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Where would you go if you could relive your glory days? Were you a head
cheerleader? Captain of the football team? Hardest partier in college?
Or maybe you had friends with whom you would travel to exotic faraway
lands, finding adventure at every corner, developing your friendships
into something that transcended age, race, sex and politics. Maybe you
were one of the hundreds of thousands of people who spent countless
hours living excitement, heartache, euphoric victory, and mortifying
failure in an online world we all came to love called style="font-style: italic;">EverQuest.

Nostalgia's calming caress has fueled some fantastic accomplishments
and EverQuest
fans have been incited to motion for just that. 11 years and 16
expansions after its initial launch players everywhere still enjoy the
game or hearken back to the early years when it played a large role in
their everyday lives. Some of these players have experienced such
ardent longing to relive days past that they have created a time
machine of sorts. One that will take them back to Norrath as it was in

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The Draw

First, let's explore what made EverQuest
so popular that thousands of people have signed up to go back to 1999
to play it all over again.

came onto the scene very near the dawning of MMOGs. To say it was a
different time would be like saying Sean Connery played the best James
Bond--it's both obvious and quite true. Soloing was rarely an option,
death penalties were severe and unforgiving, reputations made the
player, and raids could last all weekend. The flavor of MMOGs has
changed dramatically over the past decade and today the average player
simply doesn't have the patience and/or time for the old-school MMOG.
So what was the hook? Why did so many people live and breathe style="font-style: italic;">EverQuest? I asked
that very question of John Smedley, President of Sony Online
Entertainment, and the creator of the original style="font-style: italic;">EverQuest.

"I think it was partly the time and the place," Smedley told me. "It
was most people’s first MMO. I would say it had a little bit of an
older crowd. There’s such a feeling of nostalgia for the first
experience. It was the first translation from when you played tabletop
D&D to an online game."

The nostalgia Smedley spoke of certainly rings true. In 2006 SOE opened
up what they dubbed Progression Servers, which allowed players to start
all over again from the beginning. As guilds and alliances defeated
specific content the next expansion would be unlocked. The result was a
certifiable success. Many players new and old jumped at the opportunity
and both progression servers filled to the brim on opening day.

So does SOE plan on opening more similar servers?

"I wouldn’t say 'progression,' " said Smedley, "but we do have other
things planned like that. We did the 50/51  server recently. [ style="font-style: italic;">A server that allows players to
start new characters at level 50 with 51 Alternate Advancement points.
-ed] We’re planning on more stuff like that that will keep
people interested and maybe offering them a slightly different way of
playing. We try to change things up a little."

50/51 or Progression, Live or Classic, the allure of style="font-style: italic;">EverQuest still
draws many players. Part of the attraction lies in the difficulty level
of the game, which simply isn't seen in many of today's MMOGs.
Cliff  'Nilbog' Gibson, founder of Project 1999 reminisced
fondly about the days of 1999 EverQuest.

Project 1999 is an emulated server that attempts to recreate style="font-style: italic;">EverQuest as it was
in 1999, before expansions and back when it was a very different game
from the MMOGs of today. The project is not supported by or affiliated
with Sony Online Entertainment, and playing it requires a breach of the

style="width: 620px; height: 388px;" alt="A Group in Crushbone"

A Group in Crushbone

"I missed the difficulty of original style="font-style: italic;">EverQuest," he
explained. "The players of all games have always complained about the
death penalties, running naked to retrieve their corpses, and the
unforgiving nature of the game, but I think they desire the challenge."

The challenge of the game was certainly a common theme as I spoke to
more people. I approached two of the top raiding guilds involved in
Project 1999 and asked them what made style="font-style: italic;">EverQuest their
game of choice.

"There hasn’t been a game like [EverQuest]
in difficulty and content matter," said Xzerion,  guild leader
of Inglourious Basterds. "You have to be good at playing your class. In
World of Warcraft,
you were playing with a bunch of nine year old kids and all they had to
do was to show up, get some levels, and be somewhat useful on a raid.
Here, it is clearly evident if somebody is playing with you and is not
good and could deter whatever group or raid you’re trying to take part

"To be able to progress and meet your full potential as any kind of
class, you have to understand the game mechanics," added Otto, former
guild leader of Inglourious Basterds. "You need to understand the
layout of the zones; you need to understand how your class is
beneficial in group situations. Every other MMOG that I’ve played is
just so easy that the journey to the final level in the game can be
accomplished within a few days, at most. That’s what I liked about style="font-style: italic;">EverQuest--it took
time and effort... I think that without the difficulty of the game, you
miss out on the fulfillment factor."

One of the guild's officers, Karsten, agreed, and offered a more
analytical perspective. "I would answer in a much more metaphysical and
psychological way," he began. "That question opens up a large variety
of ways in which you could answer it. The succinct way of answering it
is that I like playing EverQuest
in the same way that I’m attracted to women who are hard to
get.  It’s a sad commentary on the psychology of what mankind
is attracted to. I really do think that one of the reasons why style="font-style: italic;">EverQuest was so
popular is that I think they [SOE] put together a game that
specifically plays on those parts of humankind’s personalities. A lot
of us play EverQuest
because of our latent masochist tendencies... We like style="font-style: italic;">EverQuest because
it’s difficult.

"I remember that when I started playing style="font-style: italic;">World of Warcraft,
I couldn’t stop raving about the fact that it didn’t try to punch me in
the face whenever I logged on and tried to XP, and that was refreshing
and nice, but it’s also the reason why I quit playing it."

Stanley Soulcat, guild leader of Transcendence, another top guild on
the server, had a slightly different thought on the classic style="font-style: italic;">EverQuest

"MMOGs were a lot less commercialized," he said. "Back in the old days,
there was UO [Ultima
], and then nothing until style="font-style: italic;">EverQuest came
around. And based upon my opinion, back in the day, people didn’t enjoy
the PvP environment that UO offered, and style="font-style: italic;">EverQuest gave them
that PvE environment and allowed them to have a better time and not
constantly be trolled or attacked."

So what exactly is Project 1999 and does it fit the bill for what these
players are looking for?

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The Scoop

In the words of Nilbog: "Project 1999 is an attempt to recreate the
original launch of EverQuest.
We use the EverQuest
Titanium client with the open source work of the EQEmulator community,
and players will be able to relive their original experience." And
that's exactly what they've done. This is Classic style="font-style: italic;">EverQuest, without
any expansions, with all of the old systems and mechanics in place. For
all intents and purposes, this is EverQuest
as it was in 1999.

The plan is to follow the same timeline as the original title,
chronologically activating expansions around the same time they were
originally released. Nilbog says they intend to unlock two
expansions--The Ruins of Kunark, and the Scars of Velious, matching the
timeline as closely as they can, opening the expansions roughly a year
apart. There are no current plans to release any further expansions on
the emulated server.

The experiences between EverQuest
of 1999 and Project 1999 are very nearly identical. The old textures
and models are all in place and the classic quests are active. The
crafting and spell casting systems are reminiscent of the era; the
zones and monsters are all classic, as is the lengthy combat and the
somewhat brutal death penalty. Certain fans have even stepped up to
contribute to the project, offering "classic" interface skins.

The project started in the fall of 2008. Nilbog  started the
project solo for a couple of months and then realized he was going to
need some help.

"[I] started recruiting long-lost comrades. The open beta testing
lasted around a year and we’ve had about five developers at a time."

"We have a few devs that are kind of enjoying themselves playing right
now," added Sean 'Rogean' Norton, co-manager, "so they haven’t been as
active recently on the developer side of things. As people go, we find
new people to step in and help out. It’s an ongoing process."

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alt="A Hill Giant in Rathe Mountains"

A Hill Giant in Rathe

Rogean is the current owner of EQEmulator. Once he saw Nilbog's project
he became immediately enthralled.

"I actually joined a little after launch," Rogean told me. "I noticed
one night while working on the main EQEmulator website that there was
this new Project 1999 server showing up on the server list that had
over a hundred people online. I was like, 'what is this?' I logged in
and I noticed how laggy it was because they were trying to run it from
a cable connection. So, I was like, 'alright, this has gotta change.' I
happened to have a server standing by, so I had them jump on that
server and I moved everything over for them and then it kind of took
off from there."

And take off it did. The population of the server continues to grow on
a daily basis and thousands of accounts have logged in.

"We have almost 27,000 characters, and 14,000 accounts. Our population
at prime time has surpassed the 600 player mark," stated Rogean.

"Primetime for us are the big internet nights," he continued, "which
are Thursday and Sunday nights. What we also have to keep in mind is
that we don’t allow boxing on our server. You can’t have two characters
from the same IP Address online at once unless you apply for an IP
exemption for two or more real people in the same house, and this is
enforced by the server staff. That means all those players are real
people, which is a huge accomplishment. The other server that comes
close to us in population on the same login server is Project EQ, and
roughly half of their characters are boxes. To have over 600 people
online at one time is a huge accomplishment for us and it’s steadily
increasing. We hope it keeps doing that."

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The Cogwheel

With the amount of people playing the game, concerns pop up about the
server stability. How many players can the server support? Rogean
promptly answered.

"Currently, the amount of players a single zone can handle is around
140. The server itself has no global population limit, and any zone
that approaches those numbers may start having problems, but it won't
affect other zones. I constantly look for ways to increase the code
efficiency to raise this limit. Bandwidth-wise, we actually have two
servers, and they’re both on hundred megabit connections in big data
centers, so I don’t see bandwidth being a huge problem. We can always
add another server or two if we need to down the road as we get more
players, and I don’t think that we’ll be hitting that upper limit too
often on the players in the zones." In addition, a new server has just
been ordered for the project, and will be placed in a new facility with
an even more powerful connection.

Apart from server stability, development takes up its resources. Things
like quests, NPCs, zones, spells and crafting all need to be carefully
tuned by volunteer staff. The players themselves play a pivotal role in
the recreation of the experience. "Every day we recreate the quests and
NPCs as they are found missing," Nilbog said. Rogean expanded.

"As we get more and more players, our bug forums are filling up, and I
have to say that Nilbog has been doing a fantastic job of going through
all the bugs, adding stuff that’s missing, and we’ve got it pretty
close to how it was in Classic. Typically, nowadays, you’ll be hard
pressed to find anything that’s missing, and if you did that rare quest
back in the day that nobody else ever actually did and it happens to
not be working, make a post and we’ll fix it."

When he says "fix it," he means by hand. There was no code from the style="font-style: italic;">EverQuest client
that recorded the placement or pathing of NPCs. "There were some
original show EQ packet logs," Nilbog mentioned."It’s not fully
comprehensive, but it helped."

style="background: transparent url('') no-repeat scroll 100% 0%; -moz-background-clip: initial; -moz-background-origin: initial; -moz-background-inline-policy: initial; vertical-align: top;">"Everything
on the emulator is coded by hand, everything is technically
different," Rogean responded. "We make things as close as possible, but
nothing is ever going to be certain. So, for example, the mob pathing
system is as close as possible, but it still relies on manually
implemented waypoints. When we add waypoints, We try to make them as
close to Live as possible, but when you’re dealing with stuff that’s
not really documented, and pathing waypoints wouldn’t be anything that
people would be concerned about keeping documentation on, we have to go
by memory and try to be close as possible, but it can only be so

It's undoubtedly a lot of work, particularly considering the staff
operates on a volunteer basis.

"Everybody doing this is volunteering their work. The server is kept
alive by donations and we don’t get paid. [Most of us] have full-time
jobs ourselves in real life, so the time we do spend working on things
is our free time," Rogean commented.

"It’s pretty difficult to find the knowledgeable people who would do
quality work for free," Nilbog concluded.

Volunteer staff extends to customer service as well. There are GMs
available in the game to help out with issues, and these people, too,
are unpaid and simply doing it for their love of the game.

"We have Guides," explained Rogean. "This is the same thing that you
had on EQ Live... Since we’ve been kind of overwhelmed by the numbers
we’ve been getting recently, and with more people playing, you get more
petitions, more bug reports. All around, we’ve been kind of swamped
lately. We’ve already got a couple Guides on staff, but Guides are
people who play on the server who are volunteering their time to also
act as a Guide. You have to be careful when doing that. You don’t want
people who are going to be corrupt at all, and we’ve had our fair share
of corrupt accusations, so we’re being very careful with that. The
developers do have GM access on the server to help out as well, and
have more access than Guides depending on if they have play characters
or not. Guides can answer petitions, and they have a limited number of
commands that they can do in order to help out. We’ll be adding more
Guides soon, but that’s still a work in progress for right now.
Everything we do is voluntary, so we only have so many people
committing so much time to help everybody out."

style="width: 620px; height: 496px;" alt="Kaladim"


So what keeps the team motivated?

"The happiness that people seem to get from it," Nilbog replied. "It’s
great. I enjoy classic EverQuest
and this is great."

"And you get your name out there a bit too," Rogean added. "People look
up to you a little bit, they respect you, and they realize the work
you’ve done. You get a lot of thanks-tells and a lot of praise on the
forums, so it’s a good feeling.

"We have our bumps and everything here and there, and been through a
few rough things. Obviously, when the server first started, we had to
move. When Nilbog first started, he didn’t anticipate the rush of
players, and that’s why we were so laggy on the opening day, and that’s
when I stepped in and helped him out."

Should the unthinkable happen, and Nilbog, Rogean and the rest of the
crew need to free up time in their schedules for other things, they're
pretty confident the server would continue onward.

"I think if something happened to one of the primary people, me or
Rogean, I don’t think it would come to an end," assured Nilbog. "I
think that there’s enough interest in the project that it could be
maintained indefinitely from volunteer work. I don’t foresee leaving,
but I think it could be maintained from just the interest in the game."

Rogean agreed. "Nilbog and I are both very rooted in what we do as far
as maintaining the server goes. If one of us just decides one day to up
and leave and become unresponsive, then there might be a problem, but I
don’t see that happening for either of us. We know we’ve created
something special, so we’re not going to let it go to waste. If we did
come to a situation where we didn’t have enough time to commit to the
project any more, we’d make sure that somebody else would fill in our

And how do players play their part?

"Continue to file bug reports," Rogean answered, "but when filing bug
reports, be as accurate as possible providing as much detailed
information as possible as that just makes our lives easier. We do what
we can to fix all the bugs, but with the amount of things we have to
do, it just makes our lives so much easier if we have a detailed post
that we don’t have to look up all the facts or look up all these extra
things that could be posted by the person."

"Research is the best thing possible," added Nilbog.

"If you’re posting something that needs a change, it’s best to cite a
reference. Those references could be huge for us," continued Rogean.

"We do have Guides; we have a Guide application forum. We ask that any
Guides who apply be knowledgeable with EQ itself, classic content, and
also have somewhat of a knowledge with computers in general and,
obviously, with EQ and the client on the emulator, and emulator
experience as in being a GM on any of the other servers in the past."

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The Legality

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Creating a server which essentially offers a free-to-play variant of a
commercial subscription-based game can certainly raise eyebrows. I
asked Smedley about SOE's stance on emulated servers.

"Our stance is that they shouldn’t be doing that," he began. He then
acknowledged the effort. "Practically, our stance is that I’m amazed
that people know how to do that. Typically emulators have a very
limited functionality but it really is an amazing technical feat...
until those people start charging and ripping us off, then it becomes
something else."

Curious to find out more about the legal latitude, I approached J.
Michael Monahan, II, an attorney with Pattishall McAuliffe in 
Chicago who teaches video game law at Chicago Kent College of Law ( href=""
target="_blank">Law 638 Video Game Law). 
He noted that an EQ emulator faced several legal hurdles "assuming that
Sony doesn’t just bless it and say 'that’s neat.'"

"It’s not quite the same, but the situation is similar to the Battlenet
case," Monahan explained. "In 2005, Blizzard sued the creators of a
clone Battlenet server who had basically reverse-engineered the server
side.  The clone server worked essentially the same as the
Battlenet server, but did not implement the 'handshake' code that
made  sure that only legitimate copies of style="font-style: italic;">Warcraft or style="font-style: italic;">StarCraft could use
the service.

"The appeal focused on the DMCA anti-circumvention provisions because
those with a pirate copy of Warcraft
or StarCraft,
could use  the  multiplayer mode on the clone server
where they could not on the actual Battlenet server. If the emulator
overrides these kinds of protections coded into legitimate EQ client
software, then DMCA issues could come up here.

"On the content side,  the emulator does not provide the EQ
client,  where most of the game content resides," Monahan
continued. "This includes the images, models, audio files, textures and
artwork.  The recent litigation over the WoWGlider software,
however, found copyright protection for an MMO's 'non-literal'
elements, namely the online experience created by connecting the
various images, models, and other content from multiple clients through
a game server.  Because the WoWGlider software avoided
Blizzard's Warden program, Blizzard raised DMCA anti-circumvention

"The reason that [the WoWGlider case] became a DMCA puzzle was, when
you’re talking about just the skins and images that you and I would
easily recognize as copyrighted, those works exist on the client side.
Warden didn’t prevent a player from accessing those works, because you
could pull up the images and audio without logging into WoW. So, the
WoWGlider creators argued that no DMCA violation existed because Warden
did not protect the copyrighted content.  The court ultimately
found that Warden did protect a separate copyrighted work – the
'non-literal elements' of WoW – and that work was infringed when
players accessed the WoW server using WoWGlider to circumvent Warden.

"So if Sony takes issue with the project, under the WoWGlider case, it
could argue that the emulator infringes  the non-literal
element of the game experience provided over the legitimate EQ server.
There’s a lot of questions and details between here and there, but that
would be at least one theory."

Another theory was presented by the fact that Project 1999 does not
charge for its services.

Monahan refined. "But the fact that you’re not collecting money for
[use of the server] doesn’t take you out of the trademark
game."  According to Monahan many  trademark issues,
however, seemed unavoidable.  "Trademark rights can come from
a number of game elements.  Titles are the most obvious, but
trademark rights can arise from well-known characters (e.g., MASTER
CHIEF), settings (SAN ANDREAS), and even game items
(ASHBRINGER).  If the emulator continues to use EQ
terminology, they may run into trademark problems."  Even
though the emulator does not compete with the original EQ game, Monahan
notes that Sony could assert its trademark rights in the well-known EQ
franchise including EQ2 and other EQ merchandise. "Even
without direct sales of emulator accounts, the project faces brand
problems, because trademarks protect against consumer confusion as to
sponsorship and affiliation.  It is not hard to expect
consumers to believe that the emulated EQ game does not have the
sponsorship or approval of Sony."

The final element, in Monahan's opinion, are the terms set out in the style="font-style: italic;">EverQuest End User
License Agreement for each client program. The EQ EULA states:

style="font-style: italic;">"7. Subject to the terms of this
Agreement, we hereby grant to you a non-exclusive, non-transferable,
revocable license to use the Software solely in connection with playing
the Game via an authorized and fully-paid Account."

"So the player's right to use the client software is tied to a valid EQ
account," Monahan annotated. "Accounts (even free-to-play accounts) on
a non-Sony server will not be authorized.  It also prohibits
the creation, and arguably use, of server emulators:

may not create, facilitate, host, link to or provide any other means
through which the Game may be played by others, such as through server

"Based on these provisions," he continued, "SOE could challenge the
emulator project as vicarious copyright infringement under a WoWGlider
theory.  Put simply, anyone playing on the server would be
violating the license grant in the client EULA and therefore infringe
SOE's copyrights.  Since 100% of the use of that emulator is
infringement, SOE could sue to enjoin the emulator much like the record
labels were able to enjoin Napster and Grokster.  Indeed, EULA
violations established the direct infringement that got the WoWGlider
makers into trouble."

style="width: 620px; height: 388px;" alt="Kelethin Bank"

Kelethin Bank

While Monahan may have painted a somewhat bleak picture, the team at
Project 1999 was a bit more optimistic.

"The EULA states that you cannot emulate an style="font-style: italic;">EverQuest server,"
acknowledged Rogean. "This is not a legal issue; this is more of a
contract for your play accounts. If they wanted to, they could ban your
EQ Live account as you’re violating your user agreement, but that
doesn’t make it illegal.

"Since we wrote the code, everything we wrote is what we’ve done and
it’s all by hand for us, so we are not running any of their code.
People have to find their own ways of getting the client or buying [ style="font-style: italic;">EverQuest]
Titanium. We’re not distributing copyrighted files, which helps us a
lot legally since the biggest argument for emulator servers nowadays is
that you have to have a certain client to play on them.

"The other thing is that you can’t make any money or profit off of
these types of things. If we started charging people to play on our
server, then it becomes a legal issue, and then they would have a legal
argument. People can donate for server costs and what-not, which goes
back into providing what they’re playing on for free, but that’s
completely up to them. We do not require it."

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The Mood

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And what does the community feel about Project 1999 and Classic style="font-style: italic;">EverQuest? Otto,
former guild leader of Inglourious Basterds added his thoughts.

"I haven’t had this much fun playing video games since style="font-style: italic;">EverQuest came out,
when it was classic. When I found out about this classic server, I was
instantly attracted and came right away to this server. So, I’m here
for the classic feel and to relive EverQuest
in its finest days."

"There is no other MMOG that is going to give you the level of
nostalgia that Project 1999 will," added one of the guild's officers,
Karsten. "This [server] offers you a better way of spending your
classic time than any other server that’s ever been created, ever...
They’ve done a very good job of keeping the classic feel and keeping
the integrity of the server... The hacking is very low."

Stanley Soulcat from Transcendence told me that for him, Project 1999
"is a rush and, at the same time an amazing chance to display your
gaming skills in front of your peers... I would say significantly more
so than in other games.

"If you liked EverQuest
before it went to the moon," he concluded, "come back because they have
recreated it in such an amazing fashion as to not be repeated."

With such a high level of nostalgic appreciation and enjoyment of the
server, one may ask why SOE hasn't created a purely classic server. The
Project 1999 team had its own theory on that.

"They had their attempt at it with the progression servers--Combine and
Sleeper," offered Rogean. "That didn’t live up to the expectations.
Within three to four months, we were already in Luclin. People tend to
think that the classic experience ends when Luclin opened, so at that
point, a lot of people lost interest. Every month, another expansion
opened and it rapidly declined in population.

"It wasn’t a true rollback to 1999, so you were still using the latest
client, the latest mechanics, the latest spawn updates and nerfs; all
that stuff was still in the game. It didn’t live up to the expectation
in the long run, and Sony has come to the conclusion that it would be a
hassle to open a classic server as they would have to support a
different code base and a different server altogether, which is pretty
much years older than anything they’re currently working on now, and
they didn’t want to deal with that hassle."

style="width: 620px; height: 465px;"
alt="Raiding Vox in Project 1999"

Raiding Vox in Project

Whether or not Sony creates a Classic server or missed their chance,
they're still very much committed to style="font-style: italic;">EverQuest and its
players. Recent rumors have cropped up that style="font-style: italic;">Underfoot would be
the last expansion of the game's 11-year running. Smedley confirmed
that this was indeed just a rumor.

"I came out of a meeting two weeks ago where we were focusing on an
expansion that will be coming out later this year," he told me at GDC
in early March.

I also asked him about the future of style="font-style: italic;">EverQuest and " style="font-style: italic;">EverQuest 'Next' "
which was leaked out in the game's Anniversary book last year. What is " style="font-style: italic;">EverQuest 'Next'?"

"It’s what it sounds like," Smedley said. "We’re not going to stand
still with the EverQuest
franchise. We’re working with it now and we’re going to take it to the
next level. We intend for it to be the game of the century – you watch."

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The Bottom Line

For over a decade now EverQuest
has enthralled thousands of gamers around the world. Nostalgia has
played a large role in reserving the game a special spot in player's
lives. There's something markedly powerful about a title that can
retain such popularity long past its expiry date in terms of
advancement in the technology of today. Such potency to power
motivation for players to not only rebuild the experience by hand, but
be joined by thousands of others with the same sentimental affinity to
play the game is not only rare, but impinging monumental.

Whether it be the difficulty of the game, the social implications, or
just the fondness of yesteryear that brings players back one thing is
amply clear: The impression that EverQuest
made in 1999 is still very much recognizable today.

If the enticement to play the game as it was over a decade ago pulls
you strongly, Project 1999 has made a lot of people happy but at the cost of breaching the EULA with SOE. Maybe one day
we will see the teams from Sony and Project 1999 come together and find
a solution. When that day comes, bring a sleeping bag, because it will
be one hell of a lineup to get in game.

To read the latest guides, news, and features you can visit our EverQuest Game Page.

Last Updated: Mar 29, 2016