So today I'd like to introduce you to three EverQuest veterans who are all now world-famous bloggers. If you sense a connection between these two facts, I will only hint at the possibility of a secret society in SOE's headquarters that bestows great blessings upon its faithful fans.
Hit the jump to meet this EQ trio and hear what they had to say about the MMO that profoundly affected their playing careers!
The Game Archaeologist: Please introduce yourself and your history with EverQuest!
Mathew: I'm Mathew "Corwynn Maelstrom" Reuther. I blog on video gaming (MMOs in particular) and other stuff on my From the Bridge blog. My history with EverQuest starts way back in March of 1999. I'd actually heard about the game in a magazine (paper type!) a couple of months earlier, and having played MUDs for many years as well as being one of those folks who had played a bit of Ultima Online, I was intrigued by the idea of a first-person game with this new fantasy world that borrowed from the heritage of text-based games I'd spent years playing. So on the advice of my friends, I bought a copy, and a week to the day after the game's release I found myself in the middle of Butcherblock for the first time. Yes, a brand-new Dwarf had dawned.
I played EverQuest off and on until the Gates of Discord expansion, with characters on many different servers. My favorite character class became the Ranger with its mix of martial prowess, ranged utility, and magic. Not to mention the joy to be had a being the butt of many a "Ranger down!" moment!
Brenda: My name is Brenda Holloway; I go by Tipa on my blog, West Karana. The blog is named after a zone in EverQuest, more properly known as the Western Plains of Karana. In Norrathian lore, Karana is the god of rain and storms, and the Plains of Karana are the breadbasket that feed the city and port of Qeynos.
My first character in EverQuest was an Erudite Wizard named Mehve. I'd been starved for information about EQ and had watched the promotional fly-throughs a hundred times. Erudin looked like an amazing place to live. I didn't know anything about my own class, though. I struggled along for awhile, blind in Toxxulia Forest; I went and slaughtered the cat-like Kerrans on Kerra Isle and eventually made my way to the boats and the exciting wonders of Wisp Island and the deceptively clean streets of Qeynos.
Jeremy: My name is Jeremy Goodson. I'm the host of the MMOVoices Podcast and the Managing Editor for Vagary.tv, as well as a founder, podcaster, and writer for Rift Watchers.
My history with EQ starts back in 1999. I played from day one. Throughout my 10-year tenure (leaving in 2009), I experienced a vast majority of the game spending time with guilds that were family- and grouping-based, all the way through the super-hardcore raiding guilds. My first character, and the character that ended up being my main for the longest, was a Dwarf Cleric named Maclypse on the Tribunal Server. It was because of Maclypse that I learned to love playing a healer. While I did go through a burnout phase at one point and ended up going through two other mains (Maclyon the Beastlord and Maclore the Bard), I always came crawling back to my Cleric. What can I say? EverQuest was a game that really had you getting attached to your characters.
Mathew: There's very little that EverQuest hasn't influenced within the genre. You can make a case for perhaps a game like EVE Online not having taken a huge amount from it, but beyond that the vast majority of games have substantial pieces of EverQuest in them. The first generation games like EverQuest, Ultima Online, Meridian 59 and Lineage are still what people look back to when they are designing new titles, even if they don't realize it.
The games today offer a lot of what EverQuest did but in a more refined state. If EQ had never existed, it's very possible that a game like World of Warcraft would have been isometric like Ultima Online. If you consider how the Warcraft games came from RTS roots, you might find that this isn't all that big of a jump to make. Or take, for example, Final Fantasy XI, which was a project created as a direct result of seeing EverQuest in action! Oh how different our world would be...
"Nobody knew how to kill the dragons aside from drowning them in a sea of dead bodies!"
EverQuest shipped with three legendary monsters -- Phinigel Autropos (the lord of underwater Kedge Keep) and the dragons Lord Nagafen and Lady Vox. Phinigel could be killed by a couple of groups working together, but nobody knew how to kill the dragons aside from drowning them in a sea of dead bodies. That's how the players invented raiding in EverQuest, and that idea infected EQ's future expansions and all the games that came after. It could be argued that World of Warcraft IS EverQuest's greatest legacy. WoW was developed by EQ devs and players, among others. WoW has very much gone its own direction since then, but its roots are clear.
Jeremy: I think the biggest difference between modern MMOs and EverQuest is the social factor. Everything is very solo-friendly nowadays, which I feel takes part of the MMO aspect out of the games.
As for what EQ has contributed to the genre? Everything. If there were no EQ, we wouldn't have World of Warcraft, RIFT, Warhammer or any other modern MMO -- at least not as we have them today. .
Mathew: Probably the most poignant was the fact that my Dwarf spent the first few days of play (up until about level 7 I think) walking everywhere he went. I didn't realize that there was a "run/walk toggle" option, so I slowly crept my way across the mountains to fight, then slowly tried (and failed) to escape multiple enemies, and of course slowly walked naked back to my Dwarf corpse to get my stuff and try to slowly kill some more creatures. Only after seeing people zipping by me time after time (I was convinced they had some special spell or something) did I finally stumble upon the toggle in the menu, and my poor dwarf was freed from his hobbled state and ran free (not to mention darn fast for a stubby guy) across the mountains.
Tipa: For all that I treasure the times spent with friends, my favorite EQ memory was a solo adventure. Back in the old days, the Plane of Hate was a raid zone and extremely deadly. You had to find a Wizard to port you in, and random patrols could and would attack you immediately if you were unlucky enough to come at the wrong time. The Rogue epic quest required a book from the Plane of Hate. It was sitting next to the bed of a ghoul. The ghoul could see through invisibility and Rogue stealth with no problems. Usually the guild that cleared the Plane of Hate would award the book to a guild Rogue. It took about three days for it to respawn.
That book was one of the last things I needed for my Rogue epic, but I was having no luck getting into a pickup Hate raid that would let me loot it. I'd just changed mains to my Rogue and was full of the "real Rogue" business. Real Rogues did the long and dull Burning Rapier quest. Real Rogues could sneak through Nagafen's Lair and pickpocket the dragon himself. And real Rogues went to the Plane of Hate and got the book by themselves, alone.
I bribed a friend to log his father's Wizard in to port me to Hate. Hate was at full spawn. Patrols were all over. I had lists of mobs that could see through hide and mobs that were safe, and I was conning -- considering -- every mob I saw, just in case. The ghoul with the book was up a spiral staircase that rose from a room filled with shadow knights, who would instantly harm-touch me to death if they saw me. I snuck behind them. When I got up to the ghoul's room, I saw that he was a mob that could not see through hide. The book was on the table, and I grabbed it, made sure it was in my inventory. I snuck over to the far side of his room, clicked my cap -- becoming visible to the entire Plane of Hate for an instant -- and appeared at the Druid ring in the Commonlands.
I'd advanced my epic quest, but what's more, I was a real Rogue.
Jeremy: My favorite memory in EQ comes from a time when I was a raid leader, and it was the defining moment of what made me want to start my own raiding guild. On The Tribunal, I used to host Server Open Raids two or three nights a week, usually with a fair turnout. Well, one night that "fair" turnout exploded. Apparently word of mouth had spread so much on the server about the raids that we had well over 200 people show up. EverQuest raid groups were capped at 72 at the time, so it took some work to balance everything out. Soon, though, we had everyone piling into the Plane of Innovation to take down the Manaetic Behemoth, one of the toughest fights in the Planes of Power expansion (Pre-Elemental Planes, that is).
The catch was, only the main raid force could engage and attack the main boss. If anyone else on the outside got on the aggro list, it could mess up the entire process. But that wasn't a problem. Everyone listened well and did his job precisely, and we took down the Behemoth in a flawless victory. No one died at all, and after trading in and out over 150 more people to the raid group to hail the NPC for their flag, no one was left behind. It was at this point that I realized how unique (and awesome) the EQ community could really be. This whole social aspect, and the feeling of camaraderie, is something I feel is truly lacking in our "Next-Gen" MMOs of today.
Mathew: I've recently been back for the free trial, Escape to Norrath, and played a bit as an Erudite Necromancer. There were some good feelings just bubbling up from the loading screen on, and I could feel some of the old magic still in the game even after all these years.
If you're more interested in the full scope of all of EverQuest's expansions, I can absolutely say that playing on a normal server is going to be well worth the time. Much like more modern MMOs, EverQuest's leveling has been changed to be a bit easier for those coming up, and the convenience features included in the later expansions are invaluable for players looking to get up toward the later game's action. The world is absolutely vast, and you can really get out and explore instead of being confined to linear areas and quest hubs.
Tipa: Although EverQuest is still thriving and a lot of the things people really disliked about the game have been removed or made less severe, it would take a very dedicated person to catch up to the playerbase (which is nearly all at or near max level) and with the thousands of alternate advancement points required to be useful to a high-level group. The addition of hirelings makes soloing some content possible -- it may even be possible to level to max level solo -- but EQ is still a game where players work best in a full group. The abilities of the core classes were meant to complement each other in a way imitated by more modern games, but never to the extent seen in EQ.
Unfortunately, there's no way you can ever take part in a 72-person raid on the Plane of Time anymore. The most unique experience EverQuest ever offered is lost forever. Current raids are built for two to four groups, just like every other game. The showcase raids of the Planes of Power expansion can largely be soloed now.
Jeremy: History, plain and simple. EverQuest is the backbone of MMO history. Just the fact that it still exists today should be proof enough of its uniqueness and longevity. In fact, I don't see it going anywhere anytime soon. Unfortunately, I feel the luster would be lost on a newer crowd. EQ just doesn't shine in the same light it did 12 years ago.
With that said, I still think it's a game worth checking out. Steam runs sales all of the time where you can pick up the game with a one-month subscription for only $5-$10. Who knows -- while it may be an old game, it may be the MMO that keeps you hooked. I know it did for me for almost 10 years. No matter what game I play or where I end up, I will never forget my time spent in EQ and all of the memories that came with it.
Thank you all for sharing your thoughts! And if any of the rest of you would like to pass along one of your favorite EQ memories for a future column, send an email (100 words max, please) to email@example.com.
When not clawing his eyes out at the atrocious state of general chat channels, Justin "Syp" Olivetti pulls out his history textbook for a lecture or two on the good ol' days of MMOs in The Game Archaeologist. You can contact him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or through his gaming blog, Bio Break.