Happy 13th Birthday, EverQuest

It's likely no secret that I am/was a huge fan of a little game called EverQuest. As the game turns thirteen years old today, it also becomes free to play for the first time. I'll probably fire it up in a few days just to wander around and see the old sites. I haven't actually played on a daily basis since 2004, but I still think about that game almost every day. I could probably write a story a week regarding specific adventures I had in that game, but I doubt many would read it. Between 2000 and 2004, I logged over 350 days of play time in the world of Norrath. Since that time, I've slowly come to the realization that not only were those years (particularly 2000 to 2002) the most fun I've ever had in a video game, but are likely the most fun I'll ever have. I've tried to play several MMO's since then, but the magic of early EverQuest cannot be recreated.

Old School FAQ's

Today's MMO's are way too hand-holdy. I totally understand that publishers saw the rising popularity of MMO's and sought ways to bring in an even bigger audience (make things easier), but it has destroyed a lot of what made EverQuest special back then. When I started EQ, my halfling cleric was dumped into Rivervale with no more than a few rations, a few bottles of milk, and a note telling me to visit my guildmaster in the nearby church. There were no in-game maps. There was no radar. There was no glowing line on the ground telling me where to go. There wasn't even a quest log to keep track of what I'd done and where to go next. And, for a while, there wasn't even an Allakhazam to go look up info (partially because you couldn't play the game in a window then anyway). I'm sure this all sounds ridiculously archaic to many of you, but you know what? All of these things combined gave you a sense of freedom to choose where you wanted to go, what you wanted to do, and an exhilarating sense of exploration and discovery. There was no checklist to go through the motions. You had to make tough decisions on who to trust and take risks. Sure, it was confusing and scary, but I honestly think that's how you should feel entering a huge, new world.

I'm the last man standing.

One of my big gripes about most 'modern' MMO's is that there is no real penalty for dying. In EverQuest, when you died, you lost a decent chunk of experience. You would respawn completely naked at a bind spot in the nearest city, if you'd remembered to do so, and immediately be tasked with getting back to your corpse that contained all of your stuff. If you didn't get to it within 24 played hours, it rotted and was gone forever. Now, if you stop and think about that, typically where you die in a game like this is not a safe area. And now you have to go to that same spot, with no gear, and get your stuff back. There were countless occasions where I lost a level due to numerous deaths within one single raid. Terrifying, right? Not even Dark Souls goes that far. But you know what? It was great. It brought a danger to this virtual world that brought people together. There is/was a zone just outside Rivervale called Kithicor Forest. At night, it turned from a newbie zone into a nightmare of high level undead. Even at max level, I still hugged the wall if I had to run through that zone. Bottom line: you should be afraid to die in MMO's.

The most notorious camp in all of EverQuest. Camping Ragefire could take several days in real time.

Another thing that's killed the genre for me is instancing. While sometimes maddening, much of the drama that made playing EQ interesting was competing with other players and/or guilds for certain encounters, raids, and loot drops. Being able to enter your own version of a dungeon in order to complete a quest certainly makes things easier, but it also breaks the illusion that the world you're in is a real place. During my time in EQ, many of the top tier mobs only spawned about once a week (real time), so when one popped up, it was often a race to see which guild could mobilize, assemble, and initiate combat. I once camped a particular spawn for 19 hours straight for a piece of a key I needed. The named NPC that I needed had a spawn time of about twelve minutes. So, every twelve minutes, I hoped he would spawn only to be faced with a placeholder I had to kill in order to restart the timer. I'm sure that sounds excruciating, but it's stories like that one that are what made this game so memorable. I can still tell you the names of guildmates that came by, late in the night, to make sure I was still awake. I even had one who decided she should call me on the phone around 4am to make sure I was alright. These were people I never actually met in real life. And that brings me to the last portion of my rant.

Community. There's no real sense of community in today's MMO's. And, when I say 'community,' I'm not necessarily talking about friendly people. I'm talking about the dynamic of truly having to account for other people, good or bad. When everything is handed to you and you can complete most quests on your own in your own private, instanced zone, you lose a large portion of what made early MMO's exciting. I haven't played EverQuest in about seven years, but I could still list off over fifty names of friends and enemies I had in that game, and I didn't even play PvP. On the other hand, I probably couldn't tell you ten names of players I encountered in the MMO's I've played since then.

Look, I know I sound like the old man talking about walking up hill in the snow both ways, but I liked that hill and I liked that snow!

I miss these people.
21 Comments
22 Comments
Posted by Bucketdeth

Damn 13 years, I was only 8 when Everquest had been released and by the time I was interested in MMO's (around 2004) I was playing Guild Wars, World of Warcraft, and Everquest 2. Back then it still wasn't anywhere near as hard as Everquest as far as holding your hand goes but it still had it's challenges and sense of community. Now a days you can sign up for Wow and instantly have a level 80 character, which in my opinion is a load of shit.

I haven't felt a sense of comradery or community since back when you really needed your guild members help to achieve goals, like for example I remember doing some quests in Wow when I was repeatedly killed by Alliance characters and had to call upon my guild members to help me out, which led to the Alliance characters calling on their members and we had a good 20-30 people around a small camp just killing each other, it really felt like a war and I have never had that feeling again. Now a days people just sit around and wait for a raid or battleground to pop and run into an instanced dungeon or pvp arena, that sense of community is gone and content is becoming easier and easier to solo and is one of the many reasons why I haven't touched an MMO in a long time.

Posted by bobafettjm

Awesome read. The MMO that I had put tons and tons of hours into was Ragnarok Online. I was in the Alpha test of that game and played it for a few years and a ton of hours. I have never been able to get into any other MMO since either.

Edited by ExplodeMode

I obsessed over it too.  When servers went down I would take out this humungous telephone-book sized guide from kunark and read it.  That game was bad for me.
 
I remember when I started it was crazy to see all of these high level people with amazing stuff knowing that they all started out with nothing.  I was always looking for some shortcut that they all must have used, and that I was the only person who didn't know about it.  And then when you're high level with all of your amazing stuff, you type /played and you realize that everyone is just insane.

Posted by Marino

@ExplodeMode said:

I would take out this humungous telephone-book sized guide from kunark and read it.

I know it all too well.

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Posted by NegativeCero

Nice post. I have never played this game, but when I still listened to RebelFM, some of the best stories were Anthony Gallegos' Everquest adventures. One I still remember being him acting like an ass on a boat and falling into the water, which kills you, so he freaks out because he loses his gear and can't get to his corpse underwater. Then he ends up paying another player Necromancer, I think to raise the body for him.

Posted by Marino

@NegativeCero said:

Nice post. I have never played this game, but when I still listened to RebelFM, some of the best stories were Anthony Gallegos' Everquest adventures. One I still remember being him acting like an ass on a boat and falling into the water, which kills you, so he freaks out because he loses his gear and can't get to his corpse underwater. Then he ends up paying another player Necromancer, I think to raise the body for him.

Yeah, I listen to RebelFM too.

Falling off the boat didn't immediately kill you, but you were stranded in the middle of the ocean. Again, danger...realism...fear of death. There were sharks out there and even if you made it to one of the islands, there were either cyclopses or other high level shit that could easily kill a single player. And you'd have to get back to one of the islands that the boat stops at to get back on. He could've theoretically got his corpse back on his own, but he would've risked death from the same forces that originally killed him or potentially by drowning looking for it if he wasn't sure exactly where he died. High level necromancers had an ability to summon corpses within the same zone. Typically they would charge a lot to do this since casting the spell used a coffin that cost a decent amount to buy.

Necros were good friends to have.

Staff
Posted by fisk0

Wow, it's gone free to play? It's one of those MMO's (along with Ultima Online and Meridian 59, and a couple of discontinued ones) I've always wanted to try out, but didn't as I didn't like the idea of paying monthly to play a game. And, well, since then I've joined up with Star Trek Online, and keep paying the monthly fee for it despite going free to play, but now I don't fancy the idea of paying for multiple MMO's at the same time.
But this seems like the perfect time to try out Everquest!

Posted by Marino

@fisk0: Just know that it's not as I described it in the blog anymore. Over the years, they've conformed to some of the concepts of newer MMO's, which is understandable.

Also, when they say "free to play," they mean to a certain point. I don't know all the details, but I'm sure it will tell you on the site when you go to download it. Just make sure you get on one of the new servers to make sure you have plenty of low level players to play with. I think the newest one is Vox.

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Posted by erinfizz

As an old school UO player, I agree w all if what you said. Hand holding is what keeps ne away from mmos these days. Doesn't feel right.

Posted by Marino

@erinfizz: Glad I'm not the only MMO curmudgeon around here.

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Posted by Tonic7

Strange - I agree with many of your points but the only MMO I ever played was World of Warcraft. There were outside - non-instanced - mobs of significance (green dragons, I forgot what they were called exactly) and at least a few others that caused real tension between guilds. Races to finish dungeons and get server or even world firsts were also present, though, as you rightly noted, it didn't have the same impact on the external "world" of the MMO because they were instanced. Separating the world into two different factions helped build a lot of mystery/tension between players, too. Some horde players I never interacted with outside of the battleground grew pretty infamous on our server. As in, "You know how player x has that new axe? He destroyed me last night," or "Don't you hate it when hunter y hides in that one spot and kills you?" Reputations were real, and the inability to communicate built up almost-mythic qualities for some things or players.

I think one thing that may have dramatically changed your MMO experienced was the lack of today's information-crazy internet. Those guides you have are imposing, yes, and they're also relics of a nearly-bygone era of videogaming. When I played WoW, a lot (if not most) of the most important information was a brief internet search away. That goes for raid strategies, too, and this made the most difficult endgame content perhaps significantly less crazy than what you described. I bet finding strategies for endgame mobs in Everquest was a hell of a lot harder and scarier than for WoW. After all, many of the most difficult bosses I defeated came after watching hours of video on how other guilds already bested them. This is probably why a lot of ex-Everquest players were often in the world's best WoW guilds; I bet it was much, much easier for them raiding in WoW. That said, it never once took away from a real sense of accomplishment, at least for me. Those 40-man raids were no effing joke for the vast majority of players out there. Though I, like many others, eventually came to bemoan the onset of more mass-friendly raiding systems (25-man raids, giving more faction/race/class options, etc.)

As for community...well, I found it in spades playing WoW. I think this is really at the core of any MMO-player's experience (and which is why that new star wars MMO sounds just so strange to me, especially how Jeff described playing it). No, nobody ever called at 4am to wake me up for an item farming excursion, and while I would say that sounds fucking insane, even to me, I know that if I described some of my WoW playing to another non-MMO player they'd say, and have said, the same to me. (It is difficult to justify spending hundreds of days in time of your life on a videogame to somebody else, even a person who enjoys videogames.) So I definitely know where you're coming from. I could also list dozens of my guild members names and the crazy adventures we had; those were the true moments that made it the best 4 years of gaming I will ever have.

It's a tough realization to have, isn't it? After I quit playing WoW, I played Halo games pretty competitively, but nothing ever recaptured those magical years of playing an MMO. Weeknight raiding well past midnight, weekend raiding for many more hours, losing myself playing alt characters with guild members, helping each other with quests, misc. tasks, pvp, etc. I'll never get that back. But at least I'll have the memories.

Nice post, man. Thanks for sharing.

Posted by Marino

@Tonic7 said:

Separating the world into two different factions helped build a lot of mystery/tension between players, too. Some horde players I never interacted with outside of the battleground grew pretty infamous on our server. As in, "You know how player x has that new axe? He destroyed me last night," or "Don't you hate it when hunter y hides in that one spot and kills you?" Reputations were real, and the inability to communicate built up almost-mythic qualities for some things or players.

PvP is the only scenario where I can see that happening in today's games though. The vast majority of EQ servers are PvE, which is the point of view I'm coming from.

I think one thing that may have dramatically changed your MMO experienced was the lack of today's information-crazy internet. Those guides you have are imposing, yes, and they're also relics of a nearly-bygone era of videogaming. When I played WoW, a lot (if not most) of the most important information was a brief internet search away. That goes for raid strategies, too, and this made the most difficult endgame content perhaps significantly less crazy than what you described. I bet finding strategies for endgame mobs in Everquest was a hell of a lot harder and scarier than for WoW. After all, many of the most difficult bosses I defeated came after watching hours of video on how other guilds already bested them. This is probably why a lot of ex-Everquest players were often in the world's best WoW guilds; I bet it was much, much easier for them raiding in WoW.

Exactly. Now, by 2001 or so, there was a program called EQW (EQ Windows) that allowed players to play in a window, therefore allowing you to check the Internet for info. The game itself eventually allowed for this without an external program. At the time, there weren't gameplay videos and/or strats, but there was plenty of info to be found on Allakhazam, EQVault, and EQAtlas.

And, yeah, there were many top tier EQ guilds that made the transition over to WoW at launch. Ascent, Fires of Heaven, Afterlife, etc.

That said, it never once took away from a real sense of accomplishment, at least for me. Those 40-man raids were no effing joke for the vast majority of players out there.

I mean no offense, but you have nothing previous to compare it to. Spending twelve hours on one boss mob, trying strategies in a trial by error fashion, dying over and over, losing experience, losing LEVELS, and then finally figuring it out...that felt like accomplishing something. Coming into an encounter after watching video of someone else doing it, knowing exactly what you needed to do, exactly when X mob will use Y skill, etc and beating it by following a checklist can't compare when you've done it so many times the hard way. I'm not saying following those strats didn't take skill and cooperation, but it's not the same.

No, nobody ever called at 4am to wake me up for an item farming excursion

Just to be clear, and maybe there's a difference in definition of farming in today's MMOs, but I wasn't farming items. I needed ONE piece of a key for a quest that required ten separate pieces found all over Kunark. The placeholders don't drop it, so I had to sit there killing this one spawn point over and over hoping the named guy would spawn so that I would hopefully be able to kill him (I was a cleric) and loot the piece. It was a general rule in EQ that if someone is at a spot and actively (not AFK) killing a spawn, you respected their space, and moved along or waited in line behind that person to take over once he/she got what he/she need. Obviously this wasn't always followed. And, in EQ, there was no concept of locking an encounter by attacking it. While I was there, if a wizard came by that wanted it, even if I was in the middle of fighting it, he could've nuked the hell out of it and as long as he did 50.1% of the damage, he had loot rights. So, it was 19 hours of paranoia and trying to stay awake.

I know that if I described some of my WoW playing to another non-MMO player they'd say, and have said, the same to me. (It is difficult to justify spending hundreds of days in time of your life on a videogame to somebody else, even a person who enjoys videogames.) So I definitely know where you're coming from. I could also list dozens of my guild members names and the crazy adventures we had; those were the true moments that made it the best 4 years of gaming I will ever have.

I'm sure many of the feelings I have for EQ are similar to you and anyone else has for the first MMO they ever played. I totally understand that. Although it has been diluted over the years, there is still a sense of magic and wonder the first time someone logs into their first MMO. I just wish more people could've experienced it on the ground floor like us old folks did. ;)

It's a tough realization to have, isn't it? After I quit playing WoW, I played Halo games pretty competitively, but nothing ever recaptured those magical years of playing an MMO. Weeknight raiding well past midnight, weekend raiding for many more hours, losing myself playing alt characters with guild members, helping each other with quests, misc. tasks, pvp, etc. I'll never get that back. But at least I'll have the memories.

Indeed. We didn't really have video capabilities back then, but I still have hundreds of screenshots to look back on. Sadly, I had a hard drive failure in early 2001 that wiped out all my screenshots of my early days of playing. I'd give a lot to get those back.

Staff
Edited by Tonic7

@Marino: Yeahp, I can't disagree with much of what you said at all. I always thought about EQ as something quite complicated and even a bit scary; following all of the those former-EQ guilds you named, and having played WoW with plenty of former EQ diehards, I became familiar with just how different the experiences were in terms of gameplay and what they required of the endgame player. I think the brilliance of WoW - if you'll allow me a hugely simplistic summary - is in the fact that it attracted a person such as myself, someone who somewhat enjoyed RPGs but loved fantasy settings and social interactive stuff, to get so goddamn into the game and really just experience it for so many years. It's a slippery slope, to be sure, one that it appears you believe MMOs have crossed; I can't fault you there. But I'm glad a game like WoW came around and offered an accessible enough package while also maintaining enough endgame difficulty to feel rewarding (again, my own experience there; I have no doubts about EQs incomparably rigorous endgame). It was a balance that kept me coming back. Really, it facilitated a world that I wanted to be a part of. My age may have had something to do with it, too. I don't think I would have had the patience to dig through guides like yours at the age I began playing WoW (terrifyingly, I was only 15 at the time, though I'd say a rather mature 15! hah); over time, of course, I scoured the internet for every piece of information about WoW, but at first, I would have been put off if there wasn't a bit of - if I may borrow your term - hand-holdiness.

I also went back about a year ago and took some screenshots and guild videos off of my old computer. At age 22, some of the raid videos still give me goosebumps. Ahhh, childhood.

Posted by aceofspudz

A lot of the thing you mention (handholding, instancing) are what keep me out of modern mmos as a veteran of eq. Like you, I racked up over 350 days played between 1999 and 2002. I once stayed up for three days straight camping jboots, only to fall asleep and lose my place in line. But dagnabbit, I can laugh about it now.

Posted by Marino

@aceofspudz: Oh, man. I mentioned Ragefire, but Jboots was another infamous camp especially since it was something everyone wanted. Did you get it in Najena or were you camping the cyclops? I ended up getting my set in SRo without too much trouble.

What server did you play on?

Staff
Posted by LordAndrew
13 years is a lot of trivia.
Posted by Marino

@LordAndrew said:

13 years is a lot of trivia.

You really have no idea. The trivia questions I submitted only involved original EQ and the first four (of eighteen) expansions.

Staff
Edited by aceofspudz

@Marino said:

@aceofspudz: Oh, man. I mentioned Ragefire, but Jboots was another infamous camp especially since it was something everyone wanted. Did you get it in Najena or were you camping the cyclops? I ended up getting my set in SRo without too much trouble.

What server did you play on?

Tunare, and I played an Enchanter. My first jboot camp (the three day straight one that ended in failure) was in Najena. When they moved it to SRo I attempted to camp it there. I spent about 16-24 hours (probably longer) over a period of 3 days killing literally everything that moved in the sandy bit of SRo, ultimately meeting with failure there as well. I think I probably had the worst luck on the server as far as the jboot camp(s) went, and was probably the only one that got to experience the delicious excitement of BOTH of them.

So I sulked off to lick my wounds. I hadn't given up but you kind of need to recharge. A few days later I was cruising through Rathe Mountains to get somewhere that mattered and ran across a named mob wandering around with a skeleton. It conned blue. Despite the risk of dying and losing hours of exp, despite being an ENC and kind of a shitty fighter, I did the adventurer thing and managed to put him on ice. He dropped an (at the time) extremely valuable item that I knew nothing about. A shaman in my guild coveted it, but told me that I should trade it for the jboots I wanted. Sure the jboots camp had traumatized me and the thought of ending it by selling off a staff I got by chance was tempting. It wasn't the wrong thing to do in the context of the game, but it wasn't the best thing either. I wound up making a gift of it.

Fast forward a few days later, and he is walking through SRo and spots the jboots giant and kills him. He camps the corpse for nearly 10 minutes while my guild gets me tported out to SRo to loot it. Got my jboots. Probably one of the most heartwarming exchanges of my life.

The same forces that make altruism and decency relevant in the real world made it relevant in EQ. The game had every player scrabbling at the dirt until their nails were bloody, and that made these moments so much more poignant.

Edit: And my first character, an Erudite Wizard who I got up to Level 9, I went broke trying to do jewelcrafting and then I died and lost all my gear after falling down a well (with a fucking false floor! do modern mmos have traps?) in Splitpaw. I had two other ERU WIZ friends from my first day in Tox Forest. We would huddle in the pavilion at nightfall because it was pitch black out and we couldn't see for shit! My two friends went on to become the most powerful wizards on Tunare. I restarted as a high elf enc after falling down a hole and dying, remembered by no one.

Posted by Marino

@aceofspudz: Awesome. I love those kinds of EQ stories. And yeah, being an Erudite in Toxx was impossible. I had a low level Erudite SK, and I got a friend of mine to teleport me out of there almost immediately. I did the bandages quest a few hundred times in Misty Thicket to the point where he was loved in Rivervale (except the clerics guild of course).

I was on Rodcet by the way. I played a halfling cleric up to 60 before switching to a barbarian rogue that I got up to 65 before bailing out.

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Posted by Slunks

This is the best post on all of the internets.

Posted by Marino

@Slunks: Not sure how you stumbled upon this 4-month-old blog, but thanks!

Staff