Progression Servers and Post-Cataclysm Norrath

We came up short as a group in Azeroth this past weekend.  Life will get in the way and the whole group has gotten older over the last eight years we have played.  But three of us, Potshot, Ula, and myself were online.  We got on Skype together as we went about doing some garrison things and quests and what not.  Blizzard has made “soloing in a group” work a bit better over the years, but sometimes it still feels like the optimum open world group size is one.

Potshot and Ula were off on a quest chain to unlock a garrison upgrade while I was running around Azeroth visiting elders for the Lunar Festival.  I was sparked into late action on that when I read that 40 tokens from elders will buy you a 60 to 90 heirloom armor upgrade as part of the whole new heirloom system that came in with patch 6.1.

Blizzard has found a way to get me to do holiday events again, gotta give them that.

Anyway, as we were off on our tasks, we started talking about the possibilities of the EverQuest progression server that may (or may not) be showing up at some future date.

Potshot and I are pretty much on board for it… same as it ever was.  We will be there for the dawn of whatever new server they put together.  We also sold Ula on the idea for the moment of going back in time to a world of simple graphics, bad linoleum textures, and limited skills and spells.

Bandit fight in West Karana

Bandit fight in West Karana

Depending on when (and if) Daybreak gets this going, a progression server excursion might make a nice break from Azeroth for a bit.  I would call it a hiatus, but I think we would need to play more to qualify for the term.

On conversation meandered about on the idea of EverQuest nostalgia and then I started to compare old EverQuest to EverQuest II, which in many ways seems to be almost the antithesis of EverQuest, at least when comparing the early versions of both.

Vinkund's hot bars

At what point in EQ did you need 3 full hotbars?

Of course that made its way around in my mind to what an EverQuest II progression server would be like.  How do you take what there is out there today, the game having just hit the 10 year mark back in November, and recreate the 2004 experience?

My earliest screen shot of EQ2 - Nov. 14, 2004

My earliest screen shot of EQ2 – Nov. 14, 2004

Even the EverQuest II team, during their recent “Don’t go, we’re still alive!” live stream the other day spoke of a desire to do something like a progression server for EverQuest II, if they could figure out how.

And therein lies the rub.

I must assume that the EverQuest II team is stuck with the same restrictions that the EverQuest team faces when doing progression servers, which means working with the current client and server and zones and just playing with some of the flags and settings in the background.

In this EverQuest has a clear advantage in that SOE hasn’t spent a ton of time going back and revamping old zones.  Yes, they redid Freeport and the Commonlands and the Desert of Ro, for which they will spend time in purgatory I am sure, but a lot of the old zones are still the same ugly ass stuff we thought was the bees knees back in 1999.  This is why I always roll on the Qeynos side of Norrath.

Qeynos... at night!

Qeynos… at night!

SOE added a lot of stuff to EverQuest, including a starting tutorial and some new starter zones, but they left a lot of the old stuff intact.  Camping bandits in West Karana in 2011 was very much like camping them in 1999.

We're hunting bandits

We’re hunting bandits

EverQuest was ever looking forward to the next expansion, the next round of content, then next increase in the level cap, the next pack of AA skills.  It isn’t like it launched perfectly.  There were many problems, some of which took years to fix.  But the team seemed to have their eyes constantly on the horizon as they chased a crazy two expansions a year dream, which ran unbroken for a five year stretch of time, from Legacy of Ykesha to Secrets of Faydwer.  Success allowed that.

Meanwhile, EverQuest II has spent a lot of its first decade trying to fix, change, or simply forget about what the game was like at launch.   There have been a lot of revamps of game mechanics, as there have been with EverQuest.

But the EverQuest II team has also spent a lot of time going back to the original content to change and update things.  Qeynos and Freeport have been changed and revamped and updated to the point that it is difficult to compare the 2004 versions with the what is there now.  There is no Isle of Refuge on which to start anymore… unless you want to run around your own version… and I am not even sure you can still get to the swamp where that first screen shot above was taken.

And zones that made a huge impact on me back in the day, like the Thundering Steppes or Nektulos Forest, have been changed so much over the years that they hardly feel like the same places.

Taunting centaurs

Remember when centaurs were all group encounters?

Given all of the changes that have rolled back over the original game over the years, I am not sure that much of 2004 can be really recreated given the limitations that the EverQuest II team will face.  They are not going to be allowed to roll a special client or a special version of the server software, which leaves us with what?

I suppose there would be some interest, some value, some fun to be had in simply rolling up a fresh EverQuest II server that required Station Access or SOE All Access or Daybreak to Dusk Access or whatever the all-in-one only subscription option will be called some day, starting with just the original zones, and then not allowing transfers or level 90 character boosts.  Maybe they could tinker with the experience table or toughen up the mobs a bit.  It could be a hardcore or challenge server maybe.  But I bet it would be tough to justify keeping the cash shop limited, especially if it turned out that the people who jumped on that server were subscribers already.  Siphoning your most dedicated players off to their own isolated server can’t be viewed as a win in accounting.

So where does that leave us?  Back with the status quo?

Of course, it is also reasonable to ask about how much nostalgia there is for the early days of EverQuest II.  In many ways 2004 in Norrath feels like a survivors tale of horrible ideas we’re all pretty much glad we no longer have to deal with.  Is any significant population of players really longing to go back to early days of the game?

There is an EverQuest II emulator project out there, but it doesn’t seem to generate anywhere close to the amount of interest that classic EverQuest or World of Warcraft or even Star Wars Galaxies server emulation does.

The cliche response is always that you can’t go home again, but in this case, do we even want to?

7 thoughts on “Progression Servers and Post-Cataclysm Norrath

  1. Isey

    I have been tinkering in EQ again because my old guild there is still intact (in tag, and spirit. I am the only person to log into it since, oh, 2008 I think according to the guild logs?) I decided to do a reunion of sorts for that guild and messing around in EQ has been nostalgic fun. I even started levelling the old fashioned way, recreating my old beta Gnome magician. It’s not so bad, really. I would also do an EQ locked server. up to and including KUNARK is my favourite idea.

    EQ 2 I got to level 20 before quitting and I have no ties there whatsoever, so also no desire to do a progression server as well. I didn’t play it enough to care. Which could be other people as well.

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  2. bhagpuss

    There certainly are people who will tell you EQ2 was at its best immediately after launch, when everything was a socialist golden age of interdependence and collectivism in crafting and adventuring both. I know they exist – I’ve had enough run-ins with them in open chat in other MMOs. I think that is the most extreme version of rose-tinted nostalgia and I’m 100% certain none of those people would turn up to play a genuine 2004 version of EQ2 in 2015 – pr hang around for more than a session or two if they did.

    If EQ2 ever does do some kind of Progression server I am betting the emphasis will be on Guild progression not on recreating the past. A server that had some kind of competitive structure for guilds to race through each set of Raid content might well get an audience. I suppose I might drop in to take a look from pure curiosity but I think that EQ2, even more than EQ, is better today than it was yesterday.

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  3. Pingback: If You Can’t Go Back, Go Back Even Further | Harbinger Zero

  4. MMOGamer

    Maybe one day the EverQuest 2 emulator project will gather the same amount of following as EQEmu. I hit max Level in EverQuest in oh… around 2002 back when I played it and wanted to re-live my nostalgia, so I just hopped on a P-Server and got my quick fill of Nostalgia. I played EverQuest 2 when it launched and got to end game but haven’t played it since. Would be cool to see the end game… I can always try the new free trial thing where you start at high level, but would be neat to see the game on a Pserver.

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  5. C. T. Murphy

    Any hopes you might cast a wider net for your small group’s return to EQ? I don’t want to be in your inner circle, necessarily, but starting a fun guild of bloggers and the like might be fun, no?

    As for EverQuest II, I think it would be impossible to go back like they have done for EQ for the same reasons you discuss here. To me, I’d prefer a few shorter-lived servers with unique rulesets. I think a non-Station server with less but more challenging content is a start. I’d even consider one with faster experience gains so that the point moves more to leveling multiple characters and seeing the world through many different eyes (instead of a long, slow grind and then another long, slow grind of raiding).

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  6. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @C.T. – Well, we have to get to the whole progression server being a thing first. I am not entirely confident that Daybreak will get there, good intentions or not. But I would not be opposed to a blogesphere-wide guild in any progression server that might come up if there were interest in the idea.

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