Ten years ago today, I entered the world of online gaming for the first time, with my purchase of Everquest. I decided to go back and take another look at the game to see how it looks today.

Everquest Screenshot

I found a link on the web site for the game that would allow me to download the client. I’m sure I still have my CDs of the game somewhere, but the game has been patched so many times, I doubt very many of the original files are still used. I downloaded the several hundred meg of the client and ran the install. Meanwhile, I reactivated my main account. I just signed up for the monthly subscription, and then cancelled it so it won’t renew. That gives me plenty of time for my trip down memory lane.

After the install, I ran the game and signed in. Ugh! Updating! The client I downloaded was not the latest release and also didn’t have the expansion content. Three hours it estimated for the download. That would put it well past my bedtime, so I let it patch while I went to sleep. Next morning, I was all ready to log in for a quick look around before work, and I run the program only to get “Updating” again. It was a patch day. A few minutes later the patch was installed, but the servers were locked. Oh well, off to work.

When I got home, I decided to try it again. Fortunately, the servers were up and after yet another (but very quick) update, it let me into the game. Back in the old days, I played on the Rodcet Nife server. It was merged into Quellious as the player population declined. I went to that server and sure enough, three of my characters were left. At some point, they purged the low level toons, but I had a level 16, 47 and 51 left.

I logged on with my 51 Ranger Wood Elf. I had wondered where he was parked for the last six years when I had last logged in. When the zone loaded, it was Qeynos Hills. I remembered then that I had quit the game because I was having constant trouble staying logged in. Frustrated when I went link dead in QH, I quit and never went back, until now, six years later. (The connection problems turned out to be cable modem related.)

I originally ran the game on a Windows 98 computer, with 256Meg of RAM, and a CPU speed in the 200’s megaHertz range. My framerate was about 1 or 2 per second at best. I honestly don’t know how I played it under those conditions.

I previously wrote a post about the possibility of experiencing the emotion of being homesick for a virtual world. This is what drew me back into the game for a visit. I decided I needed to go to my old city of Freeport. I had so many memories of this place. I decided I would run to the city. Not a short run mind you. I also made sure I could figure out how to attack and fight just in case I needed to along the way.

After getting my hot keys set up, and killing a couple of skeletons, I was on my way. I actually remembered a good bit of the journey, recognizing some old landmarks, but I hit the old EQAtlas site to help me find my way. Just like in the old days, I had a hell of a time getting through High Hold Pass — I always get lost in that place. I found my way out and upon reaching the Commons, I noticed that there was no longer a West and East Commons, just one Commons zone. As I approached Freeport, I noticed something else — higher resolution textures. The whole city had been re-skinned and some other things were changed, though the same NPCs were milling about. It was a bit like going home, only to find someone had redecorated the whole thing. It was sad.

I struggled to find my way to the docks when I remembered — duh — there’s a map function. The EQAtlas maps were not up to date, but the in-game map helped. I eventually found the docks and waited around to see if there was a boat. Other than the NPCs, I had not found any other characters on my journey. There was chat on the general chat channel, but that was the only sign of other life in the old world.

Eventually, I saw, but had just missed the boat. Oh well. At least I knew there was still a boat. I decided to check my guild out while I was waiting. I figured out how to pull up the guild list screen and saw that July 2006 was the last time any other members of the guild were online. In fact, the guild message of the day had been a good-bye message from one of my old friends, who had stopped playing in 2005. There appeared to be no guild leader at all. I was one of only two officers. I suppose, as the original founder of the guild, I could get the GMs to make me the leader, but what would be the point?

Finally, the boat came. I hopped on board and went to get some food while it sailed away. Sadly, none of the old music from the docks or boat were still in the game. I used to love those songs. They were so fitting.

After I got back to the computer, food in hand, I noticed that I had been dumped off the boat. After ten damn years, the stupid boat still is bugged. After nearly drowning, and then being unable to swim to any islands, (even though I could see the islands, when I moved toward them, I hit an invisible border that prevented me from reaching them. Ugh!), I managed to camp out my character, in the water. Fortunately, I’ll be able to rescue him using a new feature “Return Home”. I say it’s new… it’s new to me. Could be almost six years old. Anyway, I’ll use that from the character screen to get him home.

I decided that my 47 Druid would be a better character to use to get around anyway. I logged him on, but he just didn’t feel right. My favorite times in EQ were the days before they upgraded the character models to a higher polygon count version. I quickly logged out, restarted the game and changed the graphics options to use the old character models and went back in. Ah, that was better. My favorite blond Wood Elf was back to his old self. Sadly, as I looked around, I noticed that not all the models had reverted to their old selves. I was in Steamfont at the druid ring and the Kobolds had been remodeled. Still, being there in that zone, ten years or so after I had first been there, was a surreal experience. It triggered some emotions in me that I can’t quite articulate, but the best I can say is that it was some kind of euphoric mix of happiness and sadness. I have missed the places, the sounds, the music, the NPCs and of course the people I knew. At the same time, I was happy this place was still there, in some form. Steamfont seemed mostly the same.

I ran to the adjoining Lesser Faydark zone. I still remembered the way there and then through that to Greater Faydark. I ran to the tree city of Kelethin. It was still there — perhaps completely unchanged in layout. A few new NPCs but otherwise seemed the same, down to the music, thankfully. There was a difference though. No people. Not one other person was in the zone. How sad. It was always one of the busiest and most chatty places in the game. I would have to mute several of the chat channels usually, because all the noobs would drive me crazy. But now, totally empty.

Will I go back into the game any more during my remaining days before my account is deactivated again? Perhaps. Maybe just to look around a little bit more. And maybe not. Because the zones I knew and loved are all ghost towns now and it fills me with melancholy. And loneliness. At the same time, it brings back happy memories of the days gone by.

There is much that has changed since I left. Many new expansions, all but one of which were given to me free for some reason. I’m not sure what the level cap is, but I’m sure it’s at least in the 80’s. There are new quests, a new equipment slot, something called auras, and changes to trade skills, an email system, a marketplace — but I miss the old game. I’m not alone. There are folks out there trying to reverse engineer a server that will run the game as it existed with the original game, plus the first two expansions. From time to time, I google the project to see how it goes. If they ever get it going, I’ll be there. I know you can’t go home again. The people are gone, times change, but I would like to at least visit it once more.