I began the EverQuest beta in a deep state of confusion. It’s basically a graphical MUD (multi-user dungeon), which I’ve never played before, so I really didn’t have a point of reference to work from. I settled with henpecking every button on my keyboard and seeing what happened. After a few streams of gibberish in the chat window, I figured out how to talk. Marshalling my newest and only skill, I asked a passing high-elf player what I was supposed to be doing. Seeing that I was level one and standing in the starting area, she took pity on me. “Let’s go fishing,” she suggested. I already felt like a fish out of water, so it seemed to be as good an idea as any.
What began with a fishing lesson turned into a four-hour guided tour. She showed me how to add spells to my spellbook, how to make hotkey buttons and where to go to fight giant, angry wasps. I learned not to click on guards unless I was really sure I wanted to lose a couple hours’ experience for accidentally swinging my staff at them. We finished up the night /sitting on a small hill to stare at our spellbooks as we meditated to regain mana. My bar was only half full when I heard the first rumble of thunder and then the patter of rain.
I closed my virtual book. Some dormant part of my brain lit up like a Christmas tree as I watched the rain hit the ground. This is a big world and it’s full of hundreds of actual people--people like me, sitting at their keyboards and experiencing the same weather as I was. EverQuest requiring a 3D card had nothing to do with how real that moment felt.
That moment is why I’ve spent nearly eight hours a day playing the EverQuest beta. Thanks in part to its difficulty, I’ve never felt such a strong sense of community and exploration before. Not any one person has all the answers, so you learn just as much talking to other players as you would striking off on your own to find the wood-elf village. When you find Kelethin, by the way, keep in mind that the wood elves don’t believe in hand rails for their tree house village. It’s a long run and an even longer hunt to find your corpse if you fall.
In fact, let’s imagine for a moment that you can’t find your body. After years of just reloading saves, it’s weird having to find your corpse to get your stuff back. It’s even worse if you’re level seven and you’re under threat of losing all of the armor and items you've gathered after playing for days. Necromancers have a spell that can actually lead them to your old body. They’re useful friends to have, despite the fact that in some zones guards will attack them on sight.
The whole game is built on a foundation of cooperation. I quickly learned that adventuring alone is suicide once you enter a dungeon like Crushbone. When I first loaded into the cave that leads to the orc fortress, I found wild-eyed groups of elves and half-elves resting and getting ready to assault it. They explained that you have to be methodical once you enter--one stray idiot getting in too deep before clearing out the patrolling orcs can start a train that slaughters everyone in its path. A train is basically a bad guy conga line of death. I'm told that if I see “TRAAAAAAIN!!” in the chat window, it’s time to turn around and get my skinny elven ass to the exit and zone back out to the forest. Monsters can't follow you past the loads, which is a real life saver.
I’ve spent days since my arrival learning orc patrol routes, assaulting Crushbone and building close bonds with my comrades in arms. You learn a lot about someone after spending 18 hours in a dungeon, fighting tooth and claw for every shred of experience. The fast friends I've made is why I continue throwing myself at this nearly impregnable wall and trying to scale it. Every time I do, I get a little higher and I meet other people struggling to do the same. We lift each other up and develop the kind of bond that can only form when you've spent consecutive nights staying up until 4AM making corpse runs and getting ever closer to taking down Emperor Crush.
I've spent nearly a week in Crushbone and I'm getting tired of coming so close and failing. Tomorrow I'm going to go for a change of pace and take a crack at making the run to Freeport. I've got a guy who swears he knows a safe path to get to the boat and travel to the mainland, but we'll see. One misstep and it's going to be one hell of a long corpse run to get our stuff back.
I’m sure I’ll have more to say about EverQuest as the beta rolls on. Frankly, when I’m not playing it, all I’m doing is thinking about what I’ll do when I log back in. I almost skipped Thanksgiving just so I wouldn’t have to take a day off--but the lure of food that wasn’t from Subway or McDonald’s was just too great.
Couple quick tips:
- Crushbone is a great dungeon to explore and level up in. To get started, talk to Canloe Nusbeck in the warrior's guild in South Kaladim (/hail him), and he’ll tell you to go to Crushbone and collect orc belts. It’s a good place to start.
- In Crushbone there’s this short stone wall to the right of the main fortress area. If you jump on the lower part and run up it, you can take easy pot shots at the Orcs with ranged attacks while groups below take all the hits. I’ll admit it’s kind of cheesy, but when you’re forced to play alone, it’s a great way to get some XP and loot some orc belts.
See you next time!