Sunday, November 11, 2018

There's A Party In My Mind...

I've been taking pictures of the games I play since I first discovered the screenshot function in EverQuest back in 1999. Where most of those shots are now, I have no idea. I document what I see almost obsessively but, perhaps unusually for someone who takes so many photos both in and out of game, I feel no compulsion to organize the results.

I'm not entirely blasé about the possibility of loss. I make sporadic attempts to back things up. I have multiple copies of various folders scattered across everything from SD Cards to thumb drives to old hard drives pulled from long-gone PCs.

It doesn't help much. I have no cataloguing system of any kind, not even a paper label stuck to the drive case. If I need screens to illustrate a post about a particular game I haven't played for a while, I generally find it quicker and easier to patch up, log in and take new ones.

It was largely because the LotRO patcher is so infernally slow that I ended up digging around in my so-called archives yesterday. Ten-year old screenshots of Lord of the Rings Online were far from the only thing I found.

It seems that at some point, a year or two back, I made a half-hearted effort to back up screenshot folders from all over the place and stash them on a particular hard drive, where I immediately forgot about them. More than ten thousand screens from Guild Wars 2 (yes, literally that many) I knew about but old shots from my original runs through WildStar, Allods, World of Warcraft, Rift and even Free Realms came as something of a surprise.

Looking through them I found some old favorites and many I'd completely forgotten. The oldest were from EverQuest circa March 2004. That leaves five years unaccounted for, including all the shots I must have taken in Dark Age of Camelot, Anarchy Online, Horizons, Endless Ages and more I can't recall.

In the wake of my recent brush with acedemia I'm minded to make a concerted effort to gather all my screenshots together, put them into some kind of coherent order and back them up properly. I might also have to go through some cupboards and see if there any ancient hard drives lurking there - although I have a feeling I already did that about five years back...

One of the more interesting things yesterday's rooting turned up was the shots illustrating this post. According to the datestamp on the file, they were all taken in February 2006, apparently at a test of the event that restored and reopened the Ulteran Spires in Antonica and The Commonlands.  It was, presumably, part of the run-up to the release of the Echoes of Faydwer expansion, although the timing seems off, since that didn't go live until November of the same year.

I remember the event well but, as is often the case, documentary evidence recorded at the time conflicts with my memories. I was playing on the Test Server at the time, before Mrs Bhagpuss left Oasis (the server not the band, although I guess I didn't really need to clarify that...) to join me. 

What I remember, something which the visual evidence confirms, is that the PC I had then struggled to run EQ2 and that there wasn't a great deal I could do in big events beyond stand and watch a slideshow. The graphics look terrible, which was exactly how the game looked for me for several years. Most of the shots show me standing back while things happen at a distance, which is probably about the only way I could participate at all.

Even so, in the screenshot I've included that retains the UI, you can see I'm in a raid group. I've left the names visible, something I don't usually do, because it all happened in another country and besides which the wench is dead. Or at least missing in action.

That particular shot is both surprising and problematic, not because of the visuals but for what's happening in chat. I have believed for as long as I can remember, and I've stated many times in posts here and conversations elsewhere, that everyone I knew, who came from EverQuest to EQ2, had left within six months of the game's launch in late 2004.

Based on this screenshot, that's not true. In the chat box to the lower right you can see a cross-server conversation going on in a private channel. I'm talking to people on the Oasis server, where the original server we all played on, Steamfont, had only recently merged a month or so earlier. I'm telling them about the event that hasn't yet reached them on Live, while trying not to spoil the news that it ends with the appearance of a bloody great dragon.

One of the people I'm talking to is Mrs Bhagpuss but the other is a friend of ours from EverQuest. This makes me realize two things: firstly that I'd forgotten he'd moved to EQ2 with us at all and secondly that I've been overestimating the speed at which both he and the other people who transferred games gave up on EQ2.

Reconstructing the whole thing in the light of the new evidence, it seems that, rather than everyone having left EQ2 by the summer of 2005, six months after launch, it was actually more like a year later, spring or summer 2006, before the last person we knew finally quit.

One day, as well as cataloguing all my screenshots, I really should sit down and try to draft a timeline of my MMORPG history. When I try to put it in order there are so many contradictions and paradoxes.

I'm put in mind of an evening I spent at the end of my first year in college, when four of us who'd spent almost the whole time hanging out together tried to make sense of it all. We couldn't even agree on when we'd met, let alone who had been where doing what, when or with whom.

Of course, being students as the 1970s turned into the 1980s, we could blame our poor memories on drink and drugs. I've generally been (mostly) sober and always straight when I've played MMOs but memory is slippery.

I've always wished I kept a diary. Above everything, that's why I'm glad I have a blog and why I plan to keep on blogging as long as I play. I should probably archive those screenshots, though...


  1. Ever since I lost the first hundred or so screenshots I ever took in SWG I painstakingly sort, store and backup all of them regularly.

    I didn't use a third party program back then, and the game itself stored its screenshots somewhere inside it's main folder. No problem, when I reinstalled the game on new hardware I copied and pasted them into the new game folder.
    Only that the new installation didn't realize this and just began counting from 00001 up again when I took the next shots, which overwrote the old ones. :-(
    There were great shots among those lost too, like the continuously growing harvester-parks I were so proud of.

    So, yeah, I'm not gonna let something like this happen to me again.

    1. As well as my screenshots from the first five years I played MMOs, I used to have some very large text files from EverQuest. You could "log" your chat so as to parse it offline, something people used to do to chack all kinds of things, and I went for several months one year without realizing I'd left chat logging on.

      I copied those files and moved them onto at least one later hard drive but somewhere along the way they disappeared. I would love to have them now - I could get all kinds of blog material out of that little time capsule. I still have a slight hope that I might turn up an old HDD somewhere I've forgotten about but chances are the one I need is either one of the several dead ones on the floor under the radiator or one of the ones that died long ago and got thrown away.

  2. I occupy the opposite end of the spectrum. I meticulously label, categorize, and back-up my many thousands of screenshots.

    That said, I'm not sure you don't have the better idea. The amount of time I spend organizing my screenshot collection is... disconcerting.

    1. Well, I think there's probably a happy medium somwhere inbetween! I don't plan on making a full-time job out of it but it would be nice to be able to find things when I need them.

  3. "These memories can't waaaaaiiiiiiit...."

    -- 7rlsy


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