Walking out of Southlake Mall that Friday afternoon of July 1999, I was
filled with promise-a promise of something better. I clutched the little
cardboard box of hope, the hope that it was going to free me from the
blatant and continuous lying, cheating, and outright corruption that had
been my year-long experience in MechCommander leagues. In contrast, in
an online, persistent world named Norrath, the players were not administrators-it
even seemed that they could not change the rules mid-game to beat you player
were players, just players, nothing more.
It didn't start well. After several hours of installing and then patching
Everquest, ready to plunge into this new adventure, I was rewarded with
the game not starting. My 166MHz Pentium Pro machine just was not going
to cut it. I headed to the phones. As I had yet not played Everquest,
I still had real flesh and blood friends at this time. Within a couple
of days, I had sold my two-year-old 166 for $400 and had a line on a new
PC. One of my friends knew a guy with cash to burn. He was really looking
to pick up one of the newly released Pentium III 450 MHz, but he needed
to unload his old machine first. His "old" machine was homebuilt
last month, a Pentium II 400 MHz. A couple of hours of negotiating had
him down to $700.
Two days later, I resumed the process of installing and patching my freedom
from player-admin oppression. This time, all went much more smoothly and
took less than an hour. A movie started playing, and a colossal dragon
just ripped a planet with its claws. I was spellbound. I sped through
the account creation process, which was lengthy and detailed, but very
simple. In the six years since, I have never found another out-of-game
interface easier to use than of the original Everquest.
Nowadays, everyone wants to direct you to a website, one that has no
links that sound promising, and the wording is such that you will dance
in circles looking for the well-hidden account creation area. One major
developer actually has it buried four clickthroughs deep. In the Everquest
process, a chat button was available that took you to an out-of-game chat
within the interface. In most modern games, accessing the chat is done
in about the middle of the login "process," with no way to go
back should you miss it. There is also no way to easily flip back and
forth between server selection and chat a big deal when trouble-shooting
a problem with tech support or when your server is down.
At the Everquest server selection, the choice was easy. I wanted to play
with other people, so I merrily picked the server with the biggest population,
Fennin Ro, of course. I spent most of the night looking at the character
creation. I finally settled on a half elf, chose the class rogue, made
Bristlebane my deity, and started in Freeport.
Right away, I knew I was in trouble. The game moved about two frames
a second, maybe less. A little study brought me to the conclusion that
my Matrox video card was not 3D-capable. Two hours, $29, and some gas
to the north side of Atlanta got me a new Diamond that the salesclerk
assured me was 3D-capable. I am not sure that this store on Jimmy Carter
Boulevard has a name, but it is where I buy every computer component when
I am unwilling to wait on delivery.
It was now July 23, 1999 approximately two weeks, or at least felt
like it, since I purchased my salvation from the tyranny of league play
on the internet. My credit card was several hundred dollars poorer, and
my hopes were significantly diminished. The unhappy thought crossed my
mind-if all this costly tweaking didn't work, I would have nothing to
show for it. I must admit, I have had happier times in my life.
I logged in, nearly without hope, to discover a new server on the list.
I selected it, Brell Serilis, and went to character creation armed with
an Inquest magazine containing a few articles about Everquest. From my
previous days, spent in top-down view, repeatedly clicking Sneak to see
its abilities number go up, I knew I did not want to be a rogue. That
number went up really slowly I did not want to do it again.
What followed is a lesson that serves me well when I decide to remember
it. It is embarrassing how often I forget it.
up, you hear, over and over, in varied forms and in myriad combinations,
that "Knowledge is Power." The gist of this is a marketing slogan
exhorting you to stay in school, to not drop out and go work in the steel
mill at age 14. Maybe this was a big deal in the times of our grandparents,
but in the 1990s, I doubt much of the nation's youth could locate a steel
mill, much less have any desire to work there. Nonetheless, the slogan
would not still be plastering every single flat surface of the school
if it did not have some grain of truth, correct?
The lesson I learned that day, at the Everquest character creation screen,
is the same learned by every movie character that stares into a window
into the future. Knowledge is the pathway to hell. It is so much healthier,
and happier, to jump in and wing it, and see how far you make it. Once
you have knowledge, you try to use that knowledge. It affects your choices,
i.e. you choose things you ordinarily would not. The problem is that knowledge
is an illusion. You do not need to know only what will occur, but you
also need to know WHY it will occur. Knowledge without context is stupidity.
I knew from reading my magazine that mages with pets could take down
yellow monsters for crazy fast experience, charisma made things super
cheap, and that enchanters got their best spell at level 29 when all the
others were at 49. The magazine did not go into detail or provide the
why, but these things were in print; therefore they had to be true, right?
At the character creation screen, the enchanter sounded like a mage class-it
had a charisma bonus, and level 29 was a lot closer than 49. I went for
it. I selected human as the race because humans could start in Freeport
and be under the deity Mithaniel Marr. Mith sounded like a good guy and
I expected lots of deity-inspired powers to come from him.
I dropped in front of Guard Jacsen. He was red if you hit the "c"
button, and disapproved of my being. The game was working; I could move
and see in front of me while doing it. I decided to explore the town.
It was a small town with a huge wall. Through the gate of the wall there
was a large, empty area with a few lean-to tents. You have to camp when
you log out those tents are obviously where people have logged out.
I decided it must be the logout area. I could also see some tents in the
field beyond the gates some people just have no courtesy,
Another, smaller square was formed by two walls of the Freeport Militia
and the rest of the city wall. The militia house had a door that led into
a confusing, winding passage of empty rooms. I backed out and decide to
tackle that challenge another day. I found a door that let me get in and
on the city wall. Inside were a number of barrels-I tried to smash them,
as magical items are always hidden in barrels in this type of games. That
the barrels were still there just meant I was first to see them. None
of the barrels would smash, so I tried one of my spells that sounded like
damage. It required a target, the barrels would not be targeted, so I
left. Having fully explored the hovel known as Freeport, I decided to
check the fields outside. To this day, I have no idea how I failed to
notice the large, open area to the left of the militia house, leading
to the rest of Freeport. As for Boomba the Big I can only say he
I decided to try combat. No one had given me a pet, so I decided to avoid
the yellow beetle things. The snake looked like the best choice, so I
fired off my damage spell as fast as it would go. The snake kept hitting
me, or KICKING? me, making me not cast, and I died.
When I respawned, I no longer had spells. This game was hardcore! I proceeded
to use my knife on the snakes. Sometimes I won, sometimes I died, but
it worked okay. It did seem that every time I was about to win, some orc
would come kill me, however. Occasionally, the orc would attack me when
I wasn't fighting, and I would try to run away. It always killed me. I
could see the guards killing things for other players, so I tried fighting
closer. The guards would kill the creatures every time, and I would get
nothing. This game was kind of depressing.
I discovered the sweet spot to killing was a tall cactus straight out
from the guards. It was close enough to run if the orc got me, and far
enough that the guards did not kill every snake that ventured near me.
A little later, another player saw me running away from one of the orcs.
He told me I could go faster if I RAN instead of walking. Then he began
casting spells and colored squares started appearing on my screen. Clicking
them made them go away, so I kept my mouse away from them after the second
Armed with the ability to run and these apparently magic squares, I was
able to fight the snakes very well, and even able to take on rats. I tried
a bat, and the bat won. Bats were really hard to keep in the exact center
of the screen when fighting. The game kept telling me that the creature
could not be seen, and I kept trying to see it. I died, and my magic squares
went away but I could still kill those kicking snakes! I stayed away
from bats for a long time, however.
Watch next Tuesday for Part 2 of Moghedan's long climb from newbie-dom
and how it is entirely possible that Brad McQuaid is, in fact, Saint Brad!
Karen is H.D.i.C. (Head Druid in Charge) at EQHammer. She likes chocolate chip pancakes, warm hugs, gaming so late that it's early, and rooting things and covering them with bees. Don't read her Ten Ton Hammer column every Tuesday. Or the EQHammer one every Thursday, either.