Tag Archive: EQ

Tell Me What You Want (What You Really, Really, Want)

I think MMO nostalgia makes us funny people. Just yesterday I was thinking about EQ and the amazing times had there with people I still consider ‘amazing’. Hell, I even went to my first ever guild message boards (circa 1999) after a 3 year hiatus to go say “hi” and see who was still kicking around and posting (long after the guild being retired). Funny enough there were people still poking their heads around there from time to time.

Of course, that led to a EQ1 trial download, and boy, is that game ever ugly. After dying to starter mobs a couple of times (yes, that’s right, starter mobs can kill you!) and running out of mana halfway through my second fight, I had to laugh at myself. This was the world that made me fall in love with MMO’s and the concept that gaming can reach a far greater audience than a saved game file on my hard drive. It had slightly less graphical appeal than minecraft. I lasted all of fifteen minutes before logging off, promising myself to actually give it a fair shot when I had more time, and left to go read some blogs.

My first MMO was EQ, then DAOC, then WoW. I played pretty much every MMO in between in either beta tests, short stints, or trials, but those three are the only three that captured my playtime for any significant period. All three are very different, of course, and are as reflective of a time period than anything to do with MMO.

What do we want from a MMO? Hard to figure that part out when I’m not even sure I know what *I* want. My off the cuff response to ‘what does Isey want from a MMO’ is pretty quick and easy to answer:

“A non-instanced, strategically paced, skill based, single world, sandbox style, relationship conducive, emotional driven fantasy world that I can enjoy in chunks of one hour (or less) two to three times a week (or when family/work time allows).”

Long answer, I love the thoughts behind this guy, and this guy, although it’s hard to envision how the three would combine into an actual playable game (and I could easily link another half dozen bloggers who write about games I would play).

Ok! Easy enough. Let’s get to work on that.. wait a minute.. does that really sound so good?

A lot of the systems and styles us fogeys keep discussing and clamoring for are things that have been already been dismissed in current and future game design as ‘quality of life’ improvements. As much as I say (and think), I want that 30 minute boat ride to Freeport, or having to speak in different languages to a complete stranger on that boat to improve my Erudite (15) language skill, it’s easy to remember fondly but harder to actually play that way again. That 30 minutes would be half (or all) of a current play session for me.

And, while I can sit here and write about the systems, styles, and innovations I want (or think I want) from a MMO, the systems themselves do not really matter. I want a MMO that can illicit the emotion of the games I used to love. And  I’m not sure that is entirely possible, but still remain hopeful.

What I do know is that in 10 years from now I probably won’t be searching down my old WoW guilds to see if anyone is still kicking around.

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.

 

Scroll of Blasphemous Conundrum

Damn you, YOU, who sent me the Blizzard scroll of Resurrection. Did you do it because you missed me? Did you do it to get phat xp rewards? (they still giving those out?) because I am a cynical blogger now, surely, it must be to taunt me. Taunt me after reading my last near brush with WoW death (erm.. life?) and sure enough in my inbox, sitting right now, is 10 free days waiting for me. No Paypal fiasco, no hobo-sleep-interrupting wallet retrieval, just 10, free, painful/glorious days of WoW return. When I first  received it in my inbox I smiled, then groaned, then smirked, then hrmpf? followwed by a mmmhmmmmm. I wish I had the video of it to share with you. I haven’t cashed in that chip yet but it did remind me of the other few times I tried to “go home again”. I wouldn’t classify them as successful.

When free trials pop up (as they often do) with the promise of all the new and shiny fixes to various titles I had left for various reasons, no matter how skeptical, I typically do them. Ah, to put on my troll costume and roam the EQ lands as Braack Baacarat. To enter my stealthly Emain Macha gate camping with Bleyzn Saddle. The joys. The memories! The dissapointment? Around this time last year (or the year before, it is all a blur in MMO land) I got one for EQ. Password retrieval was simple, and I downloaded the new shiny EQ skins (yes, it has been that long. I loved being a big boxy troll. The new graphics? notsomuch.) I had apparently logged out in the Great Divide Zone. I was still guilded!

[/gu] Erm.. anybody home?

..crickets..

Good thing there are zone channels.

[/1] Hey! Uh, I used to play on this server a couple years ago and just checking to see if anyone I know is still around

Small pause, then a chorus of replies. “HEY BRAACK!”, “Braack! YOU LOSER!”, “Hey B! come find us, we are grinding Giants!”

It was fun for the reception, albeit midly surprising that so many people were still here – this was a couple years after I had left.

So, I met up, and they were grinding giants. To work on something called “AA”. (Wow! they have expanded the game! Aircraft now? and you can grind skills to counteract that? SWEET!). We ground (grinded?) Giants for 4 hours. Yep, the same old EQ. The conversations I had during downtimes were fun, and it was a beautiful night overall. I had one other place to go – the dreaded Tower of Frozen Shadow. I ran my (now) little troll butt to the tower, sat, and just thought about things as the day/night cycle went through a couple times. The TOFS was a pinncle of memory for me. No, it wasn’t that great, but I still to this day remember how I stumbled upon it with my pocket Cleric (Candarie Stryper) and Druid pal (Deidre Whereami) when the expansion first came out. No walkthroughs, no maps. We tackled that place, the three of us, lost a quarter level of XP and had some of the most fun ever in gaming. The unknown is powerful. We ended up going back at a later date with a full group and beat the thing. That tower, for me represented everything good about gaming online at the time – still does to a degree. It is a beacon a hope – an old relic of a place, poorly designed, yet magical nonetheless. I look back at that as the “past” of MMO gaming, and how far we have come, and dare to dream that future iterations of the MMO scape can recapture that magic. I logged out that night from EQ for my last time. Didn’t have the heart to kill ol’ Braack off, but at least I know that if I ever get a free trial to that place again I will have a beautiful sight to behold when I log in. Even if just metaphorically.

So, 10 days, huh? I probably will take it and mess around with specs, and of course, check in on my motley crew of characters lying around do see if any harm/good has come of them. As of right now I have no plans to buy WOTLK, but hey, who knows – maybe 2 years from now when everyone in WoW is running around at level 110 I can login and learn that Shattrath is my new Tower of Frozen Shadow.

Corrosion

My 3 year old son is in his “why?” phase. I knew this day would come, and have spent the past three years preparing for it. I refuse to give in and tell him “because I said so”, or “stop saying that”, and have mentally prepared myself for when he goes off on the “why?” chain. I break down each question to a more micro level until it borders rediculous. A typical exchange between the two of us goes something like this:

  • HIM: Dad, why are those two people kissing?
  • ME: Because they love each other.
  • HIM: Why?
  • ME: Because they met, either at a bar or a wedding or something along those lines, were both completely bored out of their minds, maybe had a bit too much to drink, and became interested in one another enough to get to know each other better
  • HIM: Why?
  • ME: Probably because most people in society define themselves by the partner they choose
  • HIM: Why?
  • ME: Humans have a natural instinct to preserve the species through reproduction, regardless of how overpopulated we have made the world
  • HIM: Why?
  • ME: At our core, we are just made up billions of cells that each perform a specific function, who a long, long time ago decided to hook up with billions of other little cells that performed a different function. Forming these little cell communities it was learned that more could be accomplished including the most important thing of all: survival. Now, when one set of billions of little cells happens upon another set of billions of little cells who has traits that seems to increase that chance of survivability even further there is a mutual attraction to ensure survival of the fittest. Strength in numbers, afterall, sonny-boy.
  • HIM: Oh. I see. Do you love Mommy?
  • ME: Why, yes I do
  • HIM: Why?
  • ME: …

[note: I really should insert something very clever here, such as she is my sould mate, or at bare minimum how she puts up with my often questionable hygiene practices – however the exchange was shared for a specific purpose, not to gain brownie points with my wife. Besides, the brownie point market is cornered by Prada, and I do not want to hedge in on their specialty.]

I know where he gets it, because I am always as interested in the “why?” as I am the fact. When Zubon made the comment that MMO’s compete for his dollars (and as such he has less leniency for post-beta product expectations) I wanted to understand better why I have much more leniency. To do that, I went back and revisited my MMO history and when, and why, I moved from MMO to MMO. Doing this will hopefully shed some light why there always seems to be two camps when it comes to MMO “issues”, so perhaps we can better define these camps – but more importantly, answer “why?”

Why does a new and shiny MMO corrode into old and dull? My first traditional MMO was Everquest – a game that I beta tested. I played EQ from release through the Shadows of Luclin expansion. My experience in EQ was a bit different than most, as I solely played on the testserver (through the item wipe – yay!). Back in the day EQ was magical, and the community I became a part of there was rediculously strong – part because it was the first 3D mmo for a lot of people but also because of the nature of the testserver. While I still make the odd post on my old guild’s website, the posts are typically months in between (but still fun to see people connecting). I still really enjoyed EQ when I left, but time limitations and always falling behind my in game friends was frustrating. Add to that, many people moving on to DAOC, the population dwindled as my time became more valuable, and it was time for me to visit new shores.

I joined DAOC about a year after release, and because of my past positive experience on the EQ testserver rolled up on Pendragon (which was also where some of my guildmates in EQ had gone for the same reason). Shiny and new still wasn’t quite as exciting as when EQ first launched (you never forget your first, right? What was her name again?) and toiled in guild leadership for the first time, in the Pendragon guild ‘Legends’, which was the leader of the Midgard alliance. Many years and RvR battles later and stomaching through the Trials of Atlantis expansion (after the developer inspired destruction of the Pendragon population), the game wasn’t fun for me anymore. My lone Shadowblade without the benefit of his Left Axe anymore, standing at the Emain Macha milegate waiting for something – anything – to kill or die to began talking to himself which surely wasn’t healthy. My co-gm and steadfast friend, Loremon, had left long ago to a new World (of Warcraft). Bile, my shadowblade parter extraordinaire no longer stood with me at the milegate as he was off getting some sort of real job, and Mehlan and his puppy were off driving a motorbike somewhere. Torrential was still around, but he was already planning for his funeral, and the blue color of alliance chat became less about defeating our enemies and more about how much ToA ruined DAOC, or even worse, how possible it was to solo or two man a keep – since that was all that was on the server at the time. While Loremon was resolute on having me join him in WoW, I was never quite ready when he asked. I finally was.

World of Warcraft, again, about a year after launch, was okay. The world didn’t WOW me like the previous two (pardon the pun?) and it was so simple comparatively to my previous two major MMO’s I almost felt my intelligence was insulted at first. It took me a while to shine up to WoW and the busier I became in my professional life, the more I appreciated it as it really worked for my schedule. I rolled a hunter a first (before I knew that everyone was already a hunter, and that no one needed – or wanted one – tagging around for anything back in those days) got to max level in a guild that Loremon was in – and then realized there was nothing for me to do. About that time, Loremon left (damn you!) and while I was with a good group of people, because of the solo nature of WoW I didn’t really know any of them. Everyone solo’d up to max level than began to figure out what to do in a group. There were no true bonds made, and I was ready to hang it up. I started reading boards, and learned how important (and rare) Druids were at the time – Innervate was one of the most important skills in the game back then and I decided to roll a druid, get to max level, and see the other part of what made WoW supposedly special – the end game raiding. The casual and bond-less guild I was a part of fell apart, and I made my trek solo again (not surprisingly), got to where I wanted to be, and began searching for a guild. My needs in a guild were a bit different now, being, uh, old – and I was very specific on what I wanted. The first time I posted on the WoW server boards “Level 60 druid, looking for guild” I received 20 replies the first day. Druids were indeed in demand, and for the first time in my WoW experience, I felt semi important. I joined the Grey Rangers, and it was a perfect fit. Not a bleeding end game content guild but a “hey, there are actually people like me playing in this game” guild. People mattered, families mattered, and the game and progress mattered – but the latter was third on the list. The leadership of that guild had it figured out real nice, and pretty much instantly after I joined that guild WoW turned out to be a good game. Funny how that happens. BC expansion was on the horizon, and the guild changed – we had recruited so many people and different camps had formed on in game expectations (to fill out a 40 man raiding roster) and at that time a small group of people decided they wanted something different when the expansion came with the new reduced raid size. Ascension was born, I somehow greased enough palms to be voted in as it’s Guild Master, and after a rough start and a lot of organizing and hard work with a ton of help from a lot of amazing people, we hit a great raiding stride – suddenly WoW was an AWESOME game. After being a GM for what seemed like a very long time (although much shorter in reality) 18 months into the expansion my professional life became rediculously busy, and while I didn’t have the time to do my GM job properly I somehow made it work – but inside I knew my time was coming. I had no excitement for the WOTLK announced expansion, the idea of levelling again the same old way, to get the same old loot rewards to face the same old raid bosses with maybe a twist or two to mechanics had zero interest for me. The people still did (do) but I couldn’t justify playing a scheduled 15 hours a week anymore with a young family, work overwhelming me, and additional responsibilities in game, so I stepped down, and let my subscription run out.

I did toy with a few other MMO’s during the WoW phase, notably DDO and LOTR but neither did it for me. I beta tested over 15 titles from 1998 to current, but the aforementioned titles are the only games I truely played.

My little personal history lesson has showed me one thing – I leave games when I am ready to, regardless of what is out there on the market. Perhaps that is why I have a lot of leniency for new games coming out of beta and going live, because I am not looking for the new game to “beat” my current experience, rather, I am looking for a new experience – one that fits my current personal, professional, and entertainment needs. My question to you, my esteemed readership (of 5?), is what makes you leave your current titles for new ones?

Why?