As others have commented, the ability of Everquest to sink its claws in and hold on remains undiminished after all these years. Tobold is right to imagine this won't go on forever and with the experience of Fippy Darkpaw behind them, Daybreak Games clearly would have preferred not to open a second server, but the continuing popularity and concomitant pressure on Ragefire meant they were unable to hold that line. Lockjaw inc!
I'm staying where I am. Unlike Stargrace I've had no real trouble finding plenty of stuff to kill in the ultra-low level starting areas and I haven't even tried to use the /pick command to swap instances to avoid the crowds. I pottered around my gnomish homeland for a while until I hit level three and then, with a vague plan to get to Qeynos, where the hunting is pleasingly gnoll-based and the scenery is more authentically 1999, I meandered my way out of Steamfont, along the high zone wall of Lesser Faydark then along the paths of Greater Fay until I reached the Butcherblock Mountains.
|Didn't want to hunt kobolds anyway. Mutter...grumble...|
That all went without mishap and I was probably overconfident in taking a shortcut straight through the Butcherblocks to the docks, what with just about everything conning red and the dwarven guards viewing me as criminal scum. Overconfident, yes, but I got away with it, largely due to everything being camped to beyond an inch of its life.
I was more cautious at the dock, swimming (excruciatingly slowly) around the barrier walls and conning the dwarf fishing by the pilings, who glared at me threateningly but declined to swat me as I edged past him on the very edge of the wooden boardwalk. Too near the edge as it happened - I was so nervous of getting too close to him that I fell off the jetty into the water and narrowly avoided being devoured by a scowling aqua goblin as it emerged from the sea.
That was about as dangerous as the entire trip to Qeynos got. There's nothing facilitates safe travel so well as a full server - nearly every danger along the way was either dead or fast on the way to it as hordes of groups camped every tasty pull spot while every class that could solo roamed the paths and thickets in search of prey. The addition of Soulbinder NPCs in all starting cities and a number of other useful locations offered valuable insurance against time lost and I was very glad to take it but in the end I didn't run into any trouble at all.
|Pretty sure this used to be the LDON questgivers' camp. Nice of her to arrive six expansions early.|
Outside Qeynos itself I ummed and ahhed for a while, trying to remember if gnome necromancers are kill on sight to anyone there, a significant factor when you're bound in The Arena off Lake Rathetear and the Qeynos Soulbinder you need to speak to to save you a half-hour run back is deep inside the city, right next to the bank. I tried Google but the results were inconclusive. In the end I decided to chance it and once again my luck held.
The entire journey took around three hours but I did take a goodly amount of time out to jump on any unsuspecting creature I thought wouldn't give me much of a fight along the way. I killed frogloks and alligators in Innothule Swamp and jungle spiderlings and lizardmen in The Feerrrott. Once I got to Rathe Mountains, though, I saw the deep, deep red giant skeletons stomping around, pulled my running boots on (metaphorically speaking of course - no JBoots for me - didn't even see Hasten), put my head down and ran.
Swimming across Lake Rathetear was painful and trotting through South Karana nerve-wracking but the run across West Karana was just long. I always used to believe it was a flat fifteen minutes from one side of West Karana to the other without the benefit of SoW or Selo's.
|You get better at Swimming (8)|
For the first time in the entire sixteen years, when I could have done it but never did, I had the presence of mind to time the run. It turns out that from the South Karana bridge to the Qeynos Hills zone line is ten minutes on the button. Add in the extra distance from East Karana and I think that fifteen minute ball-park figure comes pretty close. That's some hike. How many modern MMOs have zones that take 12-15 minutes to cross in a straight line?
As I jogged towards the finish I took a long, hard look at Brother Trintle as he strolled around just outside the barbarian fishing village in West Karana. I was trying to remember if he was a good priest or a bad. Trintle was an even con at Level 5, which I'd dinged on the way, having stayed in Freeport until I hit Level 4 so I could get my spells and my lovely new yellow-con pet. I knew he had some kind of a drop and I was 95% sure he was a wrong'un.
He was so very tempting but in the end caution prevailed. Didn't want to blot my copybook with the Qeynosians even before I arrived if it turned out he was the good priest after all. Didn't want to have to run all the way back from The Arena if it turned out he was an overcon. These are the kind of decisions you have to make all the time in Everquest. It's a thinking player's game and a gambler's, too.
|I'll be back, Paw. One day. Mark my words. But for now I'll just go the long way round.|
Safely bound outside the Qeynos bank and with no-one actively trying to rip my head off I just had half an hour to go gnoll-hunting. Blackburrow was predictably camped to Sunday and back but I found a good number of scouts and watchers in Qeynos Hills whose short and unhappy introduction to my bony pet made the first inroads into improving my standing with the residents of the Karanas and the Qeynos Guard.
It was all going so well. And then Holly Windstalker came up out of nowhere and started yelling, as she does. I was nowhere near any of her precious wild animals either! Apparently she has no truck with gnomes or necros or both. Okay, it's necros. I knew that, really, or rather I worked it out as I sprinted for the West Karana zone line, while my noble pet gave up his unlife to act as a speed bump.
I would have made it, too, if the bloody woman hadn't rooted me. Respawning at the bank I called it a night. At least I know to keep an eye out for her in future. And since she hates me anyway her bears and wolves are fair game from now on.
That was where I left it. Haven't had a chance to get back on since due to the aforementioned time pressures. There's no rush though. Mrs Bhagpuss and I are off on our travels again soon but I have a few free days before and after and anyway those gnolls are aren't going anywhere.