The Tattered Notebook: Why Velious is so important

This week's Tattered Notebook is a follow-up to last week's column, How not to Sell an Expansion. I rarely write negative pieces, and I'm certainly a fan of SOE and EverQuest II. The main reason I wrote my column is the content in the expansion. If it was titled "Destiny of the Purple Pickled Dragon," I don't think I'd mind the lack of information about the game. But this is Velious, the sacred cow, the golden goose, the holy grail, the... well, you get the picture. Maybe I'm being overly nerdy, but Velious is where I had many MMO memories and lots of muscle atrophy. Now, I know there are several of you who didn't experience the original Velious and are thinking, "Man, she's being a huge nerd, what's the big deal?" So for this week's Tattered Notebook, I'm going to take us back to the year 2000 for a look at why this expansion was so special.

Scars of Velious was a big expansion for EverQuest -- literally. Overland zones like Western Wastes and the Great Divide were so large that it was easy to get lost. Dungeons like Temple of Veeshan and Kael Drakkel were the size of small cities and could house multiple raids each night. And everything you fought was enormous, from the Velium spiders of Velketor's Lab, to the Giants of Kael Drakkel, to the Dragons that seemed to be everywhere. But this expansion was about more than Dragons and snow.

A dim sum of raid content. Velious offered more raid zones and targets than ever before. Prior to this expansion, players were stuck choosing between the overcrowded Planes of Hate and Fear with the original expansion or individual raid mobs like Venril Sathir or Trakanon from Kunark. Velious provided an enormous amount of new raid targets, and finally guilds got to ask themselves not whether they had something to raid but where they should begin. Temple of Veeshan or Kael Drakkel? Hunting nest dragons in Western Wastes or sliding the treacherous ice ramps to Velketor and Lord Bob? An all-day clear of Plane of Growth or a romp through Dragon Alley? There were still squabbles over certain raid targets, which usually played out the next day in angry forum posts, but overall, Velious made raiding much more accessible to the EQ community.

The 10th Ring War.
It was big. It was open. It was dynamic content before the phrase was even coined. Dozens, sometimes hundreds of players would take part in driving back waves of giants as they sprinted towards Thurgadin, and everyone who passed through could see and take part in the action. It provided so many opportunities for individuals to be the hero, and we relished the chance to share our tales of heroism afterwards. There are several reasons players loved Velious, but the 10th Ring War is probably at the top of the list.

Factions. There were three main factions in Velious: Giant, Dragon, and Dwarf. Choosing a faction was a strategic move for guilds. You could choose to go with a faction that gave better loot, but you had to be prepared to compete with lots of other guilds for it. This was not an easy decision, though, because faction was something that took a lot of time to work up but could be destroyed in minutes. Faction also affected travel, since it was much easier to get through certain places if you were friendly with the denizens. Some guilds would even work up faction during the week so that they could bypass trash mobs and zip past other guilds to get to the best targets first. Factions added new depth to raiding, and it became a real chess game at times.

The Sleeper. Just as players settled into their routines, everything was turned on its head quite suddenly, as a giant, seemingly unkillable dragon rampaged through overland zones and killed every player in its path. Picture Cataclysm, only with the Sleeper, you don't get advance notice that its coming, and you have a pretty good chance of never finding your corpse and your gear again after you're killed. It was a memorable moment when the Sleeper would wake up on your server, but what was even more memorable is that players one-upped the developers and found a way to kill what was supposed to be unkillable.

Tower of Frozen shadow. Mention Tower of Frozen Shadow to an old EQ player, and you'll get the immediate response, "seven floors or eight?" When was the last time you played in a dungeon and didn't know how big it was, even months later? This dungeon was always a favorite of the EQ community because it just seemed to hit all the notes of a perfect crawl: good experience, well-designed fights, interesting loot, and the challenging boss mob Tserrina Syl'tor.

Meaningful travel.
Players often debate whether travel should have a purpose, and usually the argument comes up that travel should be meaningful, that the journey should be as important as the destination. Never was that more true than in Velious. Being able to travel safely was actually a tactical advantage, because guilds who could travel safely and gather quickly could get to the best raid zones and mobs first. It was as much about getting to the target as it was about beating the mob. And travel was extremely dangerous. One moment the zone in to ToV could be safe, and the next, it could be guarded by Sontalak. Porting to the Druid rings in Wakening Lands was a roll of the dice, as you could find yourself zoning in right under Wuoshi the dragon. Guilds came up with all sorts of ways to safely travel, from Call of Hero summoning teams, to friendly faction, to the "ghetto camp succor" across Siren's Grotto. The top guilds were usually knee-deep in raid mobs while less-skilled guilds were busy dragging corpses through snow drifts.

Plane of Mischief. Before you type up that comment complaining that Velious only appealed to hardcore raiders, allow me to talk about the Plane of Mischief. This was one of the quirkiest yet most charming zones in EverQuest. The zone-in was a tiny pyramid tucked deep in the Temple of Veeshan, so few players ever got to see the zone initially. But that exclusivity made it special. Those who explored the Plane of Mischief formed a community within a community and really bonded as they tried to unravel all the riddles and tricks of the zone. It was similar to the Cubs rooftop fans. Sure, you're watching the same game as those at home and those in the park, but somehow, you're just a little bit more special. Plane of Mischief wasn't about min/maxing or slaughtering mobs; it was much more cerebral. Yes, some of the content was broken, but it was worth it to see the little puppets of the gods, spot Sniffles, or explore the upside down room.

Velious was my favorite EverQuest expansion because it opened the world up and gave players and guilds much more room to explore, compete, and negotiate. There were so many individual moments from Velious that I will never forget -- the dragon skull bridge in Iceclad, the sparkling waterfall that marked the entrance to Thurgadin, the eerie caverns of Dragon Necropolis, and the many challenging fights with dragons, giants, and sometimes other guilds. I know that it's impossible to relive that in EverQuest II, and to some extent, I'm not sure I'd want to. But I do hope that Destiny of Velious pulls in enough from the original Velious to satisfy those pangs of nostalgia that EQ players have.

From the snow-capped mountains of New Halas to the mysterious waters of the Vasty Deep, Karen Bryan explores the lands of Norrath to share her tales of adventure. Armed with just a scimitar, a quill, and a dented iron stein, she reports on all the latest news from EverQuest II in her weekly column, The Tattered Notebook. You can send feedback or elven spirits to