The lights are on
My entry to the world of MMORPGs wasn’t explicitly in EverQuest, as I’d played plenty of MUDs and other such games in the heyday of the BBS style RPG, but it was certainly the first where I felt this sense of a vast open world brimming with adventure and danger. From my early excursions outside of Halas to the first time visiting the Plane of Fear, EverQuest provided things that games around the same time couldn’t dream of. It wasn’t just a game, it was an experience, and one of the most high profile shared social experiences that set the wheels in motion to create the modern MMORPG environment we see today.
While the graphics, sound, and other systems all seem rather archaic by today’s standards, there was a magical element to wandering into new zones for the first time that I think is often lost by today’s emphasis on datamining, item-logging, and boss guides. While this sort of thing was in its infancy then with sites like Allakhazam providing drop-data for inquisitive adventures, it was a different sort of internet world at the time.
People would post things like “Has anyone ever been to this zone, do you know how to defeat this enemy, what moves does it use, what levels are the creatures, have you spotted this rare boss?” Today, those answers are available for any game you’re playing with a quick Google search. We didn’t have that back then, and I think the experience was better for it. Wandering in Blackburrow for the first time, a player’s first instinct wasn’t to look up a Blackburrow guide, it was probably to witness a player or two leading a train of angry gnolls to the entrance while running for dear life. Then it would be something like “Hey, want to group and see how deep we can go?” Sure, there might be a guild group farming below or something, but it was about discovery. Exploration.
You as a player were exploring the vast and great frontier of what could be around each nook, meeting people, forming alliances, and working together to take on the myriad monsters that the game dished up in excess. Even after playing for ages, there were probably places in the world you’d never been to or explored.
Today, convenience is king with instant-dungeon access via Looking for Group functionality and the mysteries have been mined before patches hit by savvy data sleuths. While the games are still great, the wonder is gone. That sense of wandering into Mistmoore or Befallen for your first time and joining forces with a ragtag group that eventually became a real deal dungeon crawl will never happen again.
By the time dungeons launch, each boss has been catalogued and dissected, each drop table known, each pack of enemies, riddle, traps, and mystery is nothing but a roadblock to efficiency and the great loot farm. Single-serving friends and silence are par for the course – it’s not an adventure of discovery anymore, but a calculated and deliberate experience where your teammates may as well be automatons performing their class roles.
I’ve got a special place for Velketor’s Labyrinth in my heart from my EverQuest years, and it’s just one of many incredible experiences I had exploring the freedom that the game provided. From farming up a pair of Journeyman’s Boots with guildmates to exploring the lower depths of dungeon after dungeon, EverQuest provided a truly wondrous look at freedom in games. Every login was a new adventure to explore, and unless you had a scheduled raid – you never knew where it was going to take you.
Email the author Daniel Tack, or follow on Twitter, and Game Informer.