Monday, March 16, 2009

Happy birthday, Everquest

Today Everquest celebrates it's 10th birthday. When I list all the MMORPGs I ever played, and sort them from longest played to least played, Everquest takes place 2 behind World of Warcraft, as I played it for 19 months (free month plus 3 times 6-month subscription) in 2000/2001. So I have a lot of good memories from that time, especially about the social aspects of the game. In EQ a pickup group wasn't a dirty word, but guild hopping was. How times have changed!

Nevertheless in terms of gameplay and user-friendliness I'm not missing Everquest at all. In fact when I see some of the people in today's MMORPGs complaining, I can't help but think that these people wouldn't have survived a day in EQ. Here are some examples of EQ "features" from the life of my level 42 druid which wouldn't be acceptable any more today:
  • My druid never made it to the level cap, because at the time that was estimated to take an average of 2,000 hours. For comparison, to reach the level cap of WoW when it came out took 500 hours, and it's probably shorter now.
  • The other reason I didn't get further in level was that in EQ you lost experience points, and even levels, when you died. A death at my level could easily wipe out a week's worth of leveling.
  • When you died, your equipment stayed on your corpse, and you had to run from your bind point to your corpse naked, the so-called corpse runs. If the corpse was in the middle of a dungeon surrounded by monsters, you risked dying several times before you had your gear back, unless you got help from a group. People didn't often visit dungeons with mobs of their level because of that.
  • I was playing a druid because most classes in EQ could not solo at all beyond newbie levels. Only druids and necromancers were able to kill the lowest ("green") mob that still gave xp solo, all other classes could only solo grey mobs that didn't give any xp.
  • Soloing as a druid consisted mainly of the so-called quad-kiting, because that way you killed 4 mobs at once instead of just one. In that method the druid would cast a speed buff on himself, and speed debuff on 4 mobs, and then run in large circles to get the 4 mobs at the same spot and cast an AoE on them. AoE's were limited to 4 mobs, thus the quad-kiting. Killing 4 mobs that way took 5 to 10 minutes. But then you were out of mana, and regenerating mana back to full took 15 minutes!!! Thus at best you killed 12 mobs per hour.
  • At lower levels the meditation to regenerate mana was faster, but you were completely blind, having to stare into your spellbook during that time. At higher levels you gained the awesome skill of actually seeing the world before you while you regenerated mana.
  • Traveling from one continent to another by boat was possible, but took about 20 minutes. If you missed the boat, you had to wait 20 minutes for the next one. In EQ druids had spells to teleport a group, and so I was running a successful taxi service, before the Luclin expansion made traveling a bit easier.
  • In spite of the name, there weren't all that many quests in Everquest. A single quest could take days to complete. Some quest NPCs only spawned every 6 hours or even slower.
  • Both quest mobs and mobs with valuable drops were often "camped", that is people just sat at the spawn point and waited for the mob to pop up, so they could kill it. I once camped a mob for 3 days, a total of 16 hours, killing it every 23 minutes, before it finally dropped the cloak I was looking for. Even regular mob spawn points were often camped by a group, and there was a strict first come first serve policy, with groups potentially blocking a spawn for hours. No wonder some people called the game "Evercamp".
So, nostalgia aside, you can see that not everything was better in the good old days. I'm proudly carrying the flag for the casual players and carebears, because unlike some of those who think they are hardcore now, I played the *real* hardcore MMORPG that was Everquest all those years ago (I think they softened it up a bit since then). I really wouldn't want to go back to those days, and I don't think we'll see many of these features in future games.

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