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My first MMO was EQ1 which I started playing shortly after the Luclin expansion. I tried a variety of classes because I wanted to test stuff out and figure out which class I enjoyed the most. Early on I played a druid and a ranger, later moved to bard pretty much full time.
I got to experience a number of the more popular camps in crushbone, LOIO, Highkeep etc, as I leveled up through the game, mostly in PUGs. I found a guild around level 10 but it was mostly max level, being an older server, so a large amount of leveling was done with groups of people I just met and joined up with or occasionally alts.
Downtime was a natural part of the game due to slow health/mana regen rates, and having experienced the alternative in games such as WoW, Rift, etc, I feel the slower approach was better. The main reason for this is that it strongly encouraged and aided personal interaction. In the current crop of no-downtime MMOs, the other members of the group are a necessary evil to completing a dungeon and should be interacted with as little as possible. My experience has been that even when some members are more social and inclined to chat, there's an unspoken expectation to keep moving and clear the dungeon as quickly as possible.
The forced downtime of med'ing provides that space to engage in some social interaction without feeling as though you're holding up the group, and I found people generally more inclined to interact. This increased social interaction is nothing but beneficial for the games' community and culture, and I suspect partly why various servers had far more of a community feel to them than more recent games. The lack of cross-server groups and no LFG tool also helped, as you were at the very least, forced to interact in order to join a group, vs. the "click dungeon queue button and be dropped into a group" approach today.
The difficulty of soloing with many classes was something that also fed into this, as it to a degree funneled people into groups, setting you up for the opportunity to have some social interaction.
I'm not ignoring the negative aspects of these approaches to gameplay, as I leveled my ranger mostly solo and experienced many frustrating situations, partly because I'm a fairly shy person and not great at engaging with people, and partly because sometimes I just wanted to be able to level a bit solo. But the static camps that you could almost always find a group or 2 at, and the advantages of working with a group provided me with a means to actually join some other people and be able to engage socially.
I also think that this downtime, which effectively slowed the leveling process, was also beneficial in making more of the content relevant. There were consistently groups at lower levels in certain locations (e.g. LOIO, LGuk) and the gameplay was reasonably engaging in that group context, even where many classes didn't yet have their full toolkit.
I'd love to hear what fellow gamers who played through that period think. Was there positive value in that downtime for you?