Let’s face it, no matter how good a game is, it eventually fades into obscurity, never to be seen again. Sometimes, for the sake of nostalgia, people will go back and play it, but in the end, it’s really just a curiosity at that point. The game goes from being a top seller, to a resident of the bargain bin, and then, eventually, an obscure seller on auction sites like E-Bay. This story, however, is not about those games. This is about the one game that has existed nearly from the beginning, and has managed to hold on for the past sixteen years. Not only has it remained at the forefront of MMORPG news, it has managed to attract new players despite what many would call an archaic combat system. We are talking about Everquest of course, and the explosion that it created in the role playing world, has never quite died down.
Younger gamers won’t remember, but there was a time when role playing games were either played via pen and paper, or with primitive tape machines. Eventually, we moved on to games that were more able to be played on the PC, particularly without tape, but we were still at the transitioning phase between 2D and 3D. When Everquest was first pitched at 989 studios, upper management said absolutely not, mostly because they had no idea what their crazy developers were trying to accomplish. After a change of leadership, work on Everquest began immediately, and eventually, it would launch on March 16, 1999.
Everquest was not the first MMORPG. Prior to the release date, there was more buzz about Everquest on online forums than any game before it had generated. The creators , Brad McQuaid, Steve Clover, and Bill Trost, claim that people were already talking about what they were going to play as the moment the game came out. There were actually a considerable amount of plans considering the game hadn’t seen the light of day yet. This actually reminds me somewhat of the months leading up to Doom 3’s release, when clans had already been formed around the game. But I digress; Doom 3 is not Everquest, and it doesn’t even come close, other than being another amazing feat of software engineering.
When Everquest finally launched on March 16, 1999, something rather unexpected happened, though I suspect that the development team knew full well it was coming: they crashed the internet. You heard that right. The ISP used by 989 Studios/SOE had in fact been informed that there would be a large influx of traffic, but at the time, no one had ever imagined the volume that was about to pass through that ISP’s servers. It didn’t take the ISP long to adjust, but still, EQ can officially be remembered as the game that crashed the internet, and that is definitely something to have a chuckle over.
A Look Back
Looking back on Everquest, we can see that it brought many things to the MMO table, but like all pioneers, there were some things that just weren’t implemented well. Of course back then no one knew that they weren’t implemented well, for example, the game lacked what we like to call ‘instances’. So what does that mean for the player exactly? A few things really. First of all, it meant that dungeons were always going to be shared with other players, and with that, they would always be contested. Okay so what does that mean? Imagine you’re going into a dungeon with your guild, say a raid instance. Chances are you’ll have the entire dungeon to yourself, and you won’t be seeing another guild in there. Could you imagine two guilds trying to attack the same raid boss at once?
In the old days, it actually happened, which is why a camp system was worked out. With the camp system you would actually have to enter the dungeon and call out “Camp Check!” to see who had been there the longest and ergo who would be in the next group to attack the boss. It worked to a point, but it also resulted in players camping out dungeons for days or even weeks at a time. Some people lost sleep, others lost their jobs, and many lost their marriages. It was horrible, but did players complain? Well obviously some did because it was changed later on, but for the most part, this was all accepted as the status quo, and thoroughly enjoyed. This was just one of the things that Everquest did in the beginning that would surprise the average MMO player today. The second interesting thing was the distinct lack of a marketplace in the game. This is not to say that players could not trade, of course, but it took a little more effort on their part. Because there was no market, players would actually be forced to set up a shop themselves and advertise their own items via an auction chat channel. This was typically done in the Commonlands, and guess what? It actually forced people to communicate with one another! That’s actually where most people’s social lives went.
Everquest introduced a world where there was actually not that much questing to be done, but it did have epic weapon quests, oddly enough. These weapons were for those who truly dedicated their lives to the game. I remember hearing stories of people camping bosses for weeks at a time, just for the chance to get a piece of their epic weapon so that one day they could forge their epic weapon. In many cases the boss wouldn’t even drop the piece of the weapon you needed, making your trip to the depths of that hellish dungeon nearly pointless, aside from the experience you’d gain. Of course if you died, you’d have to sneak back into the dungeon and recover your body, but that’s another story.
The game has been around for the past sixteen years and seen twenty-one incredible expansions. Some of the content has been revered, some hated, and with each one bringing its fair share of naysayers claiming that ‘this’ would be the expansion that finally brought the game to an end. Nearly twenty years later, its still up and running. That’s not to say that the game didn’t experience its fair share of bumps and bruises, however. There were many features included in the game that many would say simply did not belong there. For example, on the test server there was a ‘monster login’ option that allowed players to take control of a mob in a specific zone. Now, as a mob a player couldn’t cross zone lines, and death was permanent, but on the player side, it was impossible to tell which mobs were, well, mobs, and which ones were being controlled by players. Who could have guessed that players are more intelligent than mobs, especially when they’re controlling them.
Another famous goof was the ‘no rules’ server known as Sullen Zek. It turned out, that you have to have rules, even in a ‘no rules’ environment. Why? Because if you don’t, Fansy the Famous Bard will kill everyone on your server without touching them. Remember, he’s not touching you; you can’t get mad. For better or for worse, Everquest is still around, still attracting brand new players, and it isn’t going anywhere, anytime soon. In fact, this summer Daybreak plans to unveil a brand new progression server, allowing all players to experience Everquest as it was from the beginning, or at least as close as possible.
A Player Guided Experience
Everquest is one of the few games to award GM powers to the players in the interest of furthering the game. These players are known as Guides, and they have been there since nearly the beginning. Guides have helped to shape the world of Norrath by running dynamic quests and participating in roleplay sessions with other players. Without the community, this game might have fallen through the cracks long ago, and perhaps been remembered as one of the MMO’s that started it all, but didn’t quite make it. The players make Everquest what it is, and they will continue to do so for many years to come, or at least we hope they will.
It is not unusual for SOE to change names. In the beginning we knew them as 989 studios, and then Verant, and for many years, exclusively as SOE. Now, for whatever reason, the company has finally split from Sony, with SOE becoming Daybreak Studios. The exact details of this change are still unknown. Fortunately, some light was shed on the matter when a forum post was made recently by one of the developers confirming future expansions. Does that mean there will be an expansion at the end of the year? We don’t know, but one thing is for sure; I hope that they don’t rush anything, and get their business together before jumping onto any more expansion hype. Most importantly, I hope they address existing problems first.
A New Journey
Heroes across Norrath will be glad to know that the adventure continues. So long as there are those willing to step forward and right the wrongs that plague the land of Norrath with every expansion, so too will there be a land of Norrath for new and old players alike. With the free to play model and free expansions up to Rain of Fear, there has never been a better time to dive back in, and right the wrongs from Qeynos all the way to the Planes of Power. You can have adventure, excitement, and the experience of a lifetime, right in front of your computer screen whether you are a seasoned veteran from days past or a raw beginner.
The journey is just beginning.Anniversary, Daybreak Game Company, Everquest, MMORPG