You see, a month ago when I heard that EQMac was going to be shut down, I put out some feelers for any players who might want to share their side of the story. Apparently, this small community is downright fanatical about this game and deluged my inbox with stories and pleas. While it seems like the crisis has passed for these players, I still want to share some of these testimonies with you because that's what this column is about.
So indulge me with one last week of EQMac discussion before we shift our attention elsewhere. If you're curious why players in 2012 would deliberately choose to game on an archaic server with extremely old-school rules, then the answer awaits you after the jump. And if you'd like to try out this completely free version of EverQuest, then head over to the EQMac.com forums for step-by-step instructions.
I have a unique situation (I hope). In five days, I am going in for brain surgery. If I survive the procedure (50/50 chance on morbidity and mortality), I am going to have a year-long healing process; during that time, I imagine that I will not be able to focus as much as I do now on any on thing for any length of time.
I am only telling you this to illustrate to what extent SOE's managerial decision affects people's lives. I cannot afford a PC due to my brain injury and thus am reliant on the Mac client to keep myself occupied when I cannot read.
I started playing EverQuest in 2000 at the urging of two brothers, both of whom are my good friends. My first memory of the game was when I logged into Freeport and could not believe my eyes; the city was huge! There were people walking everywhere; they were talking, fighting, selling, buying, and just sitting around. I went outside to fight monsters and was getting killed constantly and repeatedly, which made me frustrated. So I called my friend, the younger of the two brothers, and told him I was thinking of quitting; of course, he asked why. I told him what was happening, and his response was to ask whether I was "conning" the monsters. I took offense and replied, tersely so I'm told, that I was not stealing from anybody! After 10 minutes of laughing, I found out what he meant. I have loved the game ever since.
I joined the EQMac community in 2004, buying a Mac just for that occasion specifically because my fiancee had a Mac and wanted to play. I fell in love with EverQuest all over again and thought the community represented the best in the game.
[Massively followed up with Steve a few weeks later about his surgery, and he had this to report: "When the doctors completed the angiogram, they found a completely unexpected picture of my brain and its problem than what was expected. The good news is, I don't need that horrificly dangerous surgery; the bad news, I'm back at square one with all these tests."]
We may be the red-headed stepchildren of EQ, but yes, there are quite a few people out there who have been EQMac players for the better part of a decade. You probably have never encountered a server like this before.
Trystan: What makes EQMac great
Thanks for taking the time to read this email. Just recently we have been given a developer (Hobart, whom we very much love and appreciate), and our little server is getting fixes for Planes of Power and great improvements in our raid frame rates. This is fantastic! We are seeing more users logging in lately, and many "coming back" posts from our veterans due to the Intel client updates. This server is eternally locked at PoP, and because of that, it is a unique, special ruleset server of sorts. We get all kinds of players joining us here to relive their old memories in EverQuest and to play in (what all of us consider to be) the last great gaming community online.
I'm not sure if you have logged into EQMac and spoke with any good folks from here, but I can guarantee that you will be blown away at how nice, welcoming, and completely wholesome this community is. There is literally none other like it. It has survived for years without any updates for a reason. The bond the folks share here is second to none, and the guild relationships are what EQ was founded upon: playing with friends and having a great time. We had a server community meeting shortly after the announcement was made, and it was like a funeral -- it was terrible. Some people were even crying about losing their characters; does that even hint upon how badly we don't want to die? We have entire guilds that have spent years progressing to get where they are now and are still loving every second of it, playing the game the way it was meant to be played.
We have been loyal to SOE through the thick and the thin and through the credit card nightmare we all dealt with months back, so in my opinion, we deserve Sony's attention and concern just this once.
Being at lunch and not having much time to write at the moment, I'll give you a brief synopsis of what makes our server so special to all of its players. In this day and age, it seems as though there are no truly challenging MMOs out there. The EQMac server offers the original 1999 EverQuest experience with content that needs to be grouped and raided to be won, five-zone corpse retrievals, losing experience when you die -- the entire bit. The risk of playing in hard content zones is still present, contrary to World of Warcraft and most other current MMOs, so the sense of accomplishment at conquering those monsters/quests/challenges is much more rewarding!
In addition to having an actually challenging and rewarding game, we have a server community in which almost everyone either knows everyone else or is passingly familiar with everyone else on the server. New players are recognized as such and welcomed with advice, equipment, and low-level alts to play with. Older players have some grudges amongst themselves, as in any established game, but will still offer help when its needed without a second thought. I personally have friends in each and every guild on our server, even though I've only been playing since October of 2008. That we have a community as friendly and inviting as ours in addition to a game that actually challenges its players is incredible.
If any of your readers has a Mac or access to try the Al'Kabor server, I'd strongly recommend giving our server a try. It's a great game that should be experienced by every MMOer at least once!
In 1999, Sony released what became the most influential MMORPG of all time. What the devs thought they had at the time was a revolutionary product, giving players a chance to explore a rich new world through a variety of characters, creatures, guilds, groups and friendships. EverQuest became infamous for its ability to draw players in, making some people spend more time in virtual Norrath than in their real lives. What Sony had created was a massive world in which everyone seemed so small and every individual player could be considered a friend, a guide, a companion, or a leader. With new expansion packs quickly released, growing the in-game world almost every year and adding new features, the face of EverQuest changed too. As of November of last year, there had been 18 expansions total, making EverQuest very different from how it originally did in 1999. Some players embraced the change, while others left. Some moved to other games, while some instead progressed further in their real lives. But some players didn't have to...
Hidden from the constant updates and expansions, the changing face of EverQuest, and the knowledge of most people, classic EverQuest was still alive. In 2003, Sony attempted to bridge out to Macintosh computer users with an exclusive server called Al'Kabor. Unlike servers for the original EverQuest, Al'Kabor did not receive annual expansions, constant updates, and changed gameplay. EQMac's Norrath is the same Norrath it was in 2003: a stationary world with living characters, creatures, monsters and dragons that has not expanded in eight years.
The 200-or-so active players on the server have been trudging along through what can now be considered an ancient game. While most current MMORPG titles may receive a patch or update weekly, the last patch for EverQuest Mac's Al'Kabor server was in January 2005. Certain aspects of the game are broken, and some content isn't even possible to access, but the players who love the game work around it and have banded together to create groups and guilds to take down the most fabled creatures EverQuest has to offer -- at a disadvantage. In the history of EverQuest, only two servers still have the mythical "endgame" boss dragon The Sleeper still alive: Al'Kabor and the original Test server.
The people who still play it everyday have been paying Sony for an unfinished and broken game all these years and would even pay twice as much to keep it alive. Games are supposed to come to an end when the time is right, and the players of Al'Kabor have much more to their stories. Their characters have many more quests to undertake, many more monsters to slay, and many more friends to make.
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.