So, I've been playing Vanguard
lately (if you can believe it, it's actually turned into a decent game), because SOE gave free access to it along with EverQuest and it's sequel for a time. The only reason this is worth mentioning in regards to this post is because it means I have the "Station Launcher" installed, SOE's answer to a Steam-like application for managing all of their MMO's. It's quite handy, actually - downloading any of their games is a click away (give or take 8 hours of downloading).
I inadvertently start reading EverQuest patch notes out of sheer boredom. Something catches my eye: they've redone "Lower Guk", one of the original dungeons of the game which included most of the early "phat lewt" including the game's first haste item - a type of item that would not only become essential to any aspiring melee class but also become the base item for which the entire early economy was based on; and the daggers that my rogue wielded for ages - the Serrated Bone Dirks, which brandished a very respectable "8/27 ratio" - 8 damage, 27 delay.
This used to be uber!
Included in this revamp of "lguk" as most know it (as there is, of course, a much less exciting Upper
Guk) are, as you could imagine, updated items. Where once was the haste item in question - the Flowing Black Silk Sash
, there is now the Darkened version of the same
. Where once was my beloved dirk, there is now a darkened version with the same 27 delay - but a fairly incredible 34 damage, along with a slew of attributes and effects. The rogue "epic" weapon was merely 15/25, and this was an item that - at the time - required a guild to help you acquire it.
Of course, the dungeon is now for levels 75-80, rather than it's previous 45-50. Obviously, quite a bit has changed in the course of the game's 14
expansions. I was happy, however, that they decided not to attempt to "enhance" Guk's visuals - one of the main reasons I stopped playing EQ was because of them ruining (in my opinion) the graphics with the Shadows of Luclin and subsequent expansions.
Crysis it is not, but it has it's charms
Lost in a frenzy of reminiscence, I mindlessly clicked the EverQuest button rather than log into Vanguard for some more monk action. I've done this a few times before - get free access, log in, be hopelessly lost, jaw drop at how much the game is changed, and then log out for a for a couple more years.
After finding out from the EQ website that one of the "hot zones" - areas with enhanced experience rate - for my rogue's level range was the "Bastion of Thunder", I proceeded there and turned /lfg on and explored a bit (one of the nice things about being a rogue - you can basically explore wherever you'd like, unseen). I didn't announce to the zone that I was LFG, which makes the fact that I got a /tell asking if I would like a group within 5 minutes even more incredible - being a rogue, one of the things I usually don't
get nostalgic about is waiting at a zone line with /lfg on for hours, waiting for a group.
After finding the group, which included a level 78 ranger, we began doing what people often find themselves doing in an MMO and slaughtering whatever we can get our hands on. It was fun to see the experience bar go up, and if we had stayed at it a little longer I probably would've gotten the first new level my rogue has seen in many years. As we ground
, the group's collective guild tag caught my attention more and more. I knew it from somewhere, I just couldn't put my finger on it. I began thumbing through my old screenshots that happened to be handy on an external drive and ended up finding out why I knew the tag: it turns out it was actually one of my first guilds! Seeing screenshots of myself in this guild doing low-level raids on places like Mistmoore (we're talking old
) was much like opening an old scrapbook.
It was a pretty weird experience, especially so because this wasn't even my most favored guild experience - it was simply one of my first, which is most likely why I didn't immediately remember it. Ironically, my more successful and long term guild which I often reminisce heavily about (and is usually the reason I reinstall the game, as I still post on their old forums very rarely) wasn't around anymore.
Of course, throughout all the years, it's unlikely any of these characters are even being played by the same people I knew - and even if they were, it's been such a long time that I surely wouldn't even have anything meaningful to say. I opened their website and looked around but at that point decided it best not to delve in such an old chapter of my gaming history, and that it'd be silly to act on such a coincidence.
It was a powerful experience, though. I know the story is similar for many, but to experience it first-hand and so accidentally: the fact that I've been playing the majority of all MMO's to come out over the years, and to come back to EverQuest on a whim and find a group that denotes one of my earliest experiences yet still playing the game. And EQ is very much a game that demands such nostalgia, with unique experiences and equipment and a truly "player versus environment" feel: forcing players to band together and help one another, creating relationships and scenarios that not only simply do not happen in newer MMO's, but probably will never be allowed to happen again as they are considered counterproductive to what makes a current-gen MMO successful. Yet still, these features and gameplay mechanics lend themeslves to situations that continue to stand out in my memory above all else.