A Medium Pace
May 26, 2006 17:36:00

As I inferred in my last article, the unthinkable, the classic EverQuest has captured my fancy once again, and it isn't a passing visit this time. I'm back in with some goals, a guild of old friends, and an itch to see the last four and a half expansions that I never explored.

The first thing you're thinking is that I've lost my mind. The second is that I'm going through a nostalgic phase. You're right about the first, but not the second. My entrance back into EQ1 certainly started with a "nothing else looks good tonight, let's visit EQ for the evening" but it turned into something else. My old EQ guild is still there. Some new faces, but much of the original group is still there. To say they are a family style guild is an understatement. They are THE family style guild. There is a core dozen complete with a mom and pop style leadership team that never leaves EQ for longer than a standard maternity leave and probably another dozen that can be considered regulars. Probably two dozen more that pop in and out with some consistancy. The guild is thriving. This family style guild may not be cleaning up end game content, but they are taking down some big bosses and making plenty of progress on the second set of epic weapons.

Unlike most people's EQ re-visits, which end in a blank friends list and the realization that their ornate planar armor is practically vendor trash, mine resulted in an instant group invite and being whisked away to fight while I was still trying to interpret my UI settings. This first trip ended up being a virtual sales pitch. We landed in a camp and the mobs were pulled. Luckily another monk was there so I didn't have to pull a new area before I even got my pants on. Mobs were killed, I figured out my buttons, and I noted that my xp bar was in fact moving at a good rate. Nothing all that exciting yet, and then our shaman, the only healer in the group, got some nasty aggro and got blicked. Well, for those of you who haven't played EQ1, the death of a high level character results in a massive xp loss and respawning back in town in your birthday suit. Your corpse and all your gear stay where you fell until you either A) walk back and loot your corpse or B) are resurrected by another player. The res still means you have to loot your corpse, but you're teleported back to it and you recover a majority of the lost xp. In this case, we didn't have a player capable of resurrecting our healer. A shout went out to nearby groups requesting assistance. It only took a couple seconds for a kind response indicating that a helpful cleric in the zone was willing to res our teammate as long as we dragged the corpse to him. Fair enough. Our other monk went off with the corpse in tow while the rest of us waited. Downtime. It is supposed to be bad right?

Downtime is why EQ's community is strong. We chatted about random EQ and non-EQ topics while we awaited the return of our 5th and 6th team members. They delay was a perfectly acceptable amount of time with a built in diversion: companionship. It was during that downtime that I took note of something that hadn't occurred a single time during my time in Lineage, Warcraft, Auto Assault or City of Heroes. Real communication. Surely there are instances of this every day in WoW or L2, but on the whole, idle discussion is something that is shunned in those games. Serious conversation only occurs when there is either a raid getting under way, or guild drama already under way. This isn't because the tools aren't there. It is because the pace of the game makes conversation difficult and the design makes it somewhat unnecessary. Any battle-time communication (beyond a few words) is impossible within the recent generation of MMOGs, and if Huxley, Tabula Rasa, DDO, and Spellborn are any indication of the future, less and less communication will be taking place.
How much time do you have to communicate strategies or build guild ties when you're playing Quake? (BTW: VOIP is not necessarily an appropriate or desirable solution in a role-playing environment.)

I often hear complaints regarding the demeanor of people in WoW, Auto Assault, Lineage, RF Online and Guild Wars, and yet, I see little issue in either EverQuest title. Is this a function of the patience these two games require, or is it purely a matter of pacing? Having a pace that allows people to truly get to know one another has a behavior modifying affect on (most of) us. The moment players are no longer completely anonymous is the moment they tend to start acting like responsible MMOG citizens. EverQuest's pacing, which is the subject of much complaint, does a better job of facilitating mature communities than any other MMOG. It isn't even necessary to begin listing the ways a strong and positive community can improve the overall gaming experience.

You might think this is the only reason EQ is the best MMOG to date, but I've hardly begun.

To be continued?

Submitted by Brent on May 26, 2006 17:36:00 CST (comments: 0)


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