I was excited by the email in my inbox last week proclaiming three free days of access to the original Everquest in celebration of their upcoming expansion (EQ2 – take note!). I was excited because years ago, I bought the original EQ Trilogy for a penny at a GameStop that had it on the clearence rack. It was marked $5 but when they scanned it it came up as a penny. The look on the cashiers face was priceless. I told the manager he called over I didn’t mind paying the five bucks, but he shrugged it off, and I handed over a penny.
You may wonder, outside of a great deal, why that was exciting? Because it means that I have an actual EQ account – not a trial one – and so I was eligible for the free time. And ever since last year, I’ve been wanting to try that famous 51/50 server that starts you at epic level. I did a little of everything, but ultimately, I spent the three days with my two favorite classes, the original Magician and original Shadowknight – now much different (both of them) from their current EQ2 incarnations.
It was fun getting to play the epic versions of classes I’d really only played for any length of time in EQOA, which is in all reality a stripped down version of its big brother. So I was dying to play around with all of the summoning skills a Magician had access too. And the first I just had to try was “Monster Summoning” – a sweet ability that calls a pet for you, but using the graphics load of the local surroundings rather than a set Elemental pet, which is the norm for the Mage. In this way you can get all sorts of fun pets, without running around for hours unlocking stupid achievements and paying gold through the nose (WoW – take note!).
So I stepped out into the grove outside the recommended 51/50 starter city to take on some basic mobs, and I used Monster Summoning to call my pet – figuring I’d get one of flying lizards, snakes, or maybe even an undead fisherman. But behold, I could not have imagined the awesomeness that awaited me, for I did not know that I was still in the same area as the peaceful gardens in the city. Check it out:
That, my friends, is pure win. The Killer Rabbit of Caerbannog himself, under my control. I even look a bit like Tim the Enchanter, don’t I? Totally made my weekend people. The urge to grab a Station Pass is getting much harder to resist.
I also found that I missed some things from EQ that don’t show up alot in games anymore – requiring components for particularly powerful spells, the possibility of spells “fizzling,” limits on number of available abilities at one time, the wide range of thrown weapons, freeform NPC interaction using keywords, food and drink requirements.
I also found a few things I’m glad we have (mostly) left behind – corpse recovery, claustrophic city models, dos-era overhead maps, non-WASD movement, etc.
But mostly this is another chance for me to push my own particular MMO Design carp – the graphic on the screen and the numbers crunching in the game engine can be two entirely seperate affairs. There’s no reason other than lack of creativity on the part of devs that would keep someone from playing a tank that looked like a wizard, or having a tank whose weapon stats reflect a legendary sword, while on screen it looks like a simple quarterstaff. We’ve already seen the reverse and similar ideas in other games (LotRO in particular had to bend their classes in original ways), but honest to god free character development is still lacking. Someone step up to the plate please. Thx.
And, as a postscript, as of this morning, I still have access to EQ, even though my three days is long gone. Not sure if its an intentional error or not, but I’m loving it either way! So if you have an EQ account, check your sub status, it might still be active.