Life online: a brief history

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I entered the ranks of online game-players in December of 2000, when I
created my first Everquest character, a magician named Dhrystone on the
Terris-Thule server (which was the one the game recommended to me). I
was a total newbie, I had no online friends, and had never played any
other form of fantasy game. The only fantasy books I'd ever read were
Tolkien's, fifteen years before. I was introduced to EQ by my son, who
wanted and got an account for Christmas. He lost interest fast, but I
didn't. I was so new that I marvelled at the light effects people were
showing off (so I thought) around the Freeport gate to the commonlands,
and wondered what manner of tricks could produce those.

I soon learned about spells and tactics and in the course of time met
some friends that are friends to this day, and some that aren't. I
played EQ for nearly three years, taking that magician eventually up to
level 61, and some other characters into their 30s, 40s, and 50s. I
was mostly a casual gamer, who enjoyed the time with my friends more
than levelling or getting gear. I joined a couple of guilds, but the
guild/raid experience wasn't what I liked. To my regret, at some point
I did get caught up in what I call now the "rat-race", as my friends
levelled and got gear and joined guilds. Inevitably, trying to keep up
burned me out, and I quit EQ and (I thought) online gaming forever.
But some of the memories of the adventures I'd had will never leave me:
The run from Qeynos to Freeport at level 12 with a level 11 friend who
didn't know the way. My quest to find the Temple of Solusek Ro north
of Nektulos Forest, with its lurking and terrifying dangers. I lost my
corpse at the bottom of the river there would've abandoned it with all
my gear if my monk friend hadn't kept diving to find it in the gloomy
darkness. My first boat ride to Firona Vie. Running around the Desert
of Ro with a half-elf friend and enjoying the view of her thong as we
searched for prey. It's these adventures, not the level grind, that I
remember so fondly from EQ1.

Some months later at the behest of a friend who'd switched, I sort of
reluctantly bought a copy of Star Wars Galaxies. This turned out to be
a game I liked a great deal more than I had come to like EQ: it was
very casual gamer friendly. It didn't require massive amounts of time
and effort to achieve success, it was graphically far prettier, and
there were far more options than kill-loot-kill-loot. I was a
part-time carbineer and a part-time dancer. Some of the most amazing
times I have ever experienced in any online game were the group
performances put on by the entertainer guild I joined. We practiced
and put together shows, and performed them at live events like lavish
weddings and celebrations put on by other players or guilds. Our
audiences were often wowed, and we received compliments like: "that was
the most amazing thing I've ever seen in an online game".

But, inevitably, I tired of SWG too. The game has many strong points,
but many weak ones too. Like any experience, once you've done all the
cool things (cool things to you, not necessarily to others) several
times, you're ready to move on. Star Wars was, to me, a very wide game
but not a very deep one.

It was with a great deal of skepticism that I decided to try EQ2. No
friend urged me to, I just decided that since I spend more time than
I'd like to on the road and watching Tv isn't my bag I'd try another
game. The decision was between World of Warcraft and Eq2. My son (the
one who turned me on to EQ1) was leaning towards WoW. But looking at
the screen-shots I just didn't like the design of it. That's not a
knock on WoW: different people like different things. I tend to favor
more realistic environments. SWG was far more realistic feeling that
EQ1 was, simply because the environment was on the whole better
designed (with the terrible exception of the dynamic trees suddenly
popping up as you neared them -- that was an understandable compromise
but regrettable IMO).

I feared EQ2 was just EQ1 with better graphics. That would not have
interested me very long: eye candy is like cotton candy, sweet but very
soon irrelevant. But I'll admit I was surprised, and pleasantly so.

For me, and of course this is just my own opinion based on my own
gaming temperament, EQ2 has kept most of the things I liked about EQ1
and fixed the worst problems. The highlights:

The world: The EQ2 world is at this stage smaller, but to my mind the
zones we have are far better designed and far more realistic and
interesting, both from an explorer's point of view and from an
adventurer's. I like to explore new worlds. For me, EQ2 just feels
like a plausible fantasy world, at least in its geography. More so
than EQ1. Starting with Luclin, EQ1 went in a direction I didn't like:
pure fantasy, not fantasy grounded in a measure of physical reality a
la Tolkien. Middle-earth may not be a real place, but it feels real.
The silly moon of Luclin and the even sillier "planes of power"
destroyed this sense of immersion for me. I hope EQ2 doesn't move in
these directions. The one thing I really dislike about the EQ2 system
as it is now are the instanced versions of the standard zones. It's a
performance compromise and it's not as obnoxious as the SWG pop-up
trees but I still would prefer it to not be there. I'd prefer a
zoneless environment altogether, but if the price is unbearable lag
I'll live with the zones. Nothing is perfect.

Gameplay: I like grouping and I like soloing. I've heard complaints

about the solo-unfriendliness of EQ2, but so far I haven't noticed it.
I have a level 13 cleric and a level 20 Conjuror
(great-great-great-grandson of Dhrystone the Stalwart from the elder
days). Those are two of the better solo classes, so I understand
others are having a problem. With the exception of not being able to
spontaneously help others, I like all the gameplay changes. And I
totally understand the reason for the anti-powerlevelling rules: they
want to preserve the low and middle games. Those games were destroyed,
and I mean destroyed, in EQ1 by the thoughtless additions to the
high-end game and the basic design that allowed alts to be twinked and
powerlevelled. If I could think of a way to both prevent
powerlevelling and allow help to others, I would advocate it, but I
can't. Having to choose, and remembering what it's like to be an
untwinked character in a world full of alts zooming up through the
levels around you, I'll choose the way EQ2 has done it.

Overall feeling: I play on the Lucan D'lere server, which is a
roleplaying one. Alot of the atmosphere of an online game is provided
by the players. I've found the population of this server to be mostly
on the emotionally mature side. Another way of saying the
"idiot-count" is fairly low. SWG was an improvement over EQ1 for me,
and Lucan is an improvement over SWG. They'll always be there. As long
as they are in the minority and seldom heard from, I'm happy.

So far, I'm having fun. Online games aren't my life, they're just a
pastime. If it's not pleasant I'm not going to pay for it and suffer
through it for the sake of uber loot and higher levels. I learned that
lesson, painfully, back in the later stages of my EQ1 experience. I
remember how the EQ1 game changed when I hit 50, and again when I hit
60(and shortly thereafter quit). I don't know what will happen in EQ2,
and the beauty of it is, no one else does either. I hope EQ2 doesn't
go the way of EQ1 and become devoted to powergamers. Or at least, if
part of it is then don't let that part spill back and destroy the rest
of the game. I'll be happy with that.

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More about life online history
  1. Archived from groups: (More info?)

    <> wrote in message
    >I entered the ranks of online game-players in December of 2000, when I
    > created my first Everquest character, a magician named Dhrystone on the


    > of the game. I'll be happy with that.
    > Dutch
    An interesting post I have to say one of the things I am most impressed at
    is the attempt to hinder pwer levelling and the great quest quantity and

    Grimchrim (Runnyeye)
    luckily not inundated with idiots
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