What ever happened to /hail?


While marveling at SOE’s name giving for their newly announced MMO title, a recent twitter conversation with @Mylin1 made me painfully aware of one simple thing: how much I miss hailing in MMOs and all it stood for.

What ever happened to /hail? In my memory it was the most common greeting in older MMOs, certainly in Ultima Online and it wasn’t just for the role players. /Hail was part of early MMO culture, maybe MUD culture too (feel free to jump in), and it instantly gave every social exchange a more serious, almost solemn coating. It was like a portkey for immersion, a sign that this was a different world you traveled – a world of dragons and magic. In real life you were Sam the history teacher but here you were Lorella Stormcloak, five times Grand Mistress of Arcane Arts.


image @ http://www.aschulze.net/ultima/stories/story027.htm

When and why exactly we lost /hail I do not know. Maybe it was that later MMOs outgrew the classic medieval setting of Ultima Online that set such a perfect stage for the odd Shakespearean prose. Maybe it’s that after WoW’s successes, the genre became too mainstream and “Mr. T-cool” to allow for this kind of geeky eccentricity. I remember still seeing /hail around in vanilla WoW but that’s about the last time I’ve encountered it in the world of online games.

Oh hail, how I miss thee. Like so many other things we’ve lost on the way, you’re a remnant of a bygone age, a symbol of our early beginnings.

Happy weekend holidays everybody and a solemn /hail to all of you! May your road be safe and your loot plentiful.


  1. I seem to recall that “Hail” was one of the verbal greetings delivered by the Tauren. But other than that, I don’t know. The NPCs in Rift sometimes say either “Hail, traveler” or “Ho, traveler,” I can’t remember for sure.

    1. I can see LOTRO being one of the few games where that’s still a thing, given its setting and community.

  2. In my (admittedly anecdotal) experience it is not just hail that disappeared, but the greeting of strangers altogether. Maybe it’s just that meeting someone else is not special anymore? You are rarely in your own little adventure in the wilds and happy to see a (friendly) face. Instead you are more likely annoyed at that other guy tagging “your” mobs.

    1. Oh my – Scrusi? long time no see 🙂 Your absence has been noted in the blogosphere!

      You’re very right of course. That’s a thing I didn’t mention, that the community has most definitely changed too and become more common place, taking social interactions for granted and not depending on them as much anymore. It’s quite remarkable what the disappearance of simple greeting formulas can reveal to us.

  3. By the time I came on the MMO scene, /hail was long gone. I’m with Rowan in that I remember it more as the Tauren greeting than anything anyone would do in-game.

    When I dabbled in an early online game, Gemstone, available through the GEnie network (a competitor to Prodigy and AOL), I don’t recall players do the /hail there either. Maybe it was only a subset of MMO/online players –those most interested in RP– that did that.

  4. Hmm, I’m a relatively recent resident of online worlds, but I did use /hail in LotRO… without having a clue of any attached nostalgic meaning. I guess I just thought it fitted the world of Middle-earth quite well, plus I’m an Elf, one of the more formal/stiff kinds roaming about after all. I don’t use /hail in SWTOR, since it just feels less appropriate there. But as others have previously said, greeting in general was way more common practice back in the day (for me meaning LotRO’s early days) than now.

      1. Considering someone’s more apt to call you a nerfherder –or worse, a Jedi– for saying “Hail!”, it’s probably a good thing people don’t do it on SWTOR.

  5. /Hail was an integral part of EQ1 too, beyond the meeting of new players and teammates – there were no question marks above NPC’s heads, you had to use /hail to engage with NPC’s to find out if they might have a quest for you. There were online resources for EQ at the time ofc but nothing like the resources players need to cope with the game today! When a new expansion hit, when new content was released, there was only one way to find out who had these quests and that was a /hailfest

      1. it was an interesting system…and I use the word interesting to replace words such as random, irritating, frustrating, annoying…
        Essentially you would walk up to an NPC and hail them and they would say something like “It’s a warm day, I wish I had some nice cool [lizard ale] to quench my thirst”
        to which you would need to find the correct way to use the trigger words to continue the conversation so you would reply…
        “what lizard ale?”
        “lizard ale”
        “who sells lizard ale?”
        “where do I get lizard ale?”
        “what kind of messed up weirdo wants to drink lizard ale when that innkeeper has mead?”
        and eventually he’d reply something like “mmm lizard ale, yes I’d love some but it only comes from [croczars] in sebilis” and you’d continue until you got some idea of what you were doing or clawed your own eyeballs out in frustration.

        Disclaimer: locations, items, quests and NPC’s referenced in this post may not be accurate

      2. I read the your whole post thinking you were talking about the EQ-style hailing of NPCs. No wonder I was confused!. Did you never play EQ at all? That was one of the core parts of the interface. I found it extremely familiar because it is, of course, the exact same way that we communicated in Text adventures in the 80s and I played a lot of those.

        I was playing EQ yesterday and you still have to /hail NPCs to talk to them although nowadays the correct response word is highlighted and you just need to click on it, which does save some frustration. I routinely /h NPCs in most MMOs out of habit after I’ve been playing EQ for a while.

        As for actually greeting other players with “Hail” as far as I can remember the only reason I ever did that was because of the above NPC interaction. If you ht “H” with someone targeted it would print “Hail ” in whatever channel you were using so it was faster and easier than typing their name. Other than that I really don’t remember anyone greeting people with a typed-out “Hil So-and-so”. People just used to say “Hi”.

  6. I miss it too. It was that light bit of roleplaying that made you feel like you had at least joined a club of like-minded people. Along with socialization with strangers in general, the classic motivations behind /hail don’t seem to exist any longer at all.

  7. As mentioned it was part of the quest system in eq. We still greeted groups in eq2 and in early wow too. It started to vanish in wow with the random dungeon finder being cross server.

    Once there was no social interaction required to get a dungeon it was quickly replaced with silent groups or ones that shouted gogo at the tanks endlessly.

    I still always say hi to groups I join and ask them if their adventures are going well. Most of the time in wow you get silence or a few lines but occasionally you get a great social group out of it.

    1. The silence among strangers and within groups is possibly one of the most grievous changes in this genre that have come with more convenience and self-sustainability. As was mentioned by others, the sheer amount of players is a factor here too. I guess that would be a vote for harsher games again with smaller server sizes. Not gonna happen.

  8. I used to “lick” people as a greeting in the MUD I played. Just a little quirk of mine. There were tons of pre-written emotes (called socials then) to choose from, since they were merely text.

    But yeah, greeting in general is no longer commonplace. I think it’s simply because there are too many people playing now.

    I remember when the custom was: you log in, you guildchatted “hey everyone” or some variant thereof, and -everyone- online would reply back “hi so-and-so” and addressed you by name. Doing this in a MUD produced 5-8 lines of spam, just a touch spammy, but not too bad and made everyone feel welcome.

    Try in an MMO guild – it’s impossible, you’d either get 23+ lines of spam from everyone online, which would be horrific, and provides a strong incentive to not echo spam a greeting, or folks will hold back from greeting and get lazy after a while, with only a few people greeting in reply, which then discourages the person logging on from saying hi.

    So maybe people turn to voice, where more vocal people can say hi without lingering eyesore spam, but then that leaves out those who don’t use voicechat.

    Ah, well. Times change. Maybe someone smart will figure out a way to introduce or automate a non-spammy greeting system some day.

    1. We always greeted the newly logged in back in vanilla WoW, 40man guild or not. It’s a bit spammy at times but then it’s also a good sign that your guild is a tight bunch. I never had an issue with the greetings in guildchat,

      And omg you’re a /licker! I had a friend who always did this in battlegrounds, so unnerving!!

      1. Saying “hello” in Guild is a different matter altogether. I’d never log in to a guild that I cared about and not introduce myself. I say “Hello” every time I log in when it’s just me and Mrs Bhagpuss online and I’ve just told her 30 seconds ago in real life that I’m about to log in.

        In my EQ2 guild, when it was at its busiest with as many as 8 to 10 people on at a time a couple of years back, everyone would say hello on arrival and goodbye on leaving and several players would do this every time they changed characters, usually preceded by an announcement that they were about to change characters and details of who they were going to change to!

        As for pick-up-groups, I usually say “Hi” or “Thanks” when I accept an invite although since I often get them in WvW in a huge fight sometimes it’s just not practical. I always get replies. People don’t chat endlessly about nonsense like they used to in any EQ group a decade ago but they are far from silent in my experience.

        I think the whole “no-one chats in MMOs any more trope is heavily overplayed. It’s probably true in groups made from dungeon finders and automated LFGs but if you make groups on the fly while doing content, which happens all the time in GW2, people do speak. They just don’t waffle on.

      2. I used to automatically /ignore anyone who did the /lick thing (and still would if it ever happened again). I guess f someone was in wolf or cat form I might give them a pass but they never were.

  9. Well, I always wanted to start again, but time is an issue, as is the fact that i’m not playing remotely enough games to stay interesting at the moment. If I do, it’ll likely be in a somewhat different format.

  10. I have a love–hate relationship with “hail”. On the one hand, I like the idea that it detaches you from everyday conversation and tries to give you a language cue that you are not sitting in your chair any more, but are standing in a different world. On the other hand, all too often “hails” came with the crude stereotypical “ye olde Englishe” that grates on me very fast.

    As an aside, just like Jeromai uses “lick”, my standard greeting in MMOs is “ahoy”, for reasons shrouded in the fog of history; I can’t remember how I ended up with it.

  11. Oh my, nice post! I originally had the same reaction as Bhagpuss with /hail as the EQ chat to NPC interactor. =)

    I still use /wave in all games if I run into another player in the wild, or wherever we may be. If there are tons of people around it seems odd, but just me and one or two others I’ll /wave. People are shocked at that effortless interaction =) “Can I help you?” “Nope – just saying Hi!” “Do I know you?” “No, not technically”. It’s funny and odd at the same time.

    In my old guild in EQ it was YAR! We shouted YAR! when we logged on, and was welcomed in /gu with many back. It was our rallying cry. I carried that into my DAOC and WOW guilds and now it is gone. Just like with general politeness.

    People are in such a rush in real life they rarely hold doors open for each other, does it surprise you they aren’t interactive in the digital life either? =)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *