About a year ago, when I was playing EverQuest 2 heavily I found a link on the SOE forums to a Flash movie called Sayonara Norrath at this site. (The site is primarily Japanese, but it has some great stuff.)
[I have the movie embedded in a more recent post here since it has disappeared from their site.]
Watching this movie, and some of the others on the site, filled me with nostalgia for the original EverQuest.
I originally played EQ from the date of release in 1999 through until the third expansion pack came out and haven’t really touched it since. My memories are somewhat dimmed by time, but I remember the impressions and feelings of playing EQ on day 1. (for those few moments in time when you could actually get into the game and play on day 1!)
In 1999 EQ was incredibly impressive. I was in awe. I especially remember the first time I saw a Cyclops in west Karana. I stood there until it walked close enough to notice me, then killed me. But it was awesome. It was worth the experience loss and corpse recovery to see it up close at that moment.
I figured that I had a Station Access account (because I apparently liked paying twice as much for EQ2 adventure packs so I could have them a month early and ignore them) that allowed me to play EQ for no additional cost, so what the heck!
Well, almost no additional cost. I had to run down to Fry’s and pick up a copy of EverQuest Platinum ($9.99, what a bargain!) since I could not find my original CD. (I actually found the CD, the manual, the cloth map of Norrath, and the original receipt in a box three weeks ago as we were collecting stuff for a garage sale. I bought the original at Fry’s as well.)
EverQuest Platinum gave me all but the two (now three, soon to be four!) most recent expansions, so I could explore far and wide should I choose.
I rolled up a dwarf on E’ci (now Tunare), my old server, and ran immediately into the game.
Eeep! How primitive it looked! Faydark is really ugly, at least right outside of the dwarf home town. The landscape is so plain that you cannot tell where you are going. It is the same green texture map almost everywhere. I strayed from the wiggly path and ended up running between some hills where I got disoriented to the point that not only couldn’t tell what direction I was going, but had a problem even discerning which direction was up!
Eventually I found the path again and headed to the port. I tried to take the boat to Freeport, but it seems to be gone. Instead, there is an NPC there that will teleport you over to the next zone. Unfortunately, before I could teleport from that zone to Freeport, another NPC ran out and killed me. Fun!
So I changed tack and I rolled up a half elf and started in Freeport. The commonlands are much nicer, but still every piece of terrain is a perfectly flat plane made up of an irregular polygon. Nothing round in that ground! After so much time in EQ II is was very strange. And I had forgotten the trees and how much they look like cardboard cut outs made for a school play!
And it was quiet. What happened to the commonlands bazaar? There used to be stuff for sale there constantly. Now the auction channel is silent. (Okay, I understand that there is a real bazaar now, but I had no idea where it is. It had not come into being by the time I stopped playing.) Here it was, a Saturday afternoon/evening, prime time, on one of the first servers and it was dead. I think I saw five other players over a couple of hours. I expect there will be much more server consolidation.
And the joys of invisible zone boundaries! In EQII they put a door or a bell or some other item at the zone point so you wouldn’t zone by accident. Now it was a complete surprise half the time! I seem to recall that the line between East and West Karana was somewhat irregular and that running a perfect North/South course along it could have you switching zones a few times.
I was happy to see that there is now a rudimentary map system with maps supplied for common areas and an option to find NPCs in your current zone.
And a tutorial! I ran my dwarf out old-school, into the world with a sword, some rations, and not a clue. I went through a bit of the tutorial with my half elf. You get some equipment and some lessons on how to play, which is a lot better than standing in front of Qeynos killing snakes and getting killed by Fippy Darkpaw.
Somewhere along the line the UI got revamped. I found it so ugly I went to the EQ Interface web site and downloaded an alternate. I chose the Diablo 2 theme interface for the evening.
All of this really made me appreciate how good EQ2 really is and how much work Sony and its subsidiaries put into it. I wonder if it will look as primitive in 2010.
I had no plans for a long return career in EQ1, but I still wanted to roll up a character on the Qeynos side and explore a bit over there. And EQ is so undemanding that I can run it on my work-issued laptop!