I used to play a game called Maplestory. For those of you who don’t know Maplestory is a 2-D side-scrolling MMORPG which was known for its cartoony visual design and long grind. My in game name was PSAssassin. I played on the Khaini server of Maplestory Global. Maplestory was my main game for a large part of my adolescent years. I’ve spent more time playing Maplestory than any other game in my life and it would be no stretch to say that my time in game has had a great impact in shaping me as a person.
I have lost most of the records of my time in game. I’ve never been big on taking pictures in real life, but I used to take screenshots all the time in game. The moments when I leveled up, found a rare item, saw a character’s tombstone marker, or just when somebody said something stupid in chat, my finger was always ready to hit the print screen button to capture it all. Those screenshots are as important to me as any real photo album. They were a scrap book of my time in game. Played like a slideshow, they would probably show my whole time in game, my life of Maplestory, better than I could ever tell in words. Unfortunately, my screenshots were all wiped or deleted with the deaths and hard drive wipes of my old computers. I never thought to back them up or save them anywhere.
However, when my brother was looking through our old computer he found a bunch of my old screenshots from my time playing. The dates of these screenshots range from November 2007 to February 2009. In terms of my time playing the game this would be from a short time after I joined my guild, to a while after I switched characters and began leveling my pirate. While I would have liked to show pictures of my earlier experiences with the game, I think these screenshots nicely encapsulate my best memories of my time playing. There were over 1500 screenshots in the zip file he sent me. I couldn’t believe I had taken so many photos of quest dialogue/rewards, level ups, deaths, boss run completions, and random chat spam. But I’ve tried to cut down on the clutter and select some of the best ones to share here. I’ve placed them throughout the post where they best fit and add to the story.
Believe me when I say that I did not intend for this to be so long. I started the post knowing the gist of what I wanted to write and the story I wanted to tell. As I wrote and reminisced more about my time in game, I realized that I had a lot more to say than I originally thought. A piece from the Maplestory soundtrack I listened to while writing would take me back to that old map location filled with memories, and I would have to include it. A funny story from my time in game would come back to me randomly and compel me to share it . Before I knew it, this post had become the longest piece of writing I’d ever done, be it for school or otherwise. I had to split up the whole thing into sections so it wouldn’t look so much like an endless wall of text. Eventually, I even felt the need to write this prologue to explain myself. I’m not trying to write an autobiography, but if I ever did this would probably take up a large chunk of chapters.
I’ve been writing this post on and off over the course of a long while. Many revisions and reworks later, this is the finished product. I don’t think I’ll ever be completely satisfied with how this piece turns out. My writing will never be perfect or express my thoughts and feelings in the exact way that I remember them in my head. But I’ve put all my heart and all my effort into writing this, and that’s something I’m proud of. This may have just been a side project for me during a summer break, but it really has been many years in the making. I can only hope that this post will be something that I can look back on and feel content with.
Those who have never played Maplestory might not understand or connect with a lot of what I’m going to be talking about. For those people, I hope that this will still be an interesting read as a good story and an in depth look at a major part of my life. For those who have played Maplestory, I hope that my recollections are something that you’ll find entertaining and nostalgic. And for all my old friends and guildmates that I played with, I hope that this will be a fun trip down memory lane. Sorry in advance if I forget to mention you.
I can still remember clearly the time that I created my Maplestory account. My brother told me that I should join him and his friends in this new online multiplayer game that they were going to start playing. It was free. So free. And it didn’t even take a commercial with two guys slapping each other in the face with plastic fishes for me to learn that. So why not? While I was looking at the site I remember seeing the advertising slogan displayed at the top with something along the lines of “Begin your Adventure”. So I did. As I was putting in my personal information I actually had to lie about my birth date because you had to be at least 13 years old to play, and I was only 12 at the time.
My first character was a bowman. I named him Prescott, after myself. This is a character naming trend that I have continued to use whenever possible when playing games that let you name your character. Some people like to get into the role play and pretend to be a different person when they start role-playing games, but there’s no one I’d rather play a game as than myself. It’s fortunate too that Prescott is a fairly uncommon name, so it’s usually available. Unfortunately, names in Maplestory must be unique, so all my future characters had to have different names. I chose to stick with the naming convention of using my initials “PS” followed by the job title of whatever class the character I was making would be. Admittedly, it’s not the most creative naming scheme, but it was the best idea my 12-year-old self could come up with at the time and it stuck. It was simple and made it easy for people to recognize me when I made a new character. And at least I didn’t add copious amounts of X’s at the beginning or end of it.
Starting off I had no idea what I was doing. I picked the body type and features of the character I thought looked best and clicked on the dice that changed my starting stats until I got bored of it. The graphics of the game were simple but visually appealing. Even by the graphic standards of the time, Maplestory was by no means on par with other games. However, in a time where 3-D third person view MMOs were starting to become popular, a 2-D side side scroller with a cartoonish look was unique. The upbeat music that played in the background also made the perfect accompaniment to my bashing snails and sentient mushrooms with a short sword. I got to level 12 on Prescott. I don’t know exactly what I put my stat and skill points into at the time, except that it was certainly not optimal. I might have tried to balance my character out by putting a point in every stat or put points into HP so that I could save on health potions. However, after some guide reading online I made a new character and was off to a better start.
I would talk to all the NPCs in every town and eagerly set out to finish whatever fetch quest they gave me, anticipating the experience and item rewards that would be waiting for me upon completion. When I started playing there were only two servers, Scania and Bera. Each server had 20 identical channels which you could choose from to play in. I stayed away from Channel 1, especially in Perion where everyone would be spamming what they were buying and selling, causing the sorry excuse for a laptop I was playing on at the time to freeze for 10 second intervals at a time. Channel 2 was usually pretty crowded as well. So whenever I logged in I chose to enter and play in Channel 3, and it has remained my channel of choice.
I loved exploring the many maps that comprised the main continent of Victoria Island and beyond. I traveled from map to map battling any monsters that crossed my path. The different areas of the game felt like they had come straight out of a storybook. A magical forest, an arid wasteland, a city in the clouds, menacing underground caverns, and so many more fantastical places added with each new update. The backgrounds were all drawn so beautifully and created a really charming aesthetic for the game. I would go sequentially through the portals connecting maps until I reached a dead end. Then I would go back to where there was a fork in the road and take a different path. I pressed up at every sign in the road and peculiarly placed piece of shrubbery hoping to discover hidden portals to secret areas.
The music in Maplestory was one of its best features. It was pleasant to listen to for hours on end in whatever map you happened to be training in. All the musical melodies in the game were well composed and every piece could stand on its own in your music playlist. Ambient and atmospheric, I can get lost in memories of the game for hours listening to the soundtrack now.
I tried to do all the quests that were available. The experience and rewards they gave were good, and they offered a limited variety of things to do. But more so than anything else, I liked doing quests for the story. For me, learning about each NPC’s story and helping them out felt like my character’s whole purpose for existing. Because if not for quests, my character would just be some homicidal maniac, slaughtering thousands of innocent creatures just for the fun of it and then collecting their body parts as trophies. With quests, this indiscriminate slaughter was justifiable because the 20 decapitated pig heads that I murdered hundreds of pigs to obtain would help Mrs. Ming Ming out with preparing for her party.
Out of all the quest types available, jump quests were my favorite. Jump quests were essentially a 2-D platforming mini-game that you could play to change things up from the endless tedium of monster bashing. Mechanically, all you were doing was holding down a movement key and pressing the jump button at just the right moment to make the distance to the next platform hundreds of times. Your character made the most pathetic tiny jumps ever, but those jumps were always just enough to make it to the next platform if you timed it just right. The frustration and anguish of falling down over and over or missing the very last jump that you had to make was difficult to cope with. But the feeling of triumph and the great sense of accomplishment that came upon completing a jump quest made up for it many times over.
Party quests were all I did from the moment I reached the minimum required level to the time I leveled past the maximum allowed level. Unlike the endless grind of killing monsters over and over on your own, PQing required teamwork and coordination from your party. Getting into a PQ wasn’t easy. There could only be one party in a PQ in a channel at any given time, and the deciding factor on who got in was determined simply by who clicked on the NPC to get in first. The thrill of getting in after having clicked the NPC countless times after the person you were tracking had finished their run was great. The adrenaline rush you got when you finished the PQ, rushed out, and managed to get back in much to the outside waiting parties’ dismay was even better. Training on monsters was typically a faster way to gain experience because PQing involved long stretches of just waiting to enter. But the sudden large gains in experience and potentially valuable rewards for completing a PQ were just too enticing to resist. In future party quests there were even bonus areas where you hit boxes and watched as money and items streamed out. I would try to find optimal routes and hitting patterns to maximize the amount of boxes I could break within the given time limit. The chance of finding Napoleon capes, onyx apples, rare chairs, or even skill books was the sweet cherry on top that made party questing so fun and rewarding.
Eventually, I decided to spend real money in the game’s cash shop. The first thing I ever spent NX on was an in game pet. It was a husky that I named Mike after my best friend at the time. Pets had the functional use of picking up the items and money that you could not be bothered to press the z key to do. If you bought more accessories for your pet it could even save your life by using potions for you when you were low on health. But more than just its functionality, I loved the idea of having a pet in the game. Having a mini sidekick on my adventures that I could feed and talk to and who would follow me to the furthest reaches of the world map without hesitation. The next pet that I got became the main one I used throughout my time playing the game. She was a white rabbit, and I named her Molly after my pet rabbit that I had in real life. Even more faithful than my in game pet, the real Molly was with me throughout my entire time playing Maplestory. Whenever I was sitting at the computer playing, I would often look at her eating or sleeping sitting in her cage just across from my desk. Sometimes she would lie down next to me at my computer chair and let me pet her while I played. In game and out of game she was always by my side throughout my adventure.
Inevitably, I grew tired of playing Maplestory and quit along with the other people I knew that played. However, it wasn’t much longer before my brother told me that his friend was going to start playing again in a new server as the leader of the official guild of a popular Maplestory database website. I decided to start playing with them again too. This time I made a spearman and became a junior master of the HiddenStreeet guild in the Khaini server. Things progressed similarly to how they had before. There were new locations and features in the game from when I last played. Keeping up with my previous trend, I ended up leveling this new character farther than I had any of my previous ones. One day, during a 2x item drop event I decided to grind at red drakes for the slim chance that a set of steelys or some other high level item would drop from them. Steelys were a high-end throwing star weapon used by the assassin class that resembled a kunai with a red string attached to the end when thrown. I thought that they looked awesome, and even though they sold for an exorbitant price I decided that if I did find a set, I would create an assassin character to use them on. As luck would have it a set of steelys did drop for me.
My in game name was PSAssassin. I had many other characters with different names, the first of which was my actual name, but PSAssassin is undoubtedly the name most people who knew me in game would remember me by. On my new assassin character things progressed pretty much as expected for a while. My brother and his friends that played ended up quitting again, but that didn’t deter me this time. Eventually I ended up at a slightly higher level than the spearman that I had made previously, but instead of getting bored with the character and making a new one I continued pushing forward. After I had out-leveled the highest available party quests I looked at training guides and went to grind at the best training spots for my level. It wasn’t long before I ended up at the famous Z4 map grinding for experience on coolie zombies.
From around the time I was level 70 I started using 2x experience cards while training. These became one of the primary reasons for my spending money on the game. Specifically, I remember that the 2x experience card that I bought was the type 2 card that ran every day for four hours from 1-5 pm eastern time. Over the course of a few summer and winter breaks this was the time in which I grinded every day. I made sure that I arrived early to secure a party or map and trained non-stop until my allotted time was done. Throughout my time training, I would meet other people who used the same card and trained at the same places and times as me regularly. Sometimes I would form parties with them, and we would train together. These people I met became some of the first high level people that I got to know in the game.
One day while I was training a priest character came into my map and asked if I wanted to party with him. Excited at the prospect of getting the bonus experience from his holy symbol skill I agreed. His name was rafi619. After our training session he friend requested me, and the next day he was on at the same time and asked to party again. This became a daily routine for us. From the conversations we had while training I found out that he was a kid from Israel who was just a little bit younger than me. During our time training together he would always ask me the strangest and most random personal questions he could think of. He would ask me questions about my physical features and try to verify stereotypes he presumed were true of all Americans. Rafi could be annoying and whiny at times. He certainly wasn’t the most intelligent or articulate person that I knew, and he would die often during our training sessions. But he became one of the first people I really got to know in game and he was a good friend. I wasn’t the most social butterfly in real life or even in the game at the time. Sure, I had other people in my buddy and guild lists, but I usually didn’t converse with them much beyond greetings and game talk. I guess a whiny, over-talkative brat was the perfect complement to my more subdued and quiet self. Even after I had out-leveled the zombies map and told him that I would be moving on to a new training spot, Rafi insisted that he go with me, even though he was underleveled. Still, despite dying constantly at the much harder hitting Death Teddies, he stuck it out there with me to the end. Finally though, it came time for us to part, as I would have to move on. At my new training area, Rafi would be too low level to even leech experience from kills, so this time he couldn’t come.
When I first went to the squids map at level 92 I was apprehensive about being able to find a party to train with. Squids were pretty much the end game training area at the time where all the high level characters grinded. It was the last stop, with only an endless journey ahead of you to reach max level. When I first found a party at squids I was surprised. Not only by the tremendous jump in the rate of experience I was getting in comparison to where I previously was, but also by how accepting and willing people were to let me join their parties. Compared to the other people training there I was a total newbie. A low level character with subpar gear. I even equipped the oxygen tank cape item so that I wouldn’t take the minuscule penalty damage over time for being underwater. But it didn’t matter that I was low level or that I couldn’t kill squids as fast as others could. With squid parties, the more the merrier, and a party wasn’t full until six people filled every available slot and platform. My time at the squids map was the most fun I had training of all my time in Maplestory.
I remember one time in a party when I was still pretty low level, Kachee came into our channel and asked if he could join our party. When his character appeared in the map I recognized his name immediately. He was one of the people that would appear on the front page whenever I looked at the world rankings for Khaini. He was an assassin like me, one of the top 5 ranked players in the entire server, and he had just asked if he could join our party. I was starstruck. I wanted to type a message out to him in chat in caps with several exclamation points at the end, but I restrained myself. There was space available in our party, so the leader let him join. Kachee was really cool. Humble and friendly, he talked a lot in party chat with us. When asked about his training schedule and how he got to such a high level he said it was thanks to his guildmates and friends who supported him. Kachee was my in game hero. He was the assassin that I dreamed and aspired to be. Later, I would get to train with him on many different occasions and would even have the pleasure of adding him to my friends list.
At the time I was still in the HiddenStreet guild. Our guild leader had quit the game, and most of our guild members were inactive or had moved on to greener pastures. It was a rare sight to log in and see more than one other person online. I was pretty stubborn though, and I stuck with the guild and its few remaining members for a long time. Finally, I made the decision to move on and join a guild that was active, or at least not a ghost town. At this point there were always people trying to recruit me to their guilds. Seeing my relatively high level when I was passing by, I would often be asked to join some guild or another. But I didn’t want to join any of those guilds. I didn’t want to join some random guild that I was invited to be junior master of just because of the number they saw when they clicked my name.
In my time training at squids there were also a couple other assassin buddies I made. At some point in my time channel surfing through the squids map looking for parties I met andyTo2 (Andy) and xPCPx (Steve). They were assassins like me, except higher level and better geared. They both trained at the same time that I did every day, so we formed a pretty regular 3-man party, with xPCPx’s HS mule there to give us an experience boost. Andy was part of a guild called TaintedSoul, and through our conversations while training I asked him about the guild. As it turned out, the guild was newly formed and looking for members. Knowing Andy pretty well at this point, I asked if I could join the guild.
I was a bit apprehensive about joining TaintedSoul at first. The name of the guild seemed to imply that its members would be comprised of goths and emo personalities. Thankfully, this was not the case. For the most part everyone was nice and got along well. The guild was relatively new, but it consisted mostly of members from a previous guild that had disbanded named NovoFatalis. When I first joined I got the standard welcome to the guild greeting that everyone did. I felt a little uneasy at first, being the new guy and having to get to know everyone, but it wasn’t long before I was just another member of the guild. I wasn’t the most outspoken person in guild chat, but it was nice to see that there was always conversation going on if I wanted to join in. Knowing similar-level people to myself also made life quite a bit easier. Whether it was finding a party, getting advice on builds, or price checking items, everything went better when other knowledgeable people were there to help. It felt like I was really becoming a part of the high level community in the game. In contrast to going at it on my own for a large part of my time playing, being a part of the gang was a nice change.
Hitting level 120 was a great milestone for people at the time. That was the level when every class would make their 4th and final job advancement. New skills, new quests to do, and a huge jump in power level awaited. At least there would be, if the 4th job advancement update had been out when I reached level 120. At the time, even the top ranked characters in the world were stuck at 3rd job. Any levels you gained past that point only meant skill points that you had to save up for whenever Nexon decided to release the new content. Nonetheless, reaching level 120 was still a big deal and a cause for celebration. Many of my guildmates and friends were present to watch as I killed the final squid and the big green “Level Up” sign appeared above my head. Many “grats” and commendations appeared in chat afterward. At the suggestion of the guild leader dragonmastax (Poncho), after I leveled up we went to go kill Pianus, the big bad fish boss of the area. Some guildmates and friends partied up with us, and we went hunting. I had a great time dying constantly to the bombs Pianus would spawn that killed me in one hit. We ended up clearing every channel of the big fish in our quest to make the Maple world just a little bit safer for our fellow adventurers, at least until Pianus’ respawn timer was up.
Zakum was the final boss of Maplestory at the time. I think the first Zakum boss run I attended was a joint guild run between my guild and the guild FinalFantasy. The waiting was the most gut-wrenching part. I was feeling a mixture of nervous excitement and anxiety. I got the jitters and had butterflies in my stomach. I tried to tell myself that it wasn’t a big deal, that I was just playing a computer game. But to me it really was, and I couldn’t help being nervous. There was no profit to be made in Zakum runs back then. In addition to the potion cost, which for me was a pretty big hunk of cash at the time, every member of the group had to donate their money to the chief bandits so they could use meso explosion to damage Zakum. Back then dropping all your money and then making it explode was the only viable chance a group had of defeating the boss. But my first run failed. I don’t remember exactly what happened. I might have died during the fight or I might have been one of the few survivors left when the decision to bail was made. The next runs that I attended didn’t go any better. Once people started dying it got to the point where no matter how many attacks you threw there was no noticeable decrease in Zakum’s health bar anymore. Zakum’s minions would be summoned faster than we could kill them, and it was either stay until your potions ran out and you died or leave to fight another day.
One day I was invited by my guildmaster to attend a Zakum run with a group that I had never run with before. With so few successful runs, there was a long backlist of people on Zakum runs who needed Zakum Helmets, the most powerful head gear in the game. Since this was my first run with this particular group I was the very last on the list to get a Zakum helm. The run was going better than previous ones I had been on, but as the fight was nearing the end many people started dying. In my head I was trying to recall how many people were still there who were on the looting list for helms. As Zakum’s health bar shrunk more and more, I secretly wished that more of the people on the list would die so that I would be able to get a helm if we did defeat the boss. Surely enough, another person ahead of me on the list died right before Zakum did. It was really a wonderful sight to watch as Zakum Helms, high level equipment, potions, and bags of money all burst out from Zakum’s body into the air and then landed in perfect order on the ground. It was my first successful Zakum run and just enough helms had dropped for me to get the last one. The great feeling of finally beating Zakum after so many failed attempts combined with the fortune to be able to loot my own Zakum helm was overwhelming. It had above average stats too.
After the long and arduous task of defeating Zakum, naturally our guild members wanted to go do another boss run. Almost like a post-Zakum tradition, many of us would go to fight Papulatus together after a Zakum run. Whether people were hyped up from a successful boss run or bitter after a defeat and wanting to take revenge, we always partied up and went to take down the big clock machine boss and the little guy sitting in the control seat. Everyone would rush to go from El Nath, pass through Korean Folk Town, take the elevator up Helios tower, and then descend to the bottom of Ludibrium Clock Tower where the boss awaited. Out of all the bosses in Maplestory, I liked the quest reward for defeating Papulatus the most. After going through a long quest chain and completing the final task of taking down the big bad, you were rewarded with the Ludibrium Cape. The cape wasn’t particularly any good. It didn’t have any stats beyond basic defenses, but the only way you could get it was by completing the quest chain and defeating Papulatus. When you wore it, it told all other Maplers that you had triumphed over the final boss at the bottom of the clock tower and saved Ludibrium. It was a cape befitting a hero, and it looked pretty cool too.
Our guild was very welcoming of new members, especially those who used our Zakum Helm buying services, which we set up after everyone in our Zakum group got their own helms. Some notable mentions of Zakum helm buyers turned guild member include sirfd (Andy) who would become one of the most active junior masters in the guild and my good friend from my previous guild lazyboy1979 (John). I remember before the boss run took place, John asked me if I would go on his account to do the prerequisite jump quest for him because he wasn’t good at them. He had no qualms or hesitation about giving me his account information as he had complete faith in me. I can’t say that I ever trusted anyone enough to give them my account information, but being entrusted with a friend’s felt good.
One’s induction into the high level community was a big step up the social ladder in Maplestory. There were no ceremonies or rites of passage, but when you became a part of it you knew. But gaining entry into the high level community wasn’t as simple as reaching a certain level. It was a higher status that couldn’t be earned by simply leveling or trading fame. You had to know people and be respected by others in the community. Being part of the high level community showed that you were dedicated to the game. It proved that you had put in countless hours into your character and that you were a top tier player. You could be trusted to go on boss runs or to hold onto other people’s money and items. Most people in the high level community knew each other by name and if not at least recognized you by the guild you were in..
The top three guilds in Khaini at the time I joined TaintedSoul were named DopeTurtles, Kami, and Calamity. In terms of ranking, TaintedSoul was probably around fourth place with a few other guilds that weren’t quite on the same level as the other three. At least that’s how it looked to me. Many people seemed to pass through our guild on their way up to one of the better ones. TaintedSoul was a sort of stepping stone for people to eventually move on to the top tier guilds. Once they reached higher levels, had more connections, or became more well known in the community, many of our former guild members would quit to join one of the other three guilds. I remember at one point I too was offered a spot in the TurtleHeroes (formerly DopeTurtles) guild by one of the members I knew. I contemplated joining the guild and finally move up the in game social ladder like so many of our former guild members had done, but I decided against it.
My guild was my family in Maplestory (quite literally so once the family system was implemented). It was a dysfunctional family for sure. There was drama and falling outs, and people didn’t always get along. Organizing a get together was no easy task, and people always showed up late for boss runs. Still, our guild did everything together and supported one another. Boss runs, party quests, or even just hanging out in our designated room in the Free Market were all guild activities that I participated in. Even the endless grind that is Maplestory was made more enjoyable with my guild members there to encourage and support me along the way. After joining TaintedSoul, Maplestory really had become a whole new game for me. The most fun I had playing the game was when I was a part of the guild, and my best memories were shared with my guildmates.
TaintedSoul went through the remaking and renaming process many times throughout its lifetime. Whether it was due to a change in leadership, an impostor guild was trying to pass themselves off as us, or the guild leader just felt like remaking because he was bored, our guild members often found themselves in the guild hall disbanding and subsequently reforming the guild. On one such occasion, I just so happened to log in at the right time as they needed another person to be there to remake the guild. Our guild leader Poncho asked us for guild name suggestions. Excited at the prospect of being able to name the guild I made my suggestion to call the guild “Nostalgia”. I had heard the name from my time playing Counterstrike after seeing one of the players using that word for his name tag. I’m not even sure I knew what the word meant at the time, but it sounded cool and unique, so I wanted to copy it. Unsurprisingly, my idea was shot down. However, after several failed attempts at obtaining already taken guild names that were reminiscent of terms from JRPGs, my idea finally won out. Looking back now, I can only think how fitting and appropriate “Nostalgia” actually was. Through the various remaking processes our guild would come to have the names TaintedSoul, Nostalgia, Relativity, and Deviation. Nostalgia will always be my favorite name for the guild though, and only partly because I was the one who came up with it.
Training and bossing weren’t the only things to do in Maplestory. Having in game hobbies or other aspects of the game that you liked to do were a great way to keep your sanity after having killed the same monster for the some-thousandth time.
It might come as a surprise that the time I spent waiting was actually some of the most fun I had in Maplestory. Whether it was waiting on the boat between continents, waiting to get into PQ, or the inevitable wait to start a boss run after it had passed its scheduled start time, I was always finding ways to stay entertained. Sometimes people would drop money or items to compete with others to see who could pick them up first. Some people just AFKed. I loved playing omok. Omok is kind of like a Japanese-style connect 5 game played with the pieces and board used in Go. I remember hunting for long periods of time trying to get the 100 pieces of each type to make my Slime and Mushroom Omok set, the hardest to make and rarest of all the omok sets. Any time where people would be gathered just waiting around, I would open up a game challenging anyone to play me. I became good at the game too. Really good. I beat almost everyone who had the misfortune of facing me in a game. There were only a few people who I really had a tough time playing against. One guy I remember was a Korean player named iBaram. He was also a high level assassin like me who would boss run with our group. At high levels of play, omok turned into an intense mental game where you would have to plan out your victory path several moves in advance so that your opponent would not be able to catch on in time to stop you. At the same time you also had to watch out for your opponent doing the same thing and try to stop them. I’ll never forget the intense matches we used to have before Zakum runs. Sometimes I would even be disappointed when the time to start the boss run actually did come, and we would have to end our match early.
I was a big collector in the game. Whenever any sort of limited time event item or parts of a set were introduced I was on a mission to collect them as soon as the patch finished downloading. I had mules full of collectible junk, lots of which were monetarily worthless, but still valuable to me. I had a hotkey for every different chair I had and kept sets of the best collectible equipment in my main character’s inventory at all times. I never used a single one of the Gelt Chocolates that I got each year during the winter event, and my setup tab is still full of Christmas letters and other junk that has no use anymore. I think it was the hunt for the collectible items during seasonal events that I loved the most. Whether it was surfboards, snowboards, tubes, or roses, I had to collect them all. The sense of accomplishment that I got when the item I was searching for dropped is indescribable. I would go to the map where the monsters that were rumored to drop the items were located and hunt them relentlessly until I found one. The drop chances could be extremely low sometimes, but I would always keep at it until I got what I came for. Most of the equipment didn’t even have any real functional value as weapons in the game outside of being a collectible. Being an assassin I certainly couldn’t make use of a blunt weapon or polearm. But I wanted to be the very first person to find them when the event started, the very best at collecting them like no one else was. Finding them was the real test, though training with them was inefficient, so I didn’t do that.
Nothing really shouted Christmas in Maplestory like grouping with your friends and dropping all your items to cover up a giant pine tree that took up the space of an entire map. Decorating a Christmas tree in Maplestory with my guildmates was always a jolly time. It was that one time of year where I could show off my collection of collectible goodies that I always kept on me for all to look upon with envy. It was the true spirit of Maplemas. Unlike other maps, in this special map you could drop items from your inventory without fear of them disappearing or being picked up by somebody else. I would use this chance to drop my collection of snowboards, roses, tubes, and whatever else I had in my inventory to the jealousy and awe of others.
When guild members were bored or just wanted to get together and do something as a guild, we would often participate in the guild party quest. This ended up occurring so often that TaintedSoul actually became one of the highest ranked guilds in the guild PQ rankings for some time. Assembling a group for Guild PQ wasn’t too hard. All that you really needed to start the PQ was a few guild members and the guild leader or a junior master of the guild to lead the party. I’ll always remember one conversation I had with our guild leader megaice666 (Mig). I was asking him to come lead a Guild PQ for us, as none of the junior masters were online. He replied that I should just lead it myself. I informed him that I was not and had never been a junior master of the guild. He could have sworn that he had made me a junior master before. But I assured him that he had never promoted me and his girlfriend AngeIinlove (Jen) backed me up, saying that she didn’t remember me ever being a junior master in all the time that she had been a part of the guild. Mig then just gave what amounted to a shrug of his shoulders in chat and the conversation changed topics. I never did become a junior master of the guild.
I had a hobby of hunting the boss Blue Mushmom. There was a repeatable daily quest with good rewards in which you had to kill the Blue Mushmom boss, who would spawn very rarely. Initially, I would find and kill them by myself, but one of my guildmates named Kajitii told me that I should invite guild members and others to join, since as long as we were all in a party together, everyone would get credit for completing the quest. From then on, whenever I found a Blue Mushmom I would spam in chat asking if anyone needed Blue Mushmom. This became almost a daily occurrence, and one day someone in our alliance asked if I had ever found something worthwhile from Blue Mushmom. It was known that Blue Mushmom dropped some of the rarest and most unique equipment in the game. Unfortunately, the extremely low spawn rate coupled with the extremely low chance of the boss actually dropping anything made finding any of these equips extremely unlikely. Up to that point I had never found anything worthwhile in all my kills. As luck would have it, that time Blue Mushmom dropped a Yellow Crow, a level 90 crossbow. The Yellow Crow was statistically no different from any of its other colored Crow variants out there that you could purchase for next to nothing. The only difference was that this crossbow was colored yellow and happened to be one of the rarest items in existence in Maplestory, as the only way to obtain it was from Blue Mushmom. That Yellow Crow is probably the best drop I’ve ever gotten in all my time playing Maplestory. Even now I think it must be one of only a few Yellow Crows in the entire game. Currently, it resides in my inventory with the label “PSAssassin’s” branded above its title.
In Maplestory taking on the job of an assassin came with the obligatory requirement of showing off your damage and competing with other assassins for the best gear and stats. The standard greeting between assassins when they bumped into each other was to ask how much base dexterity the other one had and what kind of scrolling job they had done on their claw weapon. Obviously, there was similar competition and showmanship present among the other classes, but assassins were by far the most egregious offenders. The first judge of an assassin’s worth upon sighting was what stars he used. It didn’t matter if you were twice their level, if another assassin came into your map throwing ilbis while you were chucking lowly tobis, you were trash compared to him. The next factor in determining an assassin’s worth was his base dexterity. Since dexterity was a secondary stat for assassins to equip their gear, most assassins would try to put in as low a base dexterity as possible with their stat points and try to make up for the lost dexterity with their gear bonuses. Still others would not put any points into dexterity and only use equipment that did not require dexterity so that they could put all of their points into their main stat Luck for maximum damage output. These dexless assassins were easily spotted and identified by their use of sauna robes and maple claws. Probably the worst-equipped high level assassin in Khaini, I was neither low-dex or dexless, and I used tobis as my main stars for the majority of my levels. Partially due to lack of funding and partially because I didn’t care too much about stats. I would simply put as many points as I needed into dexterity to wear the next tier of equipment I had available. I specifically remember after reaching level 70 I upped my dexterity points for the last time to 111 so that I could wear the unscrolled level 70 pirate gear that I had acquired. The stat bonuses weren’t too much better than my old gear, but the equipment made you look like a pirate so I had to use them. The pants even had a skull insignia on them. Even after I had leveled almost 100 more times and acquired much better gear that gave me more dexterity than I needed, I never felt the desire to reset the stat points I had put into dexterity. High dex pride.
Competition between assassins didn’t just end with casual encounters either. Rivalries and competition between assassins in the high level community were prominent. In my own guild there was one particular assassin that I competed with. Like his name might suggest, Pyrodexlessx was a dexless/low-dex assassin. He was a bit lower level than me, but his gear and stats were better than mine, so it usually put us close in standing damage-wise. We would often compete to see who could kill monsters faster or do more damage in boss runs and receive the bigger chunk of experience for the kill.
Eventually, I did get into the marketing game in Maplestory. Playing the market was a distinct change in pace from the endless grind that comprised the majority of the game. Selling the items that you acquired throughout your adventures by killing monsters and doing quests was certainly an honest way to make a living. But buying these items from the honest adventurers and then immediately reselling them for several times what you paid for them was typically a faster way to make bank. And in the game of money making in Maplestory you either got rich or you got scammed. However, the time-honored tradition of buying low and selling high was certainly easier said than done. Scrounging the hundreds of shops for deals that weren’t already taken. Standing in the Free Market and trying to discern what people were selling over the multitude of “@” symbols filling the screen following every message. Keeping track of the daily fluctuation in prices of too many different items. Sniping auctions on BasilMarket, an ebay-like site for Maplestory items. Predicting trends in pricing as well as supply and demand for different items as new content patches were released. These tasks were not easy and required a lot of time investment. But the thrill of purchasing an item for well below its value, and the excitement when it sold for much more than you paid were great feelings. Leaving my shop open before I went to bed and waking up the next morning to see many of my items sold and my meso count increased a considerable amount was very rewarding. By the end of it all, the number of digits and even commas in my meso count far exceeded even the wildest dreams of wealth I had when I first started playing.
Khaini was infamous among the Maple community for being the server with the most drama in its high level community. Exaggerated or not, it’s undeniable that there was quite a bit of unpleasantness and bad behavior within the top ranks. Super megaphone battles, guild feuds, accusations of hacking or scamming, disputes over time slots for boss runs, characters being “hacked”, and even relationship drama were all very prominent in game and on the forums. I tried to stay out of it for the most part, but sometimes there was no avoiding it. I still remember one time when for one reason or another our guild leader Poncho was having a dispute with the guild leader of Calamity, Saleem. I was unaware at the time and was training at himes. So it came as a pretty big surprise to me when Saleem, the highest ranked assassin in Khaini, entered my map and started kill stealing from me for being in TaintedSoul. When I told my guildmates, some of them came to back me up, and we all had a good old-fashioned KS war. After it was all over, Saleem private messaged me to say that it was nothing personal. Khaini was a pretty classy server to play in.
I was level 132 when the 4th job advancement update finally came. 4th job changed the entire end game. There were new skills and areas to train that allowed you to gain experience much faster than ever before. Training at newts and skelegons gave significantly more experience than himes or squids. Suddenly, reaching level 200 was a real possibility and not just a pipe dream. Everyone seemed to suddenly get serious about training, and I was no exception. Having new skills to play with and seeing my experience bar shoot up so quickly was all the motivation I needed to get back into the grind. Actually being able spend my skill points when I leveled up instead of having to save them was a plus too.
I remember one time when I was training at skelegons with one of my regular groups. The party consisted of me, XoXBunXox (Alex), and LostLight03 (Rob). We were all guildmates and trained together often. I asked Rob if I could borrow his intelligence gear again because I was about to level up, and I needed the gear so that I could HP wash my character. Unfortunately, it wasn’t Rob who was playing on LostLight at the time but rather his younger sister who he shared the account with. This was the first time I had heard of Rob’s sister, and I was surprised when she replied that she did not trust me and would not lend me the gear. However, after much coercing from me and Bun, she finally agreed to let me use the Int gear on the one condition that I could guess what her name was. I thought it was a rather stupid and impossible task to do, but played along anyways. I really needed the gear. After a few failed shots in the dark she gave the hint that her name started with a “k” and ended with an “a”. I guessed “Kara” but was shot down. Bun saved me with his guess of “Karla”, and in the end Karla gave me the gear in time to use for my level up. Karla would later become my in game wife. It was a purely business agreement with the proposal happening something like this. I was saying in chat how I wanted my character to get married so I could do the Amoria party quest and get onyx apples, but I didn’t want to pay for the wedding, like most other guys had to. Like the girl of my dreams appearing before me, Karla offered to go halfsies with me. She married me on her female character “Co0k1est0ry” (or some variation of those words with different letters replaced by numbers). None of our guild members or friends needed the free teleport to Amoria at the time, so it was just the two of us at the wedding and reception. I never did confirm if it was Karla or her brother who was logged in for the wedding though.
During one of my training sessions at skelegons I excitedly announced to the guild that I would be reaching level 150 that day. Coincidentally, another member of our guild FrozNLite (Dan) replied saying that he would also be reaching level 150 soon. We decided to do a dual level up. The plan was to party up when we were both at 99.98% experience (there was no 99.99% for some reason) and kill a mob of monsters all at once to receive enough experience to level up simultaneously. A few guildmates and friends even showed up to watch it happen. When the time finally came, Dan used his meteor shower to kill a whole mob of skelegons at once. Unfortunately, in his first attack only one skelegon actually died. The experience was enough for him to level up but not quite enough for me. I leveled up moments later laughing at how we had failed something so simple. Everyone in attendance was laughing, joking, and saying congratulations as well. One of our old guildmates, Tempest1230 was there recording the whole thing, and actually put a small clip of it in his own level 150 video. If you looked him up on Youtube you could probably still find it.
Horntail was the last “final boss” that I battled in the game. It was no easy task to take down Horntail. Even just meeting the minimum requirements to participate in runs were a difficult task for me. I had to put stat points into HP and scroll my own HP gear so that I would have the minimum health required to not be killed in one tail whip from the boss. But I was able to meet the requirements on my assassin and joined Jade’s weekly Horntail boss run group. At first, the Horntail runs did not go well. In more than one instance, Horntail’s mass seduce ability caused our entire group to lose control of their characters and wipe simultaneously. Tombstones rained from above, and it wasn’t long before the entire group would be having a conversation in their ghost forms while Horntail was still raging and attacking nobody in the background. Eventually though, the group got better and was able to take the three-headed dragon down. I can recall the number of successful Horntail runs I’ve been on by the drops I’ve gotten from each. The first one I received my Horntail Pendant. Then I got my egg to upgrade the pendant. Then I failed the Maple Warrior 20 skill advancement book. And finally, on my last two successful runs I failed the Triple Throw 30 skill book twice.
The Pirates update brought the first new class that Maplestory had ever seen since its creation. There were two branching pirate sub-classes to choose from, gunslingers and brawlers. I chose to make a brawler. Their different punching and kicking skills looked awesome, and their ability to transform into what basically amounted to a Super Saiyan sealed the deal for me. PSBrawler climbed through the rankings rather uneventfully. New and better training areas made leveling much more streamlined and quick this time around. It was pretty much an endless cycle grinding at one training spot by myself until I became high enough level to go to another spot. The time it took me to reach 4th job and beyond seemed to happen in the blink of an eye compared to the time I spent on my assassin to get to the same level.
After a while I decided to stop training my characters. I just didn’t enjoy the grind anymore. Somewhere along the way training had become a very solitary affair. Everything became about maximizing experience gain per hour. People trained priests to level 82 so that they could get holy symbol without having to share experience. Mages sold leech to people who didn’t want to train themselves to get potion money to cast the ultimate spells they needed to sell leech to the next person. Parties had to be comprised of the highest damage dealing classes, and the most efficient experience farmers. No skelegon party was worth joining without a bishop and channel surfing to find a party became an exercise in futility. The drive I once had to level up and some day reach the level cap was gone. The fun times I had while training with other people were fewer and farther between. Even the number of people saying “grats” in chat after a level up had diminished.
When all was said and done, I ended up reaching level 166 on PSAssassin and level 152 on PSBrawler. At the time that I reached 166 on PSAssassin, I was ranked in the top 100 of Khaini. It felt good logging in and seeing a two digit number next to my ranking. Before, with other characters, my rank would always be some random number in the tens or hundred thousands. Even though you would see that you rose up several hundred or thousands of places in the rankings the next time you logged in, your rank would still be some indiscernible number that you would never remember. That’s why it’s a point of pride for me that I can say that at one point I was ranked 84 in all of Khaini.
Time passed. The guild was remade multiple times as many of our guild leaders and members left and quit the game. My position in the rankings was falling farther and farther behind. The only thing that was really keeping me playing the game were my guildmates and friends that still played. I would log in every day only to see my online list of guild members and frineds slowly decline. The activities and routines that I would do every day in game began to feel like chores. Eventually I started logging in less frequently. Not long on weekdays because I had school. Then there was something else to keep me occupied during the weekend. Then I would only log in whenever there was an update to check out the new content. I never really made a conscious decision to quit Maplestory. No quitting announcement to the people I knew or giveaway of all my gear and account. No long drawn out “I’m quitting” and goodbye post on the forums, although lengthwise this write-up certainly tops any quitting post I’ve ever read. The last time I logged off Maplestory I did not think that it would be the last time I would ever play the game again.
Even after I had stopped playing I still kept up with news from the game for a long time. It became part of my daily internet browsing routine to lurk the Southperry forums. I would read all the patch notes and extractions for sneak peeks at future content. I would go into general discussion to read people’s thoughts and opinions on the new content and other aspects of the game. Some of my former guild members were even active posters on the forum, including the site owner himself. Eventually, I even started looking a lot more at the social and off topic content of the Maple community there. Viewing people’s artistic creations, discussions, and rage posts as well as threads filled with large amounts of anime picture dumps became routine. Occasionally, I would even post myself. It certainly wasn’t a replacement for my time in Maplestory, but Southperry really was my last connection to the game, and it wasn’t easy to let go of.
After hearing about it on the forums, I decided to log in for the first time in a long while for the first ever Hot Time event in Maplestory. Just by being logged in at a certain time, every player in the game would receive a free level up potion, an SP reset, and some other goodies. When the time came and I received the items, I excitedly looked over everything I had just gotten. In particular, I stared and hovered my mouse over the level up potion in my inventory for a long time. I recalled all the hours of grinding I had put in just to earn a single level before. My assassin had been stuck at level 166 for a long time even while I was still playing as I had switched my focus to leveling my other characters. Sure, I had pretty much quit Maplestory by that point and had no real need to level my characters anymore. But that potion was more than just a level up to me. It represented all the hours and experiences I had grinding in the game, compressed and simplified into a double-click of my mouse. It would be so easy to just click on it and be level 167 in an instant. But at the same time it felt like the game was trivializing all the time and effort I had put in to training my character previously. Like people were still complaining that they actually had to kill monsters and gain experience to level up, so Nexon decided they might as well just give you a magic level up potion instead. After everything I had put into my character to get to where I was it felt wrong to just be able to get ahead like this. So in the end, I just let the potion sit in my inventory and eventually expire.
During one particular 2x experience event a bit after 4th job advancement came out I went searching for a training map. All the newt and skelegon channels were occupied by full parties. Himes weren’t trained at anymore and had tengu in every channel. So, I decided to go back and train at squids for the first time in a long while. Squids were by then an extremely inefficient training area for high levels compared to the new maps, but I was always particularly fond of the area, and it seemed to be my best option at the time. There I met a couple other high level people in the same situation as me. They asked if I wanted to party with them. There was no priest or HS mule or mage to clear the map of monsters in one key press. But I ended up partying with them anyways, and when I joined one of them happily proclaimed that now we would be getting the 10 percent bonus experience for being in a party together. It felt nostalgic being in the old map and killing squids again, and everyone had a fun time chatting. At the end of the event I looked at the meager distance my experience bar had raised during all that time and couldn’t help but laugh and smile. It was the best 2x experience event I’ve ever played in.
A while ago, I decided to log in to Maplestory again. When I first opened the game up I was overcome with nostalgia when the welcome to Maplestory music started playing at the login screen. The music brought back all the memories I had of times I eagerly rushed to log in and play before. When I used to play, that melody was the prelude to all the fun and excitement I would come to have in game that day. However, when the login music stopped and the screen faded out of black to the game screen that feeling abruptly ended. As I looked at my character on the screen I felt out of place in this new Maplestory, like a hermit who had just come out from under his rock and saw just how much the world had changed. I hadn’t played the game for years and all of my skills had been reset. There were new NPCs jammed into every available space in every town and strange, new character classes now roamed the world. The PQ areas, the maps I used to train at, the old guild hangout in the FM. All the areas in the world map I used to frequent were either gone, changed, or had not had a single adventurer occupy them for a long time. But most importantly, no one was online. Of course there were many high leveled people in the town and free market but not a single one I recognized from my time playing the game. My buddy list was empty and the only person online in my guild was me. It wasn’t long before I decided to log off.
Back in my prime time playing the game there was a period of a couple weeks or so during one of my summer vacations when my internet was down, and I was not able to get online and play. Upon first logging back on after the break my chat box was flooded with “Welcome back” and “Where have you been” from my buddies and guildmates who all missed me. Our guild leader even suggested that we do a Zakum run to celebrate my return. I remember thinking at the time that this unbelievable welcome back to the game almost made all the time my internet was down worth it. It’s a bit saddening to think that if I logged in now there wouldn’t be anyone to welcome me back or ask me where I’ve been all this time.
I recently went to the Maplestory website to check out the world rankings for old times’ sake. I clicked on the Khaini section and went page by page through all the level 200’s that now occupied the top of the rankings. Going through the pages, I saw a lot of familiar names and faces. Some were friends and former guildmates, others just casual acquaintances or names that I recognized from seeing them in game occasionally. In a way, going through the pages of rankings almost felt like catching up with old friends from the game. Even though I didn’t really know anything about them or what happened in their real lives after I had stopped playing, I was still happy to find out that this person or that one had reached level 200. Back when I played, reaching the level cap was pretty much everyone’s ultimate goal. Unrealistic maybe, but that’s what drove a lot of people even if they knew it was impossible. It felt good to see that at least these people had made the dream a reality. There were so many people that I saw that I had known since they were relatively new and low level. When I came across one of them in the rankings I would smirk and think to myself “Really? That guy got to level 200?”. Sometimes I do regret never having reached level 200 myself. Cementing my ranking and position among Khaini’s elite would have been a nice accomplishment to end my Maple career. I was ranked in the top 100 at one point, and now I’m just another indistinguishable number in the rankings. If I had really put in the effort maybe I could have even gotten one of those NPC copies of myself to stand next to the job instructor in game and tell everyone that “I am PSAssassin” and “I’ve reached level 200”. But when I really think about it, being the top rank was never really what was important to me when I played. I wouldn’t particularly want to be known by every Mapler as one of the first people to reach level 200. I would much prefer to be remembered by just my guildmates and friends as being a pretty cool guy to play with.
On occasion I’ve been asked if I regret having played Maplestory for so long or having spent so much money on the game. I know there are many former players who look back on their time in game this way. They think that they’ve wasted so much of their life on some online game. They’re bitter that they spent so much of their money on in game items and have nothing to show for it. But to be honest, I’ve never felt this way about my time playing. I don’t regret the hundreds of dollars I’ve spent on NX or the countless hours that I put into Maplestory to grind or do whatever else. I know that my experience playing Maplestory was worthwhile. The time I spent exploring, grinding, bossing, or just hanging out in Maplestory were some of the best times I’ve had in any game I’ve ever played. The people I’ve met and the memories I’ve made will always have a special place in my heart. And if I could choose to go back in time and do it all over again, I wouldn’t change a thing.
During the time that I played on PSAssassin, whenever I rearranged my throwing stars I would always make it a point to put my original set of steelys in the first spot among the rest of my steelys. It was that same set of steelys that I had found on my spearman during the 2x drop event. Whenever I was adding a new throwing star to my collection, I would take great care to move and rearrange my inventory in a way so that particular set of steelys would be in its proper place. When I completely replaced my steelys with higher damage stars I still kept that one set in my inventory. From the day I created PSAssassin up to the day that I logged off from Maplestory for the last time, I have always kept that set of steelys in my inventory. I know that the game doesn’t register the item as being any different than any other set in the game, but this set of steelys is special to me. They’re the whole reason I created PSAssassin in the first place. They’re the reason I got to experience all the high level content during my time in the game. They’re the reason I was able to join TaintedSoul and meet all the incredible people that I did during my time in game, and I’ll never forget that.
Sometimes I wish I could come back to the game and pick up right where I left off. But I know that Maplestory would never be able to capture my interest again the way it did before. The new character classes, areas, and features added to the game are trivial compared to the people that made my experience in game so special. Nothing could possibly match up to the special moments, the memories, or the feelings that I had while playing back then. The magic of Maplestory for me will forever exist in that specific time in the past. In the present, the sense of wonder and adventure I felt when I first started playing the game has long since faded away. The friendships and bonds I shared with the people I met during my time in game have broken. My adventure in Maplestory has come to an end.
To all of my guildmates and friends who I played Maplestory with, thank you for making my experience so unforgettable. You’re the reason I’m able to look back on the time I spent in game with such fond memories. And to all the people patient enough to read through all of my ramblings, thanks for listening.