Monday, March 17, 2014

15, Going On 85 : Everquest

Got your free level 85 yet? Come on, what are you waiting for? Everybody's doing it!

Each Everquest account made before the eleventh of November last year gets one (why that date? I have no idea) but even if you somehow never got around to filling out the application form in nearly fifteen years, don't despair, it's still not too late.

You can make an account this very day. Grab yourself a brand-new character that's just fifteen levels shy of the cap. Go on! You know you want one! For fresh accounts that's a one-per-household offer (confirmed by IP check) by the way, so no multi-boxing for you, but you get a Mercenary and fifteen thousand plat to pay his fees and there's an awful lot of those (weirdly specific) "over 1557" zones you can molo happily together.

Just don't leave it too much longer. Offer ends March 26th. After that it'll cost you 3500 SC.

I logged in my main account, the one that used to be Mrs Bhagpuss's until, through some confused process I can no longer recall with any clarity, the two changed places, leaving a handful of characters stranded on the wrong side like siblings separated by the sudden appearance of the Berlin Wall, and checked each server in turn to see who'd get the benefit.

I found a level 35 druid I had no idea existed on a server where I have no memory of playing and a whole host of more familiar faces, including several who other people once would have called my "mains", although it's a term I'd never use, but in the end it was my mage on Luclin-Stromm who got the nod.

She demanded it, truth be told. She was my first character on Stromm, made on the day that magnificent server began, and she's always had a will like iron. Back when it launched (sometime in 2003) Stromm was the first non-transfer server there'd been for a while, a chance for a completely fresh start with no twinks or high-levels to spoil the fun. I decided a mage, with the powerful pet and the ability to summon half-decent armor and weapons, would have a few advantages over the dirt-scrabbling hordes and so it proved.

She set out with the goal of being the first person on Stromm to ride a horse, this being back in the days when there was neither SC Store nor Legends of Norrath to turn to and the only way to get a mount was to save up an ungodly amount of platinum, go to the stables and buy one. I have no way of knowing whether she really was the first mounted gnome on Stromm but all I can say is that I was playing every day and I never saw anyone else up on a pony before her. Plus she got tells out the wazoo asking how she got it for a few days before horses and drogs began popping up like Feerrott mushrooms. Ah, fickle fame...

She's not riding that pony now. When she arrived in the Guild Lobby to the sound of an ear-splitting "Ding!" and a cascade of pop-up claim windows one of the many, many gifts she received was a Jungle Raptor mount. She sits astride it about as elegantly as a dog riding a motorcycle but I'm guessing it has some advantage over her staid old brown pony that aren't apparent in its looks.

Certainly everything else was a massive upgrade. It took me well over two hours to go through the cornucopia of armor, jewellery,  weapons and spells, reading the multiplicity of passive focus effects and activated buffs, scouring the spell-book to prepare sets for buffing and for fighting.

It's not even as though she'd rocketed to 85th from the lowly twenties or thirties. She was level 69 before I clicked the upgrade button. But Everquest uses a progression model I adore - you don't only get upgrades (although  boy, do you get upgrades...) you get entirely new things. At 85 she's still learning new tricks and so am I.

Nicely set up, gleaming from an MGB session in the Guild Lobby, smug behind her 30K hit points and her wall of stats, I took her out for a spin. Fortunately the last few times I've played EQ it's been to grind a few more points on my 84th Beastlord so I had a benchmark. I ran her through Plane of Time over to Oceangreen Hills and started pulling. The same mobs my Beastlord can handle with care and a Merc, the mage burned down in about a quarter of the time, just her and the air pet. Even when adds rolled up she handled them well enough, although she was at half health before Gasekn got them corralled.

With this gift of geared 85s possibilities sweep in like an Everfrost blizzard. I made a new 85th necro and enchanter on two of the Silver accounts. I'm going to make a shaman on one of the others when I finish writing this. Everquest runs smoothly in multiple iterations on my set-up and auto-follow works well in EQ. All I need to do is set up camp with three characters, three mercs and a gaggle of pets and the only limit should be how fast I can pull.

It's a theory. In practice we'll almost certainly all end up dead in a ditch but that's Everquest for you. And anyway, for all the fun of molo and multi (and they both are a lot of fun) a real group with actual people, that's the thing. With luck Mrs Bhagpuss will be lured back for a while. She's already picking out candidates for the upgrade. There's a lot of Norrath we've yet to see, after all. I bet we haven't even visited half of those fifteen hundred zones.

So, Happy Birthday Norrath and thanks for the presents. Here's to the next fifteen years.


  1. Ding! Ding! Ding!

    Question: so before this, about how much time did it require you to spend to level a character from 0 to max? Was it pretty easy before? (easy like WoW and GW2) or was it some kind of humongous grind?


    1. Don't get me started! I could write a 10,000 word essay on "Leveling In Everquest". No, I could write a full-length freakin' book!

      I'll just tell you how "easy" level 84 is, shall I? If I take my Beastlord to a Hot Zone (bonus xp) on a double XP weekend, drink a double XP potion and pop my Veteran award that gives me double XP for 30 minutes, all of which stack, and then I kill the mobs for the Hot Zone quests that give bonus quest experience, I might get as much as 20% of the level in an hour.

      Once I've done the tasks and lost the veteran bonus, though, and the potion's worn off and the double XP weekend is over, I'd be lucky to see much more than 2-3% of the level per hour.

      When I was playing regularly it took me many weeks to get from 80 to 84. Many, many weeks. That was mainly because I would only do it for one hour a day until I'd done all the tasks in the Hot Zone of my level with as many bonus XP boosts running as I could find (sadly every weekend isn't a double XP weekend). The rest of the time I played lower level characters of which I have hordes.

      From 1 to about 70ish XP goes very comfortably, so long as you know where to go (different places have different XP modifiers and that can make a massive difference) and how not to die very much. When Mrs Bhagpuss and I were duoing through the 30s and 40s, for example, we'd notch up half a dozen levels in a good session. You lose XP in EQ when you die - a lot of it. You can get it back by being rezzed (although not all of it) but the real problem with dying is that unless you have someone three on the spot to rez you, a death might take you anything from ten minutes to half an hour to recover from due to rebuffing and travel time. You really, really don't want to die if you're trying to level solo and even in a group it slows things down.

      So that's one side of the coin. The other is that if I stopped faffing around solo and went and got a group in level-appropriate content I could do a level in a session easily. From 85th you could probably be at cap, 100, in a week easily, just playing a few hours a day.

      That's one of the many things I love about EQ. How hard or easy, exciting or dull, simple or complex it is, all that's up to you. There's no "right" way to level or "right" way to play. You can choose your own pace and playstyle. For some reason I generally choose to go uphill in the snow both ways but I enjoy it that way.

  2. lololol if it doesn't actually ding you 84 times then they really missed a trick. Very occasionally in certain games it's possible to ding a couple of times in quick succession and it's OFFICIALLY THE BEST THING. 84 dings would would be like seeing God.

    And 1557 zones! That's insane, I had no idea. The thought of a game with 1557 zones is about the most exciting prospect I can imagine. I have no idea how they've managed 100 zones a year. ArenaNet should have a word.

    It feels like a seed has been planted although I imagine it will be lonely at levels 1-84 from now until the end of time and I'm not the kind of fellow that starts in the middle. In any case, if I get bored for more than 30 seconds this weekend I expect I'll end up in Norrath for the first time.

    1. Thank god it didn't ding all 85! Just once but very loudly.

      I'd always recommend that anyone interested in MMOs at least tries Everquest but I understand that the barriers preventing many newcomers from having much fun when they do are immense. I love EQ's graphics but they are fifteen years old and even the recently-added or revamped areas are going to look a bit odd to people accustomed to GW2 or ESO. Then there's the sheer size of the thing - not only all those zones but the thousands of spells, abilities, effects and systems. It's just an insane amount to assimilate.

      If you do decide to try it, grab the free 85 while it's going, get it set up and then give it a run out in some lower-level zones first. Get a feel for it in situations where the mobs are just there for target practice. Either that or, even better, get in a group with some people who know what they are doing and are happy to explain things. EQ players generally like to do show off what they know so that shouldn't be too hard!

      Kaozz has some good tips and links here

      One thing I would say to anyone starting a free account and leveling up from the beginning instead of starting at 85 is this:

      At character creation, find the "Tutorial" button and unselect it. Do not go to The Mines of Gloomngdeep - it will put you off playing for good!

      Unfortunately free characters have to start in Crescent Reach, which is decent enough in a practical sense but in my opinion is one of the most visually unattractive zones in the entire game. Again, I'd advise anyone landing there to find the Plane of Knowledge book (big book on a 4-foot high pedestal) and use it to travel to Plane of Knowledge. There I'd re-bind at the Soulbinder and take the Qeynos or Ak Anon stone (assuming you made a Good or Neutral character) or the Cabilis Stone (for an Iksar) or the Grobb or Oggok or Neriak stone (for a Troll or an Ogre or Dark Elf).

      All those take you to original starting areas where you will get less xp and worse gear but you'll get a much better impression of why this MMO has lasted fifteen years. Sadly I can't recommend anyone go to Freeport any more because they utterly ruined it in a revamp and it's nigh-on unplayable.

      And now I'm off to play some EQ myself.

  3. I just can't leave the test server, it was always my EQ home. I'll go find out if this works there =)

    1. I think it must, if only because a frequent piece of advice given on the forums to people who are unable to make a Heroic character on the Live servers is to make sure they've deleted any Heroic characters they had on Test.


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