Caster's Realm: How Everquest Players Have Changed

Young Ciric, cleric of Quellious and future tutor of Loral Ciriclight, once ran from Erudin to Kaladim at level 15. There were no Knowledge stones or Nexus portals back then. No wizards yet had any teleport spells. Few adventurers dared leave the front of their city. It took two nights, about two or three hours each night, to run across the Karanas, through High Pass, across a pre-Bloody Kithicor, through West and East Commonlands, a harrowing boat ride across the Ocean of Tears, and finally a run across the Butcherblock Mountains. I had a lioness, goblin, gnoll, or asp three feet behind me the entire way.

Life was hard back then, as any grizzled veteran will be sure to constantly and loudly remind you. We didn't have these new finagled 'corpse alters' or 'AFK monster missions'. We spent five days straight camping Ragefire for our epic and we liked it! You didn't join a group if you couldn't spend an entire Saturday back in those days. New players go from level 1 to 60 in the time it took us to find a group in Frontier Mountains.

Everquest has changed since those days, and many speak of missing them. Some call for the establishment of a 'classic server', a server limited to some small set of original content eliminating many of the new features of recent expansions. Others simply prefer to hold their scars of the old days as badges of honor, telling new young pups to keep their traps shut or they will soon learn of the days of Fear before there WAS a level 60.

Here is the secret such grizzled veterans don't want you to know. Should we return to those dark days, those veterans would be the first ones to complain.

No one really wants to play Everquest back the way it was. No one wants hell-levels or buggy boat rides. No one wants a life before group buffs when Nagafen raids took two hours to prepare and 'camp to chat' was a prime strategy.

Those grizzled veterans are the first to complain when their bind point right outside the door of Anguish fails. They're the first ones to demand a bank inside the Guild Lobby because traveling one zone in either direction is simply too much bother. These players don't want three-day Sky raids where 99% of the time is spent summoning bodies from island to island. They don't want a zone-in like Fear where raids wipe out 50% of the time and have go beg another raid to risk the same. They don't want to have to call in to work sick because their body is stuck in North TOV.

Everquest has changed over six years and we have changed with it. Our tolerance for the days of old is long gone. In this new post-World-of-Warcraft world we demand faster returns for our time. We demand easier paths to high-end content. We demand our content cut into little bite-sized pieces. The world has changed, we have changed, and there is no going back.

Our lives have changed since we spent two weeks bound outside of the Plane of Mischief - not the one in Greater Divide, but the one deep in north Temple of Veeshan. We have kids now. We have jobs now. We have wives and husbands and girlfriends and boyfriends that need us to step away from Norrath once in a while to take the trash out. We have other hobbies to follow and other games to play.

Everquest is evolving into a more time-friendly game. We can log in and finish a monster mission in under an hour. We can complete a group mission in under two hours. Still complaints are voiced: 'I don't want to spend the time finding a group - I just want some solo content'. So far SOE has staved off these voices by continually looking for ways to make grouping easier and more rewarding - the correct approach for a massive multiplayer online game. Still, we demand everything be easier and faster than before.

Some refer to this entire process as the 'dumbing down' of Everquest (I use quotes to keep my shining boots out of the horse droppings). Such an oversimplification begs to be tossed into the steamy pile of Meaningless Everquest Words. Making a game easier, more accessible, and more time-friendly brings in new players. New players replace old players. New players keep Norrath alive.

Such nostalgia for the old days is often just another way to separate one's self from the masses. Like the power of gear, the highly renowned guild tag, or the list of vanquished foes; those difficult days keep veterans outside of the circle of the 'casual player' (there's another of those Evil Terms). Yet they click the Knowledge stone like the rest of us. They summon their bodies in the Guild Lobby like the rest of us. They complain when mass buffs accidentally place a spell on them that they did not desire and expect SOE to program something in rather than take the trouble to simply click it off. How soon they forget about 'camping to chat'.

I lived in those days. I cut my teeth in the icy hells of failed Lady Vox corpse recoveries. I remember what it was like to spend ninety minutes getting to a group before landing a single blow on a creature. I remember buying a week's worth of groceries, renting a stack of DVDs, calling in favors with friends I never met, and spending five days straight waiting for Zordiak Ragefire to spawn.

I remember those days and I am glad they are behind me.

Loral Ciriclight
9 December 2005