Tag Archives: Nostalgia

EverQuest at Nineteen Launches a New Server

I see it around me
I see it in everything

-My Sundown, Jimmy Eat World

Here we are at EverQuest’s nineteenth birthday.  Cue the usual tale about buying it at Fry’s on the way home from work back on March 16, 1999, arriving home, installing it, and being instantly hooked.

And, as I have opined before, if you had told me I might still be able to play the game in 2018, that it would still be live and viable and getting expansions, I am pretty sure I would have at least politely agreed to disagree on that.

Back in 2007 I put up a post wondering how many more expansions we could expect from EverQuest.  The game just turned eight years old, the producers had announced that they were cutting back to a single expansion every year, the Sayonara Norrath video had already been making people misty eyed for a couple years, and I was guessing that it would make it at least to the ten year mark, maybe getting expansions out to twelve years.

In reality last year saw the Ring of Scale expansion launched, the 24th expansion for the game and here we are again for my annual homage to the world of Norrath.  How does it do it?  How has the game lasted so long?

Sure, it isn’t the oldest game out there.  It isn’t even the oldest MMO.  But a lot of things its age are quirky niche games in an already niche genre or are being run more as a hobby or labor of love than as a viable business venture.

EverQuest has followed the industry trends over the years, easing the death penalty, instancing content, focusing on quests, and going free to play.  They have even taken a shot at upgrading the graphical quality of some of the early zones. I am not sure how much any of that has really helped though.  Did free to play bring enough new players?  Did anybody like the reworked Freeport and Commonlands?

What keeps EverQuest going?

I think it helps that Daybreak owns the IP.  A licensed IP means writing a check to somebody else every month, not to mention the need to protect the IP, which means the owner might not want it attached to some maintenance mode shanty town.

Likewise, I think that its age is actually a benefit.  It stands out as one of the early archetypes of the genre, the trail blazer of what became the path most followed.  Also, having been initially built in during a time that pre-dates the rise in popularity of the genre meant that much of the game had to be built from scratch.  That means less third party tools and middle-ware that has a regular license fee attached.  It isn’t as simple as just having enough money to pay the electric bill and the network connection fee (and the domain registration, let’s not forget that… again).  I am sure there is a hefty database in there that has an annual maintenance contract.

So, while EverQuest does cost money simply to run (probably more than you or I think), and even more to keep people maintaining it, the absolute base line level to keep it alive is considerably less than a game like Star Wars: The Old Republic, which has bills every month for a licensed IP, the HeroEngine on which it was built, and probably a pile of additional middle-ware and tools for the team, not to mention the revenue expectations of EA which, as a public company, has to trim products that are not performing. (I bag on EA a lot, but they are a product of the Wall Street environment.)

But the strongest card in its hand seems to be nostalgia, wherein it also benefits from its age.  If you wandered into the MMORPG genre in 2008 or later, you might have picked one of any number of games… though you probably went for World of Warcraft.

However, if you started playing before the year 2000, you likely played one of three titles, Ultima Online, Asheron’s Call, or EverQuest… and it was probably EverQuest.  Even if you moved on to other games, or moved to WoW and never looked back like a lot of people… EverQuest remained the foundation of the genre for a lot of players.  While the subscriber base peaked just past 500K, millions of people came and went from the game by the time WoW showed up at ate the genre.

And so EverQuest plays on that, and rightly so.  It works.  Expansions revisit old themes like elemental planes, pirates, or dragons, along with old locations such as Faydwer and Kunark.

But most of all this nostalgia is harnessed via special servers.  This is the magic… and money making magic, since you have to opt-in on an old fashioned subscription in order to play… that seems to keep people interested and returning to old Norrath.  Subscriptions for the nostalgic and expansions that hearken back to familiar themes for those who never left.

And so it only seems natural that today, on the game’s nineteenth birthday, Daybreak is launching yet another time locked, true box, instanced raiding, multi-zone spawning, something something, progression server, Coirnav.

Coirnav the fast and bulbous

Coirnav the Avatar of Water is a raid boss from from the plane of water, thus rolling back on that elemental planes theme I mentioned above.

There is a FAQ for the Coirnav server, though as far as I can tell it matches what they did for the last such server, which I think was Agnarr.  I believe with this there will be six such progression servers running for EverQuest, which leads one to the question of when should they end and be merged back into the live servers.  The problem is that EverQuest has so many expansions to unlock that every 12 weeks you still end up with a five year mission.

But roll on nostalgia if it keeps people interested and playing/paying.  I believe the best part is the first few months when everybody is new and the possibility of finding new people to play with is very real.  Once you get past Ruins of Kunark things settle into the more traditional fixed groups we know from many other MMOs.

I won’t be joining in for this round.  I had a good time with the Fippy Darkpaw server (which is still running) back in 2011, but I am not sure I am ready for any sort of serious return. (Follow the tag for the life and times of that server.)  I read somewhere that the internet has brought about the post-nostalgia era, since nostalgia means a longing for something gone and you can now find just about anything on a web page somewhere.  Certainly the knowledge that EverQuest is there and that I could go wander around the world and play for a bit should I ever want keeps me from missing Norrath as much as I might.

Future grad students will have a bounty of information about all of our trivial thoughts when they look back on the dawn of the 21st century.

Anyway, here is to nineteen years of EverQuest!

It is a nostalgia post, so I might as well close with a nostalgia video.  Here is the updated 720p version of Sayonara Norrath from 2004.

I am not sure it needed to be upped to 720p.  Certainly the graphics from the game were not up to that standard at the time.  But I still get a little misty eyed seeing all the old locations go by.

What Other Pains will WoW Classic Bring?

Over at Massively OP Syp published a Perfect Ten column about the perils of getting what you ask for in the form of WoW Classic.

WoW Client from Days Gone By

The list he came up with is almost charming in its scope, featuring things some people have been literally clamoring for in a vanilla server, like no Dungeon Finder and old school talent trees and new skills that don’t magically appear in you skill book.  And believe me, inventory space is still at a premium in WoW Legion today.  We have three damn hearthstones to start with.

So I started trying to come up with other aspects of vanilla WoW that people might have forgotten or actively suppressed from their memory.  So, to steal Syp’s idea and add to the list, here are a few that stick out for me:

Just Being Poor

Gold was scarce and you would collect every bit of gray trash to vendor just for the few silver coins it might bring.  One of my earliest memories of World of Warcraft is going to my class trainer and realizing that I did not have enough coins to train all of my skills.  This got a little better as time went on but, like so many things, it seemed to be especially burdensome for new players.

Expensive Epic Mounts

Even when you think you’re no longer poor you end up running into this.  I don’t even remember the price of the level 60 fast mount, but you had to buy the skill, which was expensive, and then you had to buy a mount, which wasn’t cheap either.  And then there were the paladin and warlock mounts, both of which had long quests, needed the skill, and cost even more to finally acquire.  Our little group did both of those.

The instance group all mounted up

Mounts in Inventory

And if you are worried about inventory slots, then you might have blotted the fact that your mount took up a spot in your bag.  You kept your favorite mount with you and, if you had others, you left them stashed in your bank… which was probably also full.

You Are Mounted

It seemed like any mob that tagged you would dismount you.  But if you went to a flight point and tried to get on the bird while still mounted, you would just get an error message flash on your screen informing you that you were still mounted.  At one point Blizz tried to go through and automatically make you dismount when a task required it, but there are still a few corner cases in the game where you can get that message.  But back in the day you had to manually dismount for damn near everything.

Point to Point Flight Paths

While we’re on the topic of travel, flight points were different back then.  While being able to fly past flight points you hadn’t visited is a more recent change, back in the day you couldn’t even automatically fly through multiple flight points.  Sitting up in Darnassus and want to fly to Tanaris?  It didn’t matter if you have the whole route on your map, you could only fly to a flight point directly connected to your current location, at which point your trip would stop until you talked to that flight master and picked the next connecting flight point.  Non-stop flights eventually came, but for a long stretch you had to get off the bird to catch your connecting flight.

Still, it probably wasn’t as bad as taking the tram from Stormwind to Ironforge, getting distracted, and then finding yourself heading back to where you started again.

Hunters with Ammo and Quivers

I still have a few old hunters I rolled up back in the day on various servers that still have quivers or ammo pouches with ammo in them.  Hunters were really this strangely different class back in the day, which I think explains some of the love/hate relationship people have with the class even today.

So yes, you had to have ammo for your ranged weapon.  And you had access to better ammo as you leveled up, and getting that was pretty much critical to remaining effective.  And then there was player made ammo, which was a bit better… and also came in various levels.

And all this ammo had to go into your inventory, taking up precious space.  And if you wanted to draw ammo from inventory you had to keep it in a quiver or an ammo pouch, something that took up a whole bag slot.  Basically, hunters had four bags of general inventory while every other class had five.  Whoever thought that was a good idea had never done The Green Hills of Stranglethorn.

Hunter Pet Skills

This was one of those neat ideas that became awkward as you progressed.  Like every other class, Hunters had to go back to their trainer to get and upgrade their skills.  But not all of them were available to the trainer.  Some pet skills you had to learn in the wild.  What that meant was putting your pet in the stable (three slots only, no epic collections of pets back then), running out into the wild without your essential combat buddy, finding a mob with the skill you wanted to learn, taming that mob, then fighting along side it for a while before you would finally learn the skill, at which point you would abandon that pet and head home to teach your pet the skill and then carry on with your adventures.

Hunter Pet Levels

Hunter pets had their own independent level back in the day.  If you liked the model of a level 10 lion… like The Rake in the Barrens, with its special fast attack speed… but were level 30 already, you would have to go level up your pet to catch it up to your level.  And the only way to do that was to grind mobs.  You had to be really dedicated to a particular model to level up a pet more than a few levels.

Hunter/Pet Relationship

Again with the hunters… I know, but they were special and popular and helped make Azeroth what it is today.  But first they had to suffer.

So hunters also had a relationship with their pet based on being fed and letting them die and just fighting together.  A happy pet did more damage, so you wanted to keep them happy, which primarily meant keeping them well fed.  So in addition to having a while bag slot roped off and dedicated for ammo, you also had to keep a stack or two of pet food in your bags.  And not just any food, but the RIGHT food.  Some only ate meat, some only dairy, others a variety.  There was nothing like being out in the field and finding you were short of food and the only vendor around only sold something your pet wouldn’t eat.

And it was possible that, if neglected, you pet might run away.  I never had that happen, but the thought of it was enough for me to pack an extra stack or two of food… because stacks were only 20 units back in the day.

The Elf Run to Ironforge

If you made a Night Elf back in the day, you were probably found yourself pretty much alone over in Darnassus while your friends we all over having fun in Stormwind and Ironforge.  The reason you were alone was that Westfall was one of the best early zones and led to the Deadmines instance, so nearly every night elf before you had already gone there.  Getting there meant taking the ship to Menethil Harbor and then making the perilous run across the Wetlands to Dun Algaz and the tunnel that would bring you to the zone with Ironforge.

The Elf Run

Of course, the Wetlands was a level 20+ zone and you were likely level 10 tops… so everything could kill you and your aggro radius was huge.  And then, if you did make it and were a druid… well… you class trainer was back in Darnassus, which could be awkward.  But at least you had a travel form.  You did train the travel form, right?

Strange Dungeons

The current design philosophy for dungeons in Azeroth is like the old slogan for Dominos, “30 minutes or less.”  New ones are designed in that scope while older ones have been mostly trimmed back to that goal.

But back in vanilla WoW the design philosophy seemed to be… hrmm… more like, “We’re just doing something that seems cool!”

So instead of being configured for one run, some instances seemed to be designed for multiple visits.  Everybody’s favorite early instance, The Deadmines, had a level split from the start to the end that was wide enough that if you were set for Van Cleef the start of the run was all gray to you.  The Wailing Caverns were a long and confusing crawl.  Uldaman was another with a wide level gap designed for multiple runs… and the worst death respawn location ever.  There were three wings to Scarlet Monastery, but just getting there as alliance was a chore.  Then there was the epic puzzling majesty that was the original Sunken Temple.

And many of these had quest lines that tied them to the zone they were located, so you would have to do at least some of the zone in order to get the quests. (Otherwise, for example, Gryan Stoutmantle wouldn’t shout your name to the whole zone after you defeat Van Cleef.)  I look back at our instance runs through vanilla back in the 2006 to 2008 range and times were a lot different.  (Also, if you want to wallow in nostalgia I have a video from our first year and another one devoted just to Sunken Temple.)

It was, when it came to five person dungeons, a very different time.

The Great Stranglethorn Quest Gap

One of the things Syp mentioned was quests not filling in the experience gap to keep you advancing.  But that one is a lot deeper.  The thing is, quests were fine, you just had to make sure you did them all across a couple of zones.  For example, I would move back and forth between Stormwind and Ironforge, each of which had their own early zones, and do all the quests in both areas.  Doing that would keep you moving into appropriate level content and was easy enough to find.

Eventually though you were funneled into Stranglethorn Vale, with quests both odd and annoying, crowded with the flow of players, and unable to provide the experience boost needed to get you past it via questing alone.  There was a reason I had a number of characters sitting levels between 35 and 40 unplayed for ages.

If you went and did some research you could find Desolace as a possible alternative, though getting there from Menethil Harbor would take you an hour or so, if you didn’t get lost.  And there, in the pre-Maraudon days the quest chains were… odd?  You could end up running around trying to quest there, Arathi, or in the Swamp of Sorrows and still find yourself coming up short.  Or that was how it felt.  But once you got past that hurdle to about level 45 or so, more options started to open up, and from 50 to 60 there was almost an embarrassment of choices.  This was one of the reasons that Blizzard went back and filled in the Dustwallow Swamp with a bunch of additional quests.

Others

There are many others.  Useless trade skills, no quest locations on the map, dancing for tips, restricted class roles in raids, five minute pally buffs, Addons yet to be imagined, and more swim in and out of view in my brain.  But these are the ones I wanted to put on the growing list of what to possibly expect from WoW Classic.

Addendum: I case it is not clear, I embrace all of these items as part and parcel of the original experience and, in case you haven’t read any of my past posts about wanting something like WoW Classic Blizzard, I will be there on day one when it is launched,

MegaWars Dawn of the Third Age

In order to talk about MegaWars – Dawn of the Third Age I feel I need to delve into the well of ancient games from which I drew the title of this blog.  It is been a while since I’ve gone here, so a refresher might be due.

Back in the early-to-mid 1980s personal computers were becoming common, modems were increasingly becoming an option for the, and online services like CompuServe and GEnie began to flourish.  This was the pre-web era, when even having a GUI beyond a command prompt was considered.  (There is a whole “pre-web online services” category on Wikipedia.)

And while special interest forums, online encyclopedias, and services were often bullet points used to get people to sign up, it wasn’t long before online games came into being.  Kesmai was an early leader in online games and its Island of Kesmai on CompuServe was very much a precursor to today’s fantasy MMORPGs.

Also on CompuServe was a game called MegaWars III.  If Island of Kesmai foretold the fantasy side of the MMORPG genre, then MegaWars III was very much a hint as to what the future might bring when it came to internet spaceships in EVE Online.  Launched on CompuServe in January 1984, it gained a following even at the expensive hourly connect rates that online services charged back in the day.  $15 a month seems like a bargain compared to $6 an hour.

MegaWars III did not feature a long term persistent universe.  Instead games were four week long affairs that saw everybody logging on to scout on the first night to find and colonize planets.  There was a fixed amount of numbered star systems, but the planets around them, and the quality thereof, changed with each game.

Players would colonize and manage their planets, build up defenses, try to take planets from each other, and attempt to blow up each other’s ships.  At the end of the four weeks scores were tallied up and winners declared.  The leader of the highest scoring team was declared Emperor while the highest individual score was named President of the Imperial Senate.  The top 20 scoring players were made senators.

When GEnie arrived on the scene, they wanted online games too and got Kesmai to make a simplified version of MegaWars III which was called Stellar Warrior.  A fun game in its own right, and following the four week campaign model, it did not have the depth of MegaWars III with its planetary management module.  GEnie eventually got a straight up copy of MegaWars III a bit later in the form of Stellar Emperor.

And that is where I came in.  During the fourth four week Stellar Emperor campaign during the summer of 1986 I logged into GEnie via the modem I bought from Potshot for my Apple //e and started fumbling around with online games.

It was then that I first used the handle Wilhelm Arcturus.  I had been recruited by a team called the Arcturan Empire (-AE-) and learned the ways of the game sufficiently to become both Emperor of the Galaxy and President of the Imperial Senate.  You actually got physical trophies for that back then.

Pewter Cups Awarded for Emperor and President titles

The names are probably easier to read on the paper certificates that were also mailed out to winners, including those senators in the top 20.

Wilhelm d’Arcturus Emperor of the Galaxy

Wilhelm d’Arcturus – President on the Imperial Senate

Later I dropped the “d” from the last name to become simply Wilhelm Arcturus.  My tales from those days can be found here:

And so it went.  For most of the balance of the 1980s MegaWars III and Stellar Emperor ran along as identical twins.  As the 90s approached GEnie and Kesmai began to work on improving Stellar Emperor, giving it a GUI eventually, while MegaWars III remained as it was.  If you played them both after 1989 or so you’ll probably say they were different, but before then they were essentially identical.

Into the 90s the internet and the web became a thing and online services started to fade away.  CompuServe was bought by AOL in 1997 and faded away into the background while GEnie shut down in 1999.  Kesmai ran its own online service, GameStorm, through the 90s until the company was sold to EA.  EA did what it always does with studios it buys; shut it down, never to be seen again.  And so all of the Kesmai titles, including MegaWars III, disappeared.

Like all closed online games, somebody out there decided to go ahead and recreate the originals.  I have written previously about Crimson Leaf Games and their resurrection of the original MegaWars III as well as Cosmic Ray Games and their recreation of a 90s version of Stellar Emperor.

But some time has passed since then; seven years in the case of the former and four years for the latter.

Crimson Leaf Games has been hard at work and has produced a new version of MegaWars III, MegaWars: Dawn of the Third Age.  The site for the game is here, and includes a history of MegaWars III worth reading.

The new version has a client and graphics and all sorts of things we associate with more modern online games.

The MegaWars III universe has also expanded from a couple hundred stars to over five million systems to explore.  Space has also changed in a way that might sound a bit familiar to EVE Online players.  Rather than the game being open season for PvP, there are three regions of space.  They are:

  • Empire – no combat and planets cannot be taken
  • Frontier – full combat and planet industries can be bombed but not taken
  • Open – full combat and planets can be taken

The penalty for Empire and Frontier is that you pay taxes that sap your planetary economy, and a hit in score, relative to the wild west of open space.  But in exchange for that you get complete safety in Empire space and some amount of safety in Frontier space.

The game is currently in open Alpha… which seems to be what we would call Early Access if it were on Steam… so you can try it out if you are interested.

So we now have a new take on a game that has its origins in the nearly 40 year old DECWAR, which was, in turn, an attempt to make a multiplayer version of the Star Trek terminal game from the early 70s.

And the beat goes on.

Elf

No, I am not trying to trigger Syp.  Well, not just that anyway.

Any elf will do for our purposes…

Back in high school, a distance through time more easily measured in decades than years at this point, I took German as my foreign language.  I think the primary outcome of three years of the language is that my writing in English improved greatly.  One of those side-effects, you have to examine your own language in order to learn another one.

I think my greatest achievement in German was reading Catch-22 in the language, something that took me most of a summer, a copy in English, and my German-English dictionary.  Other than that, I retain very little of the language.  Enough to annoy my mother-in-law (who is German), catch the occasional bit of dialog in a movie, appreciate The Germans episode of Fawlty Towers slightly more, get that joke about the German novel where the last two chapters are nothing but verbs, and make a poor joke from a post title.

Anyway, the German word for “eleven” is “elf,” something endlessly amusing to a 13 year old boy, an age I have never fully ceased to be.  The title is a joke because I write about fantasy MMORPGs now and again… less lately than before… where the elf is a staple, and yet relevant because this is one of those anniversary posts… my eleventh.

The Annual WP.com achievement

I am clearly out of clever titles and amusing intros at this point.  Remember that anniversary post that was full of Soviet propaganda?  Or the one grounded in Winnie the Pooh?  Now I am hanging my hat on the fact that the German word for eleven is a mythical creature in English.  It’s all I’ve got, and I’m not even going to run with it.  I’m going to just break in the usual statistics for a bit and hope I can come up with something new to say before we get to the end of the post.

For those interested in some of my better attempts at anniversary posts, here is the list:

And from that we might as well get stuck into this.

Base Statistics

In which I attempt to quantify what I have done here in the last twelve months.  The change over last year’s totals are noted in parentheses.

Days since launch: 4,018 (+365)
Posts total: 4,416 (+341)
Average posts per day: 1.097 (-0.013)
Comments: 29,415 (+1,456)
Average comments per post: 6.66  (-0.2)
Average comments per day: 7.32  (-0.33)
Spam comments: 1,376,145 (+63,980)
Comments Rescued from the Spam Filter: 424
Average spam comments per day: 342.5 (-16.7)
Comment signal to noise ratio: 1 to 47.2 (+0.2)
Comments written by me: 3,873 or 13.1%
Images uploaded:  10,416 11,764 (+1,348)
Space used by images: 270MB of my 3 GB allocation (9%, down 69%)
Blog Followers: 1,340
Twitter Followers: 722
US Presidents since launch: 3
British Monarchs since launch: 1
Prime Ministers of Italy since launch: 6 (one twice)

This is the first year of the blog where I wrote less than one post per day, hitting the publish button 24 fewer times in the last year than the year before.  That is about a month of weekday posts I did not do.  See the effect of MMO malaise?  Because, seriously, I didn’t take any long vacations or suffering from debilitating illness over the previous twelve months.  I just wrote less, something that generally happens when I am just not interested in a given topic, which in this case is my MMO hobby.

Still, the average over the full life of the blog is over a post a day.  And even 333 is more than a post every weekday, the goal for which I strive.  That would only net me about 260 posts so, while no Stakhanovite, I have exceeded my posting norm.  Not bad for an eleven year long streak.

With posts down, comments were also down, both overall… simply fewer comments than last year… and as a percentage of posts… people commented less per post.  My comments, as a percentage of the total, was up.  Probably me talking to myself.

One oddity in the stats above is the amount of space used by my uploaded images, which dropped precipitously since last year’s post.  For some reason WordPress.com reset my allocation last year.  Maybe it was a happy anniversary gesture.  Maybe it was a bug.  I suspect that nothing good will come of it and that some day I will log in and find every screen shot from 2006 through 2016 missing, having been deleted by some automated process.  But for now they survive.

Anyway, that is the basic gist of what happened here over the last year.  The remainder of the post is after the cut to keep the long list of mostly meaningless words and statistics from overwhelming the from page.  See you on the other side, should you choose to go there… or if you are looking at this in an RSS reader.

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Where I Started Typing

My Aunt moved earlier this year and, in cleaning out her house, came across any number of items that had been stored away for years.  One of them was a typewriter.

Nothing to do with deviled ham

Probably one of the reasons I have done as well as I have in the computer age, or the information age, or whatever we end up calling this era, is that I learned to type at a fairly young age.  And the first place I started was with this typewriter.

A look under the lid, the ‘N’ key is the one sticking up in the bunch… we’ll get to that…

That is a 1937 Underwood Champion portable typewriter that my grandmother hauled off to college when she was 18.  It was portable by virtue of the fact that it came with a hard carrying case with a handle.

Typewrite and case

The typewriter sat in that case in the hallway closet at my grandmother’s house and when I would come over to visit I would often haul it out to bang away on it just for the feel of putting words on paper.  There was something about that action that made words feel more “real” or “official” to young me.

Later I would take typing in school and get my own typewriter, an Olivetti Lettera 32.  It was also a portable, though considerably smaller and lighter than the old Underwood.

The baby blue Lettera 32

(Picture source)

That was probably a fitting choice of brands as the Underwood company was purchased by Olivetti back in 1959.

I do not know where the Olivetti ended up.  With the coming of my first computer I immediately started shopping for a printer and what passed for a word processor back then.  After some fumbling about I got a copy of AppleWorks for my Apple //e and was off to the races.  At that point the typewriters went back into storage, rarely to be heard from again.

And so it goes.

Now I write a blog on much more sophisticated (or bloated… or both) software and share some of my words not on paper but electronically across the world via the internet, but I still put my fingers on the same keyboard layout I started to tinker with back in the early 70s.

And it was the internet that helped me figure out how old this typewriter was.  There is no date of manufacture stamped on it that I could find.  But I could see a serial number stamped into the frame.

Serial number inside the unit

With that number I was able to use Google to find the Typewriter Database site which includes a page of Underwood Champion serial numbers by year.  That pinned down the year, which lined up with my grandmother graduating from high school and heading off to college.

The typewriter itself still looks to be in prime mechanical condition.  “They don’t make them like that any more” might be cliche, but it has some grounding in reality.  And among the other things you can find on the internet are ribbons compatible with it.  I am sure the ribbon in there hasn’t been replaced since the 1950s at the latest.  There is scant print ability left in the dried out husk that is in it currently.

Some words are just visible

Actually typing on it requires quite a firm touch.  I recall how my grandmother used to brutalize the IBM Selectric in the library where she worked, pounding on those keys that would activate with a much lighter touch.  The mechanical operation requires you to push it, and hitting the shift key lifts up the entire platen unit, so not something you can do without a pinky that has been working out at the gym.

And then there are the quirks of early keyboards.  Each key cost money, so they only included what was necessary.  You will see there is no key for the number one.  The lower case ‘L’ was deemed sufficient for that.  And with no key for the number one, there is also no key for the exclamation point.  To make one you would type a period then backspace and type a single quote over it.  And forget about your angled, square, or curly braces.  Straight up parenthesis is all you better need.

You do, however, get a special key for the fractions 1/2 and 1/4, while some of the other standard punctuation is scattered about the keyboard in places you might not expect to find them.

The keys work… mostly… save for the ‘N’ key, which sticks.  It used to stick occasionally, now it sticks every time you hit it.  The arm of the key is slightly bent so gets stuck as it strikes and you have to reach up and pull the key back every time you used it.  Nobody will be typing the great American novel on this machine… not very quickly anyway.

Also, there is a little bell that rings when you hit the end of a line so you know when to hit the return lever to start on a new line.  I had forgotten about that aspect of manual typewriters.

The case however has seen better days.  The hinges on the back are broken, so you can no longer carry the case by the handle.  You have to carry it like you were carrying a cake in a box lest the typewriter come loose and fall out.

Now I have to figure out what to do with the unit.  This 80 year old typewriter is a minor bit of family history, but not really an heirloom.  My daughter was interested in it momentarily before going back to her iPhone.  I expect I will find some room for it in my office with the rest of the junk I hang onto.

Looking for Nostalgia and a Guild on Fallen Gate

Over the weekend I gave in and re-upped for EverQuest II in order to potter around on the new Fallen Gate server.  That seemed to put me in league with just about every other EverQuest II player out there judging by the server status monitor.

Fallen Gate is #1

I did make one concession to my current play pattern and only opted for a single month Daybreak All Access subscription.  As I documented with Runes of Magic and Guild Wars 2, my interest seems to be wane in about three weeks.

Daybreak was happy enough to take my money and soon I was hooked up as a subscriber.  The first thing I needed to do was roll up a character on Fallen Gate.

But that meant deleting a character.

Through means shrouded by the mists of time I have managed to acquire 18 character slots on my account.  That is about half a dozen more than I think I should have.  I know I didn’t buy that many extra slots.  And, of course, all of them were full.

Fortunately a couple of the slots were taken by filler characters I rolled up back when the Stormhold server launched about two years back and never really used.  I wasn’t sure what class I wanted to play, so rolled up three right away because there was some early start prize or bonus if you did.  What the actual benefit was I have forgotten, but they got it and then never used it, so deleting them was easy.  My other characters, going back as far as November 2004, remain safe.

As usual I wasn’t sure what to roll up, so I went for my default, which is a berserker on the Qeynos side of the world.  And then I clicked the wrong thing and ended up with a guardian.  But, since I don’t think I have ever played a guardian, I ran with it.  I was soon on the boat to the Queen’s Colony on the Isle of Refuge (I got that bit right at least), a rescued bit of flotsam from the sea, and as quickly on the isle itself ready to start my new life.

On the Isle of Refuge

The isle isn’t what it used to be back in the day.  My memory is no doubt faulty to some degree on this topic, but the quests seem different as do some of the mobs.  And the pacing of the quest line seems to be set to accommodate specific rate of advancement not present on Fallen Gate.

Do I know you guys? Were you here in 2004?

On the Fallen Gate server experience gain is supposed to be set close to 2004 pacing than what you would find on a current live server.  For the first 50 levels on a live server you out run the old content pretty quickly.  On the new, while the pacing wasn’t completely hamstrung, I did find myself picking up quests that were marked as high and higher level without leveling up myself.

Well, the isle isn’t the only option.

Back in the day I used to stick around on the Isle of Refuge with a new character until the bitter end, doing all the quests, hitting the max level allowed, banking up some additional experience so at least one more level would pop as soon as I left, and, most importantly of all, I would finish up the two isle-only collection quests.

The feathers quest

Back in the day you could not return to the isle nor could you find the items for those collections in any other place in Norrath.  So you had to find the last item there or pay what was often an extortionary price on the market later on.

Now though the feathers and shells spawn in the other starter areas and you can go back to the isle if you feel you must.  So while the Isle of Refuge has some nostalgia value, I’d been through it a few times since its return a while back, so was ready to move on.

Yes, I get it.

Even the NPCs on the isle were bringing up the idea of getting the hell out of there pretty early on.  Here I am hitting level 3 and being given a prompt to get out of Dodge.

Are you still here?

That meant talking to Captain Varlos to arrange the voyage to the mainland.

What are my options here?

From the Isle of Refuge you can head to Qeynos, which is semi-nostalgic though much changed since 2004, or the Frostfang Sea, which at this point is old enough to have some nostalgia value of its own.  The Frostfang Sea and New Halas also have a more coherent quest line and better housing when the time comes, so I chose the frozen wastes even though I had yet to find shoes.  Gear was an issue.

Alas, Captain Varlos and his ship did not survive the journey.

A quirk of the change from the Isle of Refuge to the newer starting zones is that they operate on the same assumption, that you were fished out of the sea.  So when I arrived I was telling people how orcs attacked the boat I was on.

Relating the tale of Captain Varlos… apparently

Since Captain Varlos and his crew were nowhere to be seen I have to assume they did not survive.

I was dropped into the shallow end of the pool in the Frostfang Sea, where the first low level quests start.  This seems to be at odds with Bhagpuss’s experience, as he ended up in the deep end somehow.  I am not sure why we were in different points, but logic doesn’t always survive the journey to Norrath either.

I kept on running the quest line from there, getting bits of gear.  I did spent a bit of Daybreak Cash to buy a pair of 24 slot bags from the shop.  They were 150DC each, but I got 500DC for subscribing, so I am still ahead on that front I suppose… plus I still had another 13K in DC on my account.

Another quest hub on the Frostfang Sea

This is the usual story, starting out, running through the initial content, getting the first bit of gear.  I suppose the next decision is what trade skill I should go with… I cannot imagine playing EQII and not crafting.  The problem is that EQII trade skills all have their merits, and by picking one I know I will feel the sting of missing out on another.  This is how alts develop.  I am leaning towards armor crafting, since you need to re-up all your gear every ten levels, or alchemy, to boost my skills through the complicated skill level process in the game.  I haven’t committed yet, but I am harvesting along the way in order to be prepared.

And then there is the bigger question.  What should I do to keep myself from tiring in three weeks and wandering off to some other short-lived adventure?

Ideally I should find a guild to join.  There is even a guild recruitment interface in the game so you can find guilds that are looking for players.

Looking for a Guild looking for me

However, I am horrible at picking guilds.  I tend to pick guilds where I know somebody so I have someone to chat with. I tend to be a very quiet person… ever the outsider at the party… so being in a guild of strangers ends up with me playing solo.  Of course, that isn’t all on me.  Guilds looking to simply scoop up players wholesale in order to boost levels tend to be a mass of individuals with a common tag as opposed to a team.  You can’t really be on the team if the team never gets together.

So that is my goal, to find some group or guild to join so I’ll have a reason to stick around.  I don’t mind playing solo 90% of the time, but I like to do some group content now and again.

Of course, part of getting into a guild is being something a guild is looking for, and at level 6 on a server where the great bubble of players looks to have already hit level 20 and beyond makes me feel like I am behind.  So I must grind up to join a guild so that I may be in a guild to grind… or something.  We’ll see how it goes.

Further Mining of Console Nostalgia

One of the nostalgia stories of the year so far has been how deeply Nintendo underestimated the demand for their Classic Nintendo Entertainment System retro console.

NES Nostalgia… for the lucky few

This apparently bottomless pool of demand was bound to spark some sort of reaction.  Nintendo itself plans another jaunt into the retro-console pool with a SNES Classic Edition come the holiday season.

But there has been word of other attempts to cash in on this sort of rosy glasses wish for days more innocent.  And last week a company called AT Games announced two such ventures, one for the Atari 2600 and one for the Sega Genesis.

I actually owned both of those consoles… which is saying something since I have never really been a console gamer.  As I noted previously, I have no nostalgia for the NES because I already owned a PC before it ever saw the light of day.  But what about these two stand outs from an otherwise console avoiding past?

Let’s talk about the Atari 2600.

Flash Back to This

This was a breakthrough console, a success, and back in 1977 I wanted nothing so much for Christmas as to find one of these under the tree.  And I got one too, despite the steep price for the time of $144.

And I played the hell out of it.  Well, out of some of the games.  The sad but true story though is that a lot of the games for the 2600 really sucked.  And the marketing was shameless, promoting cartridges with 27 games when most of the games represented minor variations on a theme.

I’m looking at you Air-Sea Battle

And that wasn’t even the worst exaggeration.  I think Space Invaders might hold that title.

You lying sack of shit! There is ONE game here!

Not that there were not some good games out there.  We could play Adventure endlessly, and Surround and Raiders of the Lost Ark kept us going.  I even liked Space Invaders.

We could find fun in this!

But I also remember saving up birthday money and my two dollar a week allowance to walk up to Long’s Drugs to buy Slot Racers for $30 in 1978, only to be so horribly disappointed that I feel the shame of it to this day.

I knew that the time that the technology of the 2600 wasn’t up to the standard of the arcades, but there were still some games that were shockingly bad even for the low standards of the medium… and I never even had a copy of E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial.

But the real problem here is that I don’t feel much nostalgia for the games.  Somebody wrote that the internet would eventually kill nostalgia because nothing would ever really go away.  You could always go back and read up about Quisp cereal or popular events or fads or video games any time you wanted.

And the Atari 2600 has been way ahead of the curve on this front.  While the unit was introduced about 40 years ago, it has come back in some new cheap-ass retro console form a few times already.

Furthermore, even if we leave hardware aside, emulated software packages featuring “Atari Classics” have been around for about 20 years on their own as well.  I own a couple of those, so I can play the half dozen games I want to remember any time I want.  And even if I were to lose those somehow, I can wander over to the Internet Archive and play them.

Basically, for me, this aquifer of nostalgia couldn’t have been pumped drier if a California almond grower lived on top of it.  So why would I want more clutter around the house?

Ah well.  So what about Sega then?

More Flashing back

My feeling about this is a bit different.  The Sega Gensis was never a console I sought out, and I have written the tale about how I ended up with one.

The games were not bad at the time.  Playing on the Sega Genesis back in the early 90s didn’t feel like a let down from the arcade, which probably helped speed along the demise of the arcades by the end of the decade.  But they still lacked the depth of what I could play on my PC.  I had friggin’ Civilization to play back then.

There are a couple of titles that might tempt me down nostalgia lane for the Sega Genesys.  NBA Jams or Desert Storm or Populous might fit the bill.  The problem is that none of the titles I would be interested in made the list for inclusion.  Instead the titles available are heavy with Sonic the Whorehog in his various forms, and the problem with Sonic is that Sega has already reproduced any of his titles on every platform possible.

All of which seems to go back to the point I referenced a few paragraphs back, nostalgia requires some absence, and Sonic, like the Atari 2600, never really left.  As an ex-girlfriend of mine used to say, “How can I miss you if you won’t go away!”

So neither of these retro consoles seem ripe for me, as both are attempting to mine nostalgia that just isn’t there.  But then again, I am probably an outlier in that regard.  I am sure there is somebody out there who remembers the 2600 or the Genesis fondly and hasn’t seen or played any of the games from them since back in the day.