My name’s Phil, and I’m an altoholic.
Falling into the alt-trap is easily done. First these damn companies make luscious worlds for you to explore, then they create numerous races to play, each with its own starting area. Then they go and make multiple classes for you to try out. What’s a guy to do?
I make alts, lots of them. I also suffer from the flip side of altoholism: alt remorse. Every hour spent levelling up a new character makes me feel that I’m neglecting my main. Across several games I have main characters that are nowhere near the level cap. In the games I play the most I have main characters that are languishing with only a couple of levels to go. When I do get to the cap, I’m never at the cutting edge of content; I’m always taking down bosses from two or three updates ago. And all because I find it hard to remain loyal to one character.
I now have a rule: one main per game. This means that if I want to try out a different character class, I get to do it in a whole different setting. In World of Warcraft I have my Orc warrior, EverQuest II is the home of my Templar, I played a melee DPS in Age of Conan. You get the idea. So it pains me to tell you that I’ve abandoned the character I’ve been working on in EverQuest and made two alts.
This came about when I decided to check out my old, old character on EQ. I had a Druid who had made it to level 33. I thought that now I have a better grip on the game, I might blow the dust off him and make him my main once more. Bad move! The thing is I’m far from an expert at this game; I’m barely in the novice category to be honest, and the game has so much content to learn. I’m falling at the first hurdle of managing my spellbook – relearning what everything does and becoming proficient at it again. Not that I was proficient in the first place.
There was only one thing for it: ALTS!
Here’s my thinking: I’d roll a Monk on my live server to experience the full game with a class that is fairly straightforward and doesn’t have a whole sack-full of abilities. So the speedy levelling curve won’t be overwhelming. I also rolled a Druid on the progression server as I do like the class and having one level up slowly will enable me to learn its ins and outs. Plus with the rate of xp gain on a live server, I’d be back to learn new spells every hour or so, causing me more headaches. I figured that I’d end up playing one of them a lot more than the other, solving my problem of which main to have.
I started out playing my druid. I had rolled a half elf and started out in the city of Surefall Glade. Instantly I was glad of my decision. Surefall is a lot smaller than Freeport, which I found to be a bit too labyrinthine for my tastes. I had more than enough time and energy to stop and chat to every npc in the hopes of picking up a quest or two. I left having received my armour quests, and a few others, all of which demanded that I make haste to Qeynos – not a good sign when your home town suggests you might be better off moving to the big city.
The map of Surefall Glade shows two exits: one to Qeynos Hills and another to Jaggedpine Forest. Knowing what little I do based on my time in EQII and my brief time in Everquest, I guessed that the newbie zone would be the hills. However, like an itch I have to scratch or a bruise I can’t help poking, I just had to check out Jaggedpine Forest. The path there lies beyond an illusory wall - don’t know why, it just does. I passed through, feeling very proud of myself for finding it, even though the path is clearly marked on the map. My reward? Insta-death as a mob on the other side took an immediate dislike to me. So far Jaggedpine wasn’t impressing me. On the plus side, I did respawn in Qeynos Hills, so you might consider that a short cut. I certainly do – anything to get over my injured pride.
Once I had popped up in the hills, I began my grind-a-thon, and I had begun to see the attraction of Freeport again. West Freeport has a handy little newbie yard which is full – and I mean full to bursting – of level appropriate mobs for the beginner to unleash some fury on. No such luck in Qeynos Hills, all the mobs outside the gate conned yellow to me, yellow in EQ means a little higher than your level. I spent a long time running around and tabbing through many many targets to find one at my level. I did find a few but after a while this got a bit tiresome so I started trying my luck with the yellow mobs. This became a game in itself: learning which beasties were likely to beat the crap out of me and which were a decent challenge. Second guessing mobs’ fighting strength the finding out the hard way if you were right is another way in which Everquest earns its hardcore status.
Levelling was pretty slow at this point, what with having to carefully select mobs one at a time like a very picky sniper and also due to the Druid not being the dps machine that my Monk was. The plan to learn the class slowly was working a treat though; I began with two spells, Skin Like Wood and Minor Healing and at the rate I was progressing, I thought I’d be looking at those two spells for a pretty long time. A quick jaunt over to the internet showed me that there were some more level 1 spells, you just don’t get given them for free. I guess despite all the lessons that EQ has taught me so far about not being for the faint of heart, I still foolishly expected all my beginner spells handed to me at the start.
I picked up a direct damage spell with what little money I had left over after having blown most of my cash on backpacks. Even with my new fireball power, the going was still slow. I’m enjoying the leisurely pace of advancement though, I have a stack of Curb Your Enthusiasm episodes recorded, and I’m able to pay a lot of attention to them while I grind. Not something I could do with some games that give you new spells every 10 seconds. Ahem, Rift, I’m looking at you – good game, BULGING hotbars.
I ended my evening’s play pleased that I’d dinged level 2. Seeing that written down really does drive home the difference between EQ and many of its descendants. I’m so used to going up a level by just taking a few steps forward, saying hi to an npc and tripping over a stone. Having to put a bit of work into leaving level 1 behind is a lesson that in EQ nothing is handed to you for free. I’m going to have to work at getting up to the level cap – unless of course I take advantage of the insanely generous group xp rate.
So there we go. I’ve kind of taken a step backward. I’m starting out all over again, but rolling a few alts and trying them out before settling on a main is a practice as old as mmos themselves. Also, if I’m thinking hard about which character will become my main one, that’s a good sign for Everquest; it’s looking like it has what it takes to keep me going for the long haul.