I recently went down a rabbit hole looking up lore, classes, zones, and other tidbits from the
original Everquest, which I played back in 2000, and man, the nostalgia hit hard. MMO's have evolved A LOT since then, undoubtedly for the better, but I must admit that nothing compares to the stress, tears, and glory of those early games. Here are a few choice memories from the Good Ole Da-…the Old…well, they were somethin'.
- Good gear was IMPOSSIBLE to get. I played Everquest for years, reaching level 52 out of 70, and not once did I fight an enemy that could drop an item I'd use. Not. ONCE. Most enemies dropped a few coppers, if they dropped any loot at all. Even mid-level gear had to be farmed from difficult bosses by veteran players, with low drop rates to boot. However, your gear barely changed once you finally completed your outfit, so the market was stable anyway. And boy, when you finally saved up and got that one piece you'd been hunting for half a year…it was sweeter than a thousand nirnhoned Maelstrom Bows.
- Only a handful of players could level solo. Unless you were a druid or ranger who could kite mobs, or a very powerful veteran, most enemies that gave meaningful experience could also wipe the floor with you. Tanks couldn't self-heal, and casters could be one-shotted. That meant you had to find a group—with at least one tank and one healer—to do any serious leveling. Ever. Solo play was a fiction. However, that also meant that each level you earned felt like a true life milestone: It was akin to the fanfare of hitting 160cp, every single time.
- Once aggro'd, enemies would chase you to the edge of the zone. Even worse, enemies were faster than you. That meant everyone had to constantly pay/beg druids to cast the "Spirit of the Wolf" buff on them, which increased running speed. Otherwise, mistakenly running past a powerful monster meant certain death. Even if you had SoW, an accidental aggro meant fleeing to the edge of the zone, pulling in even more enemies along the way. This often led to massive trains of mobs that came careening across a zone in pursuit of a hapless victim, wiping any unfortunate soul who wasn't paying attention.
- When you died, you resurrected naked in the nearest city. This might be VERY far away. You then had to make your way back to your corpse to recover all your gear. If you accidentally died in an extremely dangerous place, you were shit out of luck. Half the value of rogues came from their ability to sneak into endgame dungeons and pull out the corpses of guild members after a wipe. Most of us weren't so fortunate. Heck, I remember falling off a boat once, and drowning somewhere in the vastness of the ocean. Never got that gear back.
- On top of all that, each death also drained some of your hard-earned xp to add injury to…more injury. You could actually de-level from dying too much.
- Fast travel was a rare luxury. If you wanted an instant teleport, you had to go to special wayshrines (there were only a handful scattered across the entire world) and pay a druid to port you. Assuming one was there. Beyond that, you had to run. There were boats to ferry you across bodies of water, but you had to WAIT for them to dock, then climb aboard and wait some more as they carried you to the other side. This was a tremendous time suck, but it was also quite immersive: Once you reached a zone, you STAYED there for a while, and exploring new regions for the very first time really did feel like an adventure. That is, until you got hopelessly lost and murdered by a random mob, with no clue where your body was.
- You couldn't see in the dark. Seriously. People had to carry around little willow-o-wisp orbs just to project some ambient light. Without one, walking through a cave or tunnel (or even the open world at night) was like groping around in pitch darkness. Did I mention the monsters that could murder you?
- Sadly, all these factors sometimes led to a series of unfortunate events: enter a new zone > get lost in the dark > encounter a terrifyingly powerful enemy > flee in terror through the dark > get more lost > pull more mobs > hit a wall > try in vain to find the zone exit > fail > die horribly > have no idea where your body and all your gear is > be naked, making it even harder to sneak back through that dark zone full of terrifying monsters to retrieve all your earthly possessions.
- However, while the losses were harder, the wins were also so much sweeter. I still remember the feeling of trading for specific weapons I had coveted and scrounged for tirelessly, or finally encountering and taking down an ultra-rare spawn with friends. For all the stress and frustration and hours sunk into leveling, I guess we deemed the price a fair one in the end.
Now, I obviously got VERY carried away here, so if you need proof that O.G. MMO's really tugged at our heartstrings, I submit the epic above. Who else has fond memories of early MMO's, and stories to share from the annals?
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