EQ hit 20 years old today, and every post on the various MMORPG subs has people popping in with the "You just remember it with nostalgia goggles!" argument when people praise it, and it's bullshit.
Did EQ have flaws? Of course it did. Especially if you were an anti-social gamer who refused to adapt. You could very well sit there on your ass for an hour LFG and not get anything. You could play 6 months and never get anywhere. You could play a class that casts 10 spells then sits for 5 minutes. EQ was on YOU and how YOU wanted to play it. Your success and enjoyment was all up to you and what choices you made, from who you grouped with to what class you picked.
Heres what EQ Did right:
Everything was deadly. The little snake in the desert with its 50%-0 poison. The orc hiding behind a pillar that comes with 2 others. This made the world feel dangerous. You had to pay attention to your surroundings and rely on other people. You had choices. Does your group delve into the dungeon and camp out at one of the deepest spawns that drops something awesome? Or do you chill outside and kill the mobs in front that drop nothing except exp? It was entirely up to you. This difficulty made the grind fun. Instead of going quest hub to quest hub following some grade-school level story killing 10 rats and supposedly "not grinding", you found yourself a good group and did something dangerous. The most dangerous tended to have the best EXP and loot.
Massive Class Difference –
It wasn't just "These are tanks, these are DPS, these are healers". They all had strengths and weaknesses, and even pandered to specific playstyles:
- Your Warrior couldn't solo but was mandatory for any group fighting hard-hitting things.
- Your Bard could take your group from "meh" to "this is the greatest group of all time!" with chain pulling, CC, group buffs, mana regen, speeding around at the highest movement rate, sneaking everyone through shitty stuff for the good spawns with group invis, offtank, and even a DPS with a charmed pet if you want a little chaos as it breaks every minute or so.
- Your Monk was your high DPS, who was also the god of pulling, particularly in raids before bards took the job in later expansions.
- Your Wizard was for people that want some AFK time, but also the best class to get your group out of an inevitable wipe with evac, or get your group back to the zone if you wipe and everyone suddenly ends up back at spawn points around the world.
- Your Enchanter locked shit down cause pulling 3 things in EQ was a death sentence. A good one ran a pet that was hasted and buffed to god-like status and tore through things, including the enchanter if they aren't paying attention. Also mana regen. Turning your AFK wizard into a powerhouse who only afk's 1/3rd of the time.
- Your Necro the easy solo king, and one of the few classes that needed no help to level quickly.
- Your Cleric was the absolute pinnacle of healing
- Your Druid was the hybrid or backup healer who could lay out some DPS, or just save you some time on the trip to the dungeon with a port.
- Your Shaman was the buffing and debuffing god, making things that would usually shred a tank hit like pussies while your melee DPS hit like trucks with their entire buff bar full of stuff.
- Your Rogue could drag all of your corpses out of danger if you fuck up, and you are going to fuck up, because, again, EQ is HARD.
Immersion and a wild world
Modern mmorpgs are very paint-by-numbers. You have a bunch of NPCS that are obviously tagged agressive or nice laid out in very specific places with 0 surprises. It's boring.
In EQ, every city is filled with factions. Some hate each other. You might stumble into the evil necromancer area of a neutral city and get wrecked for not being one. You might work your ass off to get your lizard character loved in the nearby city, which gives you access to half of it until you stumble into the Paladin guild and get melted. Your race, class, or even religion could piss someone off. Even dungeon mobs loved/hated certain races. The cat race was perfectly fine chillin with any tiger/lion/whatever in the game. Certain religions would start completely neutral with an endgame dungeon and only be attacked there once they went on a rampage.
Quests are not marked and everywhere. You have to talk to NPCS and physically respond to them. You can discover quest items just killing stuff and find out it's for some monks world-spanning best in slot weapon. Many are epic journeys that take you across multiple raid or group zones. Some aren't worth it, but a few introduce the best loot in the game. And that's another thing…
Can you name 5 items your current character is wearing in WoW/FFXIV/GW/ESO? It's generic stats. Everything is. Replaced every tier, or while leveling every zone. An item level. That's about it.
In EQ, loot is scarce! You might pick something up at level 30 that will last you to 50. It might be an item with no stats at all but some of the best utility in the game. There are so many "Legendary" EQ items that you don't even have to be at level cap to acquire. Jboots, haddens earing, FBSS, cloak of flames, Fungi tunic, and that's just stuff from small group or solo content and all of it is rare or hard to get. I had things on my characters that lasted me through multiple expansions. Hell we'd farm stuff from 2 expansions ago for specific pieces. There might only be 5 people on the server with the Shadowknight epic weapon.
Add in resist gear forcing you out there farming weird spawns, keys, and a host of other things, progression was largely horizontal with a slight vertical rise across multiple expansions.
To get this loot, you needed to worry about the #1 thing that made EQ a big persistent online world, and my final point:
Friendship and reputation!
This is the #1 thing we have seen absolutely gutted in modern mmorpgs, and one of the things that people can and did fail at. When you hear horror stories about people not being able to find a group for 4 hours and logging off for the night accomplishing nothing, these are the ones that failed at EQ essentially. This game was 100% about building connections, as was the expectation for an online world. It's not meant to be played alone.
When you logged in with plans to progress, one of the first things you checked was your friend list and guild list, and if you are someone who doesn't want to LFG for 3 hours as a DPS, it was absolutely essential. You build both of these. You formed ties with people that excelled. You joined an active guild and mixed your external buddies with your internal guildies. You got your group together from the 50 some contacts at or around your level in 15 minutes and were off.
And because the grind was so long, your reputation was incredibly important. Getting blacklisted on a character you dumped 2 months into was basically a death sentence. This forced people to be relatively pleasant to one-another. You couldn't be an antisocial outcast in EQ. If you changed your name, they listed it right on the website to let people know.
EQ Did have it's issues. The grind was intense, and bosses were mainly tank and spank, but there is a reason so many crave it, and a reason why these progression servers are all filling up. It's not all nostalgia and never was.
The reality of it is, we aren't playing massively multiplayer online RPGS anymore. We are playing solo RPGS with online lobbies for instanced content. People want the online persistent world back.
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