Many games have filled that role over the years. Some were MMOs that only ever got an outing in that slot, others were previous favorites popping up in cameos to reprise their famous shticks. The first I can remember was The Realm, a venerable 2D MMO that predates even Ultima Online. I even paid a subscription for that one, although it was only something like $3 a month.
Other fondly-remembered late night specials included Endless Ages, Rubes of Eventide, Ferentus and NeoSteam but there have been many more that are harder to call to mind. Almost every MMO I've ever played "seriously" has passed on to an around-midnight afterlife. That's when the minor characters marooned on obscure EQ servers come out and kill a few gnolls, or my Raki DIsciple sharpens his diplomatic skills in Vanguard.
|What do you mean, I have to give him back? Don't you know who I am?|
I was a very late-comer to Azeroth indeed, arriving there for the first time about five years after everyone else. For me, WoW turned out to be something not dissimilar to the classic three-monther. I forget how long I actually spent there. It could have been a month or two more, tailing off towards the end until it no longer seemed worthwhile paying the sub. Had that barrier to re-entry not been there I'd almost certainly have popped in and out ever since, but there it was so there I wasn't.
|Goblins. Surprisingly orderly queuers.|
Having outed myself as a WoW nostalgist of the mildest stripe, when Wilhelm pointed out that the first twenty levels of WoW can be had any day for the bargain price of nothing (something I knew but had been trying hard to supress) subsequent events became almost inevitable, if not immediately successful.
|You want flies with that?|
Since the plan was to make new characters and play them for free, not get back to the old ones, it seemed a lot simpler just to start over so I made a new Battlenet account and from there everything went as smoothly as you might hope. WoW is a 22GB download now but Blizzard pumps fast and the client streams so playing the game is only a few minutes away from any rash decision you might make.
And speaking of those, first I made a Panda. I know. I think there was one on the log in screen or something. I don't really have an explanation. Or an excuse. Whatever, the Panda, a Hunter, got made and reached level four in very short order, by which time I'd seen enough to remind me that I have never much liked the Faux-Zen Monastery vibe in any MMO ever, so why would this be the exception?
|The Cliche-o-meter's in the red, Cap'n. I dinna think she can tak' any more!|
The second attempt, a Goblin, went much better, no surprise there. Goblins, gnomes, short talking animals, that's my comfort zone. The Goblin starting area, the Isle of Kezan, is a fascinating place, described in the Wiki as "a swarming cesspool of corruption, chaos, scheming, and invention", which is true as far as it goes. It's also genuinely laugh-out-loud funny and had I known I was going to be expelled from it so abruptly and terminally at around level five I would have taken a lot more trouble to explore it in depth. Never mind, I can do it over. The world can always use another goblin.
|Don't make me choose!|
So here I am in WoW again. If my goal was to scratch that nostalgic itch then I seem to have shot wide. Playing a new race in an area I've never seen before is strapping on the scratch mitts with a vengeance. This is just the warm-up, though. WoW has a lot of races and I'm a low-level specialist, most at home in the starting areas of any MMO. For someone like me, who can't bear to see a character slot stand empty and is happiest pottering about getting characters decently dressed, WoW's endless trial looks like a perfect fit.
And it's free! Thanks Blizz!