Updated Tue, May 14, 2013 by Dalmarus
Last week, new readers found out I loved EverQuest in a too-close-for-comfort bro-mance, if not in an actual illegal-in-17-states sort of way... but close. What those readers may not know is that Vanguard was one of my babies as well, and I loved playing the game many dubbed "the true spiritual successor to EverQuest" for many years. One thing both of those games had in common is a fiercely contested aspect of older MMORPGs, the corpse run. What is this mythical beast of which you speak, Dalmarus? Grab a drink, scoot your chair closer, and I'll be happy to tell you. I'll also tell you why I desperately pray we see their return in EverQuest Next.
In the ancient days of MMOs (all of 14 years ago or so), when your character died, it stayed where it fell. Not only did it stay put, but so did every piece of equipment you had on. "Uh... wait a second, Dalmarus,” you say. “Are you trying to tell me when you died, you woke up naked in the middle of town like some horrible fraternity prank?" Yes. Yes, I am.
Was it a brutal shock to the system? Did it make you nearly break your monitor in frustration? Yep. Did it also make you come up with the most incredibly creative means of getting your corpse back? You betcha. That was the point.
There are two things this admittedly harsh mechanic did effectively. First, it made players fear dying. So much, in fact, that they would go to extreme lengths to learn how to play their classes well. You fought hard in every battle because death was such a cruel mistress.
Your half-assing, semi-paying-attention EverQuest player still had 50 times the level of concentration as your average World of Warcraft player today. Leroy Jenkins would have had to beg SOE to grant him an unheard-of character name change because he would have found himself exiled from every group in the game for pulling a stunt like aggroing an entire dungeon floor. Back then, it was nearly impossible to escape the consequences of your actions because voluntary name changes didn’t exist.
This leads me to the second thing corpse runs forced people to do - work together while grouping. And by “working together” I don't mean being casually pleasant to each other, I mean players genuinely looked out for everyone in the party, because not only could the death of one member often result in a complete wipe, but there was an honor code among players, which dictated that you didn’t leave anyone behind. If you were at the bottom of the Warrens and a member of your party died, guess what you were doing for the next 2 hours? Battling your way out of there to escort your fallen (and now nekid) comrade back to their corpse. This wasn't viewed as a chore either - it's just what you did for your fellow player.
If you were an ass in the group however, or were just known as an ass on the server in general, well... that was an entirely different story. Many is the fighter who found themselves running after their own corpse because the cleric warned them more than once not to get out of range of their heals. The wizard that didn't hold off going DPS crazy and pulled a mob off a party's fighter? Yep - his corpse is rotting too. You quickly learned not only to be polite, but to also take advice on how to play your class effectively because others depended on you.
Along with all of this, it also taught you to learn the lay of the land and remember where your corpse was. Die in the Desert of Northern Ro? You'd better know where, because that’s a lot of sand to be trudging over in an attempt to find your poor body. Fortunately, there was one alternative to this, and it goes back to players being helpful to each other as a result of corpse runs. High-level Necromancers had the ability to not only locate your body, but also to resurrect you. Considering the fact that you had 7 days in-game to get your corpse or lose everything (I’m not kidding), everyone needed their services at one point or another. It paid to be friendly and polite.
No matter what I’d like to see brought back into the gaming world when EverQuest Next eventually goes live, no one system can elicit the changes we need in player communities without other sanctions existing either. Corpse runs don't mean anything if death itself doesn't have any other hazards, but that's a tale for next week. Can you say Kithicor Forest? MWUAHAHAHAHAHAHAAAA. Until next time!