Monday, 6 February 2012

Are We Nearly There Yet? : Everquest

I had a mind to photograph some rats. I say photograph. As far as I know, the gnomes of Norrath have yet to invent the camera. Insufficient inherent explosive potential, I imagine. Gnomish technology notwithstanding however, I set out to take some screenshots.

The rats in question live in Dragon Necropolis. Dragon Necropolis is in Western Wastes, a part of Velious as yet unrediscovered in EQ2 and probably undiscovered by many current players of the elder game because Western Wastes is a long way from anywhere. No wizard or druid can open a portal there, the Plane of Knowledge has no Book for it and the Guild Hall vendor has no Western Wastes Focus Stone in stock.

If you want to go to Western Wastes, the nearest you can get in one move is Cobalt Scar. A druid or a wizard can port there, but my highest level of either is a level 60 druid and while she has hunted in Western Wastes I deemed her a tad fragile for photographic journalism in underground tunnels infested by rats that stab first and ask questions never, so I logged in my level 84 Beastlord. Who turned out to be in Dragonscale Hills.

Wait here Wizard, this won't take long...
An hour and a half later I hit the hot-key for Throne of Heroes, the veteran reward that allows non-gating classes to click their heels like Dorothy as casters have been doing since 1999. Had I photographed any rats? I had not. I didn't have my stop-watch out but in rough numbers it had taken me about forty-five minutes to run all the way from Dragonscale Hills to Siren's Grotto and about as long again trying to get from one side of the Grotto to the other. Unsuccessfully.

All of which entertainment got me to thinking about Everquest going Free To Play. I'm very happy about that even though I have Station Access and can already play Everquest whenever the mood takes me. I love the idea of new people flooding (alright, trickling) back into the lower-level zones and bringing them to life. I particularly relish the thought of Plane of Knowledge filling up with chattering, bustling hordes of players and pets, flapping and clumping and blocking the bank doorway so I can't get in, just like the good old days.

Negotiations with the Chetari run into difficulties
But you forget just how big Everquest is. According to Wikipedia Everquest currently has 375 zones,a suspiciously round and unbelievably huge number. Three hundred and seventy five zones, of which Western Wastes is by no means the furthest-flung or hardest to reach. It may not be like the old days, when a cross-country trip from Qeynos to Freeport demanded research, preparation and a full play session (two if you died halfway and couldn't get a rez). Still, simply getting from one place to another in Everquest is going to require a great deal more time, attention and knowledge than the modern MMO player is accustomed to bring.

I knew exactly how to get to Western Wastes. I've been there many times. I have maps. To refresh my memory I even had the Zam page up. I was going there with a character to whom nothing posed a threat. And I still gave up in frustration after the umpteenth failure to find the top of the waterfall in Siren's Grotto. It was late and I knew I could log in Mrs Bhagpuss's wizard in the morning, port my Beastlord to Cobalt Scar and then Evac across Siren's Grotto as I should have done in the first place. As indeed I did do and have the photographs of rats to prove.

There's a Plane of Pork? Who knew?
It's going to be very interesting indeed to see how Everquest fares as a Free To Play title. The sheer volume of content is far beyond overwhelming. The systems to be learned are so convoluted and arcane after thirteen years of accretive expansion that even the developers barely understand some of them. Just getting from one place to another still offers more adventure than most MMOs offer in a full dungeon-run. Yet the game was always very easy to get into at the low levels and famously addictive. An awful lot of incomers are going to bounce right off the dark star density but some will inevitably stick, caught in Norrath's inexorable gravity well.

And welcome as the new blood will be, Everquest is hardly languishing. After thirteen years the game still has sixteen servers up and running. As I write this, deep in the night on the U.S. server where my Beastlord lives, there are too many players to count in the Guild Lobby and in the Bazaar, where more than 180 traders stand idling. Not everyone's hanging around afk in the Lobby and Bazaar either. Many more can be seen out in hunting zones, especially at the highest levels. I'd bet that a lot of much younger MMOs would be delighted to have a population like that during off-off-peak hours after a year or two, let alone a decade and a half.



3 comments:

  1. Travel is a lot easier these days. Are you in a guild? The guild hall stones have a lot of places you can port to, like CS. Wasn't sure from the post if you were aware of this or not. You can even make a guild (doesn't take a petition any longer, just alt+g) and use the basic hall, or even put down a housing hall (requires 10 members, most of ours are alts lol), for the ports. The Magus in the guild lobby also ports to several places too, the port to the others so it helps sometimes.

    I think that is something that makes EQ so special, the massive size and places to pick and choose where to level. With all the travel options it has now it is much easier to navigate Norrath too.

    Did you see that origin has a 15 min CD now? Lovin' that on my monk! And you get it at level five, so you don't have to spend any AA on it.

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  2. The characters I was using aren't guilded although I have some that are. I checked before writing the piece though and unless Zam's out of date the nearest Guild Hall port to Western Wastes is still Cobalt Scar.

    I haven't played regular EQ for eighteen months or so. I did play quite a bit on one of the Progression servers when they started but I'm not up to date on current developments. I knew about the instant-guild thing but I thought you still needed 10 unique accounts. If it just needs 10 unique characters that is definitely news to me. As for Origin, I had completely forgotten it existed, let alone that it was on a 15 minute cooldown.

    I had such a great time running around "old" Norrath yesterday that I plan on making time to play there regularly again. I would have dropped back in for the F2P launch but now I am not going to wait until then.

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  3. Yeah, still CS, but it isn't as hard with some lvls these days. A druid or wiz can evac to the other side as well as a necro (self)with levant, saved me so much time in the past, lol.

    Only to put down a guild hall do you need ten chars, they can be on the same account too if you have someone to invite them, say a friend. The guild hall in the lobby has everything you need really, the housing one I guess is just more for decorating IMO, that and having a guild neighborhood. My husband and I have made guilds on alts in the past just to have access to the ports, lol. This time we have one we plan on sticking with.

    Well, if you do decide to play when F2P comes out there are still free transfers to FV if you'd like to join us there XD Nothing big just a few of us in a small little guild, but we do have a hall and neighborhood. It is pretty nice on FV we've decided to stay there for the long haul :)

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