I started playing EverQuest in April of 1999. A month before then, I hadn't even heard of the game but a fellow Unreal player mentioned it to me and asked if I'd be playing it. Sure enough, I was playing it the day that it was released. That is, when I could log onto the server.
I remember the first character that I created, a half-elf druid. I selected my starting city and found myself in Surefall Glades. After about 30 minutes of not being able to find my way out, I decided that Surefall Glades was not for me and created a wood-elf druid named Phluux.
I was now in the starting city of Kelethin, a maze of platforms and ramps nestled within the trees. And, I soon found myself tumbling off of one of those platforms and experiencing my first, of many, official EverQuest death.
Server issues aside, my first few days in EverQuest were quite awe-inspiring, as I'd never experienced a game like this before. I played Ultima Online for about a week before uninstalling it, so my closest experience would probably have been something like Diablo. People were in a frenzy, turning in bat wings and spider legs for a measley few copper to work towards getting a full set of patchwork armor. There were spells sparkling, rusty swords slashing, and more people plunging to their deaths from Kelethin.
It was not terribly long into my time in Norrath that I joined a guild called Shadowhunters, and it was not long that I had become an officer of that guild. I have very fond memories of all of the people in that guild and the time that I had spent with them. Some of my closest friends to this day are folks that I met in that guild. Two of my guildmates passed away; one was 20 and one was in her 60's. After a few years together, the leadership of the guild split up but most members stuck together and joined an existing guild by the name of Velox Letum.
The chemistry amongst the members of this guild was simply amazing. We were fairly large, able to handle the large raid encounters on our own, and so we didn't go through as many growing pains that were common in EverQuest and sometimes destroyed a good guild or forced others to merge.
I actually got to meet some of these folks at the local Rennfest one summer. It was only about 6 of them, but it was fun nonetheless. Later that year, about two dozen of us decided to take a long weekend and meet up at Cedar Point Amusement Park and it was nothing short of a memorable experience! That night we all hung out at the hotel by the pool drinking away, sharing in-game stories and basking in our EverQuest glory! Unfortunately, one of us (ahem) had too much to drink and had one of the worst hangovers in his lifetime the next morning. Luckily after some breakfast, I felt just fine.
As we all spent time getting to know each other in-person, I realized that these people weren't your stereotypical geeky gamers that we are all perceived to be. These folks were normal everyday folks that you pass in the grocery store or mall; they were just like me. I'm not sure why I expected otherwise, but for some reason I did.
When we all got back from the trip, the guildmates that couldn't make the trip were obviously envious that they missed out on the opportunity; I really felt bad for them. Ha, I recall some members sending me tells asking what so-and-so is like in person! We shared stories about the partying and good times with our guildmates and started talking about another planned get-together.
Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end at some point. Eventually the stress of raiding all the time and competing with other top guilds on the server started to wear on us and people slowly started to lose interest. It became the norm that we would schedule a raid or race another guild to a spawn and not have the numbers we needed to complete the task.
Members started leaving; most posted their goodbyes on the forum, some joined other guilds, and yet some just vanished altogether. I, too, quit EverQuest and kept playing other games that I was interested in such as Dark Age of Camelot, EverQuest 2, World of Warcraft.
But, I miss those people.
Out of all of the games that I've played, the folks I spent 5 years with in EverQuest made the strongest lasting impression. I am still in touch with some of them, but not a lot of them and I often wonder not only what they are playing, but if they are doing okay in what we MMO gamers refer to as 'the real world.'
Some days I daydream and wonder if I will ever experience memories like that again, or if I will ever connect with a group of people like I did in EverQuest. Like many of you, I have played several other MMOs and have yet to find the second coming of the Holy Grail. EQ2, VG, COH/COV, AO, LOTRO, DAOC, GW, SWG, WoW... none of those games have come close to replicating the experience I have been looking for.
That's why I continue to play these games post partum EverQuest. Sure, the loot, accomplishments and pretty graphics are nice, but without a tight community, why even bother playing? It's something that I feel a lot of games these days are missing.
Do you have similar feelings towards a game or guild you were part of? If so, please feel free to share some of your experiences.