Actually, EverQuest, even when not free, is still enviably popular after being around for nearly a dozen years. I am sure a lot of games would love to have a loyal, subscription paying population of the size that EQ still enjoys.
But it wasn’t quite clear exactly how popular the new EverQuest progression server was wandering around outside of Halas. The area, with its winding paths through the snow to Blackburrow, limits how much you can see. So you might only see a half a dozen players running around at any given point.
You can see by the west side of the map that the going is a bit twisty.
(Map of Everfrost from EQ Atlas mirror on the EQ Mac wiki, which has all of those hand drawn maps we used to use back in the day. I had a binder with all those maps printed out, each with notations for additional landmarks with coordinates, back in the day.)
The real sign of how many players there were in the area was the complete absence of the mob conga line that, on live servers where nobody goes to Halas any more, wanders through the zone like some mutant Disney parade.
The absence of something is subtle though. Like the phrase, “It’s quiet… too quiet,” something missing does not convey the message the way, say, a mass of people camping the front yard of Qeynos does.
Oh my! People were out in force and the lawn in front of Qeynos was littered with dead bats, rats, snakes, beetles, skeletons, and even the occasional gnoll. Fippy Darkpaw, the server’s namesake, and who occasionally gets up the nerve to assault the Qeynos front yard, was nowhere to be seen.
I got an IM from Skonk saying that he was rolling up a character at about the time that I had made it to Blackburrow with a group I had joined. Our group was taken unawares by a train of gnolls and was mostly wiped out.
I used this as an excuse to say good bye to the group and started making my way to Qeynos.
Getting through Everfrost and then Blackburrow was easy enough with the mass of players slaying and/or training everything in sight.
Then it was a run through to the front gates of Qeynos, where I found Potshot, on as Skronk the monk, foundering in the pond in North Qeynos.
I wasn’t alone in forgetting Norrathian water safety skills. I jumped in, if only to share the pain, and then somehow we both managed to get back out and on to dry land.
(Thanks to Beleg in a comment on a previous post for mentioning the “go to first person view” method of getting out of water in EQ! I will, I hope, remember that in the future.)
From there we grouped up and joined in the mayhem outside the gates of Qeynos.
Getting used to how the game feels and reacts, how to accomplish simple tasks, how to work as a team, and how to even find one another, was quite a task. Having been spoiled by WoW on just issues like targeting a mob and attacking it… and getting it to notice you’re attacking and respond in kind… it is a different world.
Granted, some of that was the game lag caused by the milling mass of players hunting in our area. A large rat might be right before us one moment and then yards away the next while we were standing trying to fight and empty patch of lawn.
And there wasn’t a lot of margin for error if we took on a mob too big for us. Skronk might look like Ming the Merciless, but he was more at the Probationary Trainee Merciless end of the scale, while Vikund had all of two spells, one buff and one heal. And with Vikund’s mana pool, he could cast that heal twice in a fight before running low on mana. And each cast was good for maybe 20% of Skronk’s health, after which it sometimes turned to a run or die choice.
When the choice came Skronk, like a good tank, died. Vikund, like a healer, and a healer who is soul bound way back in Halas, ran for the zone line.
Eventually Vikund came up short in running and died, sending him back to Halas. At that point we called it a night, though we both managed to make it to the exalted level of 2 before the evening ended.
I expect that the new progression servers will continue to be very busy through this weekend, since that is when all of those reactivated accounts are playing for free.
It will be interesting to see (or hear second hand, as I’m tempted to subscribe and play more, but won’t go it alone without a regular group) how things work out once the free period is over.
I applaud SOE for having the second server backup plan in place and putting it into action so quickly.
But by the same token, I hope they have a plan to merge the two progression servers into one should the population drop off dramatically over the next few weeks.
Nostalgia can be fun for an evening or a weekend, but the novelty can wear off over time. The main thread in the EQ forums right now according to the esteemed Van Hemlock is “EQ Hard is Hard!” or as Stropp called it, “Experience is Too Slow!”
As for me, the experience per kill felt about right compared to my memory of nearly 12 years ago.