Nope, EQ was not nostalgia

This weekend I went back to the original EverQuest to play around in Kunark as an Iksar Monk for three reasons: 1) I love EverQuest 2) Kunark is the best part of EverQuest for me 3) I had the itch to put my money where my mouth is, so to speak.  I get slammed with the nostalgia defense by many people who read what I have to say about the old games and refuse to accept any of it as relevant today.

I didn’t do much in-game.  I made my character exactly how I had my old character back in 2000.  When I entered the game for the first time I was standing in Cabilis at my Monk trainer.  I had forgotten what it was that I’m supposed to do.  I had to actually ask my friend “hey uh, how do I start again?”  He said, “Just go kill stuff”.   Tell that to anyone today and they’ll give you a blank stare and then ask you again.  But really, in EQ that’s what you did.  You enter the world, drop a skill point or two at the trainer for abilities that you want to rank up, then head out and begin your life.  I had forgotten that there were some (shocker) quests in EverQuest.  Cabilis has three in particular that give players -some- direction: Collect 4 bone chips, collect 4 scorpion pincers, and fill a bag full of Curscale hides.  These are all repeatable and some even give a random piece of newbie gear.  It started coming back to me like riding a bike.

With a few quests in hand and a general sense of remembrance, I made my way to the Field of Bone (Iksar newbie area) and killed monsters.  Before I knew it, two hours had gone by.  I had enough fun to log back in the next day and keep going.  In the past three days I’ve managed to ding level 8.  I’m having fun and all I’ve done is kill skeletons, scorpions, spiders, iksar npc’s, and a few other things within a 3 minute run from the gate of the city.  Why then am I having fun when in most games I would immediately label this is worthless gameplay?

The atmosphere and scope of the game are everything.  Even in the newbie experience of EQ there are a few readily available facts: The game is a social experience and Norrath is expansive beyond your ability to comprehend in the slightest.  In how many games do you see “Level 2 Shaman LFG” or get random people offering you a group when you’ve got nothing but a naked character and a club?  In how many games are you running from something and having it chase you all the way back to the guards?  How many games do you see with highest levels in the starting areas offering buffs that excessively increase your ability to kill things while still giving you exp?  These questions all point back to the experience of EQ being a social one.

How many games offer dozens of starting areas or ways to progress up in levels?  How many games are non-linear anymore where each individual has leveled up in a 100% unique way?   Even if I am not participating or experiencing ANY of the above, I am still seeing it go on around me.  It creates a more ‘lifelike’ experience to immerse oneself in.  Something as simple as hunting skeletons at level 4 becomes an opportunity for literally dozens of people to form groups and socialize while working together to grow stronger.  People all around me had formed groups to bring down monsters significantly beyond their ability to solo and it took effort for a group of level 4’s to bring enemies down.  It actually brought a smile to my face seeing all of the team work and communication happening right from the beginning when today’s demographic is the soloer who wants nothing to do with anyone else until the max level.

This is not extinct folks.  This is not nostalgia.  I’ve seen it with my own eyes in 2011.  My drive to see this industry come full circle is stronger than ever now.  We don’t need to wait for the second third coming of Brad McQuaid for it to happen.


  • Hmm maybe if grouping was easier, maybe if there was better tools for social networking in game. I guess it could work with modern facelift. What couldnt work though is EQ antiquated (read boring) combat and long grinds

    And buffs… hmm that bring me memories of buff bots!

    But imho yeah mmos couldnt experiment with more group content -as longs as its easy to find groups. I almost finished my 2nd character in rift and what struck me that many “bosses” with cool backgrounds and all powerfull looking and sounding is just so pathetically underpowered just so they could be soloed. The very few quests which required grouping feel very odd

  • The world and game-play just feel magical. There is no other way to describe it.

  • I did EQOA, but the low level experience was fun. The problem though is the mid-game, and heavily group-based, expansive games tend to ramp up the time you need tremendously. There’s only so many 4+ hour parties you can do, and as you get older time starts to wear down on you.

    Plus, EQ is self-selecting. You are missing a lot of the people that make grouping hell, because only EQ vets really care about EQ 1.

  • I’ve been having a great time reading various blogs about their adventures in EQ. Much more interesting than reading about many of today’s games.

  • EQ does take a lot of time. I cite that as the #1 reason for not playing EQ again exclusively. I know that in order to really get a lot out of it I would need to dedicate 3x the time I currently spend in MMO’s.

  • Keen, I 100% agree that a zoned, on-rails, “cinematic”, microtransaction-based mmorpg experience is not the right direction for the genre, so thank you for jumping back into EQ to remind everyone what it is about mmorpg’s that got us hooked in the first place!

    An open world, full of discovery and social play opportunities that are fun and have meaning…I’d pay $30/month for such a thing.

  • I’d pay a lot more than $30 if that’s what it took, tbh.

    Going on a date to the movies at present is a nice way to blow $20-$50 easy. And that’s for a simple 1.5-2 hrs of entertainment.

    I guess life is better in the gaming world, since NPC’s don’t need to be paid millions of dollars to act out their parts o.0

  • Couldn’t have said it better myself Keen. Games these days have nothing on what made EQ special. WoW Vanilla is the only thing that also had that great factor going, then it got ruined by the McMMO demographic (aka twitter generation).

  • Two things really stood out to me…well three actually

    1. You are only level 8 after multiple days of playing.
    2. It’s hard as hell and you have to group. Which can be annoying but it strangely makes you feel that more invested and you ultimately have more fun.
    3. Boy do I remember grinding those skellies and scorpions for days on end. The second time through I had one of my friends buy me a Fungi tunic (regen) which made it slightly easier. But if you are on a progression server that’s probably not available yet.

  • Oh and 4…why do I at least 6+ years later remember grinding those skellies at all? It’s crazy. I barely remember what I ate for lunch today.

  • @Sanz: It’s because the ‘experience’ of EQ was so immersive that it changed your life. I’m not joking at all when I say that the memories I have in EQ will be with me forever. Something this game did imprinted itself permanently on me. To accomplish something so remarkably powerful, they had to have done something right. As Eindien said above, something about the world is just magical.

    @Carson: You can get started here.

  • You remember it because your characters had a sense of achievement attached to them, and it wasn’t just a quick easy road to 50 initially. Well that and there really wasn’t such thing as re-rolling alts, only people who boxed. Due to the time investment being so large, and that there was no reset button every expansion, you had to progress for the most part in a linear fashion (at least in the first couple of expansions). Most normal people would not want to do that more then once or twice, so the alt-a-holics really didn’t exist (again, unless they were boxers).

    I can still tell you what I did on my warrior at lvl 19, and that was running to lake rathe and killing aviak guards, then onto KFC (aka aviak villiage in SK). All of this while running around in ghetto and heavy as hell bronze gear, mixed with banded. I also made a strong in-game friends that became best friend RL from the Karanas zones (we actually all lived in the same city as it turned out). Had I not been forced to group or suffer heavy downtime, I never would have that awesome person that I still game with.

    Yes, that is oldschool, and memorable. You can’t say either of those about any fantasy mmo out there today. Rift had a brief sputter of it but that quickly wore off when you see deep down it’s just another McMMO.

  • Time does not equate to accomplishment. It merely equates to time. Accomplishment is what you make of it, in my experience. One grind has been replaced with another. Neither of which are/were good. The experiences you had were what you made of them. Not what the game made of them for you. Forced grouping is a form of psuedo-social gameplay. You could just as easily have had bad experiences with it as good.

  • Very true. You can have bad experiences with it. However, experience has proven for me over the many years that I played EQ and other games that required grouping that more experiences turn out positive. Just because something bad -can- happen does not always mean it will or that we should live in constant fear.

    Time definitely does not equal accomplishment nor does it equal difficulty. However, time does bring with it a certain value that can not be denied.

  • While its true that you could have had the bad experiences with forced grouping as well, Shadrah, I disagree that it would be a regular thing. Or even something that happened often enough to be noticeable.

    Before MMOs became mainstream, community actually meant something. Not simply because you HAD to group with everyone (But that was a large part), but because the times were different. The online community was different.

    Instead of people hiding behind internet anonymity in order to be, well, jackasses… People used the anonymity to delve into their character, and in turn the community it required to survive and progress.

    Plain and simple, this has been lost. I really don’t know if there will ever be a time when it is back, or if it is possible to even force it back somehow. 🙁

  • Of course, time isn’t completely a bad thing. However, it’s the balance that is. No game so far has struck a perfect balance. I don’t think any MMO ever will. The feeling of time is subjective. What one person might feel they blew through, the other might feel it was gruelingly slow.

    I think my point was more that YOU should define your own experiences. Instead of letting the game define them for you. That’s what makes themepark MMOs so bad in terms of actual gameplay. They try to define your experience for you. They don’t offer enough freedom. However, I could easily say that a Sandbox offers too much.

    I think my experience in UO defines it quite well. I loved that game. But it give me so MUCH freedom that I could be almost 100% self reliant. Which still put me in the same boat I am now. Alone in a sea of self reliant players. Because the game let us be that way if we so chose.

  • @Rawblin: That’s still YOUR experience. Like I said, it’s subjective. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure, so to speak. It’s the same with videogames. YOU made Everquest great. As a community. That doesn’t necessarily mean that Everquest released today would have the same feeling. In fact, I’m almost sure that it wouldn’t. Games evolve based on the people who play them. It’s not games that need to change. It’s us, as gamers. Then the games will follow suit.

  • In those 8 hours, how much lore did you learn about? How many stories did you live?
    Because in my opinion, if it’s only just all about bashing monsters, eventually with a group, one may just as well play Gauntlet (remember that game from 1985?).
    I’ve spend days grinding mobs in Asheron’s Call too, in a group or alone. Would I go back to such progression model? Definitely not.
    That’s what still makes UO superior to all those games. In EQ model games, you have no choice, to progress, you must kill stuff over and over again. In UO, the progression paths were as numerous as you had skills. You could make a blacksmith who would never kill a single mob if you wanted to.
    I’ve been there, done that. “Social mob bashing”. Yawn. EQ is actually a theme park linear progression MMORPG (level progression) without the theme park.

  • It’s not for me and I’d confidently presume it’s not for the vast majority now either. It might well be that a new EQ-style game appears but it will do so knowing it will have only niche appeal.
    If there’s enough people still playing EQ to keep it afloat then all power to it.

  • The way you describe playing Everquest is the way I play all MMOs.

    Everquest was my first MMO. It’s my favorite MMO. I’ve been playing it for over a decade and unlike many nostalgists I kept playing it. I bought all the expansions roughly as they came out up to the last two, and I only didn’t buy those because I don’t need any more super-high level content. I’ll get them eventually, though.

    I’m playing on the official (legal) Progression server and I too will be making an Iksar when Kunark comes out. I made an Iksar SK on day one of the original Kunark launch and interestingly what I remember most from that experience was that Kunark was heavily quest-driven compared to EQ before it. It might seem unstructured now, but all those starter quests for Iksars were very much a change of direction at the time.

    To get back to the point I wanted to make, however, I don’t see any of this as intrinsic to EQ. The current buzz game is Rift. My mage did all of level 44 on Sunday and all of level 45 yesterday, duoing with Mrs Bhagpuss’s rogue. Yes, we did some quests but what we mostly did was explore and kill everything we saw that looked at us funny.

    We spent most of the two full days’ play hunting anything that dropped cloth or that could be butchered, gaining skill and gathering enough materials to make 18-slot bags. Yes, we did some quests. Yes, we closed some rifts. But that was incidental to the same gameplay that we were doing in Everquest in 2004, when we spent hours farming Plane of Innovation for tinkering drops, or 2000 when I would spend day after day farming spiders in East Karana for silk.

    We played World of Warcraft this way. We played Vanguard this way. We play EQ2 this way. I played Fallen Earth this way. We played Allods this way. Almost any MMO can be played in exactly the way that *I* played and still play Everquest, so from my perspective I don’t need any revisionist second-coming to bring back the gameplay I had in Everquest.

  • Bhagpuss has a good point.
    It’s not because games don’t FORCE you to play that way that you can’t still play that way.

  • “The game is a social experience” i absolutly agree with you, i like how you described it and i think this is the biggest difference compared to todays MMO´s.

    This also reminded me of an older blog entry from Wolfshead:

    Also a good read.

    @Bhagpuss: That´s great, and you can do that, but you are doing it with your wife (and maybe friends too) but how often does this kind of playing happen with strangers in todays mmo´s? Thats a big difference in my opinion.

  • EQ facilitates (much better word than ‘forces’) this style of play. You can pretend it exists in today’s games but that’s like pretending games facilitate PvP when they really don’t. How long does the “for fun” PvP last? Oh, about three months.

  • When it’s the only viable option, it’s not facilitating, it’s forcing.

  • It’s why every new MMO needs a huge non-instanced dungeon with harder and harder mobs as you go deeper and some sort of progressive gear grind (yes Keen Darkness Falls comes to mind !). That way you can take a break from quest guided hand rails.

  • @cirdanx
    There have been a few MMOs that promote this type of social experience in and offer very similar play however there are other huge detractors.

    Take Aion for example. The game was fairly linear in terms of leveling but the world exploded open around levels 9-11 as you got the ability to fly and make it into the major city. You couldn’t leave the city without finding the group necessary to level up, but there exists the problem. You HAD to have a group behind you to make it through monotonous grind to 50. (Unless you were a Warrior) And every one wanted to get a group going so they could progress. Not to mention that the “end game” at the time was just massive world PvP bosses.

    So to say that you don’t see the same kind of social aspects that exist in EQ outside of EQ is a narrow way to look at things. Just because you may not have had the same experience in one game doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist elsewhere.

    Hell, I hear Farmville promotes community like a S.O.A.B!

  • I hear Guild Wars 2 will not have a set quest system. So maybe it will be more like everquest but im sure with the majority of potential customers being Wow players, that GW2 will not be any where near as a time sink as Everquest is.

  • Everquest is a real virtual world MMO. Just because you kill stuff or do quests or whatever doesn’t make it like any other MMO. Same features != same game.

    Also, EQ can require a lot of time, but it doesn’t have to. I would argue that you need to “think ahead” if you want to utilize small bits of time – i.e. logout where you want to group next, use the return home feature to sell stuff, etc.

    Anyway, EQ is doing it for me right now. Look up Inndi on Vulak’Aerr progression server if you want some help or advice.

  • Here is to hoping that EQ Next is more like EQ and less like EQ2. Bring me the original EQ without the themepark craziness that every MMO is coming out with and I will be happy.

    WTB Port to Karana’s for corpse retrieval, paying 5 plat 😉

  • EQ is pretty intimidating since it has been around so long and has had what, a dozen expansions? It has something like 375 zones now… I don’t know how big they are of course.

  • @Werit That’s why the new progression server is so popular right now. Everyone starts over and they slowly add the expansions.

  • I played EQ back in the day and I definitely identify with some of what you describe, but I also had very different and even opposite experiences in other ways. Looking back, I definitely appreciate the way the world was constructed. The zone progression was definitely not linear; it was possible to step from the newbie area into a much higher level area with scary-as-hell mobs. That was a nice touch that made the world feel real, interesting, and threatening.

    On the other hand, I disagree that everyone had a unique leveling experience. I remember zones being jam packed with groups just camping particular mob spawns. The order of the day was often to find a group, carve out a small piece of territory and grind mobs in that same spot for hours. I found this to be completely and utterly hellish. Camping for gear was even worse as there were always groups competing for the same boss spawns, and it might take hours for a boss to spawn at all. And when the boss finally did spawn there was no guarantee of loot.

    Forced grouping did build social connections, but it also made the game an absolute bear to play at times. If your friends weren’t online you either had to resign yourself to not doing anything or finding a new group which often would take time and could just as easily result in frustration and bad experiences as it could in making new friends.

    All in all I agree that the game world of Everquest was amazing. It filled me with awe, wonder, and a genuine eagerness to explore. But the actual experience of playing the game just stone cold sucked for me. I have to believe that there is a way to bridge the gap somehow, a way of creating a game that is both open ended and encourages adventure and exploration while simultaneously being much more flexible in the actual process of gameplay.

  • You could kind of say EQ was an MMO while most games since WoW are basically RPGs with lots of people in them.

    EQ and UO you could probably say were designed to be worlds.

    Most games today are designed like a single player gmae. Now other genres are jumping on the band wagon. Shooters with lots of people, racing games with lots of people, rts games with lots of people.

    No one seems to be designing games anymore from the basis of making a world to virtually live in.

  • Great points made here. I get pretty sick of telling me my EQ memories are rose colored glasses. I go back and play the game every three or four years and enjoy it immensely.

    Why don’t I stay? None of my friends play it. Beyond that I still enjoy it more than most other MMORPG.

    I’m more interested in worlds than games.

  • If the game was good enough to keep you playing then you wouldn’t need your friends there to continue. That’s nostalgia. Which is perfectly fine. I’m the same way for UO, but all of those fond memories I have are memories I formed with groups of people. Not memories of the game itself.

  • @Shadrah
    Now you are creating your own interpretation of what nostalgia is. Wanting to play with friends and leaving a MMO because of that has nothing to do with nostalgia.

    I continue to come back to WoW not because I have the most fun playing that game, but because I have the most fun playing with my friends… they just happen to play WoW. When they quit WoW for L4D and SC2 I quit with them, however they came back. Maybe I’m a follower, that isn’t the point. The fact remains that the game I enjoyed the most, which ironically is the game most of my friends didn’t play, was EverQuest. I play Rift now because some friends went to that game… that doesn’t mean that if I talk fondly about WoW now it’s only nostalgia.

    I enjoy playing video games with my friends more than I enjoy playing simply a ‘good’ game. That doesn’t mean these other gamers aren’t good. I’ve considered leaving my friends and just playing whatever game I want, but again playing with them is simply more important.

  • Marx’s alienation of labor 101. De-socialization of the work process to increase “efficiency”. In the MMO’s case experience gain has been stripped of its social interactions in order to make it more efficient for the solo player to level.

  • MMOs haven’t been stripped of social interaction. They just don’t force it anymore. If you choose to solo, then you’re allowed. Sometimes I don’t want to sit around in town for possibly hours looking for people to group with. Hell, I doubt anyone does. Forced grouping is bad. No matter how you suger coat it, it’s bad. However, that doesn’t mean social interaction isn’t there. Just because you’re not forced to play with others doesn’t mean you don’t have to.

  • I would not call forced grouping entirely bad. I think it is a play style and there is an audience for such games. FFXI example given above.

  • Don’t know if someone else mentioned this but … “Why then am I having fun when in most games I would immediately label this is worthless gameplay?” this here is exactly why ppl say to you it’s nostalgia. The same gameplay you enjoy in eq you label as worthless on other games. That’s nostalgia right there friend. My 2cent on the issue.

  • I actually went on to answer my own question in the next paragraph. I also state that it’s not nostalgia if it’s happening in real time in 2011.

  • @Shadrah
    I agree with that, to an extent. Yes in even the most solo friendly MMO there is still social interaction… but how is that type of social interaction different then say Diablo 2? If you only play alone and just message your friend’s that doesn’t give the feel of a community and isn’t truly a MMO, imo. (The definition of MMO is so blurry these days)

    I agree that MMOs should have solo content. I played EQ for a long time in its prime and I remember how it sucked to REQUIRE a group to do anything. The problem is that in any MMO, or game for that matter, you are dealing with a finite amount of players. When you are balancing Group content vs Solo content you essentially have two sides of a scale. The better you make one aspect the more people go to it, thus weakening the other aspect or tipping the scale.

    The key factor is that group content requires other people to be willing to do it, while solo content does not. Now this is obvious but think about how that affects other people. Say you want to group, but since Solo content is just as good almost everyone else is soloing… how do you then form a group? You can’t. Solo content will always be more user friendly because you don’t rely on anyone else. That is why MMOs force people to group, because given the option enough people wouldn’t group and it would negatively impact the game.

    (sorry for the long post, I don’t really blog anymore so everything I say comes out here and on Gordon’s blog)

  • One thing people seem to gloss over is that soloing was actually very viable and even preferred to grouping for some classes even in classic EQ. For such classes, grouping actually *slowed them down*.

    EQ is a game that was built from ignorance. Ignorance of what really incentivized play in games, ignorance of what the market wanted, ignorance of what kind of potential appeal the genre would ultimately hold. You can hardly blame the designers for not knowing these things, but they surely didn’t; MUDs were always a niche sort of thing before, and the graphical MUD couldn’t have been expected to be different.

    The funny truth is this: WoW is the game that EQ would have been, if only EQ had been a better game. The two aren’t fundamentally different, but WoW incrementally enhances every single aspect of its predecessor, and it does this so effectively that you might be forgiven for thinking it’s something entirely new.

    The only special thing about EQ is that Verant was able to make mistakes then that nobody dares repeat now. Yes, there’s probably a niche market for those sorts of mistakes, but a very small niche indeed, and I don’t think even Keen *really* falls into it.

  • With regard to the general solo vs. group content discussion…despite the difficulties many of the recent “nextgen” MMOs have had with this, it seems to me that it should be relatively easy to find a balance between the two.

    In fact, DAoC is a pretty good example of this. Leveling was substantially similar to EQ; however, there were a few more quests. In DAoC, pretty much every class could solo in PvE (I think all could, but some better than others obviously). However, the game provided incentives to grouping like group XP bonuses, the chance to get better drops by killing higher level mobs, more interesting group vs. solo play, etc.

    It blows me away that even the most recent games like WAR and WoW (can’t speak for Rift since I only played a few hours in beta) have not provided more incentive for grouping or reconciled their vastly different leveling gameplay experience versus end-game experience.

    I still remember playing WAR with friends/guildies questing or grinding reputation in PQs and thinking…”man, this goes so much faster when I solo this stuff…what the hell?” In WoW, the only grouping that occurs while leveling is to do random dungeons (before that almost NO ONE ever grouped for leveling). Why would anyone do it when it actually SLOWS YOU DOWN to do so? Why would any MMORPG provide DISINCENTIVES to grouping up? Total /facepalm guys, I still can’t believe it.

    In addition, the end-game versus leveling experience nowadays is literally like two different games and the people that enjoy one type of game often do not enjoy the other. That was one of the great things about EQ’s long leveling experience (at last for me as a more casual or hardcore-lite player). For me, the “end-game” in EQ didn’t really exist…expansions and level caps raises came out faster than I could level…and it was nice to just enjoy the journey as opposed to race to the end where the supposed “real game” begins.

    @ JeremyT

    I mostly agree about the ignorance thing, but I disagree about the similarities between WoW and EQ somewhat. Maybe less a disagreement and more a clarification even. During the vanilla days I’d say your statement was probably mostly true and the WoW developers themselves have stated they were heavily influenced by EQ, but the differences that have evolved since then means that (from a gameplay experience even if not a conceptual one) EQ and WoW resemble each other less and less each patch.

  • @Jeremy Soloing was only practicle by the kiting classes. Druids, Necros, and maybe another I’m forgetting. I guess some Enchanters could solo too but it took a hella long time. The game was not built around that gameplay aspect. While 80% of the gamers were shouting /LFG please, druids and necros were kiting their asses off.

  • @JeremyT/Sanz

    Druids could Kite and at higher levels quad kite, 4 mobs at once. They also had meh burst DPS and no one gave a crap about Dots in groups. They were also meh healers. Yeah I ran groups with druids as healers or dps, but it was never preferred. Typically Druids couldn’t get groups. After 1 round of kiting though a Druid would have to med up to full. It was about 15 minutes per 4 kills in the 50’s when doing Giants in Velious.

    Necro’s would fear kite. They would dot up a mob and fear it while their pet beat on it. Pets in EQ couldn’t tank. They had the slowest DPS of probably any class and the only way you could get a group is if you knew the healer in an existing group. I know, I played one to level 55.

    Wizards were the other good solo class. They had the best of both worlds though. They could quad kite and had enough burst DPS to be desirable in groups.

    A popular camp was always better EXP than solo’n though. The nice thing about solo’n though is you never had to wait on the list to get in a group.

    Magician’s could kind of solo and if a Monk had a fungi tunic they could solo. Some Shadow Knights could solo but they typically required Enchanter buffs and decent gear to make it worthwhile.

  • Oh Enchanter’s could sometimes solo mobs but it wasn’t worth it. You would charm a high level mob then use that to tank another mob. I did it in Kobold Village or the Fire Giants in SolB when I was bored… I tried it a bit when PoP came out but again grouping was just better exp. It was also VERY dangerous.

  • I got groups all the time on my Necro. Remember mana battery? 😉 Sit there and give them mana!

    I’m playing a Monk this time around. I’ll eventually hit him to 50. I just need to find me a Fungi tunic…