Monday, August 10, 2020

And The Cat Came Back

Another day, another Promptapalooza post. It's the gift that keeps on giving, which, if you think about it, makes absolutely no sense. I mean, it's the gift-giver who'd have to keep on giving. The gift would keep on being given. Does no-one know the difference between the active and the passive voice any more?


If you had a mascot to represent you, what would it be?

Interesting hypothetical. It assumes I don't already have one. I kind of do, though, in the context of this blog. It's that cat, right up there in the masthead.

I believe I've told the origin story of the cat on the red velvet bedspread before but no-one's going to remember even if I have, so let's go round again.

I've said that the picture's a detail from a screenshot I took during the EverQuest II beta back in 2004. Not too many of the screenshots I took in my first five years of playing MMORPGs have survived. I have a selection of shots from EverQuest that go back to when Lost Dungeons of Norrath was the current expansion, so sometime around late 2003, early 2004. That's about the earliest I can find.

I know for certain sure I took shots of the insanely overcrowded starting areas when Frogloks were introduced as a playable race in the mini-expansion Legacy of Ykesha six months earlier but those and everything before are dust in the wind. As for other games I was playing back then, there's no evidence at all to prove I was ever there.

All of my shots from the EQII beta in the late summer and fall of '04, though, those I still have. I didn't take that many, not by the standards I'd go on to set for myself. Just forty or so. And almost all of those are from the final few days.

 The earliest I can find is dated October 26, just a couple of weeks before launch. It may well be that there was no screenshot function available before then. Maybe I was testing it. I can't remember now.

Most of my shots were taken on  the very last day, when I was documenting the end of a world. More so than most betas I've been in, the EQII beta felt very much like a "Live" game. Not because it was polished or finished. Far from it. It was buggy as hell right until the last day when, as I've written before, the one and only genuine "miracle patch" I've ever seen fixed most of the issues we'd been complaining about for weeks.

No, the reason that beta felt so real was that it was all any of us played for months. A bunch of us left EQ in September to try it out and most of us never went back. I did, eventually, but not for almost a year. From the day I made my first character in EQII I was hooked, just as I had been five years earlier in EverQuest itself.

One of the main reasons I stayed was that EQII gave me something I'd been missing the whole five years I'd been playing EQ: a home. Somewhere my character could come back to after a hard day's adventuring. Where he could settle down on a comfortable bed. With his cat.

OMG! Seriously! My character had a cat! Can you believe it?

Yes, well, of course you can, now. Everyone has imaginary pets these days. In some games even the pets have pets. But then? Well, if I'd ever had an in-game, non-combat pet before, I don't remember it now.

But, half a dozen years later, when I came to create this blog, I remembered that cat, then.

Yeah, no I didn't. I'm lying. I might have remembered the cat. I just can't can't remember if I remembered. More likely I was trawling through old screenshot files, looking for something that would work. But you can bet I remembered that cat when I saw them.

I spent so much time with that cat back in beta. Having an actual in-game home with furniture and pets was such a buzz. I know EQII was far from the first game to have housing but it was the first game I'd played that had housing that felt like somewhere I could imagine wanting to live.

Every session ended with me heading back  to my room, feeding the cat, sitting on the bed and logging out. Every session began with me logging in to see the same room and that cat, stretching, purring, demanding to be fed and entertained. Happy to see me.

When the world ended and we all gathered next to the Claymore in Antonica to watch the sky burn, in the last few minutes I couldn't stay with everyone else. I broke and ran, back to my room and my cat. We met the end together.

If the cat had a name I don't know what it was. I can't even recall whether you could name pets back in beta. I can't say if it was male or female or both or neither. I do know you shouldn't feed it pepper. I never did.

 And now, there they are, up there at the top of the post. The top of every post. My mascot.

Which would be a sweet story if it was true. Only it's not.

I do still have all my screens from beta, that part is true. I probably did look at them for inspiration when I was trying to decide on a look and feel for this blog. I might have wanted to use an image from beta because I'm pretty sure I'd have thought that would be cool.

Thing is, I can't remember. All I can say for sure is that I ended up using a picture of the cat I made after launch instead. The cat that was the spiritual successor of the one I had in beta. When EQII went live I recreated my exact character from beta, a gnome Templar, got him the same inn room and the same cat.

Only as time went on he got better furniture than the beta cleric ever had. Like that red-quilted bed and the picture you can vaguely see in the background. It obviously felt like a better match for the color scheme here. Beta was pretty colorless. So that's what I went with.

What happened to the screenshot I cropped to get just the cat on the bed, I have no idea. I was going to show the full, unedited screen here but I can't find it. I can't find any shots from any period of EQII between the end of beta and about five years ago.

I still have the cat, though. My mascot.


  1. I think "the gift that keeps on giving" has the connotation that the gift will itself produce new gifts over time. If you keep giving someone pets, you keep on giving. If you give someone a pet that itself keeps giving them pets, that's "a gift that keeps on giving".

    Charming post!

    1. Oh yes, that's how it works! Kind of like the teaching someone to fish theory. Certainly a moneysaver.

  2. Hey Bhag! It gave me the shivers to read the title of your Monday post because my cat, who had been missing for days in the real world, was returned to me on August 10th, no joke. :) Glad to see you are still putting out these wonderful posts, I can always count on this blog to do what it's always done best. /wave

    1. Yay for cats doing that cat thing cats do! Growing up, we always had loads of cats - I think five was the most we had at one time - and some of them treated the place like a hotel, coming and going as they pleased. We had one that vanished for over a year once and then someone turned up at the door with her. I can't remember how they found out it was ours.

      Then again, I had a tortoise once that went missing for a year and magically re-appeared, so it's not just cats...


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