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Chasing EverQuest - Reliving the Dream on a Retro Server

Updated Sun, Feb 27, 2011 by B. de la Durantaye

EverQuest was my first true online love. We'd stay up to the wee hours of the morning, just talkin'. She'd be there for me when I needed her. We couldn't get enough of each other. I would spend all day with her when I could, and at night I'd wait for my live-in girlfriend to fall asleep then sneak off and spend the rest of the night with EverQuest, quietly crawling back into bed at six a.m. before the girlfriend woke up.

It was a life of duality but I loved it.

Now almost 12 years later, with a career in the MMOG space, I've spent a lot of time with a lot of different MMO games. I've seen all the hot new titles, and even have had a few long-term subscriptions with some of them. I've enjoyed my time with these games but the truth of the matter is, as anyone can attest, there is simply never a 'replacement' for your first true love. Sure, you can find something that fulfils your needs, and maybe even one that you'll be able to love and enjoy for the rest of your gaming life, but that first love will always be special and no other game will offer that same feeling that you got when you obtained your first magical weapon or defeated your first raid boss.

So what happens years later when that first special game shows up on your doorstep again late one night, looking as tantalizing as ever, and potentially offering you a chance to relive some of those memories from all those years back?

You invite her in and play the crap out of her, obviously.

This is what has happened to thousands of old school EverQuest fans on February 15th (which just happened to be the day after Valentine's day. Lonely hearts, and all that). Sony Online Entertainment launched their new Time Locked Progression Server which has allowed players to experience EverQuest again for the first time.

EQ Dwarf Pit

The mark of a brilliant game: Dwarves everywhere.

The premise of the TLP is genius. The server launched with only the original content available; no expansions or their corresponding content are available. As players defeat the content, the next expansion becomes available for unlocking. This part is something we've already seen circa 2006 with the launch of the first progression servers. The TLP, however, has one major difference. Precisely when an expansion is to be unlocked is left completely up to the community. After the content is beaten a grace period is put into effect. For classic era this grace period is 90 days. It will be shortened to 60 days for the rest of the expansions. After the grace period has expired a server-wide poll is taken where every active member of the server, level 30 or above, votes as to whether or not they wish the next expansion to be opened up. If the majority says yes, the next expansion is opened immediately. If no, then the current content stays in place for a while longer and another poll is taken at a later date.

The response to this server has been overwhelming. Minutes after launch if you weren't in game you would be met with a "server full" error when you tried logging in and it could take you upwards of an hour to get past the lineup and get into the game. Every newbie zone was lined wall to wall with players as over 300 newbie characters were packed into every starting area. Finding a mob to kill was like finding a $20 bill on the ground in Times Square on New Year's Eve. You felt lucky to see it, but you knew dozens of other players were running to get to it too. The server was so popular, in fact, that SOE opened a second TLP server just hours after the launch of the first one to meet the demand.

Surely this can't be a very fun experience, one would think. Why would I want to fight hoards of obnoxious players to get one piddly scrap of xp? To answer that, no one would. However, one of the most incredible side-effects of launching an old school server is its niche appeal. This isn't the b-net kiddy krowd or the narcissistic neo-griefers playing the game. This is old school elegance. Camps are (mostly) respected despite the insane mosh-pit population. Player courtesy is as common as retribution paladins.


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