EverQuest Next - A Return to Legendary Foes and Infamous Zones

Updated Mon, May 20, 2013 by Dalmarus

Last week I discussed why I felt corpse runs were an important piece of EverQuest that assisted the developers in creating a fun, cooperative, and friendly community. I also explained why I want to see their return with EverQuest Next. While it's true that a death system as harsh and brutal as EQ’s would likely put off today’s gamer, that doesn't mean a similar mechanic with modern tweaks couldn't work. By having meaningful death penalties (and no, armor repair costs do not qualify), developers are able to implement different gameplay scenarios that haven't been seen in ages but were instrumental in EverQuest’s past dominance of the MMORPG market.

EverQuest - Equestrielle the Corrupted

Meaningful travel, combined with our previously discussed death penalties, allowed for the implementation of a piece of brilliance in game design - changing zones. Kithicor Forest was a particularly famous and feared EQ zone. It served as a sort of roadblock to major parts of the world. Unless you wanted to spend an hour or more going around it, you had no choice but to go through. During the game's daytime cycle, the zone wasn't much different than others in the immediate area. There were Orcs, Bixies, and other minor mobs, but nothing a player of any mid-teen level couldn't get through on their own with little if any real trouble. At night, though... oh my. At night, Kithicor Forest was an entirely different zone.

Imagine you're a level 30 warrior and your travels bring you to Kithicor Forest. Not bothering to check the in-game clock, you enter the forest and ignore the local monsters. These pitifully weak creatures are unable to touch you, so you pay them no heed. While you're making your way through the winding paths, the sun falls and all the low level monsters disappear. Suddenly, they're replaced with undead... everywhere. The undead that rise from the forest's floor are some of the strongest in the game and the aggro range for them is insane. Now you're racing for your life, trying to make it at least to the edge of the zone before you're run down. If you make it, you might be able to risk coming back before morning so you can get your corpse. The levels of genuine panic during moments like this were incredible and happened frequently in EverQuest. Without a genuine fear of death, they never would have been. If EverQuest Next implements some of these systems, they can be so again.

Changing zones weren't the only way horrifically violent foes and the fear of death they induced was put to good (and unexpected) use. EverQuest was also famous for sporadically throwing a few very high level monsters in various lower level zones. The Sand Giants and Spectres of the Oasis of Marr, the Brownie Scout and Equestrielle the Corrupted of Lesser Faydark, Dragoon Zytl or Kizdean Gix of West Commons, and more. If there was no real fear of death, these wandering mobs would be viewed as nothing more than a minor annoyance if you happen to get caught by one of them. When you knew getting killed by one of them was not only going to make you come back for your corpse, but would also cost you experience (did I forget to mention you lost XP when you died back then?), you were sure to keep your eyes open. If you did get caught unexpectedly by one of these mobs, your heart would pound and race as you did everything you could to survive the encounter. Inevitably, you couldn’t escape every time. This built an extreme desire for revenge against these specific creatures and only fueled the cycle of saved and savior even more.

EverQuest - Spectre

So what does any of this have to do with game mechanics that allowed for the building of community? Plenty. There's nothing like being seconds from unavoidable death in Kithicor Forest and seeing a full party of max level characters come charging out of the darkness to your rescue. When the Spectres would travel down the beach path from their tower in the Oasis of Marr, there was no sweeter sight than a high level necromancer coming along to strike them down. And guess what? When you got to be high level, you went hunting those Reapers, Sand Giants, and Brownie Scouts for two reasons – to help others out and simple revenge. When you were saved, it was an awesome feeling. When you were finally able to be the savior, it was even better. It was one of the coolest parts about finally getting your character leveled up high enough to take some of these legendary adversaries on. At one point, I spent days killing Brownies over and over and over until I finally got bored. Then I went back and did it again the next week just to be sure I’d made my point. Revenge was sweet.

Are you seeing a pattern yet? Multiple systems and mechanics in EverQuest combined to make the community work together and be generally respectful. Old players would help new. New players would be thankful and strive to level so they could then in-turn be the one saving some random stranger. The cycle repeated and multiplied.

Whether by intricate design or happy accident, these systems worked together seamlessly to continually reinforce helpful behavior. EverQuest Next has the opportunity to do the same and show the world why its predecessor was the game to play back in the day. Today's players deserve to see what playing with a helpful community was like. Only by implementing similar game mechanics that continually nudge players into various roles can this happen. And speaking of various roles - that's next week's topic!

Great article! I haven't felt that level of excitement and/or fear in a game since the days of the original EQ. Not once have I jumped out of my chair like I did in EQ, from the sheer horror of being chased through that forest. Oh how I miss that level of excitement. No game today comes close to it... Everything today is too easy. Catered to the faint of heart, and the younger generation who get mad if they can't make 20 levels in one day.
EQ was my first MMORPG (outside the MUD genre). I played for 6 years and loved every minute of it. Remember Blackburrow? It was my first dungeon, and the panicked screams and curses will forever hold a special place in my heart - lol! It was the first time I saw/heard the word TRAIN!!!! shouted in-game... :)
Today's games are lollipop MMO's, targeted for the younger generation, who I suppose generate the most money for the companies that make them. Granted, I would not like to see a death penalty quite as steep as EQ had, but I would like to see one that would at least have your heart pounding while trying to decide if you should attempt a corpse run alone.
I have high hopes for EQ next... truthfully however, I do not expect them to be met. If they follow in the footsteps of EQ II, I know they wont be. Go back to what started the MMO generation... bring back the thrill of running through a forest where certain death is expected if you linger after sunset... bring back the curses and agony after you've failed to retrieve your corpse for the third time... bring back a little fun for the MMO-lifer generation and see what happens!
I don't want lollipops... I want steak!!

It's always comforting to know that others remember why EQ was great when it was great. I think that the best chance to recreate some of these mechanics and player reactions/interactions is to lobby for the creation of a "classic" rules server for EQ Next.

People forget how important camping was to the game also. That downtime between pulls was when you socialized and made friends. In a theme park game like SWTOR the only time I even group with people is for a quick heroic and then maybe I see them again. I have yet to actually make any friends in the game though like I did EQ.

The current trend for MMOs to hold the hands of new players all the way from level one to level fifty. There's no exploration, and there's often no need to group. There's no real community.

I've tried several MMOs over the last year, and I'd actually call them MMSPORPGs. (Massively Multiplayer, Single Player Online Role Playing Games). The other players are stage decorations. Other things you see run by you as you all get told to go to the same area, do the same quests, and then the same single player instances getting the same loot.

Sure, there's the option to group, but it's not needed. You're on a single player treadmill to max level where you're funneled to endgame dungeons and PVP. You could solo to max level in EQ too - but it took forever, and not every class could do so. I played a Shaman, and so I could solo. I chose not to as Shamans solo very slowly, and groups were just much easier and fun.

And on the subject of groups - Coridan said it best. Camps. Modern devs seem to want to avoid allowing static mob camps, as it makes the game seem grindy, and a player who is grinding isn't experiencing all of the content they developed... Or more to the point... a player who is grinding isn't on their automatic playermat9000 treadmill of directed quests. What if I don't want to go to Tower of Gnomish Mischief at level 20? In EQ at 20 I had the option of going to Highkeep (this is where I went). I could go to Mistmoore, I could go to parts of the Karanas. The options are there, and whilst there's an obvious path from one place to the next, it's not forced upon you.

And finally... raids.

No raid I've had in a game since EQ has had the same epic feel. There's nothing like being in a raid of 50 people running through one of the planes. Each player knows their place, be they a shaman like me (casting slows, and buffs), a cleric (keeping the tank alive) or even a ranger (dieing to trash mobs).

Modern raids are scripted, repetitive, and, frankly... smallscale.

Thanks for posting these articles. Good stuff.

I've tried a couple of mmos since Everquest. I gave WoW a shot when it first launched. Boring. No sense of player community, and no challenge. A couple of years passed, and then I tried out SWTOR ... only to learn that it was WoW set in space.

I'm really hoping that Sony scores a success with Everquest Next. So far, it sounds promising. First off, they have teamed up with the creators of Storybricks. Sounds like they are making an effort to create a living, breathing world. Also, they seem pretty dedicated to encouraging player created content. Lastly, I prefer sandbox mmos to theme parks, and EQ Next seems to be going in the direction of the former.

I like glumner's idea of having a "classic rules server" for EQ Next. The corpse runs, etc. were painful, but they created a world where cooperation amongst the player base was essential. Everything felt so real. You worked hard for everything you got in that game. I remember feeling a great sense of pride when I managed to craft my first piece of rudimentary armor, or obtained a crystal fiber whip.

The current trend of MMPORPG's consists of doing stupid fetch and grab quests for noob gear all the way to max level. You could easily solo any game out there today by doing so. Even though EQ was called Ever"Quest" I rarely did any quests at all, other than the one for my epic. I miss the good ol' days of LFG in the zone of my choice (depending on what gear I needed) and just grinding out experience with my friends and eventually getting the cool gear you were after. I think everyone camped Jboots one time or another. I remember camping Drelzna for almost 23 hours before I finally got my turn to loot. Back then, there was so much loyalty and honors among gamers. You never looted out of turn because if you got a bad rap, you might as well start over because nobody would want to group with you again.

I just hope EQNext brings back a lot of the same zones and similar gameplay. You can quest, hunt, craft or whatever your way to max level. I can't stand being forced to quest all the time but most games give squat for xp when hunting.

I also really like glummer's idea on a "classic" rules server for old school EQ gaming. I don't know if I have the time anymore to deal with a lot of the issues that would bring about this day and time but I think it would be very nice to offer that to those that do. EQNext has the potential to bring a lot of old school gamers back along with a new generation.

Thank you for these well written articles.

Keep it up : )

Things that need to happen:
- Slow leveling. Make it at least 6 months to max level, so you get to enjoy every 'level range'. In EQ1 you would spend days in each area, you would see the people about your level range LFG, sort of like how you go through high school or college by seeing the same people as you go up. You make long term friendships.
- Corpse runs. EQ1s death penalty was too harsh (lost exp and your corpse had all your items and you had to get to it naked. Also if you took too long to reach your corpse, it would decay and you would lose everything you had). I'm ok with corpse runs, but remove the decay and the exp loss :)
- Zones. Games nowadays tout 'zoneless' as if it's a great thing. I don't like it at all. I like instanced zones, with a zone chat, again, you get to know people around you because they're around your level and by it being instanced it feels like you all have something in common, maybe you'll be grouping with some of them tomorrow.
- Required grouping from early on. In EQ1 only a couple of classes could solo, but even then it was much better, faster and safer in groups (and hell of a lot more fun). Also, since everybody grouped since early, they know their classes (and from point 1, since leveling is slow, they get to test and use their abilities as they gain them).
- Easy to find groups. This is something that EQ1 lacked, being a group oriented MMO there were no tools to find groups, so you had to go to the zones of your level range and shout in the zone-chat to get a group. That needs to be easier.
- Equipment. Nowadays you're born with something magical already. First quest you say 'hi' and get a +5 chest plate (appropriate to your class even). In EQ1 I remember getting my first magical item at level 12 or so (remember point 1, level 12 meant like a week or two of solid playing). Make magic rare, so when you go from +1 to +2 it means something.

I look for EQ Next hoping to regain my love for MMOs. I used to like them, but nowadays I couldn't care less, they're all the same and whatever new 'features' they have, it's actually further away from the things I like (open PVP, not for me. Twitch combat, not for me. Solo to max level then raid, not for me.ETc.)

I also miss the zones. In the early days of EQ, it meant something to get a ruby veil, or a piece of banded armor from a player. I hate auction houses, but loved the tunnels for buying.

This is how I feel exactly. I remember being a Dwarven Cleric wandering around Butcherblock and hearing of a mythical place called Unrest. WTF is that? I finally followed a group that was going that way and was scared to death while in the zone. I attempted to fight a ghoul with whatever crap I was wielding only to find out it wouldn't hurt them. Crap, I need a "magical" weapon... doh! Every piece of gear you got meant something and was an accomplishment. Granted, all new MMORPG's start out this same way but no other game ever seemed to truly mean as much. By the time you left a newbie zone you were already totally geared. I don't think I even had a full set of armor till I was in my teens in EQ.

EQ lacked a lot of the technology of today's games. I remember how WC was the bazaar of it's time, sitting around for hours LFG (as a cleric, if you can believe that), no VOIP, and dial-up connections ugh! Times change and so should the games. I absolutely loved the lore of EQ and for that reason I'm still intrigued by the world of Norrath. I don't know what direction they will officially take in EQNext (prequel, parallel universe, etc) but it's the lore and the social aspect that made EQ a masterpiece.

Exactly!!!Well said, and I agree completely! So grateful many times when I was a low level character, and the other players came in aid, when a dynamic monster appeared, such as the Griffons, and Sand Giants. And yes, Kizdean Gix did whoop me several times, and I had intervention for a few of them. Eventually though, revenge on my own was sweet!

I LOVE these articles. I miss EQ1 and the brutality it offered.
I agree that the original game mechanics are what made EQ1 such and Epic game that actually had those elements of fear, excitement, and community that has never been match by any current single player mmo like WoW, GW2, swtor etc.
Here is my wish list:
SLOW leveling: I want it to take me 20 hours of game play to see lev 4.
I want it to take the better part of a year to get max level. Bring back h*ll levels.

No "gimme" armor. I remember get a full set of bronze (horrible armor that looked Great) FINALLY at lev 13-14. It had Zero stats other than some AC, but I was so proud of the look, I didn't care.

Corpse runs: sorry if others disagree, but we need naked corpse runs with EXPs hit. It true makes death feel like death, armor repairs do not instill any kind of fear at all. All it does it make people angry.

High level mobs in low level zones. Killing my first Sand Giant was the best revenge ever! I was killed SO many times by these guys.

Camping Mobs: we need that rare that drops from a mob that can take 1-3 days to spawn. This kind of thing makes armor pieces MEAN something. I can't tell you how excited I was to get Jboots for the first time. I camped the ingredients for jBoots for probably 70 hours before getting them. They Meant something. It was an accomplishment. Not a piece of gear.

No Question marks for quest: if I want to quest, make me Look for them. I LOVE having to type a word or phrase back to the NPC to get them to talk to me. It makes me read what they are saying. I don't want a pop up accept box just by single clicking an NPC.

NO MAPS/NO COMPASS: sense heading was awesome mechanic. just like all other skills like swimming, meditation, etc.

SKILLS: I loved picking up a new weapon and NOT being able to use it effectively until I USED it for a while.

ScubaNC said it best "Crap, I need a Magical weapon?" DOH! love that!

I remember going into Unrest as a dark elf cleric for the first time at lev 16-ish. I died SO much it wasn't even funny. Me, my brother, and his wife all played EQ1. We went to unrest on Friday around 6pm and we stayed there the Whole weekend. Monday when we got back to work, we hadn't gained 1% exps because of all the deaths, but to this day was Thee most fun we have ever had in a video game.

TRAIN! bring back he Train. omg the best mechanic ever created!

Seriously, In a nut shell, I want EQN to be EQ1 with new graphics. Nothing wrong with that. No other game matched the fun of EQ1 since my 6.5 years of playing the game. I have tried nearly every MMO since, including EQ2 and nothing is as good as EQ1.

Unfortunately blizzard bred a monster. They brought millions of wow kiddies into the genre.. and then coddled them to the point that they will rebel, cry, and not accept anything other than wowlike gameplay. You know how I found this post/blog? By googling "todays mmo gamer wouldn't survive everquest" beacause im so fed up reading about how this system or that system from wow isn't in xx mmo (ffxiv for this example) and so its going to fail. Damn children /sigh. Personally, I prefer a much more challenging slower paced mmo. something you can immerse yourself in and be proud of. You know how many max level I had in everquest? 1... guess how many I have in wow? Currently I have 22 but I sold 3 accounts that had a few max level each over the past few years as well. We wont even get into what instancing has done to the genre as a whole and the community that these games used to harbor...

But yea, way to go brad for failing @ vanguard. That was to be our savior. Woe is me, what to do what to do?

After reading all these posts I actually went back and installed EQ and started a new toon for kicks. Well, it just wasn't the same to say the least. I even visited my old guys and they were sitting there untouched for many years. It's really sad looking back to be honest, there is no way I could pick that game up and play again because it's changed so much due to games like WoW.

You can't blame Blizzard for making an MMO that would run on virtually any computer with it's crappy cartoon graphics or making it super simple for anyone at any age to pick up and actually play. EQ had a massive learning curve, mostly because it was the first of it's kind, but when you hit max level... it really meant something. Games these days you get 10 levels in your first gaming session 2-3 hours maybe and then you basically go through the motions. Follow the "?" and "!" and you get cool stuff... here, follow this glowing line that will show you were to go for the next step of your quest.

AS EQN13 stated, and I agree, let EQN be what Vanguard and EQ2 should have been. I want EQN to be on the same difficulty level as the original EQ. I really like the parallel universe theory I keep hearing about where most everything in Norrath is recognizable but history is totally different in that version. You keep hearing the term "sandbox" thrown around... I'm just really curious what that means in aspect with EQN. At least there is an EverquestNext website, maybe some new information will start popping up on there after SOE Live.

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