Wednesday, March 18, 2009

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

Part one and part two.

Friendship & Guilds
When I played EQ, I already had a friend-base. I had several in-game buddies, but none I would call or email regularly (shout-out to Sutton, Dita, Josefa, Jaxxem, Genka, Damastas, Daymondd and Aegies!) When I started playing World of Warcraft in 2004, it was different. All of my current real-life friends weren't gamers. Soonafter, voicechat (TeamSpeak then Ventrilo) became a part of the game for group raiding, so that intimate act made me closer than I will ever be to any EQ player.

However, EverQuest was still a very social and populated game. I knew a person who had an EQ monthly account just so they could chat. So, both games can be equally addictive for their chatting aspects.

Mithaniel Marr was a great great server. I had no idea when I joined the realm, and would have regretted picking another server. For one, all my college buddies were on it, and secondly, we had Afterlife Guild. You may have heard of the legendary Thott (Aftathott) or Hobben the Strategist. This guild was badass, and set the bar for past and present gaming clans. It was even said that Verant/Sony had an open dialog with the guild, to suggest harder and more compelling end-game content...

There were a few other hardcore guilds on the server, but nothing really touched the daily raiding regimen and DKP system (which they invented) of Afterlife until further expansions (the guild eventually transplanted to WoW). Near the end of my experience, I was able to join Deadly Virtues, which at the time was fairly uber. I once saw a member and was in awe of their spectacular armor, so I kept camping their forums until they wanted a rogue. It was fun, but it was kind of like a job. I had friends to help me out with all sorts of wishlist quests that were too hard for the average party. It was my first taste of real raiding (dragons, Ring War, Luclin) until I joined my first (and only) guild on WoW. Unfortunately, I left EQ only 3 months after I joined that guild.

The Council of the Dedicated may be the oldest active WoW guild on Garona realm. I joined only a month into the game launch, and I never left. At the time, they weren't thinking about raids, and in fact it was a family guild. The guild master's 9-year-old son befriended me and his dad recruited me for casual play. About a year or so later, the guild was booming and we started thinking seriously about "keying up" and hitting the 40-man raid areas like Molten Core. We formed an alliance with and started working our way towards the big leagues. Cowbell Open Raid was a huge success in 2006, and it eventually got us the numbers to go on our own. It was a great time to be in CotD. We even managed to have a guild convention in Minnesota (where most people were). I took off a week from work and flew up there. It was a blast, and the first time I met people from a virtual world. We went to Hooters.

Now Blizzard completely trumps SOE when it comes to rewarding their players. I can only remember a few GM Events (as they called them) on EverQuest. One was a week of Halloween spawns in East Karana, which after the fact I was obsessed with (some spectre dropped the best agility ring or earring ever). The sky also turned blood-red in several zones. I think also in Karana there were plague events where bugs would fly around, but I don't recall. It was a gigantic zone. Rathe Mountains had some stuff going on, too.

Occasionally you would ceremonies in town with a ton of decked-out GM's (who had unlimited power, unlike Guides in WoW). And sometimes there would be a wedding (you could get an admin to tie the knot for you). Does anyone remember the time they added a feature to where you could be a random mob? Yes, they actually let you for a short time run around as a cool monster! I do remember logging on as a goblin once and running around. I ran to the nearest player to try and freak him out... I think I died. Someone also told me they spawned as a godlike dragon, but I dunno about that. Now for the big section...

There was a certain survival instinct that came with EQ. It was like you were a caveman and everything was out to eat you. You did what you needed to survive, even if it meant trampling others in the way.

One stupid thing was distance aggro. EverQuest players learned to avoid this fairly quickly, but I saw this shit happen all the time in WoW. If you're an EQ player, you know how to hug a wall like a champ. World of Warcraft players are clueless about proximity aggro, for the most part. This is because it wasn't as bad as EQ. In EverQuest, aggroing a mob when a party was regenerating mana was a guaranteed death. Most everyone in the game could know exactly how many feet away a mob was, and avoid it. I loved being a rogue because stealth was such a safety net. But, I couldn't avoid everything...

Before Leeroy Jenkins became a household name through WoW, EverQuest was the innovator for "mob trains". It was a natural thing: When a party became overwhelmed, they jumped ship and headed for the safety of a zone-line, carting behind them sometimes 50 enemies. Because the mobs in EQ never broke off from their pursuit, it was usually a memorable experience if you saw "/ooc TRAIN" and lived. And, any player from the Kunark era knows about trains in Sebilis and Karnor's Castle. Monks could feign death and avoid this, but for all the other classes it was a common threat.

Corpse runs

A corpse run on EverQuest was... ridiculous. From a World of Warcraft perspective, pretend that you died in some lava. In WoW, you're a ghost in a nearby graveyard. You run to the general area of your former body, and simply click "Resurrect" and run away without dealing with the lava. Now, here's EQ: you spawn at a bind point, not a graveyard (usually several, several zones away), you run with minimal health, naked (no items) to where you think your corpse may be and start looking. You realize it is in the lava, and you have to /loot the corpse just like a dead mob. You figure you can use the /corpse command to drag it out of the lava. It barely works (sometimes you were totally fucked), and now you must loot all of your armor and bags and coins. Did I mention you lost a ton of experience, and probably lost your level? So, you must now find a resurrect-casting player to gain back some of that experience, or you're hosed. Next time, remember to die in a good spot...

Probably the most memorable corpse run occurred in a 2 AM Chardok raid. It was in Warslik's Woods, and my home bind point was far away. Our whole late-night dungeon raid died about 2 hours into the zone, which had by then fully respawned. Therefore, we're all naked and can't handle a single mob. Eventually the raid leader called in a necromancer to "casket rez" the whole raid at the entrance. It was so late, and I remember getting up the next morning and barely staying awake.

Dying was a big, big deal in EQ. Not only did you lose valuable experience, and had to run back and get the corpse, but players had to re-equip and re-learn their spells, all while regenerating mana and HP. Mind you, there are no hearthstones to speak of! It was so easy to die in that game.

Hmm, I could play it right now...

The Final Solution: Quitting EQ and WoW
I quit EverQuest cold turkey. My college workload was too much, and I decided that the upcoming expansion (Planes of Power) was going to suck the life out of me. To realize this is the first step to recovery.

I did this liquidating my platinum pieces (pp) and posting 130,000 pp on PlayerAuctions. There weren't really gold farmers on EQ, and money was slow to collect. World of Warcraft players wipe their butts with gold in comparison. Virtual money was an emerging market, and still lucrative for the regular player. The auction didn't last long, and I soon had a buyer who PayPal'ed me the cash. Believe it or not, I sold the money for $500.00! Today, that amount is going for less than $15.00.

I disbanded from my guild on the day that PoP released. I gave away my username/password to an in-game friend. I had little gear, but my bank account in-game was full. To this day, I don't know what came of little Amalgamax. I was told a few years ago that the person who took it over kind of abused the name, and I told my friends it wasn't my doing. I tried to not let it bother me. If you are thinking of giving away your account, beware... there may be some guilt.

I quit WoW differently. I moved to another country, and I knew the internet access and time-change was going to kill my experience. I gave all my remaining funds to my guild's bank, and gave the account over to a coworker at the time. He did the right thing by changing the character name and moving him to another realm. To my knowledge, he still plays and hopefully he is putting my gear to good use. I still miss it.

Well, I hope my blathering and rambling provided an ounce of insight into MMO addiction. EverQuest is over 10 years old, and I just downloaded EverQuest Titanium Edition to try and play offline (using EQEmulator). I am excited that it may work, and for free.

I would love to hear (and link to) several other EverQuest memories and great stories. So, shoot me an email (or write a comment below).

External Links
Remarkably, someone wrote a tune about Link Deaths, trains, corpse runs, downtime:

Check Wikipedia's References for lots of interesting reads!

Friday, March 13, 2009

Covers are just tacky and lazy

Cover versions of popular music is typically the lowest form of art. I say this because it is usually unoriginal and done for the wrong things (money). Basing your whole act on another band, well, is just tacky and lazy. No real artist thinks cover bands are cool.

I think this realization came to me when I bought the Godzilla 1998 soundtrack and listened to the opening track, for the first and last time. It was David Bowie's "Heroes", performed by the Wallflowers. I was an absolute replica, with maybe some better production quality. It was pointless. Why would you do such a thing?

One time there was a street carnival downtown, and I had to work. A good friend coaxed me to shut the store down and we walked over to see a band. They were middle-aged, and looked like they had more than one Lynyrd Skynyrd shirt in their closet. And for some unknown reason, they began to play Radiohead's "Creep". It was terrible, because they didn't do the amp-distortion-check-sound before the chorus, which makes the song. Ironically, I had a copy of The Bends in my pocket while I watched them.

That also reminds me of a junior high talent show. A band played Blur's "Song 2", and they also messed up the best part of the song (the "woo-hoo"). The singer did the opposite of what was required, and sang the part in a deep, sarcastic voice. But, I have to give them credit for being 14 and playing in front of all their peers at grade 9.

I mean even classical conducters and orchestras are to blame here. They are playing 200-year-old songs. They are cover bands. Sometimes they are called tribute bands, and sometimes they are all-female versions of AC/DC. And don't get me started on jazz and blues. These are genres solely dedicated to simply covering old songs.

But there is some light at the end of the dark, musty cave here. So, it's time to talk about unique covers. You know, the ones that are so distinctive they garner respect and admiration (there are only like, three).

"Blinded by the Light" is a great, great song. Manfred Mann's rendition hit #1 on the Hot 100 in 1977, and unlike the original Bruce Springsteen version, this one was catchy as hell. My father, a vehement supporter of the Boss, always mentions how Manfred sounds like he is saying "douche" instead of "deuce" in the chorus. But, who knows what he's really singing about. The guitar effects give this version a groove that is hard to prove it isn't an original.

"Mr Tambourine Man" as performed by William Shatner is definitely outsider music. You probably haven't heard it unless you received The Transformed Man as a gag gift. I truly wonder if Bob Dylan has ever heard Shatner utterly screaming the last line from this 1968 art experiment.

Marilyn Manson's cover of "Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)" is probably the best cover ever. Don't laugh. It is totally different from the original 1983 electronic standard, which is hard to think of without red hair and a synth beat. Manson totally reinvented the wheel here. The guitar and way the lyrics are sung are just... original. The band could have dropped the lyrics and wrote their own for a decent song.

Also, Hendrix's "All Along the Watchtower" is better than the original

I dare you to suggest better covers. Don't even mention those goddamned string tribute albums. And if you are thinking right now that Johnny Cash's "Hurt" is the best cover, I want to spit on you.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Life Regarding Australia (Part 2 of 137)

When I got to Townsville, I took a cab. I was sans-luggage (read about the flights in a separate piece), and I wanted to go to sleep. I was booked at the "Sugar Shaker", the name of the Holiday Inn right in the central business district.

It is bright as hell and hot when I hail a cab, and I try to chat with the driver, but he's not really interested and neither am I. He takes me on a 5 minute drive around Castle Hill to the CBD. I hand him a red $20 bill and tell him to keep the change. He looks at me oddly and just takes the money somewhat disgusted. I could tell I did something wrong, but I walk into the hotel lobby and forget about it until later. I need a shower.

The girl helping me with at the desk is cute as hell. She has dark straight hair put up and a flawless complexion. I don't remember our conversation but I think everything is OK with the room. It's on the sixth floor.

I get into the room and think I should call someone. I pick up the phone and hear weird static, like the line is fried. But, this is Australia. This is a normal dial tone. I hang up. I use the bathroom and want to flush. There are two buttons on the top of the comode. This is normal. I hit the wrong one, and water continues to flow for minutes. I finally hit the right one and all is well. I shower and shave.

I turn on the TV and wait about 20 seconds for it to power-up. I watch music videos for a few hours, because my sleep patterns are screwed up. This channel (I found) plays music videos every Saturday morning. And, good ones. It's Saturday morning and I haven't slept yet. Eventually I sleep.

I wake up when I hear a lightning strike (one of the only ones heard in Australia). It's dark outside and I look at the lights to try and figure out my bearings. I haven't left the hotel yet. It's raining from what I can tell. Tomorrow is for exploration.


Movies watched in 2020

Here's my annual list. I beat 2019 by about 60 . I stopped tracking TV series, too. The only films I saw in theaters were: Star Wars IX,...