This is part of the Blaugust series!
Istaria is a game that is dear to me, even though I don’t play it anymore.
It was an amazing game at launch because it was the first to offer a true playable dragon race! Dragons start out as a hatchling, and through a rite of passage, become adult and eventually ancient. They can fly, have their own skills, have their own type of crafting, and build dragon lairs to live in. I loved my time playing as a dragon, and still miss my dragon character so much.
Istaria also has amazing crafting, including the ability to buy your own plot of land out in the world and build anything you can fit on there. Guilds often bought entire towns, which consist of several plots that guild members can purchase individually and help build a guild city. The community there was small, but usually welcoming and very helpful.
In the early days, the game was one of the first (that I knew of) to attempt dynamic events, where blight anchors would drop in the world and infest the area until players came to clean it. The blight could even come and claim player-owned cities, making housing impossible to reach until enemies were dispatched. This was the fun of it, though I was never high enough leveled to take part in these events back when they ran.
Sadly, Istaria ran upon hard times and changed ownership over and over. The first time the game was sold off, it was a big hit to player morale. I remember being afraid that all the time, money and effort I was putting into the game was going to be wiped away. That was the point when I decided to leave the game, even though I really loved the world and wanted to see my dragon fly.
The folks at Virtrium, who have owned Istaria since 2007, have done a lot to stabilize and improve the game over the years. I did return back in 2009, and found the population was rather small. So, I decided to help the game out by writing articles, which surprisingly MMORPG.com picked up quite generously. The Istaria team was very helpful and encouraging, and really embraced the articles I wrote. I often got feedback that they saw new people joining the game due to my articles, which was the highest complement I could get!
I eventually left Istaria again, mostly due to personal stuff. I just got caught up in too much freelance work, and since freelancing paid the bills, I had to cut back on gaming and writing for outside sources at that point in my life. Though I haven’t played the game again – there is a F2P option, but not for dragons – it’s one I still remember with fondness. I check in on the forums from time to time and still read the newsletter updates. 🙂