All images used are screenshots of Everquest, which is owned by Daybreak Game Company / Darkpaw Games / Enad Global 7 (EG7).
The Massively Multiplayer Online Roleplaying Game (MMORPG) genre has existed and evolved for a solid two decades now.
Released in 1999, Everquest is one of the first such games, and certainly the first in 3D. The game continues today, thanks to a team of passionate and experienced developers and a strong player base.
Everquest’s 27th expansion, Claws of Veeshan, released this last autumn (in 2020), offering new places to explore, items to find, quests, raid bosses, tradeskill recipes, and lore.
The game is indeed massive, with near endless adventure. I know that when I log on, there is always a quest I can work on, a tradeskill level I can raise, a new zone to explore, and even new game mechanics to learn about.
While Richard Bartle’s taxonomy of four player types seems a bit limited today, I can certainly say that Everquest provides plenty of content for those that like to explore, socialize, achieve, and kill.
Despite the name of the game, Everquest didn’t have that many quests at first, compared to later MMOs like Everquest 2 and World of Warcraft. Each new expansion though has added more and more quests. There is a significant, never-ending quantity of quests to complete, achievements to achieve, and gear to get.
One of the more significant series of quests and achievements, especially for new players, is the Hero’s Journey. The series takes a new character from levels 1 to 85. The quests do get tougher and require help from friends at higher levels, but if you do enjoy following quests, there are many available to focus your progression.
As I roleplay my character in the world of Everquest, called “Norrath,” I read bits of lore found in quest dialogue, numbers in item modifiers, and flavor text and dice rolls scrolling in the chat window during combat. A vast world of words and numbers. One could say that I am deep in the data of a virtual world.
If you are curious about the data—the quests, the spells, recipes, and bestiary--, the site, Allakhazam or ZAM or fanbyte, is a database and wiki that grew with the rise of Everquest in the early 2000s. Allakhazam contains much of the data that Everquest consists of, but searchable, with results neatly displayed on a web page. Take a look.
The Allakhazam site suggests, as do many fan-created sites, that there is plenty of Everquest’s world and data to explore even when not playing the game. In fact, I’ve realized that I have a passion for learning about game mechanics, game worlds, and thinking about them outside the game.
Everquest has been a great source of such entertainment for many years, whether it’s printing game maps and organizing them in a binder, adding Everquest-related sites to a list of browser bookmarks, or reading the short-lived, Everquest comic book. Perhaps that’s just me being a geek.
Indeed, I’m that guy that always buys the strategy guide for a game, if available. Strategy guides are rare these days, but you can still pay extra during Kickstarter campaigns to get a hint book or guide.
I still have a couple Everquest strategy guides. In fact, I sold some during a garage sale several years back, then bought a couple of the guides back again on Amazon.
Sure, in some ways the guides get outdated, but there is still useful information to be gleaned. I can still use them to decide what race or class I want to play next. The first level spells and spell descriptions, crafting recipes, chat commands, and maps are relevant. Besides, I would rather sit in bed at night paging through a physical, Everquest strategy guide than look things up on my phone. Sure, I do that too, plenty. Though given my druthers, I prefer physical books...albeit smallish with a soft cover.
The other out-of-game means of exploration is the ubiquitous YouTube. There are some passionate and talented YouTubers producing Everquest content.
The EverQuest Show started up a couple years ago and produces a news magazine format with high production value. The videos look sharp and include the latest news and interviews with Everquest developers and fans. Definitely a labor of love.
Michael’s shenanigans has been around longer and he creates hilarious, entertaining videos with a deep knowledge of the game and game lore. The amount of work and creativity that goes into these videos is awe-inspiring.
Another content creator I watch sometimes is Doctor Nachoz. What I like about him is that he has that cool uncle vibe (though he’s probably younger than me, frankly). He’s patient with the viewer and with his fellow player groups and guild-mates. He’s produced instructional videos for starting out with new classes and races, and videos of high level raids.
Most video games have combat of some sort, though I suppose there are millions of puzzle phone games to prove me wrong. Let’s try this again. I think I can safely say that the most popular games released involve combat. I would prefer to live in a time when most video games are not about killing things. I kind of doubt there will be such a time, but maybe with enough enlightenment, wokeness, and compassion in this Aquarian age, we’ll witness a transformation in gameplay. Let us hope.
Anyways, as I was saying, most video games have combat of some sort. There are twitch-based first-person shooter (FPS) and shoot’em up (SMUP) games on the actiony, frenetic side and turn-based games on the more beard-stroking, contemplative side.
In general, I prefer turn-based games. I like being able to take time to think and consider my next move. However, if I consider the games I’ve put the most hours into and even completed, the list is overwhelmingly action RPGs or real-time-with-pause, as is the case with Pillars of Eternity.
I’ve been replaying Skyrim on the Switch recently and I don’t know if it’s due to my aging reflexes, the Switch controls, or just the game itself, but wow, the combat is a shit show. Hopefully, I’ll get better with more muscle memory and skill points. I’m having fun, nonetheless.
To narrow the circle, let us consider combat in MMOs. There is tab-targeting with a skill/spell bar like we find in Everquest 1 & 2, Guild Wars 2, and World of Warcraft, for example.
There is a more action-based combat where core actions are mapped to the mouse and a reticle on the screen must be positioned over the enemy, such as we find in Elder Scrolls Online.
Black Desert Online takes it a step further with the need to press multiple keyboard keys to thrust your character into flashy, comic book-like actions. It’s all great fun, but I found the combat too fast, too easy, and not particularly strategic. I didn’t appreciate having to learn finger-knotting key formations each time I leveled up either.
Now, within the tab-targeting and skill/spell bar group, the implementation in Everquest is different. Primarily, the difference is the slower pace. The combat usually lasts longer (unless you play a wizard) and there is time to respond to enemy debuffs. Each click of a spell is done for a reason. Sure, there may be several spells that just do some measure of direct damage, but even those are usually cast in a specific order to respond to the situation.
The combat in Everquest is about resource management; more so than I see in other MMOs. While fighting, I consider the current health and spell effects on the enemy, along with my character’s current health, mana, and spell effects. I know that casting certain spells may drain my mana too fast. If another enemy or mob (mobile object) comes along (an “add”), which is quite likely in a place like the Emerald Forest, for example, I’ll want to rely more on melee damage and only use certain spells to maximize damage output. When a certain damage-over-time spell wears off, I may choose to cast the spell again. In addition, I’ll consider the types of attacks and properties of the creature, which is even more necessary for raid-level enemies, no doubt.
One can argue that combat in other MMOs, or even all games, is much the same: it’s resource management. I know that someone that raids in World of Warcraft watches his or her health and mana bars too.
What I’m saying is that even during the first 10 levels, an Everquest player has the time to watch health and mana bars and make decisions based on those values. Is it a series of interesting decisions prescribed by Sid Meier? Not really, but it is engaging and fun.
Like standing at the bottom of a mountain, considering all there is to explore in Everquest and all 115 levels of progression possible per character, one can feel overwhelmed; a languor in mind and muscle.
I have played Everquest on and off since Spring of 2001. Every Spring I feel a longing and nostalgia to return to certain places in Norrath. Each year I play for a few weeks or so then stop. I may do that two or three times a year. (There are so many games out there to play, right?) In all those years I have yet to get a character to level 50. I’m close right now with my Shadowknight at level 46.
As you can imagine, there is lots of content I have never seen, other than perhaps on a YouTube video. These days I play solo. I’m not really interested in grouping or raiding. I like to log on and do what I feel like doing. Without a group I may never experience the Lost Dungeons of Norrath. Without raiding I may never kill the classic Lady Vox or Lord Nagafen dragons.
Like life, I can’t do it all. There is more to see and do than I can possibly fit into a lifetime. Of course, I make it less likely to obtain higher levels when I continue to make new characters. They call that an “alt-aholic.” making alternate characters in addition to your “main” character.
I continually return to a mental stance when playing Everquest. I return to the present moment, the now. I don’t think about all the other levels or the drive for achievements or the next step in a quest chain. I pause. Take a deep breath. Rest my mind and body in the moment. This mental stance can be done with any game, but it has become part of my gameplay loop in Everquest.
You may be wondering by now about the paradox. Well, the paradox has to do with the core game loop that the creators of Everquest made. Sure, the creators wanted people to play forever and pay a monthly subscription forever. To get players to play forever, they filled the game with types of achievements; something to spark the internal drive for power. There is the experience bar, the multiple currencies, the alternative advancement points, the epic weapons, the literal achievements, and more. This isn’t special to Everquest; all RPGs have and need a sense of progression. The going from nothing to godlike powers. It’s easy to get caught up in that drive for more.
Still, it is good to have goals, something to focus our ambitions. Also, it’s perfectly fine to enjoy reaching those goals. A sense of accomplishment not only lifts the spirit, but adds character.
In Everquest, there is the paradox of trying to achieve more while also trying to let it all go and enjoy the moments spent with the game.
I think that the sheer enormity and core design of the game coupled with the small amount of time I usually play or have time to play Everquest, magnifies the paradox.
Due to the paradox, I am more apt to slow down, read all the quest text, and spend time appreciating the details of my surroundings.
Due to the paradox, I may also feel anxious regarding the time it takes to get to a destination, or feel ecstatic about obtaining a new piece of armor.
Feeling alive in the foci of this paradox is relaxing for me.
In the evening, after having worked eight hours, my body and mind are tired. In fact, since I’ve been working from home in response to the COVID 19 pandemic, I’ve been inclined to nap in the late afternoon.
I really like strategy and 4X games. I spend a lot of time either playing strategy games or watching YouTubers play strategy games. However, I don’t always feel like wading into games like that during the week. Rather, something like Everquest is less mentally taxing and more relaxing.
To look at a typical Everquest interface layout, one might think the game is quite complicated. There is a bit going on, more so I’m sure if you participate in a raid, constantly aware of the actions of your guild mates and the enemy creatures. However, when I play solo (or “molo” with a mercenary), even if I am battling several mobs at the same time, the data points and actions are still quite manageable.
Everquest is different from other MMORPGs in that most experience points come from defeating creatures, as opposed to completing quests. Really, I don’t know of another online game that does that. This means that you don’t have to do the quests; they are quite optional. Just go straight to the hunting grounds and kill.
What many people enjoy about Everquest is just going into a zone, breaking a camp, and then grinding the members of the camp as they respawn. Yes, that is grinding. That could even be considered monotonous. Why do people like doing that? Because they don’t so much wish to tax their brains either.
It’s ok to take it easy. It’s ok to relax. I don’t need to drink lots of caffeine and fill my screen with stimuli to have fun. I can play Everquest the way I like. I can fight creatures, in what amounts to a minigame of spell and skill buttons. I can organize all the stuff in my backpacks. I can browse the market looking for good deals. I can look through my quest log and decide what to work on next. I can even just make a new character just to try roleplaying a race I’ve never experienced.
This brings me to the last aspect of relaxing, and that is the means to escape from everyday life. Now, I have a great life and I really don’t need to escape from it. Still, Everquest does allow me to inhabit a different world and roleplay a different persona. The anxiety and stress of a typical work day is gone, vanquished from the world of Norrath, if you will.
Everquest can be rather addicting. The game was called “Evercrack” for a reason. When Everquest was released, it was the only online 3D world available. What appears like fairly basic graphics now was state-of-art back then. I’m not addicted to the game, but I remember a time when I might have been.
So yeah, nostalgia is part of it. Technically, I suppose this is a fourth reason why I play Everquest.
Everquest has been in my life for nearly 20 years now. The places in Everquest are like any other place I have been to in real life.
I’m an introvert so I don’t have as many friends or memories of in-game friends that many players do have. I’ve never been to an Everquest Fan Faire.
But the Everquest game and IP are part of my life.
Quite simply, Norrath is home.
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