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My list is:
Short-term: DAoC pre-SI. That was the most fun I had ever had in an MMO but it didn't last unfortunately. I hated the addition of the superbuggy Animists in RvR, which is what I primarily played for. After SI, the game started a slow decline.
Medium-term: EQ2. I hate the engine though and prefer the game when it was a bit harder.
Long-term: WoW and EVE. EVE is the game I played the longest, but I played so much of it that I got tired of it. I have not been back for several years and don't feel that strongly inclined to go back.
WoW is the game I have played the second longest and I am still enjoying it with no plans to leave even though I was disappointed initially with MoP.
Honorable mentions: GW1/2 and AO.
If I were recommending games to someone just coming into the MMORPG genre, I would recommend WoW or EVE. I still think those two games are the top of what the industry has to offer for themeparks and sandboxes.
Playing MUDs and MMOs since 1994.
1st/2nd: swtor and wow, not sure which too put first
3rd/4rd: rift and gw2, again not sure which to put 3rd
Best as in 'Quality' overall? Guild Wars 2. Not a single bug encountered thus far, amazingly.
Best as in the one I had the most fun with? Star Wars Galaxies... but obviously, that was not a bug free game hehe
BOYCOTTING EA / ORIGIN going forward.
Hands down the best I've ever played was UO. The game is well over a decade old and still going with a monthly fee I might add lol. It's that one game I come back to from time to time. I just recently went back for another 3 month stint.
Player Housing - Customizable player housing, with millions of items to decorate it with from the practical to the purely cosmetic. It's real time housing as well, not some instanced crap no one can see but those you invite.
Be what you want - The only game that lets you be exactly what you want. The skill system has yet to have an equal. Pick the skills you want to, play how you want. Want to be a mage with a crossbow that happens to have a pet dragon? Go for it. Want to be a Gargoyle warrior miner? Go for it.
PvP and PvE - It's not an action based combat system, it doesn't have the best or even decent graphics, yet it offers some of the best PvE and PvP out there. Full Loot FFA PvP if you go to feluca and Solo, Group, Small Group, Guild PvE content in abundance everywhere. Players have even made there own events in both PvE and PvP.
Simply put no game has been able to offer what UO does. They don't offer the freedom, the ammount of content, nor the ammount of customization.
This is why I always go back lol... games dated as hell in graphics and such, but the mechanics and such are well beyond any current game.
Best MMo I played was Star Wars Galaxies. The player driven economy with player citys and housing thrown in with open world planets with pvp and pve. And the elusive Jedi grind ( man do I miss that ).
However, the MMo I played the longest was World of Warcraft. It is the best MMo out there right now. People can hate all they want, but I have played nearly every big titled MMo on the roster and non of them compare even in the slightest.
Here is my list from 1st mmo to last. Ive played up to 3 MMo's at one time.
SWG ( quit at nge, but went back a few months before they shut the lights out )
City Of Heroes ( got to level 32 and quit )
World of Warcraft ( Played off and on for 8 years or so, longest I left for was a year )
Dungeons and Dragons Online ( got to level 8 and quit )
Lord of The Rings Online ( got to level 20ish and quit )
Everquest 2 ( level 18 or so and quit )
Aion ( have 3 level 55 characters, played for about 2 years, havnt logged on in about a year )
Star Wars The Old Republic ( have 2 level 50 characters, havnt played in months )
The Secret World ( end game on one character, havnt played in months )
Guild Wars 2 ( level 64 Ranger , havnt played in a few months )
At the moment I am two boxing on WoW with Recruit a Friend perks and having a blast.
Might try Wildstar and Skyrim when they release, but I am staying with WoW for now. its the only game worth paying for.
Best overall feature set: GW2
Best lore and world: AoC
Most PvP fun: STO in early days.
Most interesting mechanically: EVE, GW1
Best for teamwork: Pirates of the Burning Sea
Class - Race difficulties.
True Alinment system.
XP Loss and deleveling.
No quest logs
100X more content than you see today.
Day/Night cycles that are different gameplay.
Open ended dungeons.
True character development.
Almost a true PnP adaptation MMORPG. Todays games lost the reason for MMORPGs to exist.
WoW for being the first and the longest engaged (6 yrs).TSW for being so refreshing that I bought a lifetime sub.
Those you played daoc from day one know the game was an unbelievable step forward that has never been seen agian.
I cannot tell you how i wish this game was still alife (much in the way of nge daoc's current state is a game i do not know).
So yeah DAOC easy, doesn't even have rivials for me.
I will say that wow BC was amazing for raids
I will say SWG pre-nge was amazing for freedom (still feel JTLS was one of the best x-packs ever)
eq1 bwas good uo was good, i preffered the muds at this time however, they were deeper (this is not an attack understand muds were amazing).
Eve rep also. (actually still playing)
ps. Someone mentioned atmosphere , oddly enough daoc had a amazing feeling to it. to was like i was in the hihglands, or a deep forest or in a lad of magic. just odd, i rarely get that feeling today.... maybe it too forced.... maybe it had to do with just walkign up to a very small tower and the music changing to some thematic track.
"Society in every state is a blessing, but government even in its best state is but a necessary evil; in its worst state an intolerable one ..." - Thomas Paine
The first is always the best, so for me, AC1. That was my first adventure into MMO's and the open world environment, massive numbers of people, and actually TALKING to people around the world was amazing. I have yet to find a loot system and leveling system similar other than somewhat from AC2.
Second on the list was definitely AC2. It fine tuned some things, made mistakes at others, but now that I've played it all weekend after the re-birth of the game, I am finding there is much to be desired in a 10-year old game that modern MMO's have yet to deliver. As empty as the world is, it feels more alive than anything WoW or other MMO's have acieved for me...if they can improve the graphics and some of the gameplay, it coudl be awesome.
8 years full of fun and glory.
Face of Mankind
A political course in things of factional enforcements.
Yeah, PvP ^^
I actually play this, waiting for the AO engine.
SWTOR has a entertaining PvP full of tools and whistles, but would Age of Conan be sci-fi themed, i'd play that.
I like that kind of combat system for PvP.
There is ofcause hundred other games i played for some months, but these games above gave me the most immersion, fun and challenge.
I could play the way I WANTED to play. I on PURPOSE made a chacater that could swing a sword, use War Magic(magic that did damage), had NO melee defense(so took full damage) and could cook. A character that was a total gimp, not really good at anything but really great at parties. It was an open class system that allowed you to train what you wanted with limited points to place of course.
Better yet, it wasnt a traditional combat game. You could, with decent skills trained literally take on 20+ mobs at the SAME TIME and live, with enough health to go right to the next batch of mobs. Actual high ACTION combat. then on TOP of that, there were attack types. With melee you could swing high, middle, low. There was Stab, slash, blunt, acid, lightning, fire, cold based attacks and every mob had a weakness to one or more making swapping attack types a vast expansion on combat options.
I hope we shall crush...in its birth the aristocracy of our moneyed corporations, which dare already to challenge our government to a trial of strength and bid defiance to the laws of our country." ~Thomes Jefferson
It would have to be WoW. 6 years of playing one mmo consitutes the best for me. But the WoW days are long gone.
Honorable mention would be GW2 and Rift.
"Censorship is never over for those who have experienced it. It is a brand on the imagination that affects the individual who has suffered it, forever." - Noam Chomsky
1. EverQuest II
2. Dark Age of Camelot (pre-ToA)
3. Vanguard/GW2 (tie)
Overall gameplay and systems, PvP/PvE balance, crafting, housing, cities - All signs point to SWG.
Stability, polish - WoW, as much as it pains me to admit.
Server architecture, unique gameplay - EvE
Enter a whole new realm of challenge and adventure.