Saturday, 10 December 2016

Let's Go Round Again : EverQuest, EQ2

Stargrace's recent post on starting over in EverQuest for the umpteenth time very nearly lured me into doing the same. Just reading it sent waves of nostalgic desire rippling through the backwaters of my mind.

I haven't been keeping up with progress on Phinagel, the latest of EQ's many "progression" servers. As far as I can tell there are three currently up and running - Phinagel, Ragefire and Lockjaw. I think I have a character on Ragefire but an All Access subscription is required to play there so it's a moot point right now.

I definitely had characters on the first Progression server, which was called The Combine and launched all the way back in 2006, at least according to this thread on the forums. Apparently The Combine eventually merged with Druzzil Ro, which itself was later merged into Xegony so I guess I have a level ten on Xegony now. Go me!

The history of EQ server merges is fascinating - or it is if you lived through it. The list in this thread, itself from 2012 and now archived, so presumably already out of date, tells a story all by itself.


The first server I ever played on was Prexus, which I picked because it had a name I found easy to remember. Mrs Bhagpuss joined me there and, as far as I recall, stayed while I wandered, first trying Brell Serilis (supposedly the unofficial RP server) and Test (just prior to The Great Wipe) before settling down for a long spell on Luclin, where I still mostly play - when I play.

For the first four years EverQuest was in a state of continual and rapid growth - not just geographically, with the annual and bi-annual expansions, but in its ever-increasing population. Server capacity back then was a lot less than it would be later on and new servers seemed to open every few months.

There's little in the hobby to beat the first few days of a brand new server for sheer, often near-hysterical, excitement, so I developed the habit of making a character on every server as it arrived. I remember making characters on Tholuxe Paells, Maelin Starpyre, Morell-Thule, Stromm, Morden Rasp, The Seventh Hammer, and Lanys T'Vyl on the first day they appeared. Probably there are more that I've forgotten.


Some of those characters got played a lot, even if they never leveled very far. Morell-Thule was where I made my Iksar SK at the launch of EQ's first expansion, Ruins of Kunark. He was possibly the hardest and slowest EQ character to level I ever had, what with the Iksar XP penalty and the unforgiving Kunark starting zones. I spent more time getting lost in Cabilis than I did killing things. I still get him out and do a bit on him now and again. He's in South Ro these days, somewhere in the high teens, I think.

I made a female halfling Warrior on Tholuxe Paells specifically to play with someone whose name I've long forgotten. They promised to start over there and duo with me and I made a warrior specifically for that - then they promptly left after the first week, never to be seen again. Right after that happened I got into an argument with someone else, which I resolved by logging out and not coming back for six months. That was my Tholuxe Paells experience in a nutshell, although I went on logging  that warrior in, on and off, for years. Don't think she ever made double figures.

Lanys T'Vyl and Luclin started on the same day and I made characters on both - a Druid on Luclin and a Wizard on Lanys. Like the warrior, the wizard had the occasional run out, often on a weekend morning for some reason, for the best part of a decade, without ever really making any progress. It was the druid that stuck. She became my most played and highest level character, eventually making it to 60 when sixty was the cap.

Her career pretty much crashed and burned with the launch of the first European server, Antonius Bayle. For reasons that I no longer remember, Mrs Bhagpuss and I both began playing there, although not immediately. It was the first time we really played together, by which I mean in being in the same guild (and more importantly the same custom chat channel that operated as a supra-guild entity).

For the first time we were sharing the same friends list, rather than duoing or joining ad hoc groups together, which we'd done on and off all along and Ant Bayle became our home for what seems to me, only in retrospect like my first, real, core run through Norrath. It was there that I finally had characters at the cap for two or three expansion cycles and when I mainly played in groups, in dungeons, rather than solo, above ground. It was there that I learned to play the game and not just to live in the world.

A combination of Guild drama and the EQ2 beta eventually put paid to that run but we came back for an encore less than a year later, when EQ2 turned out to be a dud (until Scott Hartsman rode in on his
charger). We had moved our characters from Ant Bayle to Saryrn on a free transfer before we left. Why was there a free transfer? I  can't remember. Something must have merged with something or maybe it was when SOE and UbiSoft parted company. Anyway, we declined to pick them up again, choosing instead to go back to Stromm, where we'd both played at  server launch, made friends, joined guilds and had good memories.


We had another good run there, possibly two. I think we came back yet again after Vanguard. It gets very hard to reconstruct the sequence as time passes. The past fractures into a series of vignettes and incidents which, as I retell them, polish up like semi-precious stones into anecdotes, all the grit and edge smoothed down to a comfortable glow. It's also surprisingly hard to dig out simple facts like the launch dates of individual servers. Not impossible - it's all somewhere in the official patch notes, all of which are still available online. It's just more trouble than I feel like taking for a rambling, nostalgia-inspired blog post.

Going back to Stargrace, it's astonishing how powerful certain triggers remain despite the drift and shadow of the passing years. She talks about her troll shaman making her way to North Karana to take the Spires to The Nexus on Luclin (the moon, not the server) so as to bind in that advantageous location, only to be killed in one hit by a passing guard as she waited for the twenty minute teleportation cycle to turn.

That one tale combines a wealth of experiences for me. I walked a troll shaman to the gates of Qeynos to get him bound there out of range of the guards so as to have a better place to hunt than the swamps of Innothule. One of the scariest in-game things I ever did and one of the most satisfying when it turned out successfully.

I hung back out of range of the guards at the North Karana portal as an Ogre Shadowknight, praying I was far enough back to stay out of aggro range. Several of my characters made more or less dangerous journeys to The Nexus to bind in what was the premier travel hub of Norrath until the Plane of Knowledge rendered it redundant overnight.


When Stargrace goes on to talk about finding a heavy iron ulak in the Bazaar I can see the same icon in my mind's eye as if it had popped up on a vendor in front of me. She doesn't need to explain that the "PC" where everyone had been getting xp stands for "Paludal Caverns" - I can hear the screams and laughter echoing through that hideous place as though I'd spent all last night there - again!

In layers of irony spread thick and deep, I was pondering the feasibility of fitting in yet another return to Norrath, this time to one of my very favorite times and places, the Luclin Era, while working through a series of crafting quests in Butcherblock on Stormhold, the EQ2 Time Limited Expansion server. Living in the past while living in the past.

It's not as though I'd even planned to be on Stormhold. Playtime for EQ2 is limited already and there's a new expansion on the boil. I don't have time to stir the nostalgia pot and yet of course I do. I always do. Frostfell on Stormhold, how could I resist? I didn't even try. And then it was four hours later and I realized I hadn't even made a coffee and my legs were cramped and just one more quest...

So Luclin will have to wait. Probably. This time. We'll see. Never say never again and home is where if you have to go there they have to take you in and all that. And Norrath is home. All of it. Always was, always will be.

3 comments:

  1. I think if Phinigel was the first professional server in this latest round I might still be playing. I did Ragefire, then rerolled on Lockjaw, and did 3 characters to 30 promptly. When they did the no box server I was very excited! But after 90 levels, I didn't want to restart, and I couldn't move any of them. I tried to go again with my enchanter but... I had just done it all. I let my sub lapse.

    I still have access to my test sever guild forums. All of the nostalgia is there, preserved. It is painful to read - the quit threads, the EQ devs make it too hard for friends to stay together, the raiders moving on and the casuals left holding the mantle of the guild and friendships.

    I fondly remember the good parts of EQ and have somehow pushed the bad memories away. Then again, I don't think you can have the former without the latter.

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    Replies
    1. I think what I really miss most of all from the first four or five years is the regular launching of new servers. Even now, with the various Progression and TLE flavors, DBG are just about the only MMO company that does it.

      The single most interesting thing about Crowfall is the way it's designed to keep re-starting. I'm not particularly interested in their competitive PvP gameplay but I am very keen to see them do well because of the effect that might have on future design choices elsewhere. I'd love to see a PvE MMORPG that had resets instead of expansions for example. Starting over is the best fun.

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  2. Greetings! I like to spend my time by playing different cool games. And I will definitely play this new one. Thanks for your detailed description. It is not everyday that I have a possibility to see something like this. Please keep it good posting. Don't waste your time on checking articles or posts or eliminating errors - just assist it works to the professionals at http://custom-paper-writing.org and feel no responsibilities.

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