It's unavoidable, I guess. It would be irresponsible to let us just charge off, all unprepared, in our ancient, outdated gear, flinging our superannuated spells and clicking away at a cluster of icons that no longer connect to anything. An awful lot changes in most MMORPGs just in six months leave alone five years.
Still, it's offputting. How many potential returning customers take one look at the splurge of demands, instructions and warnings spilling across the screen, think "sod this for a game of soldiers" and log off for another few years? I know I've done it a few times.
This morning I logged onto EQ2's Test server. It was the the first time I'd been back since we left, supposedly just for a few weeks, when SoE began their Grand Experiment with the launch of the original F2P beta. We liked it so much on Freeport that we never went back. I still play there even now although Mrs Bhagpuss, despite maintaining an All Access account, hasn't really played anything other than GW2 for the last three years.
Before that Test had been our home for about half a decade. We both had multiple max-level characters and we'd had a long and often intense relationship with the tight-knit, idiosyncratic and frequently fractious Test community. It was a very different experience from playing on a "Live" server, what with the tiny population where, almost literally, everyone knew everyone else, something that often resulted in the server-wide equivalent of guild drama. Oh, the eternal politics!
And then there were the endless bugs, the broken content, the regular, direct contact with the developers, the permanent 50% xp bonus and the complete absence of customer service. It was a unique environment to be leveling up in, that's for sure.
Playing on Freeport felt almost like playing the game on easy mode after all that and I think we were about ready for some normality. Also, on Freeport we had our own guild. For most of our time on Test we were the only two active players in a guild we had helped to found but didn't own. The leader left fairly soon after we joined and before long so did everyone else. We did try to get the guild transferred to our leadership but at that time there was no mechanism for doing so.
Well, there is now. That was one reason I logged in today. I thought I'd start the ball rolling and get the guild switched to my leadership. Only, wouldn't you know it, in the five years since we left it, as I thought, in stasis the original leader has returned! It would seem she was playing pretty actively for a while until about six months ago. No-one else has been on and she's demoted the entire roster other than her characters to "inactive" status so I'm not even an officer any more, which means I couldn't even begin the leadership transfer process now if she takes another break for a few years.
In the meantime I had plenty of busy work to occupy my morning. I only logged in two characters, Bruiser and Necromancer, both level 90. Naturally, even though I'd been actively playing them right up to the move to Freeport, they both had full bags. Completely full. Every slot.
My overflow filled up with discontinued or revamped items the game was throwing at me so I
needed to make space fast. A quick squint at the contents of the bags showed a lot of house items. That looked like an easy fix - go to my houses, dump the furniture, clear overflow and work from there.
Except I'd completely forgotten how nicely decorated my houses on Test are. How much time and effort and care and attention I'd put into them. How cosy and welcoming and familiar they looked and felt. So I couldn't just plonk crap down anywhere. I had to spend time looking at it all and placing it properly.
|A watched gnome trap never springs|
|It's not this bright and cheerful in game, believe me. I tweaked it in paint.net.|
The Necro had no such issues. She put all her miscellaneous house items down thoughtfully and carefully although in the indigo gloom that passes for lighting in Neriak you could hardly tell. That gave me two characters with about 15% of their inventory available, rather above the average for characters played by me.
|One thing I really love about EQ2 is how everything, including simple UI service functions, have lore-appropriate animations and mechanics.|
It's an option I greatly prefer. I just hit "Leveling Solo" for both of them and what used to be an hour's fiddly, annoying tool-tip reading and button-clicking went by in less than a second (not including casting time). Should I ever set to playing those characters "seriously" I'll probably need to make some tweaks but for now they can at least venture out of their houses without the risk of being knocked down and trampled by rabbits.
|Welcome to my parlor, said the ratonga to the gnome.|
Maintenance aside, it was great to see those characters again. They were such a huge part of my life for such a long time it seems bizarre that I'd left them so easily and completely. Not without a second thought, because I do think of them quite often, but certainly without actually doing anything to check on them and make sure they were getting on alright.
|Now, there's a funny story about how I captured this one...|
Partly it was that it used to be a major enterprise to set up an account for the Test server. You used to need a full installation in a separate directory for one thing. Now, though, it's as easy as selecting "Public Test" from the drop-down menu at log-on. It took me less than five minutes, from deciding to do it on a whim, to stepping onto the surface of alternate Norrath once again.
I'd like to keep logging in to Test regularly now I've made the effort to come back. I'd like to wake up all my old characters and get them fighting fit even if I don't ever take them out of their home cities. I'd like to...but then I'd like to do a lot of things.
We'll see. At least it's a start.