After my nostalgia post a few days ago I’ve spent some time thinking about just how many things we have now that we take for granted.
I’ve made no secret of the fact that I played EQ. A lot of it. I’m both proud and embarrassed by the fact that I burned the original UI into an old CRT monitor, I played it so much.
There’s so much in a modern MMO UI though. So much information at your fingertips, either always visible or at the push of a button. Things we now expect without a thought for what came before.
The first thing that comes to mind is the overall strength of a mob in relation to you. That’s typically either displayed at all time or easily visible once it’s targeted. EQ had a “consider” command that would give you an extremely approximate indication of your chances. It was color coded and the text, which you had to read, would indicate how aggressive it was towards you. I feel like the original scale from least to most dangerous was green, blue, black, yellow, red. Green was irrelevant, blue was generally weaker, black was about the same, yellow was stronger than you, a risky move, and red, well. The text for red was “What would you like your tombstone to say?” Now we play games where we make this same sort of judgement on the fly by comparing our level and it’s level. We also usually use the name color to indicate if it’s aggressive or not. It’s such a small change, one I haven’t really spent much time thinking about until now.
Another big one is navigation. We didn’t have in-game maps either. Nor did we have a mini-map or even a compass. Yeah, there was a skill called “Sense direction” that would tell you which way you were facing but you had to be constantly clicking that thing forever before it became reliable enough to use. Of course I eventually learned that the clouds in the skybox always moved the same direction, which made the skill mostly irrelevant. We did have some maps online though. There were people who spent their time using the “loc” command to make line drawing maps of each zone, eventually complete with roads and points of interest. Now most games have all this information available in-game. No more binders full of maps somebody spent hours making.
Hotbars though. Man, there were so many weird things about the EQ hotbar/spell/skill system. I think the original “hotbar” in the traditional sense had six slots. There was a separate fixed ui for spell slots along the left side of the screen. You had to drag an drop the “spell crystals” from your spellbook into these slots manually. I feel like it had a timer attached to it too, but that was so long ago, my memory is fuzzy. Another wild thing was that in vanilla you would only regen mana when you were “meditating” yet another skill. This only took place when you had the spellbook open, covering your entire field of view. It also sat you down when you opened it. Mob AI tended to prioritize these vulnerable targets and hits on a sitting person were automatic crits. It was eventually changed so that merely sitting would engage the meditate skill so you could at least see when Fippy Darkpaw was about to cut your finger off.
Another wild aspect of this is that when you died, it cleared your memorized spells. This meant that when you died you had to set that spell bar back up. One spell at a time, with a timer. Imagine having to set your hotbar back up every time you died in a modern MMO.
Speaking of death, corpse runs now are such a huge improvement. EQ just spawned you naked, no gear, cleared hotbar. You had to run back to your corpse and loot your stuff off of it. This was especially inconvenient if you died in a fairly dangerous location because you had to blow past aggressive mobs and hope you can reach safety before they kill you. Again. Permanent xp loss from repeated deaths was brutal. There were better ways, but there would be times where you didn’t even know where exactly you died. It was common to see someone shouting out the question “has anyone seen my corpse?”
Speaking of experience loss, I haven’t heard the concept of “hell levels” mentioned in several years. For some reason, when they established the formula that determines the amount of xp to level up, they decided that certain levels should be obscenely high. I’m looking at an approximated table and it looks like these levels required as much experience to get through as the level before and after combined. That is to say, it took more experience to get through level 30 than it did 31, 32, 33, 34, or 36. 35 isn’t listed because it’s another hell level. It was pretty much every 5 starting at 30 and going through 45. It also applied to some of the higher levels after the cap was raised, but was slightly less severe. I don’t know the math behind xp loss on death but it was generally accepted that death penalties were more severe for these levels as well. This spreadsheet says you would need to solo 95 even con mobs to get through level 30.
Doesn’t sound like much though. Even to me I’m kinda like “That’s it? Seems like it took a lot longer than that.” Then I remember just how much downtime you would have soloing even cons. Assuming you were in a position to do so, full health, no adds, etc, you’d be sitting on the ground waiting for health/mana to regenerate for 5-10 minutes between each one. A full group could maintain a much faster pace, but would around 472 even con kills and that’s assuming everyone in the group is roughly the same level. There’s a lot of weird math here that involves comparing xp totals instead of actual levels. It was possible to have the exact same xp total and be different levels due to race/class modifiers.
So to mirror my previous sentiment, I will always love the fun times, experiences, and people. I would totally not enjoy EQ as a game unless I had a full 6-man group of friends and we all played together on Project99. I actually don’t have that many friends and family that I think would enjoy the experience. I can think of four, myself included. That would be a challenge, but may be possible with a well planned party, I don’t know. I’ll file it for later and maybe someday I’ll be bothered. In the meantime I have plenty of other great MMOs to choose from now, with great QoL improvements.
I will always love Qeynos, even if it is just Sony EQ spelled backwards.