I started playing Dark Age of Camelot when it first released. I had become tired of Asheron's Call and after trying and quitting Everquest twice I had little left other than contempt for Sony and Verant. It seemed interesting enough but really the only reason I tried it is that there was nothing else going at the time. I had grown tired and frustrated with the games I had played previously and this was a chance to experience something new.
Dark Age of Camelot was the first game I played where PvP played a significant role in the game design. I still had a terribly bitter taste in my mouth for PvP after my experiences in Ultima Online but after assuring myself that PvP could be avoided entirely if I wanted I decided to go ahead and take a chance on the game.
It was interesting that there were three separate factions in DAoC each with several unique classes and races available only to that realm. Each realm also had it's very own region of the world which the other realms could not get access to as well as the shared region of the world where pvp (called RvR) took place called the frontier. This provided an enormous amount of content for me to explore and experience. Although you could get by playing solo the game did not have the same freedom of self reliance as Asheron's Call did and being part of a group, while not forced on you as it was in EQ, was advantageous enough to be seen as a significant deterrent to trying to play solo.
At release or just prior to release DAoC actually had no dungeons at all. It wasn't until right around the time that the game launched that the developers acquiesced to player requests that they be added. Even then it was some time before the dungeons were itemized and worthwhile gear could be obtained in them.
Gear was handled differently in DAoC than it had been in prior games. There was a new emphasis on crafting with several tiers of armor and weapon smithing. Equipment also degraded through use and could only be repaired a limited number of times before you needed to replace it. Items also become less effective as they degrade loosing bonuses and stats. In addition items that have a higher rating than the level of teh character who uses them will degrade faster. I vaguely remember there being some penalty for items that were passed from one character to another as well but I cant remember what it was or find any information on it right now.
The game world was fairly typical of all the previous MMO's. There were quests but you still had to run up to each NPC and speak to it to find out if it had a quest or not and the majority of the quests were not terribly creative or interesting. There were plenty of monsters to be killed for loot and experience and DAoC gave you bonus xp for killing things that hadn't been killed lately and a penalty for killing the same thing for too long at a time which nudged people away from EQ style camping.
The biggest change introduced by DAoC was the concept of Realm vs. Realm play. Instead of generic, player driven pvp conflicts Mythic gave the players a reason to fight as well as objectives to accomplish in PvP and rewards for winning. In addition to individual rewards there were small incentives or bonuses given to the entire realm that held key objectives in the frontier region where PvP occurred.
Unfortunately I was still not really interested in PvP so although I participated in a few battles I never really got into it. I spent most of my time creating alts and trying the various races and classes to see how they worked while exploring the realms and content available to each.
Mythic was the first developer to use the game's official website to enhance the game experience. The Camelot Herald not only provided the latest game news but gave info on the ongoing RvR conflict, PvP rankings, and a place where you could look up the stats on other characters as well.