The Grind the Binds, Unkind.

I am in a funny spot in Project 1999. Level 45.

And by funny, I mean painful. It’s a test. It’s the first real “hell level” of many more to come.

For those of you who don’t know what a hell level is I will explain. It roughly takes 2x the amount of XP to level on hell levels, which hit every 5 levels after level 35. Level 35 might be one too, but the XP is so reasonable there that I am not sure if we really recognize or notice it. I did at 40 though, and 45 is a crawl.

The mystery around hell levels in EQ was whether they were done purposefully or not, or if it was just a coding error. Not sure if that was ever confirmed.

The benefits of grouping in P1999 leads to tighter binds between players. I have deep caring and respect for many who have helped me out on my hard journey to level 45.

Many of them are gone now. Leida, Dryse, both flew past me but kept me close in chats and support. They became good friends – in game.

Players leaving EQ, or any other MMO for that manner, is nothing new. The impact of that happening in game where relationships matter actually has me wondering where they went, how they are, if things are okay. What I remember form the old days is the grind getting to me, and the pastures of a tight knit group of friends and dependencies outweighed the dopamine fueled progression options in games. At some point that changed to be inverse for me, and now back again.

I was / am wholly not excited about E3. With how Anthem went down, I am out of the hype cycle completely. The meaningful connections and dependencies are important to me in game. I will, no doubt, stop playing p1999 at some point, and will check out new games as they come (Cyberpunk 2077 being the one I am most excited for), but in the meantime I have a safe, fun space to grow in.

I just hope others there see it it the same way, because losing a regular person in a server of thousands has far more impact than losing one in a see of 10s of millions.

12 comments / Add your comment below

  1. Which I think is why it was Evercrack. Frankly, EQ mechanically isn’t very good but the social bonds therein and sharing the DING was the dopamine hit. The type of player it attracted may not have had another type of outlet to be social, and group-based challenges are the core of bonding.

    1. I always feel I have to challenge this every time it comes up, although I really don’t know why. For me the addictive nature of EQ has always been the mechanics. I find all MMORPGs that use the basic DikuMUD-derived progression systems highly satisfying and compelling, entirely without regard to whether or not I know or speak to anyone else who plays the game. By comparison, all other MMORPGs I’ve ever played fall short.

      1. That’s fair and it’s always to each their own, and curious what the balance of the player base does.

        For example, the WoW progression mechanics are even better than EQ and with a story grain in there as well – but they feel empty in comparison. I chase the levels and gearscore and then get to a spot of “what now?”.

        In EQ, I also get to that spot, but the what now is exploring a challenging dungeon solo using mechanics. Or sitting around a newbie area buffing and helping new players. Handing out old gear. Helping others on a CR, or track down an elusive mob. Much of hte content I am doing on p99 is for, and with, other players.

        All of my WoW content was solo questing, or anonymous group finder activities with 4-24 people I will never see or hear from again. Whereas I am getting to know those who are levelling in and around where i am, for weeks at a time (some, even months). Which is much more social than the 15 minutes to an hour in other MMOs you might have a friends.

        Inspired post incoming!

        1. It might also have something to do with the fact that you’re not finished with your progression in EQ, and possibly never will be.

          WoW, just like many themeparks that came out after it, has its progression caps set in very reachable heights. How long does it take for a casual player to reach max character level and a reasonably high ilvl? A couple months? Probably even less.

          EQ seems to be drastically different in that regard – which, I think, is the main reason for its often touted ‘much higher difficulty’. It might be a bit more difficult, but above all stuff just takes a hell of a lot longer as far as I know.

          Another example. I have already played the crap out of Black Desert Online, and while I’m not necessarily in the mood to play it each and every day anymore I’ve never had a “What now?”-moment. Ever. Granted, it is a sandbox and I’m very fond of just exploring and doing whatever, but I’m 100% sure that the fact that I’m not even near the end of any kind of progression is also a big contributing factor for my lasting motivation to play the game.

          This is not to say that your point of other people being a big factor in ‘stickiness’ of a game is invalid. But I agree with Bhagpuss that progression, and whether we still have some of it yet to achieve or not, is also a very big factor, even if we’re not conciously aware of it.

          1. I agree with the sentiment that I will never be done with progression there. Levels take weeks – not hours, and then the hunt for gear and other items (epic quests were months long affairs, often). Plus I have as much fun buffing lowbies (you can buff lower level characters with gear and items in EQ, fundamentally changing their gaming experience). Having that kind of an impact is fun!

      2. I noticed this in your blog post. I’ll respond to one point here:

        I think the reason why no one actively spoke about the “social side” of EQ back when EQ was all there really was in the genre, is because it was kind of the default. You didn’t have WoW dungeons that could be queued for and completed without a single word to anyone. It was just assumed you’d socialise with people because most of the addictive mechanics required some level of cooperation.

        There’s a lot more soloing on P99, largely because the server has aged and been locked in time so gear is better, buffs are more available and there is a lot more knowledge out there. But in the high point of P99, say 1999-2001, or maybe even into SoL or PoP, socialising was essential.

        1. Yet people realize still that for most classes, groups are better. Hell, ANY duo or trio kills faster than solo. So that’s what most people do on P1999 – group up.

          Sure, I soloed all of 47 in Oggok on guards because I could do it semi afk while doing computer work. I did all of 48 with a Druid who also came to the zone looking for guards – we could clear the whole zone of them together and still have time to rest and chat. Zero risk. Whereas if I pushed the 10th to 12th guards solo I’d be low on mana and in danger.

          People do solo but I have never had an issue finding a group. Quite the opposite, sometimes I have to get in line for a group because there are too many groups already (unrest, for example : 2 CY, 1 MR, 1 FP sometimes hag tower soloing ..)

  2. I had actually wondered whether Anthem was having an impact on my perception of E3 this year. It might be, frankly, although I do still think the main issue was the lack of exciting new game announcements full stop. There were some new reveals, but the ones I was most interested in were for games I was *already* interested in.

    As for EQ, first, let me say I am somewhat amazed you’re still going with it. And second, I didn’t know EQ had ‘hell levels’. I think I did make it to level 35 or so on a Beastmaster one time, but it definitely wasn’t back in the ’99. Probably more like 2002 / 2003?

    1. Hell levels are what happens when linear code meet exponential growth. What EQ did was apply “groups” to XP level requirements, and the first stage of this group was deemed a “hell level” since it was very disproportionate to the level preceding. Also of note, in the original EQ your race/class combo had an impact on XP gains – I think Shadowknights had a 10% penalty?

      Most of this was smoothed out in 2003/2004, while the WoW/EQ2 betas were underway. There’s a lot of P99 stuff that is deemed “not a bug”.

      1. Races do too – so playing an Iksar SK you could have a -25% xp penalty. Ouch.

        They took out the racial one in P1999, but the class one is still there. Or maybe it is vice versa. One is gone, anyway!

    2. It’s still fun for me. Much of why is in my response to Bhagpuss above. When the core activity is interacting with other players (heck, even while selling it’s all face to face…) that activity has staying power

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