My Night in EQ: EXP Loss & Corpse Runs

Sorry for the delay between posts. This is the craziest time of the year for me.  I was thinking about what to write tonight when Graev reminded me about a tweet I made the other night describing an experience I had in EverQuest.

A friend and I went into Upper Guk with a group to hunker down and pull lots of frogloks.  The ZEM (zone experience modifier) for Guk is pretty dang good compared to outdoor dungeons, and Unrest was overflowing with people.  One of the great thing about the original EverQuest was the option to go so many different places to gain experience solo, and with a group.

We got to Guk and had decent success. I gained almost an entire level, and after about two hours we were moving locations to set ourselves up for an even better spot in the zone.  One thing lead to another, and we wiped.  It was frustrating since I was bound across the world. Most of you probably don’t know what it means when I say I was bound; there aren’t graveyard in EverQuest.  Players bind themselves to a location with a spell.  Only certain classes get bind, and only those who have it can bind outside dungeons.  As a paladin, I not only don’t get bind but I have to have someone bind me in a major city. As a Dwarf Paladin, that means I’m still  a good 20 minute run away from Guk.

Well I wasn’t bound before going to Guk, so I had to run from Kelethin to Butcherblock, take a boat to Freeport, run to EC to get a sow, cut through the tunnel to NRO, cross the Oasis, get through SRO, and just as I’m about to roll up on Innothule swamp (the zone with the entrance to Guk), a very high level cleric Resurrects me — teleporting me to my body.  The trip only took a little over an hour…

While trying to retrieve his body, a friend of mine died 2-3 additional times losing all the experience he gained in the dungeon those 2-3 hours we were hunting.  He was willing to die though because for all he knew no one was going to come along to help get his body back.  In EQ when you die you leave a corpse with your stuff on it, and you’re not getting it back unless you and your corpse reunite.  2-3 hours of experience loss for your possessions is worth it.

The whole ordeal got me thinking about the various mechanics at play that night.

  • Group experiencing in a dungeon for hours pulling mobs
  • Exp loss
  • Potential gear loss
  • Binding
  • ‘Corpse runs’
  • Corpse recovery
  • Massive world

Out of all the mechanics above, I have to say that I love all of them but one: potential gear loss.  I think that EverQuest is extremely hardcore by today’s standards.  So much so that it almost broke me that night.  Losing experience is brutal, but it’s a penalty that terrifies me enough that I will do whatever it takes not to die.  A long corpse recovery, binding, and a huge world to travel give the game depth. Dungeon camping is just plain fun.  I don’t like the idea of losing my gear though, and for me personally I wouldn’t be averse to never playing a game with that fear again.

My recounting this one experience alone has highlighted more depth in MMORPGs than many of you have likely ever experienced if you started playing MMOs post-WoW era and never dabbled in the old school.  Despite the horrific ordeals, this memory will stay with me a very, very long time.  MMOs don’t need scripted stories.  Players should be able to create their own.  After that night, I certainly have a story to tell.

  • Eve has “gear loss” on death and it works perfect. Same with UO. IMO all mmos should have a harsh penalty like uo, darkfall, salem, and eve when you die. Only way to do it.

  • When I was a student back in the late 1970s I used to hitch-hike everywhere. I loved hitching. I was evangelical about it. It was more than just a cheap way to get around, it was a way of life. If you’d asked me for words to describe myself back then, “hitchiker” would have been in the top three.

    Hitching gave me countless stories, many of which I told and retold for years, long after I hitched my last ride in the mid 1980s. By then I’d long been easily able to afford to pay for coaches or trains to make the journeys but it wasn’t affluence that finally made me stop. People were looking at me funny.

    Everything has a season. I did my cross-continental runs after my “ffs! I’m bound in Kaladim” moments. I stayed up until four am on a work night trying to get to corpses at the top of TOFS after a wipe, the unrecovered bodies piling higher on lower floors as one by one each attempt failed. I quit playing for three whole days after I lost a level six corpse down the hollow tree in Blackburrow and thought I’d never replace my losses (I had a cracked staff on that corpse!).

    Those were great times; they made great stories, but time moves on. I could go stand at the end of the motorway with my thumb out this afternoon but it won’t make me 20 years old again. I could play Everquest the way I played it a decade ago but it won’t erase my knowledge that now there are other ways to play. In my opinion, better ways.

  • Did necromancers have summon corpse at release? I don’t remember, but with it I think the potential for gear loss is almost non existent. The whole magic of Everquest is reaching out to people for help.

    Your hitchhiking analogy is awful. A better one would be looking to the future, when cars will drive themselves. You’d sit in the back seat while commuting to work, blogging from your ipad about how much better everything is, and how driving was ok but it’s time has passed. You’ll post long winded, passive aggressive responses to people who disagree, completely oblivious to the fact that the people you’re talking to *love to drive.*

  • @Bartillo: Gear loss in EVE is quite a bit different. In UO it’s even more different. Gear is disposable. I make 20+ swords a day that I sell. They wear out after a day or two of use. The people who buy from me return multiple times a week to replace the gear. It is meant to be disposable, temporary. Same deal with DF.

    As I said, the death penalty in EQ is harsh WITHOUT the potential for gear loss. Damage (friend) lost 4 hours of work. If I hadn’t been rezzed by teh cleric I would have lost an hour of work.

    Now that’s just my opinion, of coarse, and I can cope with the fear of losing my stuff which has infinitely more value than gear in UO or EvE — I coped for an extremely long time.

    @Jenks: No, it was added sometime after release. I can’t remember if it was Kunark or Velious expansion.

    I wrote this late lastnight and forgot to really hammer home the point. People these days can’t deal with gear loss or massive exp loss, but EQ had so much depth and so many ways to enrich the experience, while at the same time being capable of making death harsh and something players avoid at all costs. A new MMO could do many of these things, exclusive gear loss, and even make EXP less of a deal and still be meaningful.

  • I agree with almost all you say regarding the harsh mechanics that made EQ really feel alive to me. To me gear loss was never truly frightening, I think mostly because you could almost always count on being able to find someone more powerful who could help you either by corpse dragging, clearing the way, or summoning your corpse.

    The thing I hated was deleveling. I would be happy with exp loss as long as you couldn’t lose a level.

    If someone made a version of EQ with a 3D engine that conformed to modern conventions (keep the old school, original graphics – those I like! – but man I just can’t get used to the weird turning and movement feel), no level loss on death, and maybe 2x exp gain, I would have my ultimate MMO 🙂

  • Bhagpuss, I rather liked your analogy. Just because games these days have more convenience doesn’t make them flat out worse. I certainly would like to see a swing back towards the more demanding games of yore, but not fully. I cherish a lot of the bells and whistles that make playing these games more convenient. I don’t want to spend 6+ hours running across a continent. I’m nearly 30 with a demanding job. I don’t have time for the old school’s senseless timesinks. (That being said, Guild Wars 2 style insta anywhere travel is a bit much. A happy medium would be nice) What I do want is a game that is challenging in its gameplay. Quests, dungeon pulls, whatever. If that combat consists of mindlessly cycling through 1,2,3,4 then it’s going to be incredibly boring.

  • The death penalty is the brussel sprout of MMO gaming. Nobody likes it but it is good for you. If you ask the community if they want a harsher death penalty – the majority will “politely” decline and say no thank you. As a developer, you just have to put it in the game – for the good of the game – and end the discussion there. Compared to what we have today – yes, you can do a lot with death penalties without implementing gear loss (there is nothign magical about gear loss which makes it a must have). Even though, after reading your story, the potential gear loss is important in your story…would it have been a story that stood out to you years later if there was no potential of gear loss?

    Without gear loss your story would be more like…well, we wiped…we all lost an hour of experience…I was bound far away and decided to call it a night…the end.

  • @Jenks: I think the car analogy is great! It’s like, yeah, the 2013 Honda Odyssey has more conveniences that a 1963 Chevy Impala, but I’d rather drive the ’63 Impala any day! Way more fun! =)

  • Jeez, that story right there is why I’m never playing EQ, or anything with a death system like that.

    Those are positives to you Keen? That just seems masochistic. Any game that thinks it’s viable to spend 2-3 hours playing (at pre-end game) and go nowhere or backwards (and spend 1/3 of it essentially not playing during the runback) is game I’d abandon the first time it happened.

    Life’s to short for bad death mechanics. Especially when they’re not necessary. You can have fun stories without being nearly as punishing.

    A good example is things like early BC WoW before they’d implemented gravity on corpses. People went to inordinate lengths to try to gank high enough off the ground that your ghost couldn’t get in range and you were forced to spirit rez. The penalty wasn’t that bad (durability hit on your inventory rather than just your equipped gear), but the differential between it and a normal rez was still enough to provide incentive.

  • @Shutter: I like a big world. I like what EXP loss does to fear of death. I’m not a big fan of permanently losing stuff in a game where the gear is a very permanent thing.

    The long corpse run was my fault. I should have bound in Freeport. -BUT- I like the fact that the world is so huge and there’s a mechanic for binding that I was able to make that mistake.

  • Your Eq is free so there is no monetary loss. Back in ’99 paying $ to play and suffering thru the loss of levels and gear wasn’t worth the limited fun it gave. Now u can pick up and jump on the next game with no care about truly losing ur eq crap so there is no real sense of loss. Your just sightseeing until something better but back in ’99 the options were limited and flocks left Eq for DAOC when it came out partly due to the mechanics. While I still recall falling down the tree at a low level, dong corpse runs, and getting soulfire, I would never waste my time dealing withq game best left dead. However like mentioned a ame like GW2 is pathetic which is why I skipped it. We need a happy medium for sure or at least new graphics for dealing with the poor mechanics of eq.

  • This is something that has perplexed gamers for a long time. The thought of how can you have any real meaningful and memorable experiences without that risk of loss being there?

    But I think the answer is in the question itself. Yes, loss needs to be there but it doesn’t have to take a form that you might expect. In effect, experiment with different types of loss in the game play to find one that feels right and works well.

    But here’s the thing though, if there wasn’t the potential for loss of gear, you wouldn’t have willingly accepted the loss of experience, right? EVE Online follows a similar path. You can potentially lose all of the skills you’ve acquired but it utilizes a system whereby you lose something else in exchange for it (i.e. money to buy a clone).

    Again there still has to be that deep sense of loss to some degree to make that moment memorable to you.

    Here’s a different spin on it. I remember playing Quake Capture The Flag years ago and having some of the most memorable experiences in my gaming life. Yet when you die in Quake, you respawn immediately. Yes you lose your gear but you can easily acquire it again. So where’s the loss? It was in the experience of winning the game itself, similar to what’s experienced in most sport’s games. So it’s when you’re behind in points and thing you’re going to lose but then suddenly you pull off an amazing flag run and turn the tides and eventually win the game.

    But I even remember losing games in Quake CTF and still remembering them to this day because they were such amazingly enjoyable experiences. That’s how all gaming experiences should be. Even if you lose, it’s still fun, challenging, and a memorable experience.


  • I’ll be honest I’ve been playing EQ p99 and I enjoy UO more. Exp loss along with gear loss and corpse runs, just don’t appeal that much to me. I can understand the punishing you if you die, but it penalizes you so much for trying to learn the game. I remember playing the original game for only a month and now I remember why it wasn’t something that I fondly remember. It is simply “to hardcore”. Grinding for hours killing one mob at a time just to have all of your progress wiped away by a randomly patting monster at the wrong time. Is more than frustrating.

    I enjoy exploring, but I don’t want to explore in the game where at any turn I can be brutally murdered by a monster and face not only one or more hours trying to find my corpse but the loss of 1-2 hours of progress that I made killing the same monster over and over.

    The social elements are honestly the only reasons I play, and not because of the in game social aspects but because of this community i’m playing with. Like with most free games I find the majority of player of free to play games either trolls, unwilling to communicate, or just annoying.

    I’ll continue to play the game as long as the other do, maybe I just need more time to find my fun.

  • I’ll never forget the time I got in a pickup raid for the Plane of Fear. Where it took us at least an hour to even zone in because people kept dying at the zoneline. When I finally did zone in we pretty much wiped right there by the zone in. So my corpse was inside with all my stuff on it, and a full raid couldn’t even zone in that place, so uh how exactly was I going to get my body out of there? That was a seriously stressful night where I stayed awake well into the middle of the night until fortunately a bunch of people helped us loot our corpses.

    I’m not sure I miss that, but it certainly added to the risk reward equation and has me remembering it over a decade later. I don’t have memories like that about Rift or Guild Wars or any of the new breed of games.

  • The difference between memorable Quake matches and a game like EQ is that there is actual progression over time. Just as you said in Quake the loss of gear meant little to nothing, there was no difference between a character that had never died and one that had never survived a match. So the things you are expecting and hence remember are completely different.

    Many of the big risks in EQ were easy to mitigate if you understood the mechanics and the foresight. Like Keen mentioned his corpse run was so long because he forgot to Bind near where he was playing. EXP lose could be nearly completely negated by not fully looting your corpse so that you could have a friend or new acquaintance Resurrect it later, I think the best res ended up being a real loss of only 4% of whatever the amount you originally lost was.

    Losing levels was something I never really understood. I only saw a couple situations where it happened accidentally let alone horribly so. The only occasion I can remember that went horribly wrong was because the player made two very silly mistakes. First, they left their lvl 52 Druid bound just outside of a Bosses area (Lady Vox for anyone that cares) for more than a day after they attended a raid there, and second they went AFK somewhere that wasn’t safe without another player watching their back. The character got killed by some random mob. Which caused the naked character to spawn deep into a dungeon respawned with a dozen or more tough mobs(Ice Giants) blocking the way out and his bind point was directly on top of one of those mobs. Since the player was AFK for a long while he came back to a lvl 39 Druid. Even with a cleric with their rez stick epic that would take hours of work to rectify as best as possible. It’s not like one death would automatically remove a level, at worst one death was maybe 20% of a level’s exp, and that’s only if you didn’t bother getting a rez of any sort.

  • I remember many nights like that in Asheron’s Call. It was very similar in death penalty but a little less harsh and I felt fair. When you died you left a body like EQ except it dropped only your top 3-4 items on the body in game value(vendor value). It also gave you a stat penalty that you would work off with more exp gain.

    The more times you died consecutively without working off this penalty your stats kept decreasing. (i think up to a max of 40% loss) that was scary in itself as you could no longer equip items or cast certain lvl spells so essentially you became weaker and needed help to kill stuff to slowly work off this penalty.(but killing this penalty still allowed you to progress with your overall xp)

    As for the bodies people would carry expensive useless orbs or jewelry as death items but if you died again before getting to your body you left another corpse on it with the next 3 items and so on.

    It was always common scene seeing naked people running into dungeons with multiple bodies in one spot or on the way or just too weak to move cause their stats were so low, their strength was not strong enough for them to move their own loot anymore. Asking for strength buffs just to get out of there lol. So many weird occurrences, great times but also painful ones.

    Like many have said, i like reminiscing about it but I can never go back to that type of gameplay.

  • Oh man, EQ wipes. I used to play as a wizard with a slot always devoted to my quickest casting evacuate spell. As soon as a pull started to look bad we were gone. It still took time to recover and get back into position but it was vastly better than dying. Being able to be the hero of the group was a great feeling.

  • Just because hitch-hiking is beyond you now, does not mean there aren’t people out there enjoying it right now.

    And just because hitch-hiking is beyond you now, certainly does not mean that other people MUST! at all cost! be prevented from hitch-hiking! Nao!

  • Yes, dying in EQ could be extremely painful, and the potential for losing levels was completely overboard, but it kept things real. Unless you were a complete idiot, you didn’t just blindly run into a new area, you scouted it out carefully, you learned exactly where the safe areas were, and you only pulled to those areas. And you always made sure to bind nearby, first thing. If you were at all paying attention, you would learn to tell exactly when you were getting in over your head, and you could bail in time. I can honestly say that most times I died, or my party wiped, it was primarily due to hubris, i.e. we got cocky and took on more than we should have. Or we got impatient and didn’t prepare adequately. Or we got lazy and/or weren’t paying attention.

    It’s that tactical aspect that is all but gone in modern MMOs. You used to have to learn a zone and how everything worked in there. Now, with the way everything is optimized to the easy side, any dumbass can faceroll his way through.

  • Reminds me a lot of FFXI, except you didn’t have gear loss in that game and there really weren’t any areas you could solo beyond level 10 unless you were a beastmaster. Good times.

  • I almost lost my corpse under CT in fear, and gained it back within 23 minutes of rotting. I will never forget how tense that whole situation got, it’s a memory that was pretty much the most powerful thing I’ve experienced in online gaming. I had a crew of guildies bust their ass for over 11 hours to re-break PoFear after the US guild spent a week horribly bugging it. I managed to loot mid CT fight, and about two minutes after looting I was zone DT’d by him.

    I know exactly what I had on that invaluable corpse at a time in the server when there was very few: A cloak of flames and a bloodfire. You can’t write stories that impact memories better then something like that, and it only came about because of a screw up by players, compounded by players and ultimately solved by the determination of players. This was before summon corpse, heck it was before PoHate was even released. Early, early days of fear were insanely difficult to do, but that added to the achievement of having that bloodfire from previous victories.

    I would say that today I agree with something along the lines of summon corpse, so you’re never truly about to rot in almost any case, but a harsh death penalty really separated the idiots from those that learned how to play.

  • As I write this right now my corpse is deep in Guk where I can’t get it back until someone invises me. 😛

  • Can rogues corpsedrag if you /consent on P99? It’s been so long, I can’t remember when they added that in.

  • I suppose FFXI was for me what EQ was for you. There was XP loss in that game but no gear loss, durability, or corpse run. If you died and released, though, you went back to your bind point which if you didn’t plan well could be on the other side of the world. A lot less harsh than EQ but no where near as cushy as most modern games. Hell, I’d bet they made it more cushy in FFXI itself since I played.

    Anyway, when I think back to my time in FFXI, and this may be sorta abstract, but the xp loss really helped the world feel more real. Just traveling could be dangerous if you weren’t at way over-level for the zone. Many times I really had to make a decision if a trip was worth potentially dying and losing a pretty good chunk of XP.

  • As an EQ player at release (My Ex actually had “Everquest” listed in the divorce paperwork back in 1997) I thought it would be a great idea to create another Bard and give the private server a try.

    Why is it so difficult to set up? Having to torrent expansions and trying to track down the main game was impossible. I gave up!

  • It’s pretty easy to get the titanium client, then you just run the emu launcher, tada.

  • @Shipwreck: It’s not difficult to set up — at all. There is a guide that will hold your hand the entire way.

  • Thankfully the IQ of people is actually pretty good on P99 right now. I’ve not had moer then one bad instance of grouping this weekend, which I was expecting at the newbie levels.

    I really wish this was the original client though, but eqclassic has been ‘under dev’ for like 6 years so I don’t hold out much hope for anything soon.

  • @shipwreck

    Ha that is pretty funny about Everquest in the paperwork…I did a 22hr run when farming the Frog King for my soulfire and that almost got me killed by the old lady.

    One of my best eq memories was helping a guy escape thru the secret tunnels of the city because the guards kept killing him, he rewarded me with a ring that I thought was so cool at level 2 haha, fun memories.

    Perhaps EQ Next or something else can bring balance and excitement back but it’s hard to top your “first”

  • I doubt EQnext will be that kick. It’s a new gen SoE title, which means F2P and pushing a cash shop at every opportunity.

  • Oh so many things I miss about the original everquest. The sense of exploration… the detail and terror. I remember going down the tunnel to blackburrow and I was one of the races that couldn’t see well in the dark. It was frustrating and scary. I also had an experience when I was brand new to the game. I was a high elf cleric and I decided that i needed to be a healer for the barbarians so I got an escort and traveled across the world to get to halas. They were thrilled to have me there with them and a guild leader gave me a full set of bronze armor. Lol well different races had different weight limits that they could carry and me being the wimpy elf that I was… the bronze stuff weighed me down and slowed me down… and I fell in Halas lake and couldn’t haul my heavy butt out. If you remember there was a horrible sound you made when you drown. I started chucking off gear in the lake… all the while yelling for help… and an awesome shaman came by and gave me a strength buff and I was able to get out.
    Corpse runs, weight limits, training skills like having to spend time swimming and training each class of magic. Maybe it was a time sink… and sure there were ways to go afk and still train-but those things really made me feel invested in my character. Learning zones and the quests rather than getting a quest and a big arrow or light showing up on the screen showing you where to go… when they took away consequences, learning, fear and pride-that is when I lost the joy and love of the mmorpg games.
    I know many people will disagree with a lot of that and that is why games changed. 🙁