Friday, February 27, 2009

EverQuest, WoW and Gaming Addiction (Part 2 of 3)

Part 1 is here.

Not to sound like a broken record, but everything in EverQuest was so manual. From a perspective of World of Warcraft, EQ is like DOS command line and WoW is Mac OS GUI. This can be best exemplified by the questing system and other anecdotes.

To do any kind of questing (even for a small piece of equipment), you have to chat with an NPC. Picture yourself "hailing" a bot named Conium Darkblade and gleaning information out of him like he was a real person. So you're reading all this babble and looking for [words with brackets around them] to figure out how to type a response to Mr. Darkblade. Then, you type the matching words and... nothing happens. You realize you misspelled "the" and re-type the whole thing to finally get to more babble and more [word searching]. It was ridiculous and not fun. But that's not all...

Now picture yourself finally finding the quest piece that you need to turn in to Conium Darkblade (to complete the quest and receive your rewards). Imagine grabbing the quest item from inventory and clicking on the NPC to open trade. Then, when you press the Trade button, nothing happens...... The NPC just ate your item. Well, tough luck. Time to start all over again. No time to think about why, just keep playing for 8 more hours.

Which brings me to in-game bugs, exploits and patches. EverQuest was taken down a lot for hotfixes. It was (and still is) rife with bugs and glitches. "You pay to be the bug tester." I remember hearing people losing their characters after a teleportation went totally wrong. Falling through the world was commonplace. Practically every week you had to download updates from Verant and stare at a progress bar. And, some of the servers had different patch problems than others. All the modern MMO's have learned from this, and really haven't topped the EQ clusterfuck of patches breaking more stuff. Blizzard and Warcraft are an absolute joy compared to the quality of SOE.

Epic Quests
The first EQ expansion (Kunark) added epic weapons (also known as particle weapons, because they glowed and sometimes had cool graphics like translucent leaves emanating from them). The rogue's was called the Ragebringer (pictured). All class epics had a "proc" (process) that would trigger something to help defeat or prevent defeat from an enemy. Like the priest's epic (Water Sprinkler) could resurrect a player without any mana cost.

One part of my epic quest was in a place called the Plane of Hate. You had to steal a book from a table, and then give that book to a questgiver. Most people brought dozens of people to raid the area and kill everything, but as a rogue I decided to do it solo. I wasn't playing when my character got the book. I was at work, and over the phone I told my friends how to sneak to the book. By the will of the gods, they somehow avoided disaster and got out of there. I never went back to PoH.

I was extremely scared when I was near the end of my epic quest that I would lose everything and have to start over. The multiple zone, many NPC quest chain involved lots of work, and in the end trading with a high-level mob in a log cabin full of enemies. I was an excellent sneak, but failure was a fact of life for EverQuest. The quest triggers all worked, and I won the Ragebringer.

Items and loot
EverQuest had lots of cool little items that really didn't help you kill enemies, but were just awesome to have. One of those was the Mask of Deception. One of the cool things about EQ player (unless you were on the short end of the stick) is that races like Barbarians and Erudites could see differently. Some could see in the dark better. The Mask changed your race to Dark Elf for 29 minutes. As a bonus, sometimes you could infiltrate an "evil" city as a dark elf instead of a good race. There were other racial masks (including the Holy Grail of the Guise of the Coercer that was impossible to get), and there were other novelty items. I used to carry around Tuuak's Fishing Pole (that did nothing) in one hand and a real fishing rod in the other, because it looked uber to dual-wield them in town.

Ninja looting
Ninja looting was rampant throughout the game. If a decent item dropped for a group of 6 players, the first player who looted the corpse could easily just take it instead of being honest. There was no safety net, there was no automatic dice roll. The only punishment for a ninja looter was social blacklisting and possibly a short ban from the game by a GM. But too many got away with it. I cannot tell you how many times someone looted a group item and then went "LD" (link dead), to never return. I'll admit, I once or twice went LD because I didn't want to be in a dumb group or had to leave the computer, but I never ninja'd.

Being anonymous
That brings me to another WoW vs. EQ comparison: anonymity. In EverQuest, a simple "/anonymous" command could make your level, race and location unsearchable. In essence, you could be alone in peace and quiet. With Blizzard, there is no such thing. How many WoW healers out there would kill for this feature on their downtime? And to boot, everyone can see your WoW gear online... It's a privacy issue, and Blizzard needs to think about protecting individuals from other individuals. I mean, you are paying to play a fantasy game, where you are already mostly anonymous. There is no PATRIOT Act in the online world...

One of the cool undertones about the game was factions. This concept of "good standing" with a group of people was not a new concept. To gain access to some areas, you had to gain a reputation with the monsters or people in a certain zone. So, if you wanted to walk through an ogre town, you had to kill their enemies (lots of them), in essence.

I remember killing goblins in the Nurga/Droga area for a solid 2 or 3 weeks. Their sworn enemy are the Sarnaks, and the Brood of Di'Zok faction was what I was after. There was a certain (epic) quest for a dungeon key that required running all over. And, in pure EverQuest fashion, one of the quest givers was in the middle of a remote dungeon. To be able to walk through to him, you needed good standing with the Brood. As a rogue, you would think I could just sneak in and waltz out, or maybe use an invisibility potion. Well, the mobs wouldn't be fooled. I could have also just brought a group with me, but it was an unpopular zone. I had no idea why I wanted the key, probably for bragging rights. I never finished the final quest piece, either...

That dungeon key quest was just a sliver of what the Kunark continent offered. I absolutely loved the art and the zones there. It was just so jungle crazy, and death was stalking you everywhere. Think of anything that was scary, and it was there.

The first real zone for any newbie was the Lake of Ill Omen. To access the Lake zone, you had to leave the city outpost and run like hell to the zone line. There were giant spider women that you had to outrun to reach the area. If you made it, you were home free because it was a busy, and well-inhabited zone.

In the LOIO, /OOC chat was ridiculous. Because it was level 20-30, it was a proving ground that eventually divides the serious gamers from the tools. And, the chat reflected the absurd and the argumentative features of the internet. Whether it be "/ooc ding 23!" or "/ooc 23 ranger LFG" or "/ooc hepl", it was just major spammage. But the main pull of the area was the experience. The sarnaks there were abundant and fairly easy. There were dozens of camping spots for groups.

I know another Kunark zone that would bring a smile to any seasoned veteran's face: The Overthere. Like LOIO, it had its charm because it was just... odd. It was a huge open field were each "pull" (term for luring mobs to a party) was unique. At any time you could be killing a sarnak, a cockatrice, a golem, a rhinoceros, a sabertooth tiger, a scorpikis or walking cactus. And the experience was good enough to stay there for an entire ten levels. But, one of the charming aspects that kept you on your toes (much like the Fire Swamp), was the Dragoons. If you were a good race, you had to keep an eye out for these guys. Every hour or so, they would patrol the whole zone. If you were close enough to aggro General V'Deer, you had at least 5 Goons whipping your whole group's ass in a matter of seconds. And a corpse run was never fun... TO BE CONTINUED!

[There is still more, including death and beating your addiction....]

PART 3 is here.

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