An Era Long Forgotten

Fantasy castle art

Since Fatsquatch has been reminiscing about MMOs out of the gate here, my mind has begun to wander back to a simpler time. A time when the only way to access the Internet in my area was with a blazing 56K connection. A time when our computer which rocked Windows 98, a 4 GB hard drive, and 32 MB of RAM was the envy of all of my friends. A time when all I really wanted to do was find games to play online with other people… that were free, of course.

For as long as I can remember I’ve been an extremely competitive person, whether it be grades in school, performance at a job, or even winning at family game night. One problem I had growing up was that my friends never wanted to play against me; all they ever wanted to do was play cooperatively. This was fun, but what I really craved was challenge not from the AI, but from the person next to me. A real life being who could truly adapt to my techniques and not fall prey to the same tactics dozens of times in a row. Unfortunately, most of my pals didn’t fit the bill. I was stuck playing cooperatively, with the rare competitive matches ending with them being angry at me for showing the slightest bit of pleasure after a solid victory. I even found myself letting people win sometimes just so they wouldn’t get angry and quit playing.

It turned out that playing with people from around the world was even worse. Even playing a game of checkers against someone was an exercise in futility because people just hated losing. As a result, I started searching for something different. That’s when I stumbled upon Era Online.

Doing a quick Google search for EO doesn’t really bring up a lot of information. You might stumble upon the developer’s website, which only contains a brief mention of the title as well as a link to its Wikipedia article. Information on the game has all but vanished, and I feel like with it a part of my adolescence has disappeared as well.

Era Online for the PC

I'm about 95% sure that my character is in that crowd somewhere.

At its core, EO was very derivative of Ultima Online, though I had no way of knowing at the time. I was drawn in by the prospect of playing a game in real time with dozens (or hundreds!) of other people. Even though it wasn’t strictly competitive, the variety of character classes and professions was mind-boggling to me at the time. I fondly remember making a character who was a Pirate that could tailor and was great at woodwork so I could make myself some snazzy threads, an awesome boat, and float around yelling “ARRRRRRRRRR!” at anyone unfortunate enough to be on the same map as I was.

Another thing that really drew me in was the sense of community, which I have yet to find in any other online game I’ve played since. EO was basically a project done in one man’s spare time that ended up turning into a full-fledged game that made it deep into beta status before ultimately having the plug pulled.

It was fairly buggy even toward the end of its life, but the community was loyal and, for the most part, helpful. Even before the game was playable there were numerous guilds that developed with specific purposes, and I got caught up in that as well. I ended up joining a guild called The Shadows; we were supposedly neutral to all the conflict between other guilds, but we generally just messed with everyone who crossed us and spent a lot of time robbing banks.

It’s amazing to me that to this day I can recall specific in-game events (such as winning a race to catch a dragon before anyone else in the game thanks to my guild mates blocking other players’ paths), names of some of my guild mates (Xile, Delay, Treforus, Dekar), and the heart-wrenching last day that the server was online. I wonder if any of my guild mates (or anyone else for that matter) remembers things from EO in vivid detail like I do. I wonder how many of them have played World of Warcraft or Lord of the Rings Online, didn’t really enjoy them, and kept playing because they had a friend or colleague who played with them.

In the weeks, months, and years since EO shut down I’ve searched for another MMO that would capture my imagination and have the sense of community that I yearned for. Even after spending well over $400 in monthly access fees, I have yet to find it. What saddens me the most is that I probably never will.

About the author

FlowingMindspin

FlowingMindspin cut his teeth on beating up Generic Dudes and icing zombies while he was growing up in the early '90s. After he turned all of the thugs in River City into honor students he found himself drawn to the more in-depth experiences gaming had to offer. Now a huge JRPG buff with a soft spot for the classics that filled his youth with joy (and anger... so much anger), he's turned to the wonder that is the Internet to spew vitriol and wax nostalgic.

Readers Comments (6)

  1. Somehow, I had never heard of this game until I read this post.

    It sounds very “sandboxey” — like my main MMO love — Ultima Online, and I’m sure I would have been into it.

    It’s too bad we don’t have these types of MMOs anymore, and judging by the way things have gone over the last few years, we’ll never have such again.

  2. FlowingMindspin April 11, 2012 @ 1:21 am

    Honestly I think I found out about it from one of those “Top 25” link-fests back in the day. This was, of course, before I realized those sites were pretty much useless in general.

    I really just enjoyed that it allowed for a lot of actual role playing. As silly as my pirate motif was, people really enjoyed it and no one had a problem with my character pretty much being batshit insane. I was only 15 years old and had no true RP experience before, but they had a section on their forums devoted to role playing and I cut my teeth there.

    And yes, it really is a shame that there likely won’t ever be another MMO like this again. I just feel like WoW and all of its imitators are soulless, for lack of a better term. I don’t mind grinding, questing, and loot whoring… but the sense of community has to be there to keep me coming back. To me, that’s the point of gaming with others– the interpersonal aspects. When you take away interactions with other players (beyond emoting to everyone who passes you by or just joining a group for a quest because it’s required), you lose a huge chunk of the experience.

    Part of what made EO so great was that the community was small, fledgling, and tight-knit. Of course there were a few bad apples, but it was all in all very enjoyable. I just wish that there had been one single MMO experience after it that was an improvement. I can honestly say it hasn’t happened.

  3. Hey! What was your name on EO? I was Tagar.. I lead a guild of Dark Elves based in the Dark Elf town for which I forget he name now. (Started with an M I beleve) called the Knights of Apocalypse. (Cheesie guild title now a days.. but I was young.. give me a break)

    The “ARRRR” part of your write-up made me think you are possibly “OneiWilly” ?

    thanks for writing this.

  4. FlowingMindspin August 13, 2012 @ 8:56 pm

    I believe my name on there was Mindspin, or some weird spelling variation of it. I was only 14 or 15 when I played, so cheesy names didn’t bother me at all. I remember the leader of the guild who protected the main Human kingdom used the name Fireball, and was kind of a jerk. 🙂

    I always played a human character and never made it to the Dark Elf lands. I remember traveling around being extremely cumbersome at times because the edges of maps didn’t line up properly. In spite of this, we managed to set up a guild “headquarters” in the middle of the woods about 30 screens away from the main town. I can’t even remember the name of the main Human city, now… I remember the world itself was called Menath, but damn.

    When I started typing this comment I wasn’t sure if I remembered you or not, but I do believe I remember your name from the message boards (which I was fairly active on). Probably since you were a Dark Elf, I rarely (if ever) saw you in the game.

    And thanks for reading this and responding! It’s amazing that someone else remembers this over a decade later! 🙂

    Do you have any good stories or memories to share?

  5. Wow… Tagar, my old nemesis. It’s been a long time since we’ve met! I don’t know if you’ll remember me, Nerha. I was the head of the Valen Militia, the wood elves army from … well… Valen.

    I was feeling nostalgic and told myself: wow, I gotta find back if EO as a community or a website or something. So far, it’s the closest I’ve come to this. 2 people is better then none eh!

    I’m still in touch with Squa and Quipsy if you guys know them. They sure remember that time and would be excited to talk to people from then again.

  6. I “did the music” for that game. By that I mean I sent a demo song, and Erl just said welcome aboard and put the song on the site. I went to a couple of online meetings but it all folded shortly after. I got the impression it was a group of kids who were friends. It wasn’t very organised at all, but who cares… Neither is Valve..

    I only tried the game once, but immediately some preenis kept deliberately getting in my way and telling me to give him cash, like it’s a school yard, and I quit after like a minute of that. Meh. It’s cool that people remember it.

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