Every MMO gamer knows of the title “EverQuest.” Some of you actually played it, but the rest usually listen wearily while EQ veterans wax and wane about the so-called glory days. Regardless of your position on the game, there’s no doubting that EQ fans are some of the most passionate you’ll meet, and their insatiable appetite for nostalgia goes unrivaled.
Daybreak Games (formerly Sony Online Entertainment) has capitalized on this by periodically providing time locked progression (TLP) servers for players. This has surely proven to be a successful business model for Daybreak, as we are now approaching the third server of its kind, which the community has named: “Ragefire”. The server is scheduled to launch on May 20th, and it is not without the usual hype. Many of the players clamoring for the next TLP have played together for close to 10 years between the previous two TLP events, some even longer.
For those that are new to the TLP format, a TLP server is a fresh start. Your new character is placed in a 1999 version of Norrath (or as close as is possible for developers due to the impact certain changes may have to standard EverQuest servers). Players will only have access to items, zones, and abilities that were available in 1999. Players are then charged with defeating content to unlock the next expansion. Following the defeat of the required content, a pre-determined time lock period begins. At the end of the time lock period, players then vote whether or not they would like to open the next expansion. This process continues through EverQuest’s 21 expansions, and with so much content, each TLP server is able to keep players entertained for literally years on end.
If this all sounds overwhelming don’t worry, it’s not. Classic EverQuest and each of the early expansions will all be locked for at least 6 months each. This is not only a time for EQ veterans to relive fond memories, but also an opportunity for new players to experience a game that defined a genre. There will be plenty of time to learn the game, and enjoy everything that each expansion has to offer. The vast majority of the EverQuest community is very welcoming to new players, and will very gladly assist them on their journey.
EverQuest and other MMOs have certainly evolved over the years, and while there are many differences, here are the big three that you can expect from Ragefire as we go back in time to 1999:
1. You’ll want to find a group. And by the way, your reputation matters.
Modern MMOs largely emphasize solo gameplay, especially while leveling up. While you certainly can achieve this in EverQuest, it is more difficult, and often times far slower than gaining experience with a good group. While you are playing with others, don’t forget, they will remember you next time you shout out “LFG.” You will earn either a positive or negative reputation in the community based on your actions, and that will greatly impact your experience in game.
2. Combat is slower, but that leaves time for other activities. Like talking.
It’s ok. Nothing is wrong. Your group is sitting deep in a dungeon not attacking anything. They didn’t all disconnect. They are probably regaining mana or health after a challenging pull. In fact, if you look at your chat window, they are probably talking! Feel free to converse with your groupmates. They won’t yell at you if you don’t attack immediately or aren’t topping DPS meters (by the way, there aren’t any in game). Grouping is a social activity in EverQuest, not simply a means to an end. Have fun, talk, and make friends. You’ll need them.
3. You’ll be hoofing it. Often.
There are no fast travel mechanisms that you can click on to teleport you across the world. No mounts that will make the journey faster. You’ve got two main options: run on foot, or find a wizard or druid that is kind enough to port you closer to your destination. If you are running, be careful on your journey, Norrath is a dangerous place. Creatures far above your level will attack you without being provoked, but that’s what makes it so exciting.
The atmosphere during launch and at the release of each expansion is difficult to describe. Thousands of players will be running around in the newbie zones, and every one of them is so genuinely ecstatic to be a part of a moment that has only come around three times in a decade. And while there will be frustrations due to overcrowding, you have to sit back and marvel at the sheer volume of activity. Relish in the plethora of groups, and the social interactions. Take your time and enjoy these classic zones as they were meant to be; knowing that they are all destined to become deserted once again.
So why all of this excitement and anticipation when for years members of successful emulated EverQuest projects have supplied similar, and sometimes superior classic EverQuest experiences? I think in the end, it’s the same two reasons for all players; permanence and progression.
As reputable as some emulated projects are or have been, there is an always-present risk in the back of players’ minds. The risk that all of your effort is going into something that could be gone tomorrow, and with a game like EverQuest, that could literally be thousands of hours. With the flip of a switch, it could all be gone because one person decides to stop the fun. An official TLP server brings permanence and security to a player’s mind. Knowing that their character will always be there gives them the confidence to invest their time into a game that requires quite a lot of it.
Secondly, there is progression. While many players may claim that they don’t want to play EverQuest after a certain expansion, the option is always there with the official TLP servers. There doesn’t have to be an end if you aren’t ready to hang it up. In most emulated environments, there is a defined end to the content, a final expansion. As humans, we don’t like finality. We’re always looking to what’s next, to become better, to progress. And that’s why we’re here, banging down the door of the next TLP server: Ragefire. We love eating this content, and we never get full.
So in the name of progress, what can you really expect as the server moves forward? I won’t sugarcoat it, there’s good and bad. Competition among the top raiding guilds will ramp up very quickly, and it can get a bit contentious, while casual guilds may have to wait their turn. But for both groups, a multi-year journey has begun, and these avatars you play with will become real people that you care about.
Your character will progress, and you will experience moments of blinding euphoria as you conquer challenging fights, but you will also encounter pain and suffering that will take on many forms. There will be drama and intrigue, politics and diplomacy. Then you will realize that this game has more similarities to real life than many care to admit.
Players will come and go, and come again. Population will begin to dwindle once about half of the expansions have been completed, but many know that there is still more fun to be had. Months will quickly turn into years, and you will look back on what you have accomplished, cherishing the memories and friends that you have made. At the end of it all, you will have come to realize that this is an experience that can’t be replaced by any other game, and that your time was well spent.