Tag Archives: MMO Nostalgia

The Night the Lights Went Out in Norrath

A memory of the Great December Downtime in EverQuest II

It was just about ten years ago.

EverQuest II had be live for a little over a month.  There were troubles.  After having a couple weeks to itself in the market, World of Warcraft launched and the harsh comparisons began.  It wasn’t that EQII didn’t have some better features than WoW… for example, I have always felt that EQII’s version of in-game maps was superior… but in a market that, up until that moment, had been dominated by EverQuest, it was something of a fight to see which of the two would become EQ’s true successor.  After all, EQ was more than five years old at that point, and who plays a five year old game?  It was practically on death’s door, waiting to hand off to a new generation.

And in that fight, EverQuest II was not faring well.  Some people I knew who came from EverQuest had either gone back or moved on to WoW at that point.  EQII was down, but not out.  The game was still growing, this still being the age of the slow ramp rather than the sudden spike.

SOE was trying to fix things that were becoming a hindrance to players.  We were destined to get floating quest markers over NPCs and changes to the woefully inadequate quest log and the first of many revamps to the crafting system.  SOE knew they had to adapt.  They could see WoW.

In our guild, a mash-up of players from the EverQuest guild Knights of Force, the TorilMUD guild Shades of Twilight, and a few fellow travelers from the Old Gaming Veterans clan, things were holding on.  A few players had dropped out of the game, though they were mostly the non-MMO players from OGV who went back to playing Desert Combat.  But for the most part we were holding in there, grouping up to run through zones or crafting away.

On voice coms we mocked those who ran off to Blizzard’s cartoon MMO, though there was a feeling that maybe EQII wasn’t the true successor to EQ.  The early buzz around Brad McQuaid and Vanguard had started.  That was going to be the real deal.  But for now, EQII was the best we had, so we put up with locked encounters and experience debt and system requirements that burnt out more than a couple nVidia 6800 GT cards in our guild. (I was running with a 6600 GT card, which meant I had to keep the graphic settings modest, but I also didn’t need to replace the damn thing… or my power supply… over and over like some.  There is probably a post in “video cards I have run” some day.)

We were coming up to a good stretch of game play.  The holiday’s were coming.  Like many people in our guild, I had a stretch of time off and was looking forward to some good, solid chunks of game play time.

Then, as we were headed to that first weekend, SOE applied some updates and restarted the servers.

And they did not come back up.

Here is where the details get a bit vague.  I recall the game, or at least our server, being down pretty much Friday night through Sunday, a huge patch of premium gaming time washed away.

But concrete details are not easy to come by.

The SOE forum posts, all the status updates and such, have long since been washed away by changes to the forum software.  The conspiracy nut in me suspects that they change the forums every few years just to dump bad memories and excess baggage.

I mentioned that Massive Magazine did an article about the incident in their first issue.  That was just about two years after the event, when memories of the whole thing were sharper.  I think I still have a copy stuffed away in a box.  But we packed up and moved houses since then, so if it is in a box somewhere, it appears well hidden.

Digging around the web, I found some references to what happened.  Terra Nova mentions the event, but links the SOE forum thread, long since gone, and a site called MMORPGDOT, also a distant memory. (And looking at the internet archive only shows them making a very brief mention of the event.)

Likewise, there is a mention of the even happening at Slashdot, written by Michael Zenke, which links to a few sources, including the SOE forums, all of which are long gone save the Terra Nova post mentioned above.

Other news sites that cover MMO don’t go back that far (Massively) or went through changes or otherwise appear to have purged their archives beyond a certain point.

This is one of those points when I wish I had started blogging sooner.  Two years earlier and I would have written something about this, as I wrote about the great Sony hacking of 2011 which brought down both the PlayStation Network and SOE. (Not to be confused with the great Sony hacking of 2014.)

PSNDownSo I started nosing around at various blogs just to see what people were writing about when the downtime occurred.  A lot of the self-hosted blogs from that era have disappeared, or have had database problems, but a few still linger. (My Great Survey of Linking Blogs post helped out.  I will have to do another of those at some point.)

However, it did not seem to garner much attention.  The event coincided with Raph Koster’s book, A Theory of Fun, hitting the shelves.  There was a discussion of niche games in the MMO market, which still seems relevant today, and something about what WoW would mean to Dark Age of Camelot. (Or something of a contrary view.)

The only real mention I could find amongst the few blogs remaining from the time was by Tobold, for whom the server down time meant moving to WoW ahead of his initial plan. (Poking around also got me to this then-so-current WoW vs. EQ2 post at GameSpy.)

So here I sit, vague memories swirling, wondering how big of a deal the whole thing really was at the time.  Certainly evidence of the event has faded from the internet and worse things have happened.  Didn’t Arche Age just have a similar incident.

I think our own guild was emotionally entrenched in EQII at the time, so we just carried on once things were up again.

Do you remember the Great December Downtime of ten years ago?

Can you find anything else about it on the net?  If you find something I’ll add a link to the end of the post.

The Isle of Refuge – What Do You Do With Your Own Zone?

The EverQuest II 10 year anniversary just passed, and I posted about hitting the 10 year mark myself with the game last week.

This past weekend, while taking a break from Warlords of Draenor so as not to burn myself out on it right away (a hazard as I spent the two weeks running up to the expansion binging on the game), I decided to log into EverQuest II in order to see if I was eligible for the 11 year veterans reward.

Yes, I can do simple math.  How can I get the 11 year award just days after the 10 year anniversary?

SOE, as part of the enticement to get people to buy expansions, threw in a 90 day boost to your veteran’s status with the first four expansion.  Having purchased The Desert of Flames, Kingdom of Sky, Echoes of Faydwer, and Rise of Kunark (and The Shadow Odyssey, which was the last EQII expansion I purchased, in part because I haven’t even made it into Rise of Kunark yet), I had, like many long time players of the game, an extra year on my record.  And so SOE has to be a year ahead of the game when it comes to these things.

There was also a point in time when SOE was only counting the time you were actually subscribed to the game.  I think that went in at some point after Rise of Kunark.  Up to that point the calculation was based on when you created your EQII account (or the launch date, if you were in the beta).  So, despite taking time off, I was always eligible for the latest award.  Then they got picky, people were complaining in the forums that it was not “fair” for non-subscribed time to count (I seem to recall Scott Hartsman backing that idea, but I could be wrong), and I wasn’t playing very much, so I fell behind.

With the advent of EverQuest II Extended and free to play, SOE eventually changed their minds, no doubt wanting to avoid complications, and set veteran rewards simply based on your account start date again, and suddenly I was overloaded with such items to claim.

The rewards vary in quality.  They started out as anniversary loyalty markers… you usually got a title, a house item, and a couple experience potions… then somebody at SOE thought that such awards might help with player retention and we ended up with a batch of rewards for the first two years.  There is a one day award.  Yay, you didn’t uninstall and walk away after a day with the game, have a 12 slot bag rather optimistically called “The Bag of Endless Adventure!”  I think of it more as the bag of about 15 minutes of resource harvesting, but you go with your experiences.  You can see the semi-complete reward list at the wiki.

Anyway, enough of that back story, though this post is going to be pretty much all back story and nostalgia.

I logged in with Sigwerd, a berserker and the last character I played as a “main” or sorts, and I didn’t even have to type in the /claim command to check.  There in the system messages in chat was a reminder that I was eligible for the 11 year reward.  So I typed in /claim and brought up the list.

The 11 Year Reward

The 11 Year Reward

The 11 year reward is a prestige home in the form of the Isle of Refuge.

More after the cut.  Warning, back story and nostalgia ahead.  Also, screen shots.

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A Decade in Post-Cataclysm Norrath

We are in the midst of a few different EverQuest II moments, and I am going to mash them together into one post as they are all mildly related.

The first is that today EverQuest II is launching a new expansion, the Altar of Malice.

A surprisingly well clad dark elf female

A surprisingly well clad dark elf female

The expansion is only launching for All Access subscribers.  You can literally buy the expansion but be unable to play it until November 25th while subscribers can play today.  This seems at best a transparent “subscribe dammit!” move and at worst just dumb, another round of SOE being SOE.  But what are you going to do?  I suspect that there is considerable overlap between people invested enough in the game to buy the expansion and subscribers, so this will probably just annoy a few corner cases.

The expansion is either the 10th or the 14th… or maybe the 11th… EverQuest II expansion.  At this point I am not sure how to count the three adventure packs… Bloodline Chronicles felt tiny, the Splitpaw Saga was huge, while Fallen Dynasty was just strange… and then there was the expansion (but not really an expansion) that was the so-called Age of Discovery.

Anyway, over the years SOE has kept EQII alive and expanding, and the Altar of Malice expansion builds on all of that with its feature list (and patch notes), including a boost in the level cap to 100.  It is landing at that number as a level cap just two days before World of Warcraft hits the same number.  Say what you will about SOE and its game, but they have kept it evolving over the years.  Not always in directions in which I have approved, but not everything has to be about me.

So congrats to SOE and the EverQuest II team for keeping it going for however many expansions we’re talking about.

Ignore those smug bastards on the EverQuest team (who also pushed an expansion today) when they start in on however many expansions they have shipped.

The second is the 10 year anniversary of the launch of EverQuest II.  That was either November 4th or November 9th, depending on which source I look at.  Did SOE do a head start or something?  Anyway, it has been a decade at this point.

A decade in and launching a new expansion!  That is getting along in gaming years.  There have been a lot of games that have come and gone while things have been cranking along in Norrath, both new and old.

The third item, which rambles on, is after the cut.

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When is it Nostalgia Anyway?

Nostalgia is part of the basic premise of this blog.  A look at older games is called out in my introduction post for the blog, and the very next day I was on about what I called the EverQuest Nostalgia Tour, a semi-regular event for me in the last seven years.

Cube Ahoy!

Nostalgia in cube form

I have spent time on the way things were.  In addition to EverQuest, TorilMUD has gotten its share of posts. (I recommend the Leuthilspar Tales for real nostalgia.)  I have delved back into various Kesmai games from the GEnie days, such as Air Warrior, Stellar Warrior, and Stellar Emperor.  I stopped to recall things like the first game I played, the invasion from space, the amazing Spaceship Warlock, the influential Total Annihilation, the old shooter Delta Force, and even a game played with real cars.

I have attempted to define the essence of what it means to be a Wizardry game, at least from the perspective of 1983.  And I have gone back to my first gaming console and my first computer, as well as trying to chart out my own gaming timeline.

Nostalgia is definitely on the menu here at Cafe Wilhelm.

So I am sure it was no big surprise to long time readers that, as the turning of the season approached and school started back up, I headed out on my regular autumnal nostalgia run.  This year EverQuest was set aside (for now) because my daughter wanted to go back and play World of Warcraft.  Azeroth was declared the nostalgia destination this year.

And then Bhagpuss asked a question in a comment which made me start to consider when something was really nostalgia and when it was not.

Going back to EverQuest, for me, is clearly nostalgia.  I stopped playing the game in any serious way about a decade back and have only returned now and again to help revive my memories of that time.  My intention for those efforts is always to review and remind.  I do not think I have ever seriously entertained the idea that EverQuest would become my main gaming focus again.

I feel about the same way about EverQuest II.  I have many fond memories from playing the game in 2004 and 2005.  But the game has grown beyond that and has become something I tend to like less and less each time I visit.  I do not think it will ever be my main game ever again.  It has been relegated to the nostalgia pile.

But for MMO tagged games that I started playing after that, things get a bit sticky.

I do not think that Lord of the Rings Online is on the nostalgia pile as yet.  I have a fondness for it, and enjoy going back and playing through the Lone Lands and Evendim to a degree that seems a bit odd even to me.  But I also played the game seriously all summer and went on to see new things as I made my way through Moria.  I am still making progress in the game, not just revisiting old haunts to rekindle memories.  Playing LOTRO is not yet about nostalgia to my mind.

EVE Online, which I started playing about seven years back, is still a main focus game.  I am nostalgic for some of my naivete I suppose, but listening to Below the Asteroids in a dark room makes me feel like it is 2006 all over again.  I see trails and old graphic models in my mind’s eye.

And green nebulae

I get a tinge of nostalgia every so often for Warhammer Online.  There were some good bits there.  Fun was had, for a time.  I sometimes want to go back and just look at the landscapes.  But that tinge is never enough to overcome the memory of not wanting to log in after about the 10th week or the idea of giving EA money.  My embargo on EA is not absolute.  I still play some Need for Speed World once in a while.  But the company and its reputation adds an additional barrier between me and their games.  And Origin might as well be the Berlin Wall.  Anything that requires that is off the table.

Pirates of the Burning Sea whispers in my ear every so often.  I liked the ship battles.  But it seems like too much effort for just that.  The rest of the game was uninspiring.

Rift is still too new for me to be nostalgic.  Neverwinter is barely a thing for me yet.  Vanguard was never a thing for me.  World of Tanks is there whenever I want it.  Star Trek Online lost me, though I was in denial for a long time on that one.  Runes of Magic became all that I hated about F2P games at the time… greedy, spammy, ugly, and unpolished… and don’t get me started on their patcher.  I have no desire to return.  Star Wars Galaxies, which I could experience through emulation, was just me on the outside looking in.  I never bought the box.

Which brings us around to WoW.

I am certainly nostalgic for Azeroth.  Or the 2006-ish version of Azeroth, as my time on the Emerald Dream server indicated.  I wish against all possible hope that Blizzard will give us that sort of thing some day.  (Or at least that I hadn’t forgotten my Emerald Dream password.)

But does that mean returning to World of Warcraft is necessarily an act of nostalgia?

Certainly memories of past times in the game fed the desire to return.  And the plan to roll on a fresh server and start from scratch to experience it all is straight from the MMO nostalgia playbook.

On the flip side though, the plan is not to relive the old but to experience the new.  We have chosen a different path.  We are rolling pandas, going horde, trying pet battles, and generally throwing ourselves into much that is new… or at least as new as post-Cataclysm Azeroth.  And if the regular Saturday night instance group was up for it, I think WoW would become my main non-EVE MMO for the foreseeable future.

So I do not think that playing WoW is not about nostalgia for me.  That is in part because Blizzard foolishly (in my opinion) put a bullet in the head of nostalgia with the Cataclysm expansion.  But mostly because WoW is still a current game for me.  I am there to play, not just there to visit.

Or such is my belief at this time.

How about you?  What is MMO nostalgia for you?

Where is the border between nostalgia runs and just playing the damn game?

Or do you buy into the nostalgia concept at all?

RuneScape Embraces Nostalgia

RuneScape, a popular (200 million accounts created is their claim to fame metric) browser-based fantasy MMORPG, has decided to farm the nostalgia sector by opening up servers aimed at those who want to relive RuneScape’s past.

Officially called “Old School RuneScape,” the setting will be August 2007 version of RuneScape.

RuneScape

Jagex, the game’s developer, has taken an interesting approach to bringing these servers to the community.  They have a poll up to gauge how much interest there is in the servers, with more interest by the player base yielding more focus by the studio itself.

The poll approaches 250K

The poll approaches 250K

Omali has some condensed details over at MMO Fallout about what happens at given result levels. (There is an update to go along with the final results.)  There is also an official FAQ up about the servers.

Interesting to me is that by default… with the likely poll results… is that people interested in playing the classic version of this free-to-play game will have to pay for a subscription.  That seems right to me.  I don’t think people looking to relive a “classic” experience do so because it might be cheaper.

Certainly I did not run off an play on the Emerald Dream server in order to dodge the WoW subscription price, and I doubt Keen or SynCaine were so influenced with the Ultima Online Forever.

And that is how SOE has handled things with the Fippy Darkpaw server in the post free to play EverQuest world, making it available only to subscribers.

So RuneScape joins the rather short list of MMOs offering official “old school” versions of their game.  I only know of two others.  There is SOE with its EverQuest progression servers and Mythic with its past classic Dark Age of Camelot server (and its never to see the light of day Origin server).

And while there will always be arguments about what point in time is the “best” and whether such a server should be stuck in time or move forward, I think this sort of exercise is a good way to reach out and revive interest in your game with a big chunk of your current and former player base.

Of course, this sort of things probably works with some games better than others.  World of Warcraft is an obvious target.  Few expansions and slow improvement over time gives it a series of identifiable eras.  EVE Online, on the other hand… their whole single server approach pretty much precludes such a nostalgia path… plus who wants to go back to the days before “jump to zero?”

What MMOs would you like to see embrace nostalgia?  Or does that even have any appeal for you?

That Didn’t Take 14 Days

Not that I thought it would.

That got finished off the quest “The Great Challenge,” which I would put in air quotes if I were saying it aloud, and nabbed me the title “Knight of Bayle.”


Gold coins?  There isn’t anything worth having that costs less than a plat these days, judging from my last peek at the broker.

Okay, time to find my way to New Halas proper already.  The snow is blinding me.

And, for the record, by the time I hit 20, I was outrunning some of the quests in the zone.  A couple went gray before I could complete them.

You Cannot Go Home… Yet You Go Anyway

I was in Middle-earth last night, finishing up some crafting and generally shuffling things around between characters when I got a whisper…

I just downloaded and installed this today, you mind if I talk to you for a minute?

Oh, that is always a dangerous question.  I’ve gotten that whisper before and it can mean anything from simple directions to the bank to a full on thesis-defense level of dissection of the MMORPG genre as a whole.

Still, I try to be helpful and social, so I said sure.

The question lay somewhere between the two extreme, but was one I knew well enough, at least in spirit.

I’ve been looking for an MMO similar to EverQuest in the sense that it requires grouping for success and promotes reliance on other players.

Would you say that LOTRO is like that?

Of course, I knew exactly what he meant.

He didn’t mean EverQuest today, or even EverQuest five years back.  He wanted to know if this was going to revive the feeling that EverQuest gave back in the early days.

And as much as I am enjoying LOTRO now, I had to say that no, it wasn’t going to give that experience.

There are plenty of group quests and instances and skirmishes, but it is nowhere close to that dread you felt venturing into East Karana and seeing all that stuff between you and where you needed to go and wishing you had brought some friends along.  And then, finally getting some people together and tearing your way through the place… or getting killed and having to coordinate that corpse run.

He also wanted to know if the people in LOTRO were more social.  He’d been playing WoW and was tired of the general playing alone together feeling.

On that front I could be a little more positive.  Certainly, relative to WoW, the social atmosphere is better in LOTRO, even with the influx of new players with the F2P conversion.  In fact, the LFF channel seems to be quite busy with people looking to do things as a group.  And not every question on the Advice channel is about where one can get a horse.  Only most of the questions.

We chatted a little bit more.  We had both played EverQuest on day one.

He was of the opinion that EverQuest started heading down hill with the Velious expansion.

Me, I’ve always felt that maybe Kurnak was a mistake.  That started the change in the center of gravity of the game.

Then again I played TorilMUD on and off for 15 years, and they never had a single increase in the level cap.  They just kept adding on harder zones to keep the higher end players happy.

But they weren’t worried about retaining subscribers.

I wished him luck in finding what he was looking for in Middle-earth.  It is as good a place as any these days, and better than most in my opinion.  It is a place where you feel there is a “there” there.

But it is not EverQuest… not EverQuest as it lives in the hearts and minds of those who played back in the day.

People trot out lists and plans on how to recapture the way things were back in March of 1999, when EverQuest came out.  But I don’t think we can get there again.

The problem is that it wasn’t the game alone that made EverQuest what it was.  It was the point in time at which it arrived on the scene.  It hit at what must have been the exact right moment, and it was successful beyond the dreams of the team that made it.

And anybody who wanted to play a game like that didn’t have too many choices.  EverQuest was the place to be.

Now though… now when autumn comes and I get that urge to revisit old Norrath, to see the sites of past adventures, and I wander through the barren lands that once seemed crowded with adventurers, I know there is really no going back to that sort of game with that sort of budget and support.

The weather is turning… even here in California… the leaves will start to change color… and some weekend when there is a bit of chill in the air I’ll go watch Sayonara Norrath again and get all nostalgic and resubscribe for a month and visit the lands again and wonder where all the adventure went.