If You Can’t Go Back, Go Back Even Further

Wilhelm has a good piece up right now detailing the ins and outs of doing a progression server for EQ2, and how that probably would not, generally speaking, really be all that fun for anyone. The salient points, for me, were primarily that EQ2 was a very different animal back then, and the changes to the landscape and to the way characters are built have changed significantly since launch. This poses problems with progression mechanics and just what, exactly, you would be enacting.

However, if going back creates problems and lacks interest, maybe you’re just not going far enough back. Don’t turn back the dial to 2004. Turn it back by one thousand years, to Norrath as it was before even the original. Norrath as it was in Everquest Online Adventures.

EverQuest-Online-Adventures-Map

EQOA was in some ways the little brother of EQ2. Launching nearly two full years before, some of the flavor of EQOA resides in EQ2, though whether by accident or design I couldn’t tell you, I assume its by design. Both games at one time featured progression through classes as well as levels. Much as EQ2 simplified some of the controls and difficulties of EQ, EQOA was also catered to a more casual crowd, perhaps because of console limitations at the time. Many of the skills also overlap, or perhaps were tested in EQOA and later used fully in EQ2.

But two hurdles are fairly obvious from the outset: would anyone play, and how much work would it really be?

The first is easier to answer, using polls and other metrics, but I think the answer would be “yes” provided the opportunity was branded correctly. Billed as an opportunity to play your ancestor, perhaps with appropriate tie ins to the main game via account unlocks, it would provide some interest from role players and achievers alike. Not to mention explorers get a whole new world to roam, and raiders have a whole new set of boss mobs and locations to trash. And while EQOA’s fanbase was admittedly small, they were loyal enough to keep a dead PS2 game going for 9 years – including years well after anyone even continued to sell PS2, much less make new games for them.

eqoa

The second question (“how difficult would this be?”) I can’t really answer. SOE was game for the unusual and down to take risks at times. But now that they are not calling the shots, this is probably a pipe dream. Still, if you wanted to do it in an efficient manner, you could. Classes did not really have all that many abilities – taking the same simplification approach that EQ2 has – not giving each level’s identical spell new names, then most classes really had few spells (the toolbar in EQOA was 4 or 5 slots if I remember correctly – a very modern approach). If I remember correctly, my magician had light and heavy versions of cold and fire direct damage spells, a pet, and a couple of utilities available at any given time.

Quests were streamlined and small in nature. After starter quests each level to get you to 5, quests were spread out after that, with several levels passing at a time before a new one would open up. And quests (with few exceptions) were not class or race specific. The world itself had quite a bit of open space, but textures and animations could be reused from EQ2, and some of the locations would probably just need minor editing as opposed to full blown overhauls.

Fayspire

Its a pipe dream, and I know it. But I still think it would be a lot of fun to do. Who among the EQ2 crowd even knows what Fayspire is, much less having ever visited it? To open up even a few zones of recreated, thousand year old Norrath, for current characters would make for great nostalgia of a different sort in the game, and provide opportunities for some interesting quest lines and stories to be told. Its not the first time that an MMO has turned to time travel to explain zone changes, new zones, or expand storylines, am I right?

Well, in any case, I guy can dream. And if Smed drops by, maybe he can look into making it a reality.

#mmos, #everquest, #2015

Day Three: My First Day in an MMO

 

If that’s not retro, I don’t know what is.  That is my first character ever in an MMO.  Sort of.

 

I had wanted to get into MMO’s but was nervous about how “hardcore” everyone kept telling me Everquest was.  With my first child and a move to graduate school both coming within six months time, I knew those days were probably behind me.   Enter Playstation’s version of Everquest, which was supposed to be more accessible to the common gamer.   And it just so happened a friend of mine was beta testing it – in those days a rare thing.   There was about a week left, so he let me borrow his whole system (keyboard too) and take it to my place to try it out and see if it was something I wanted to get into.   (By the way…what’s the statute of limitations for NDA breakage?  Because we totally did that).

 

I was hooked in the first hour, but I didn’t play beyond the tutorials and a bit of wandering.   I bought the game, ethernet adapter, and a new keyboard on my next payday.   So technically, that’s a picture of my second ever MMO character.

 

I still remember how I got butterflies in my stomach, exploring this virtual world, marveling at all the other people standing around with me in Fayspire and then Telethin.  I had started a Magician, but before long I saw a Ranger wander through dual wielding, and wondered how long it would take me to get one to level 20 so I could dual wield as well.    Thus the first symptoms of alt-itis developed early.  As did my first desired equipment – it didn’t take too long to see a Magician with a shield.  I went nuts.  A shield?  That was awesome.   Later I found out there was a dagger that had somehow been assigned the visual graphic of a short sword.  And I spent my later days in early Norrath looking like an Elven Fighter-Mage from early DnD, especially since I was the only mage I knew that took the time (and money) to keep a stack of throwing knives with me to supplement my DPS when my mana was low or I was waiting on a cooldown.

 

The very first vanity item for me:  The "invisible" mage-only shield.
The very first vanity item for me: The “invisible” mage-only shield.

 

That first day was incredibly memorable to me.  It actually hurts to think that I will never again roam the towers of Fayspire, accidentally aggro that giant elite/group encounter fish while swimming in the lake, or fight my way through the tunnel of orcs to the lands of the dwarves.  And if you play the theme song for me, I will stand mesmerized by PTSD-like flashbacks.

 

 

And I will do you one better – I also remember my very first loot drop.  Well, outside of vendor trash.  It was a magic staff called the Beanpole.   Adds to Intellect and Power and so on.  But the description said that it was enchanted to slowly cause the bearer to take interest in the world of agriculture, and it was said that the mage who created it lived out his later days blissfully farming.  Apparently the curse worked on me too.  I’ve had a strange attraction to farming and cooking in every MMO since that has offered it.

 

Mostly, after that first day, I am still impressed with how huge early Norrath was.   One of the early grinds was always opening up the caravan (fast travel) route from Freeport on the east coast to Qeynos on the west coast.    That run took at least an hour, maybe as much as an hour and a half.   I’m sure more recent MMO’s can boast of greater size in total across their zones, but I don’t think any, except perhaps Everquest 2, has overwhelmed me with how big it is in quite the same way.  And these days, with the removal of Qeynos and Freeport as starting areas, I’m not sure it has the same vibe either.

20 Days: Day One – In Which I Introduce Myself

So I’m finally getting around to doing this.  It should be easy.  One question a day, talk about yourself – that’s not exactly rocket science, right?   But I’ve held back for awhile.  Part of it is that internet privacy thing – you want to keep yourself and your family safe, but at the same time, you want to have those connections, particularly when so many of our friendships are “online”, so to speak.  But I’ve decided to be a little more lax with the losses I’ve had this year so far and pondering how deep some of those online friendships have developed over the years.   I’m not giving you my address or anything, but you know what I’m saying…

 

The other part is something that I’ve gone back and forth on.  On the one hand, its nice to have the freedom to be “anonymous” on the internet, to appear to be a person without background (or bias).  One the other hand, I’ve often thought that my background gave me some unique insight into online communities and MMO’s.  So I guess it took a small dose of “oh hey, I’m not alone.”   When Rowan was kind enough to tweet one of my blog posts, I also saw a tweet of Syp’s tangled in there somehow (I’m still learning Twitter myself) that said he was prepping a sermon.  I headed over to the about page on Bio Break and learned something I had never known.   And I thought, well, if he tells people, I will too, lol.

 

Yep, I’m a pastor.  A Lutheran one…which means like my denominational namesake I occasionally swear and drink and  have “bull in a china shop” syndrome.  And that as irritated as I can get, its usually gone as quickly as it started.  My congregation is in the greater Nashville area, which is odd for me, as I group up a total beach bum in Florida.  But I love it.  I do keep a separate blog for my theological musings, so you won’t see any of that pop up here.

 

big-saint-martin-luther
‘Sup.

 

Outside of that, I grew up playing soccer, up to and including college ball.  I also play drums and love listening to music of all kinds.  I have three kids who provide me both with incredible headaches and the most precious life moments ever – because that’s what kids do!   I got my start in PC games with 5.25″ floppy disks with games like Armchair Quarterback, Bouncing Babies, and Zork.  Not long after I discovered Kampfrgruppe and F-15 Strike Eagle II and I was hooked.   Then I graduated into Their Finest Hour and Civilization.

 

I’ve been playing MMO’s regularly since 2003 – in fact, 10 years and 21 days ago:

 

eqoa1

 

To celebrate the occasion and this series, I have opted to open myself up to the big wide world of Tweeting, which will no doubt take some adjustment.  But you can follow me if you like and I will certainly follow you!  Just forgive me if it takes awhile to untangle the insanity of hashtags and handles.   I mean, I did make it up the learning cliff in EVE, so this should be a piece of cake, but you never know.

 

And here’s the rest of the schedule (which I’m sure will be interspersed with other things and may not be strictly 20 calendar days):

 

Day 01 – Introduce yourself

Day 02 – Why you decided to start a blog

Day 03 – Your first day playing an MMO

Day 04 – Your best gaming memories

Day 05 – Favorite item(s) in game

Day 06 – Your workplace/desk (photo and/or description)

Day 07 – The reason behind your blog’s name

Day 08 – 10 things we don’t know about you

Day 09 – Your first blog post

Day 10 – Blog/Website favourites

Day 11 – Bad habits and flaws

Day 12 – A usual day in your life/online time

Day 13 – People (players/bloggers) that you admire

Day 14 – This upsets you

Day 15 – Your desktop background (on your computer) and why you chose it

Day 16 – Things you miss about certain games from your past?

Day 17 – Your favorite spot (in game or outside it)?

Day 18 – Your favorite outfit?

Day 19 – In your bags/bank?

Day 20 – If this was your last day gaming, what would you do?

EQOA Is Closing Its Doors

First I got the email, and then I went immediately to see what Stonee had to say.  I agree with most everything he has to say.  I do commend SOE for giving us the rest of the month free.  I’m on the road until Friday, but you bet your boots I will be firing up the PS2 this weekend.

 

My first thought is wondering if there is a way I can rig the TV to take some screenshots.  There are so many places and things I want to capture before the place goes into the dark void of internet land.  (Wonder if they are wiping the servers or if  they might be willing to sell them…probably not, copyright info and all that jazz.)   Anyone have ideas on that?

 

Anyway, there is some grief there, but I’m holding it at bay with the simple thought that this game lived far beyond where I thought it would.  And that I had literally years to play the game and never did.  But then I hear the distinctive sound effects of the game (which I will be recording no doubt) and it shakes me a little.  The opening music, the confirmation “bloop” and so on.

 

And…I’m already wondering where I should be when the lights go dim.  For some reason it seems important to decide where to park my character when the game ends.  My old guild all jumped their characters into the volcano outside Klik’anon.  But I chose long ago to eschew that tradition.

 

Qeynos Prison seems appropriate symbolically – my characters trapped in bits and pieces, like Moriarty on the holodeck.   And because I spent so much time grinding there.  But then Highbourne cavernous secret cabal area under the main city was one of my main haunts.   And of course Darvar Manor was the social hub of the game when I was playing.  Or maybe I end where it all begin, the gleaming towers of Fayspire.

 

Anyway, I have some  time to decide.  If anyone wants to join me at the end, that would be neat.  The game deserves more of an ending than a few lonely old veterans solo at their favorites haunts, that’s for sure.

 

When I started the game, I chose Ferran’s Hope server, simply because the name appealed to me.  And perhaps that’s what hurts the most right now.  When the servers shut down, hope is gone.  I will never ago set foot in the land of Norrath as it existed 500 years before Everquest.

 

But perhaps its also a chance to explore what is, to me, the “future” Norrath, as it exists *in* Everquest.    Maybe hope is not gone after all.

 

Anyway, that’s enough for tonight, I’m getting all sappy.   I’m sure I’ll have another post on it later.

An Overdue Thanks

Stoney posted here some time ago about his new blog, a tribute to the MMO we both got our start in, Everquest Online Adventures.   And I am long overdue in saying thank you to him for all the hard work that he has put into the site and for the great memories it has brought back.

If you don’t know anything about EQOA, it was an incredible venture by Sony to bring Everquest to a new market – console MMO’s.  It is one of only a handful to successfully do so (Phantasy Star and FFXI being the only others I know of).  It certainly worked for people like Stoney and I and probably a few thousand others.  It’s hard to know how to approach EQOA these days.

On the one hand, its kind of embarrassing.  EQOA does not have the pedigree of EQ or WoW as a place to cut your teeth on MMO’s.   Some have never heard of it, most looked down on it as EQ with training wheels (which I do not believe it was).   The graphics were terrible, and really only got worse with the first expansion.  The controller made playing interesting, and buying a USB keyboard (*not* easy to find at the time, btw) was almost a necessity – not for playing, but for communicating.    Some of the underlying mechanics were rough – we went through patches where people could power level, exploit, and grief to an extent rarely seen elsewhere.

On the other hand EQOA was a great game.  It was the test bed for virtually every major step forward in the MMO genre – advanced classes, achievements, talent trees.   And it helped developers learn how too curtail and combat those underlying mechanical mistakes – how credit for mob kills should be handled, how to keep trains from happening (if you don’t know what a train is, you missed the dark ages of MMO play time), the need for more quests and less grinding (though we’ve since gone overboard on that one), and advances in making each class capable of solo play without giving up group desirability.

Perhaps one of the most disappointing things about EQOA is the simple lack of graphical media.  Since it was played through the console, there was no “screenshot” feature, and elaborate A/V setups were needed to get pictures and video.  So that makes Stoney’s scrounging and memory work all that more valuable.  I plan a series of posts in this vein myself, along with a tribute to my first guild.

Also, if you haven’t experience EQOA before, now is you chance.  Stoney plans a return to EQOA in January, and I am going to commit to that too.  If you’ve never played it before, you are in for a treat, and the cost of the game discs is cheap these days.  And heck, if you are running a Station Pass, you already have a sub anyway!

So again, thank you Stoney, and thank you EQOA.  You were a home away from home long before I knew I wanted or needed one.  And if any of The Regulators from Ferran’s Hope server stop by – I miss you guys and gals, I hope you all are doing great!

Ask and ye shall receive.

So I was whining about no MMO demos.  Publically.  Which means of course that I would have to be put to shame in some public form.

So I’m going over the two questions with my brother last night and he says “Well, maybe we should do the open Beta.  Its only 99 cents at Target.”

Who knew?  So today I picked up my copy of open beta for WAR.  Now I saw a very bitter post about paying to play beta some time ago in the gaming world, but I’m pretty sure it was aimed at Vanguard, and lets be honest, they didn’t exactly warn you ahead of time that you were paying for a (second) open beta that essentially occured post launch.   Frankly, I don’t mind paying for beta with an MMO, if it means a smoother and better launch for the company, and if it means I get a feel for the game in advance.

I did do beta for EQOA: Frontiers, and it was a mixed experience for me.  On the one hand, I was diligant, logging bugs and making suggestions, and playing the new stuff and enjoying every minute of it.  On the other hand, it was like watching a train wreck in slow motion.  Everyone knew that the new armor graphics were crappy.  Nobody wanted their dark elf to be wearing fragging jedi robes.  Especialy when they had spent hours farming a rare mob for that rare black or orange or whatever robe, only to discover that the new graphics also included changing the colors of the robes.  My Elf Magician went from wearing an awesome embroidered blue robe that I had worked hard to get my grubby hands on, to wearing a brown POS padawan outfit.   So you knew the bad was coming, and there was nothing you could do to stop it.  Well, except leave.  Which I did.

Anyway, so my brother reiterated all that I did about the pros and cons of jumping on the WAR bandwagon.  He also pointed out two new things.

One: The Two Questions are interelated.  Because I can’t afford a Station Pass AND a WAR subscription.

Two:  The economy is another really good reason to get in on the ground floor of a game.   In EQ2 we struggled to make ends meet and keep decent armor and weapons equipped because the prices were so inflated.  This is not helped by the insanely crappy quest rewards in EQ2.  To get any sort of decent quest reward you *have* to be farming one of the group areas.  Not smart, IMHO.

To start WAR from the beginning means a chance to stay ahead of that curve, and that’s attractive.