Many players focus their attention on the details of Everquest. They focus on experience gain, equipment rewards, damage-per-second statistics, and class balance. Every day angry players write about tiny details that make little difference in this vast game. They don't sound like players having fun, they sound like politicians. Perhaps they forget exactly why they play.
Three years ago in my article, 'Why I Play Everquest', I wrote out the rules I tried to keep in mind as I played Everquest. I have since revised these rules down to the following:
Rule 1: Have Fun Every Day You Play
If you find yourself doing something you don't enjoy, leave. If you find yourself on boring hunts solely hunting for experience gain, try something else. If you hate raiding but raid every day because you think it's the only way to get ahead, stop.
Ask yourself what is truely important. What will you walk away with when you leave this game? Will you look back fondly at your time hunting in Norrath or will you only remember how boring it was to experience grind?
Do what you enjoy most.
Rule 2: People are Everquest's Strength
The other players can be your sharpest weapon, your most powerful armor, and your greatest treasure. The friends you meet on your adventures will give you a far greater benefit than any in-game reward. The people you meet and the adventures you share are the true rewards of Everquest. Your friends list is your greatest possession.
Rule 3: The Grass Is Not Greener
Everyone looks up to another player or another group and imagines how wonderful it would be to be them. When you actually talk to them, you find out that they feel the same way about someone else. Sometimes they are happy with their station in life but other times they grow bored or restless. They find another item, another level, or another goal they want as badly as you want what they have. Often they are having no more fun than you can.
Be happy where you are. There is nothing wrong with wishing to progress but don't imagine that Norrath becomes a better place at 70 than it is at 40.
Rule 4: Don't Rush to Progress, Enjoy Yourself
Norrath is a huge world filled with interesting sights to see and powerful beasts to slay. Don't spend it all grinding in Paludal Caverns because you want to get to the end-game (remember, there IS no end-game in an evolving world).
Hunt to have fun. Don't hunt for experience or equipment, hunt because you enjoy it. Explore the depths of Kaesora. Listen to the waves lap against the beaches of North Ro. Smell the clean air of the Greater Faydark. Dance with the Othmars!
This game is not a race. There is no golden chalice at the end of the game. You cannot save Princess Toadstool. There is no powerful weapon worth stealing the experience of seeing the rest of Norrath. You don't have to be earning experience or winning loot to play Everquest. You can play Everquest while sitting on a hill watching the sun set.
I do not follow these rules to the letter. All of us look at people more powerful than ourselves and wonder what it would be like. We see the shine of epic weapons (whether 1.0, 1.5, or 2.0) and fill with envy. However it is always important to keep our true goals in mind.
Now a little bit about in-game progression.
Over the past three years two important truths became clear to me:
- Gear, Level, and AA Progression Is Important
- Gear, Level, and AA Progression Is Pointless
There used to be a theory that the center of the galaxy that all planets and solar systems orbit around was actually an empty black hole. Likewise, the core of our desire to hunt and play Everquest - the tangable rewards of levels and equipment - are really empty goals.
People seek progression. People seek the easiest path to the best tangable reward. We saw it when people went from level 65 to 70 in two days by hunting in the Plane of Fire. We saw it when people did Gimblax and Creator missions more than any other mission in Dragons of Norrath. People seek the easiest tangable reward for their effort. They want fast experience and good equipment.
Progression is critical to Everquest. Without tangable progression, people will quit. Watching our characters grow in strengh and power keeps us coming back. We enjoy watching our characters improve. We like seeing numbers go up as we equip new items. We like destroying foes as easily as they once used to destroy us.
Ironically, some players want to reach some end state. They call it the 'end game'. They want gear they never want to replace. They want to hit the highest level and never level again. If they actually receive what they want, they would lose the drive to play. Who wants to hunt if you gain nothing for the effort? This is why we see increased level caps, more alternate skills, new higher level zones, and better equipment upgrades.
But progression is also pointless. Your non-EQ friends don't care if you're level 40 or level 70. Your Blazing Sword of Rallos Zek will not cut you a greater path through the lines at the grocery store. Five hundred AA points won't make gas prices drop below $2.50 a gallon.
Your gear and your level is not real. Your level and equipment will disappear if you ever decide to stop playing Everquest. Your character is just tiny bits of data inside some database on the west coast. Your level and gear are not real.
The friends you meet and the adventures you share are the true reward you earn. These friends are the reason I play Everquest.
5 August 2005