With the new EverQuest Progression server opening this week, the gaming blog-o-sphere is all atwitter about it. Some are praising it, some are just enjoying it, some are coming to terms with their inability to play it anymore, and some downright hate it claiming that it ruined its own lands and it won’t ruin theirs.
The funny thing though is that very little about the game is actually broken in such a fashion that everyone agrees. Except the boats. They’ve been broken in some form or another since the original 1999 launch of the game. Everything else though is subject to opinion and preference.
Take combat for example. Some people are complaining about how slow it is. The fights are long and players don’t actually do a whole lot. Spells have long cast times and abilities take anywhere from six to ten seconds to pop back up. Of course, I’ve been complaining for a long time now about how combat in new games is too fast. They are over very quickly and I’ve always got another button to hit, another ability to use, another spell to cast. I don’t have enough time to be social unless I stop playing. The old slow combat, however, allowed me to talk to my group, my guild, the zone, and hold private conversations with several friends.
There are no maps and no floating quest indicators, which some people say makes the game too hard to play since you don’t know where you are going or what you are doing… unless you explore and read and, you know, remember stuff. I actually don’t plan on playing on the new EQ Progression server because I’m actually enjoying playing WoW for the moment (of course, I’m playing WoW in a manner completely alien to many folks), but also because most of the people I enjoyed playing EQ with aren’t going to be there either, and it’s the people who made EQ worth playing. However, I did drop into game and rolled up a monk in Qeynos, just like the old days, and you know what? I still knew the world like the back of my hand. I knew where the vendors were and where to find quests, and more importantly when I didn’t remember, I remembered how to find out: you target NPCs and hail them to speak to them and find quest text, and then you just do what they want. No indicators, no tracking, you write down on a piece of paper on your computer desk what they are looking for and who they are and when you find the stuff, you bring it back. Even better… you don’t have to actually be on a quest to get quest items. In WoW and other new games, if there is a quest for gnoll teeth, you have to get the quest first and then go kill gnolls. In EverQuest, you can go kill gnolls and get the teeth (which are NO DROP) and then find a quest guy who wants them. How cool is that? Imagine if in WoW you could be hunting raptors and some other player says, “Hey, there is a guy in the Wetlands who wants ten of their hides and he’ll give you some coin for it.” You say, “Cool!” and collect the hides, then go find the guy in the Wetlands. To me, that is much more awesome than killing a bunch of raptors and getting no loot, then finding a guy who wants hides, so you go back and kill raptors in the exact same spot you were before, but now they magically have hides they didn’t have before! What?
Another example that comes up in the “I can’t believe we played like this” side of the discussion is trains. The act of someone dragging mobs on you, either by intent or by accident, that then stop to fight you while the other guy gets away. Yep, trains suck. Nothing in the game is worse than having your day ruined and your group wiped by some idiot’s train to the zone line. But you want to know what is totally awesome? Surviving trains. Your group already had a mob to fight and now you have three, or five… the enchanter start mezzing, the monk snags one to off tank, the ranger pulls one out and roots it, and the cleric is screaming for everyone to stop getting hit because he’s running out of mana… then… one mob dies, and there is this clear moment when you realize that everyone did their jobs without being told, they worked as a team and your group is surrounded by mobs just waiting to die and you are more than happy to oblige. I spent entire Saturdays in zones with a buddy or two breaking trains. Be it out on the lawn in Unrest or after Kunark down in Sebilis, trains were thrilling and exciting, and they just don’t happen in new games anymore.
Trains don’t suck. Not for everyone. Some of us want that game. A game of danger and thrills, of social interaction and interdependence of classes, where quests are things you can do at any time and not just when someone flags you for them, a game where travelling to another part of the game means something more than having to stone home later or riding on a griffin for a couple minutes, but nobody is making it anymore. Are they?