optimal levelling paths, group compositions — anything and everything I could get my hands on.
As an aside — there is an impression out there that this type of information for a game only really became widely available around the time of WoW. Not true! I think just the sourcing of it changed. MMO Developers used to put a lot of this content together themselves and have it right on their website! Then of course there were the official forums, another treasure trove of stickied guides compiled by community experts.
I digress though, back on topic — this all became such an ingrained part of my process for a game, I’ve found it follow me through life to today even when the reasoning that kicked it all off, in the beginning, is no longer there. With Fibre, games download in a *snap*, so there really isn’t that same filling in a time void with the next best thing.
Occasionally though, I get an urge to attempt to recapture something of my lost innocence when it comes to MMOs or even gaming more generally.
I can’t help but remember my first steps in Asheron’s Call and just being utterly gobsmacked by the scope of the world and all the options I had for character creation put before me. I had no idea that the concept of min-maxing even existed, let alone how to do it. I just went with what sounded cool when put together as a character concept.
I went through several of Asheron’s Calls betas like that, in fact. Sure- I learnt things, and refined character choices here and there a little but there was always so much more. More to learn and see in the world, more to learn about how to interact with it, more… everything.
I didn’t learn about min-maxing until well after the retail launch as part of my foray into Darktide — the full PvP server — even here, the wonders of the world seemed immense and unknowable.
Short a case of amnesia, full well I know it isn’t possible to capture those early days of wonder. Not really.
But one of the ways I occasionally try is to just go into a game… without doing any of that preliminary research. In fact, going on a complete media blackout where the game is concerned with the aim of knowing as little about anything it has to offer.
Although perhaps when I say ‘occasionally’ I might still be presenting the idea that I do it more often than is the case. I think the last time I really went all-in blind on a game was… Guild Wars 2? The initial release?
Guild Wars 2 was a game I already knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that I wanted. There wasn’t going to be anything I could find out that was going to make me not get it — so I decided very early on I didn’t want to know which classes from Guild Wars 1 were coming over, what abilities there were, areas, nothing.
And you know what? It worked, to an extent. I picked a class based on my old guild D&D/RP play – Ranger – and just went with it, not knowing how over or underpowered people from the betas thought it was or anything else. I had no idea going in about the public play events, hearts setup, any of it! So there was definitely a period of discovery that wouldn’t have existed under my normal modus operandi.
You can’t unlearn everything you know about gaming, MMOs and RPGs in general though — so it was shorter lived than that first go around with Asheron’s Call.
Even so, I had the oddest desire come over me to give this another go for Elden Ring — funnily enough while in the process of watching a video about what we know so far from interviews, trailers and news releases so far. Hah.
I can’t really say I’m going in completely ‘blind’ in this case, I know a bit already — but I think I might instigate the media blackout policy on it from here-on until the February 2022 release, avoid learning anything else.
And! I’m pretty excited by the prospect of doing so. :)