It's a quiet Saturday night, and as I'm currently on call for work and it's starting to dip into the negatives these days, I'm even less inclined than normal to venture out in search of alcohol.
So while I'm normally quite content to pass the time with the usual distractions of League of Legends, Left 4 Dead or whatever dreadful thing the Canadian version of Netflix has managed to consider a "New arrival" I found myself craving something new, but ended up rediscovering something old.
Behold, Osoi, my Iksar Necromancer.
I've had project 1999 up and running for a while now, but never really gave it much thought until the other day when an old EQ friend posted about it on my forums.
I figured, why not.
So I updated it, booted it up, started an Iksar Necromancer, and very quickly realized just how pampered I've been with WoW.
Although most of my memory of EverQuest has faded, the names of NPCs and the different areas in the Iksar starting city seemed vaguely familiar. Didn't I kill that guy once? Isn't this where the Monk Epic quest chain leads?
I found myself wandering through a passageway that was hidden under a waterfall and through an invisible wall, somehow navigating through the maze as if I knew exactly where I was going, even though I honestly couldn't even begin to tell you where I was.
After another twenty minutes or so of wandering around trying to find the newbie zone I did what I have come to feel of as the unthinkable in an MMO.
I asked another player for help.
As a slightly higher level fellow Iksar happened by, I hailed him, he stopped to return my hail and then stood waiting while I expressed my embarassement, but asked if he could tell me what the name of the starting zone was.
I expected at best, a monotone "Field of Bone" before he ran off, and at worst a WoW-esque /sigh in my direction, before he continued on his way exclaiming to his guild about the stupid newb that interrupted him while he was extremely busy being awesome - But what actually happened immediately reminded me why I enjoyed this game so much in the first place. He asked me to follow, showed me the zone line, and even took the time to show me a quest giver that would be useful in turning in items I was likely to loot from the mobs there before wishing me well and going on his way.
Thanks to the assistance of my new friend, I made my way out into the Field of Bone and started cautiously killing anything that looked pathetic enough to not give me too much trouble, quickly remembering how annoying it was when spells would fizzle, and use up just enough mana that you wouldn't have enough to re-cast, or when a guard would steal your kill because you were too afraid to fight any further from the road.
While there is a part of me that would like it to be easier, so that I could speed up the process, when I hit level two an hour later I realized that I actually felt as though I had accomplished something, something that I've rarely felt in any more recent MMO.
As I write this I'm still only level two, and realistically I doubt I have the time to make a serious attempt at leveling a character in EverQuest but there was one point, even in these two early levels that made me feel like I needed to share, as I felt like it demonstrated what made EQ so memorable to so many people.
Forgiving all the horrbile design decisions, questionable UI, and all the other things about EverQuest that could truly be done so much better, as I was killing a skeleton I looked into the distance, but couldn't see past the top of a small hill.
While I looked out at the horizon my mind immediately started to wander and imagine what could be out there. Now, I know what is out there because in another life I have been there many times, but that feeling of wonder, of not knowing exactly what's out there and not simply being able to pull up a map, or run there and look is really what made Norrath so intriguing.
It was inaccessible not because I hadn't purchased the proper skills to explore it, not because there was a UI element telling me I wasn't allowed to go there, or I wasn't high enough level, but because if I tried to go literally anywhere in the world at level 2 I would be killed and likely would not be able to get my items back without help from other players.
Even with only the first expansion, Norrath is a massive place, and to this day contains items that have never been found, and quests that have never been completed.
It's that feeling of being able to explore the unknown and figure out the world for yourself instead of just having NPCs show you exactly where to go that drives you to level and want to become more powerful. This isn't just a script you're following, it's not just content you're consuming, it's a virtual world that exists whether you're there or not. EverQuest never goes out of it's way to pat you on the back and make you feel like a hero, that part is up to you. While it's often frustraing, and challenging, it is in overcoming the challenges that you really feel a sense of accomplishment. You never need the game to tell you that you've achieved something, because you will feel it for yourself.
Maybe I'm reading into it a little much, I do tend to get pretty nostalgic when I talk about EverQuest, all I know is that I just played a 12 year old game for an hour and not only enjoyed it but really felt like it was a step up from what I've been playing over the past few months, which only affirms my belief that we're headed in the wrong direction.
Whether or not I end up continuing with it, if you want to give classic EverQuest (and Kunark) a try, pick up a copy of EverQuest: Titanium edition, follow the instructions here and come join me.
Oh, and just for a little added nostalgia for those of you that were around in the beginning: