The Game Archaeologist and the NeverEnding Quest: Your journeys

I have to say, this month's been everything I'd hoped it would be for EverQuest. As with many of these older MMOs, my working knowledge of EQ was spotty and anecdotal at best, and I'm personally glad to rectify that. EverQuest's always felt like a "You had to have been there" club to me, one that stopped accepting members a long, long time ago. It's great, therefore, to see that there's a thriving community, a rich history and an uplifting future in store for the game.

Above everything else, I've come to realize just how crucial EverQuest was -- for better or worse, depending on your perspective -- to the development of the MMO genre for the past decade or so. If SOE never created EQ, just how different would our games be today? It's incredibly hard to imagine.

As we continue our EQ month here at The Game Archaeologist, we have two things on the immediate agenda. The first is to share a few of your personal journeys that you emailed my way, and the second is a look at how you can plug in with EverQuest if you've never done so in the past. It turns out, quite fortuitously, that this is looking to be one of the best times to do so. Read on, courageous gamer!

Your favorite EverQuest memories

James Felts: Mine would be selling my deaths to a Necromancer so he could stock up on stones. I let him kill me around 20 times outside the bank and lost over a level as a result. People kept saying I was crazy for doing that, but being a Druid I had that level back the next day and was 500 plat richer!

Eric Millan: I remember EverQuest -- I spent six years in that game and made a lot of friends, a few whom I still speak with to this day. Every so often, SOE will re-enable old accounts and I'll logon to see what's new. It's the one game that I still have fond memories of, especially compared to games of today. I still have my original copy; I just can't make myself throw it away.

Jon Craig: One thing I would like to point out is that EQ gave you a real sense of being an outcast in most of the world if you were an evil race. Lots of places that good-race players went with impunity were tricky to go to as an evil race. Guards would kill you. Heck, merchants would kill you. Quickly too! When Kunark opened, there were two outpost towns: The Overthere and Firiona Vie. OT was for evil races; FV for good. Problem was, OT was on Venril Sathir faction, and so were most of Kunark's dungeons. So if you wanted to participate in dungeoning as an evil race, you gave up your only town on the Kunark continent. It forced you to choose between easy banking/merchanting and being able to dungeon crawl.

Euan: My most enduring legacy from original EQ was meeting my future wife in the raiding guild we were both a part of in 2003 and 2004. This led to my emigrating from the UK to the US in 2007, and we've been living happily ever after since. We're playing other games now (DDO and City of Heroes together; EVE by myself), but we'll always have fond memories of EQ.

Returning to the glory days

In a delightful coincidence with this month's EQ focus, SOE has actually stirred up quite a bit of interest in EverQuest with a new progression server named Fippy Darkpaw that's scheduled to go online in March. Basically, think of progression servers like intentional time machines designed to return you to the past -- or a carefully crafted facsimile of it.

The server will open with only the basic EQ game, minus all of the expansions (although one would assume that SOE will include bug fixes, UI upgrades and so on). At measured intervals, SOE will release expansions one by one, allowing the server as a whole to experience them together. This is a terrific answer to the prayers of newbies who feel overwhelmed with long-established servers, and it's excited quite a few old-school EQ vets who would like nothing more than to return to the glory days of yore. We're still waiting to hear the specific details of this server, but the notion is intoxicating enough for many.

The MMO blogosphere has been buzzing about this progression server, with many new and old players alike making plans to head on back. Gordon from We Fly Spitfires wonders whether the progression server has a chance at recapturing his childhood: "It's not that I'm masochist and want to put myself through the pain of all of those things again, but rather I'm just curious to transport myself back to a MMO of 1999 and truly see what it was like again."

Tipa from West Karana thinks this may be your final shot at such an event: "If you have ever said, gosh, I'd like to go back and relive those great times when games were exciting, or if you missed out on EverQuest and always wondered what it would be like to play the game when there were thousands of other people around with whom to adventure and raid -- this is your chance, maybe your last chance."

Last chance or no, it's a rare opportunity to go through MMO history with a fellow group of dashing adventurers. What more could you want?

Dipping your toes in the water

So if you've been following this article series with interest or have always wondered what EQ might be like but have yet to make the jump, I'm happy to report that it's honestly not that hard.

While there isn't a completely free-to-play version of EQ a la EverQuest II Extended, SOE has created an unlimited free trial that allows you to play your character up to level 10. It's called Escape to Norrath, and you can sign up without giving any credit card info or feeling the weight of a time limit on your back.

Once you sign up, it's time to do a little homework before jumping in, because even with years of polish behind it, EverQuest can overwhelm the neophytes out there. The EQ forums contain a number of helpful resources for first-time players, especially these threads: If your EQ taste-test goes well, the next logical step is to become a full-fledged subscriber. There are plenty of places on the web to go to buy the game, although if you want to get the latest version with all the expansions, I'd simply recommend that you buy from the EverQuest website directly. You can get the game and all of the expansions, including the House of Thule, for either $39.99 (basic edition) or $89.99 (collector's edition). If you're looking for a more affordable option, I'd recommend the EverQuest Starter Pack, which contains the core game, all of the expansions through Underfoot, and a number of digital goodies. Past that, you'll either pay $14.99 a month for a regular subscription or hop on board with the more expensive (and more expansive) Station Pass option for more of SOE's titles.

Next week I'll take you through the trial myself as I experience EverQuest for the very first time! In the meanwhile, vote on what game you'd like to see The Game Archaeologist cover next month:
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When not clawing his eyes out at the atrocious state of general chat channels, Justin "Syp" Olivetti pulls out his history textbook for a lecture or two on the good ol' days of MMOs in The Game Archaeologist. You can contact him via email at justin@massively.com or through his gaming blog, Bio Break.
This article was originally published on Massively.