Monday, September 26, 2022

There's Coming Back and There's Going Back...

Well... it seems I'm back playing Chimeraland again, at least for the next week or two, so I guess that "Come back, we missed you" offer did just what it was meant to do. I logged in once then logged in the next day and the day after that, but more importantly I didn't just turn up, grab the gifts and leave. I hung around for a while. I was there for couple of hours today.

Some progress was made. Fria, my one and only character in the Steam edition of the game, was in the high teens when I woke her up a couple of days ago. She's in the low twenties now. My house is a bit bigger. I have a pet and an attendant.

I did think about starting over from scratch since I wanted to see how the new player experience and the tutorial had changed but I decided against it - for now. It would hardly have been a big commitment if I'd re-rolled. I only had a couple of hours played time in the new version of the game. 

The hard choice was made when I moved from the SEA server I was on to start over in the Western release. I'm not sure how many hours I had over there but I would imagine it must have been close to three figures. 

I'm still not convinced I'm done with that character, either. I might want to check whether the "Return to Chimeraland" offer applies to all versions of the game. If it does I might just have to go back just for that. 

If I did, it would have to be either a quick drive-by or I'd have to stay there for good. The idea of playing two versions of Chimeraland side-by-side is terrifying, even though it's exactly the kind of thing I would have done without blinking fifteen or twenty years ago.

When I look back at the way I played EverQuest for the first few years, it seems almost ubelievable, not so much that I did it but that I really loved doing it that way and advocated for it as a preferable playstyle. I had characters on something like a dozen servers and I was theoretically levelling them all. And it wasn't even one character per server - I had half a dozen or more on some servers and two or three on most where I played.

A normal evening's play for me would consist of swapping between three or four servers, adding a few per cent of a level to a ranger here, maybe half a bubble to a necromancer there... Is it any wonder it took me over a year, playing forty hours a week, to get my first character to fifty, which wasn't even the level cap any more?

When I think back on it now it seems like a different world and a different me. Reading Wilhelm talking about going back to Wrath of the Lich King, hoping it lives up to his memories of how it felt the first time around makes me wonder if I'll ever have that same desire, or if I even want it.

That's not to imply I'm done with EverQuest, or any of my old favorites. I often get the urge to revisit my old haunts. It happened this morning. 

For some reason I can't explain, unless it was the sudden, unheralded flickering back to life of The EverQuest Show, reminding me of that game's glory days, I woke up with a singular desire to make a fresh gnome in Ak'Anon and run him (Or more probably her.) to Freeport or Qeynos. I was even musing on recording the whole thing and editing the footage into a video to post on my YouTube channel, thereby to be included, of course in a lengthy post here.

As I was turning it over in my mind I started to get flashbacks of all the other times I done the same thing or something very similar - Freeport to Grobb to Qeynos to Highpass to Freeport to Neriak - all the classics in every direction, there and back again, uphill in the rain, pursued by a bear. There are whole sections of runs I did two decades ago that I remember with greater clarity than anything I've done this year. 

And that's the crux of it. I do remember them that clearly. If I want to relive the experience I just have to close my eyes and think about it. Would doing any of it all over again it make it feel any more immediate, any more vital?

Maybe. I'm not going to go and find out, or not right now, anyway. What I also remembered as clearly as anything is how long it takes and how, even in the new, kinder, softer EQ, how many things can go wrong and how frustrating it can be when they do. 

Last time (Or maybe it was the time before last.) I tried to run a gnome necromancer from Ak'Anon to Freeport I couldn't even get the little bugger on the ship! I'd forgotten how kill crazy those bastard dwarf guards are. I do not want to go through that again!

I'm starting to wonder if I'm finally coming out of my old school mmorpg phase. These days I find newer games a lot more intriguing and entertaining. I'd never say never to going back to an old favorite for just one more run but I'm finding it harder to imagine settling down in an older game for an extended stay.

There was WoW Classic three years ago, of course. I had a great time with that one for a couple of months; really bedded down, dug in, played old school hours, made alts, the whole nine yards. If it hadn't been for the big Blizzard blow-up I might have lasted a while longer but even then I'd probably have been gone by Christmas. Still, that would have been four months and four months is a long run these days.

The thing is, I never did play WoW in the early days. WoW Classic was a new game to me. It did have that crucial element of discovery that drives my engagement much more reliably than nostalgia ever could.

All of which brings me back to the post I thought I was going to write tonight, namely whether the big change to Chimeraland since I last played, the re-translation of all the narrative, quest and explanatory text into good, grammatically correct English, has made gameplay there more or less compelling. Is a game more fun when the systems and mechanics are clearly explained or when you have to figure them out for yourself?

Sadly, though, we seem to have run out of time! Hold that thought. I'll come back to it later.


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