Gordon Gekko, the Half-Elf
A quick check to the top left of the page shows Stan dressed again in his normal attire, and the festive snowflakes that once populated the area where we will eventually put up advertising for our favorite costumed dancing monkeys website now tragically gone. Make no mistake about it, the holiday Stan and hypnotizing snowflakes were devised entirely as a diversionary tactic in the hopes you wouldnÃ‚'t notice how casual our posting was over the end of December. The theory went: you would arrive at the website, and before noticing that the page hadnÃ‚'t been updated you would become beguiled by our upper-page festivities and proceed to the forums, which is really why youÃ‚'re here anyway, none the wiser.
Well, gentlemen, as Certis so astutely noted, break time is over. And nothing kicks off the new year like exaggeration, hyperbole, unnecessarily complex sentence structure, and, of course, costumed monkeys.
Ã‚"…So, anyway, this is an article about Everquest and how to take it way too seriously.
A few weeks ago, I mentioned Ã‚– and by 'mentioned', I mean admitted in a very meek fashion Ã‚– that Everquest was inexplicably back into my play cycle. This really wasnÃ‚'t all that troubling a development from a time consumption standpoint, considering IÃ‚'d never actually leveled a character past the low twenty-somethings, so I wasnÃ‚'t supposed to play for more than a few days. IÃ‚'m like the guy who quit smoking, but still bums half a pack at the bar. For me, playing EQ is much like reading Robert Jordan Ã‚"… you want to love it, but after ten or twenty hours you begin to realize youÃ‚'re no closer to a resolution than you were when you hefted the book out of the store. The problem IÃ‚'ve always had is that I played essentially the way it was constructed to be played, meaning that with each new level I reached, I would immediately turn my focus on achieving the next.
This is, of course, the worst way to play Everquest.
Now, I know the general statement to be made about the futility of the game is that itÃ‚'s a pointless time sink. What does reaching level 30, 40, or 50 and above get you? My answer to that has always been, once you figure out what to do with all those Shines in Mario you can come tell me how pointless my level treadmill is. IÃ‚'m well aware that thereÃ‚'s no productive end to any time spent playing video games in general, much less the specificity of Everquest, so how it matters whether that time is spent farming Bone Chips in KurnÃ‚'s Tower or completing Halo on Legendary, or doing whatever the hell people were doing playing Animal Crossing is beyond me.
Still, as I mentioned before, my EQ history draws a rather stark and inevitable trend of me playing for a few days, growing increasingly bored, and finally having some dÃƒÂ©jÃƒÂ vu moment of epiphany where I realize Certis calling me as weak as a crack monkey sitting on a big pile of crack was, as they say, a little on the nose. Except, that didnÃ‚'t really happen this time, not on schedule. Not yet. Something is different.
At the risk of bringing an undesirable real-world ideological element to this discussion I will reveal Ã‚– as is widely known by a majority of our community Ã‚– that IÃ‚'m an irrationally unrealistic liberal. I only bring this up to counter-point how very much Everquest has become the rich teet upon which my inner-conservative suckles. The reason IÃ‚'ve stuck to EQ this time is not to explore the perpetual execution of adding arbitrary numbers of experience to an already arbitrary number to achieve a level ranking of X+1 where X is whatever level I currently have. No, I play EQ to amass wealth.
WeÃ‚'re not talking actual money here. I have no desire to try and parlay my virtual riches through the digital transmutation of Ebay into small pieces of green paper that I can exchange for goods and services. I mean I want plat, to buy phat loot at a low price which, instead of using in its traditional way of bashing rats of varying size, I will in turn sell for a higher price to accumulate Ã‚"… you guessed it, more plat. What am I going to do with that plat? The same thing youÃ‚'re going to do with your Shines. Like life itself (not really) the reward is not the accumulation, but the journey itself. Either way, with each platinum piece that I turn through the player economy into two or three others of its kind, I reveal an ever so sly grin hidden behind my dubiously steepled fingers. It fosters my desire to grow a wiry moustache which I can twirl between my fingers.
Everquest, for me, has very little to do with swinging swords and shuffling monsters loose the digital coil. It now appeals to me in the same way that games like SimCity and Railroad Tycoon 3 did, but on a much more epic and realistically changing way. Where I love the careful manipulation of ever escalating black lines representing my presumed wealth in these games, in much the same sick way that I devour statistics of ever increasing numbers from this site (oooh todayÃ‚'s page-view hit sessions per referral for OS2 users is up like 5.4 percent!), I always realize that the structures and trends of the economic landscape is entirely artificial, a random function here, a scripted event there, some clever math and voila my stock split 3-to-1 again! Not so in EQ; it is a massively multiplayer economic simulation, and it may be the first and last of its kind.
I suggest that this economic element born of suppliers, farmers, traders, brokers, scammers, and so on is the real secret behind EverquestÃ‚'s longevity. Even before the Bazaar, which really was a small stroke of genius, before the tunnel of East Commonlands and a thousand debates about price over OOC, and before websites dedicated themselves to tracking ever changing prices across servers, from the very first day people created a capitalist economy where prices were regulated by market conditions. And, letÃ‚'s not forget that this is an economy that genuinely rivals one of a small nation, or a large American state.
Not only has no other game achieved this complex and fluid a player economy, with the possible exception of Diablo 2 and only then to a much-lessened degree, but in the interest of facilitating gameplay and artificially focusing player effort most similar MMOGs have discouraged it. From the elimination of market NPCs, to the elimination of non-crafting loot, to discouraging camping, to removing so-called uber-loot, and a dozen other such elements, every game save Everquest has shot itself in the foot on the point of creating a vibrant and exciting player economy. The point everyone keeps missing is that the many frustrations inherent to EverquestÃ‚'s design not only define the game, but appeals to most playerÃ‚'s strongest impulse: stubbornness
What almost every other massively multiplayer game on the market has missed, is that the most loyal players want the game to be an agonizing time sink. For as much as the casual player claims their frustration on the matter, not only is camping for rare dropped loot a good thing, itÃ‚'s a necessary thing. The problem with creating a game around the casual gamer is that theyÃ‚'re so frigginÃ‚' casual. Even if you do everything they ask, eventually theyÃ‚'ll just grow bored and leave anyway.
But, not unusually, IÃ‚'m drifting from my point.
Taken from the point of view as an exercise in small business management, Everquest can actually provide a level of realism unparalleled. Beginning with nothing, in the most capitalist sense imaginable, one who is both studious, patient, and saavy can find themselves swimming in virtual riches. What can you do with those riches? No more than I can do with the sums of pointless numbers, scores, and trinket collectibles I have in every other game, but then real world productivity has never been the point. The point is the small and regulatory feeling of success when you buy a stack of Spider Silks at 3plat each, and turn around to sell them in to the right person at 8plat each. Some players frown upon that reseller mentality, and with every crack they make at my heartless capitalist expense, my desire to develop a sinister cadence to my speech increases ten-fold.