EverQuest Nostalgia Tour – Part II

How I ended up in Norrath

EverQuest was exactly the game I wanted at exactly the wrong time in my life.  When it came out I had been playing Toril MUD for about five years.  For people who played MUDs, EverQuest was great.

EverQuest was the direct translation of a MUD environment into the 3D graphical realm.  In fact, in some ways, it was literally a translation.  A number of the EverQuest creators played the same MUD as I did, including Brad McQuaid.  In fact, in his player character form Aradune he asked me if I wanted to be in the EQ beta… which sounds impressive, but it really isn’t.  I am sure I just satisfied the “seems to be on and play a lot” criteria as opposed to any actual merit on my part. (I think we were both in a group that had just done City of Brass when it happened.  I declined his offer though.  I generally don’t do betas for reasons that I will discuss in a future entry.)

But being asked to play in the EverQuest beta made me aware of the game.  Quite a few other people on Toril, including some close friends, did play in the beta, so I was kept up to date on the game.  The day it was available a group of us made the trip to Fry’s, bought the game, and went to our homes to play.

EverQuest had a very familiar feel to me when I started to play.  Similar races (just the Erudin were an addition), similar classes (with some variations in what races could play them… and the horribly named Anti-Paladin became the much cooler sounding Shadow Knight), races with their own home towns, and quite a bit of borrowed equipment.  In fact, until Kurnark came out, seeing the name of most pieces of equipment I would know the approximate stats because they were the same stats I had memorized playing Toril. (Obsidian scimitar? That must be +agi!)

EverQuest also had many new twists on things from the days of MUD’ing, things unique to a huge, 3D world. Death still meant exp loss (and maybe level loss if you hadn’t built up an exp buffer after you last levelled) and having to do a corpse recovery, but it also frequently meant a long, naked run back to your corpse.  If you could find your corpse. 

Travel, including that trip to your corpse, and locations had a new dimension altogether.  In a MUD you often know right where you are because of a room name or NPC.  You frequently know how to get from one place to another via a quick set of commands. (From Finn to Anna’s cottage is .nueuuedenensnn as I recall. I toss that out for my fellow Evermeet Elves!)  Travel is usually a quick blur of rooms and you can generally spam past aggros if you are just a bit lucky.

But if you died on the far side of West Karana and you were bound in Qeynos, you could have quite a trot.  And not only was it slow, it was dangerous.  You could not out run an aggro, so you had to thread your way carefully back.  Then when you got close, you had to find your corpse, loot it, and re-equip piece by piece.  That could be something of a hazard if you were fighting an aggro and died near its spawn point.

Still, the world was huge, new, and waiting for my friends and I. The “/corpse” command was only a few months away.  We were into it in a heartbeat, a small band wandering the world in search of adventure.

How I Left Norrath

But there were complications in my own life.  EverQuest went live a month after I asked my girlfriend to marry me.  In between that point and when I disposed of my EverQuest account we got married, I changed jobs, we bought a house, and we started trying for children.  All of this pushed me into the “casual gamer” demographic.  My friends began levelling up much more quickly than I did.  The time I spent online playing became more like work than fun as I tried to keep up with them.  EverQuest is not a solo friendly game, and when your friends are all out levelling you, the enjoyment begins to seeps out of the game.

Then came the killing blow to my EverQuest career.

I live in San Jose, the self-proclaimed capital of Silicon Valley, now the 10th largest city in the US.  After my wife and I were married,  we bought a house in an older neighborhood.  Our home is almost the same age I am, which is now past 40. (In California, that is an older neighborhood.)  But the area we are in is hardly rural or remote.  We are ten minutes from down town.  However, when we moved we found that our neighborhood lacked broadband access of any kind.  I could not even get ISDN, which we had at our condo, at the new location.  Even the phone lines were very noisy, so dial-up access was spotty at best.

So I gave up EverQuest.  It had gone from fun, to work, to painful.  I gave my account to a friend who wanted to two-box (and who eventually deleted all my characters!) and played a lot of Diablo II while the phone company worked on improving our local infrastructure.  I also played a lot of StarCraft and Age of Empires II at work.  We had regular Friday night games which not only scratched the multi-player itch but kept it alive.

Two years later, when DSL was finally available, my memories of EverQuest were mostly negative. I remembered it being a lot of work.  My impressions of the game were colored by reading the EverQuest forums over the time I was away. (Which is why I avoid forums now. I am susceptible to too much negativity.)  Articles on other sites, like this Slashdot article, played right into my negative memories.  My friends had almost all either become members of raiding guilds or had moved on to other games.  I had no interest playing any MMO, and especially not EverQuest.

Next Chapter: How this trend changed.

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