Happy Birthday, EQ
EQ was my first MMO girlfriend. She was a bit cranky, and demanding on my time, but looking back I wouldn’t change a thing (looking forward is another matter). Those sweet, sweet evenings spent together shaped my gaming expectations and experiences. It is true that you never forget your first.
EQ Nostalgia after the break.
I beta tested EQ, and it set me off on a flurry of beta tests since, nearing the 20 mark. Inspired by Oz’s memory post at KTR I thought I’d share a bunch of stuff from that wonderful long forgotten world. A world where I experienced my first online friendships, guild drama, out of game connected to in game drama, sense of gaming accomplishment, responsibility, and of course, bittersweet dissapointment at the end of it all.
EQ had a lot of leeway when it launched. They were doing something completely different, a 3D “mainstream” Fantasy MMO. The challenges in the game were tough – the rewards few and far between. Levelling for hours could result in a 2% XP increase – or worse, a 5% decrease, depending on how you fared. I, like Oz, played on the test server. I started with a troll shaman named Zraka, and got to 30ish before moving to a troll warrior, Braack. It was with Braack where I experienced most of my trials and tribulations. I still remember how I met my first guild.
I stumbled upon a small group of adventurers pulling alligators in Sol Ro (I believe that was the name of the zone). The name that stands out to me the most is Engrid – a dark elf. They were looking for a tank. We started as a few, and turned into a full blown group in no time. Somehow my tanking wasn’t important – I had SoW on and was responsible for pulling. I would run out, grab a bunch of crocs (or alligators, seriously, they all look the same), and bring the bunch back to the group. After we started getting them down I would run back out, and grab a bunch more. We chain pulled them for hours, and we got into a great flow where I would bring back a whole mess of bad guys just as they were finishing up the first pull. It ended up getting a bit silly, we killed multiple hundreds and hundreds of the beasts with swift and reckless enthusiasm. The xp flowed like cheap wine at Olive Garden. Everyone commented how it was one of the best times they had had in EQ up to that point. Engrid, an “alt” of Velm, esteemed Cleric of “The Grove” guild, noticed I was untagged and suggested I go to their message boards and introduce myself. I did. The rest, as they say, is history.
The Grove wasn’t what I expected. All adults, playing a kids game and having a great time. I honestly didn’t know what to expect from a Guild in a game such as EQ, but quickly I found I was at home. Oz from KTR was also in that guild. I believe he was an officer or other important type person. In the Grove I finally had a plan – I could log in and do events, or at bare minimum have people to spend time with – which made the game that much more incredible. I was starting to understand this whole MMO thing and how great it was – and could be.
To keep things shorter and sweeter, from there we levelled, grew, did some raids (on the testserver it was always a multi-guild events), experienced Guild drama in a few forms – from bringing in the “wrong” people into the Guild (quotation marks – wrong isn’t quite the right word, just people who were different in temperment and attitude than the core crew – some of which I recommended to join with us), Loot drama in a Giants raid (stemmed from me as well – I asked a question about loot to a raidmaster who was running a raid – a faux pas for sure, but new territory for me that I didn’t understand. Quick and important lesson learned!) to Guild fracturing – some old time members who were at the top of the level and loot chart started realizing they wouldn’t “advance” anymore under current circumstances, so ended up leaving to a bigger and more hardcore guild (believe it was Primal Brood at the time – again, been a long time!). None of this “drama” will be new to any of you folks – it still happens on much grander scales in current MMO’s. It was still many of my MMO-life lessons though, and something I learned from way back then, and have tried to avoid/improve upon in current times.
While enjoying life as a guildmate in an incredible group of people, I also became part of EQ’s Volunteer Guide program as Stalbik, on the Rathe server. It was interesting and fun – the GM hall and equipment available was sweet, as were the commands and capabilities. After a year in the guide program I was promoted to the Lieutenant Guide in charge of Training and Testing – mostly other, new guides. We had tests and scenarios that had to be passed and a whole program that had to be navigated to be successful. Those Guides you dealt with that you hated because they wouldn’t help you, or couldn’t give you a clear answer? I probably trained them. Don’t throw tomatoes, our scope and mandate was so limited there really wasn’t much we could do. This was a great learning experience as well, dealing with developers and Sr. GM’s as we navigated issues from small (stuck, lost items) to big (harassment, racism) all under such strict and unworkable parameters. I will admit that personally I was able to help about 70% of the people who petitioned, and usually received hearty thank you’s and cheers. That other 30% was impossible to deal with – many with legitimate complaints or issues that just didn’t fall under our scope of responsibility. I dealt with the major jackass to the most polite and kind people. Around this time we were trying out live events – and while limited in scope and size it was a fun twist to bring to the world. The program was volunteer but still took up about 20 hours a week for me, and eventually I had the choice to either enjoy the game as a player, or as a Guide – there wasn’t room for both. Having as much fun as I did I chose being a player and just ensured that I was super polite and understanding when I had to petition myself.
There were not gigantic guides on the internet for EQ – at least, none that I could find or use. You would literally have to explore and find things on your own. Of course, all that has changed, but I fondly remember things such as the Tower of Frozen Shadow (which I talk about here a bit at the end). We were levelling and came accross the structure. There were no instances in EQ, so you could guage the size of an area or building by just looking at it. We entered and spent hours exploring, killing, and dying, and finally getting enough of a hold of the place to go get reinforcements to come back and clear the place. That sense of exploration was wonderful in EQ, you could literally stumble accross things you had no clue about, and because there was no Quest-only structure to level (it was all mob grinding) you would explore to see if you found a sweet spot. Many days and nights were showing friends great little tucked away areas we had discovered and spending the night levelling, waiting for that one piece of elusive loot that had a .5% drop rate of some rare, named mob.
I don’t remember exactly when, or exactly why, I ended up leaving. I do remember a lot of the people who brought me into the Guild, such as Velm, moving on to other guilds, and other people not being able to maintain the time commitment in EQ to enjoy playing. The levelling curve was devastating. As people left, and my own work commitments became busier, and searching for a change, with the release of DAOC and many of things keeping me in EQ moving on or changing, I left the wonderful world of EQ. If EQ would launch today it would no doubt be an utter failure – but I will not and am not interested in talking about what that game did wrong – the past is the past, after all. I will simply remember the first night we held hands, and later kissed – all the while living in an imperfect world avoiding what the future would no doubt bring. Your first will always bring up an emotional side, and many of us spend the rest of our lives trying to recapture the moments of our childhood – the real childhood, or the MMO version.