If you read this blog at all, you are well aware that I like to reminisce about the good old golden days of EQ2 as it was in November of 2004. The joys of The Far Journey, the expansive character creation, the wonders of the Isle of Refuge, the citizenship quests, the village NPCs with their voice-overs, the challenging mobs, the very slow leveling curve, the death penalties, the uninflated economy.
It’s hard, even for me, to remember just exactly what all has changed since that time. In my mind, it seems like yesterday. A short perusal of the Internet leads to some interesting discoveries, though. First up, this extensive, 5-page review posted by IGN way back on November 29, 2004. The review is interesting to look at in hindsight for a couple of reasons: one, it’s actually a great, fair, well written review, and two, it’s pages are filled with reminders of just exactly what the game was like during the first month. In particular, the discussion about the unique progression path that new players took, working their way up to level 20 and their final class selection. This is long gone from EQ2, and I sometimes wonder why. Next, the EQ2 Vault at IGN. The Vault is interesting because sections of it haven’t been updated since 2005, including this beginner’s guide, which outlines pretty much everything about the game as it was, at launch, for a new character starting out, including screen shots. Finally, how about the seemingly defunct IGN “wiki” which outlines Graystone Yard quests as they originally were. Sometime in late 2005, most of the “flavor” quests were removed from all the 12 villages, and replaced by more focused racial and starting quest lines. Yes, those original quests were fetch quests, but they made the villages feel alive, and the lack of direction, call me crazy, actually made the game feel a little more, well, adventuresome!
Some players will know that the original tutorial aboard the Far Journey was removed when the Isle of Refuge was turned into the Queen’s Colony and the Outpost of the Overlord, respectively. The ability to see and play with races of another alignment, even for just 6 levels, was unique to the Isle. Then, if you could, you made your choice with Captain Vardalos, went to your new home city, and started your life. Somehow, that seemed much more organic than just being plopped down randomly in some starting area. That island holds more fond memories for me than all 4 of the current starter areas put together, to be honest. It’s truly a shame that it is gone, but gone it is, and along with them, the city villages themselves. In the recent revamp of the cities, the villages were sent away for good. It didn’t matter, though, because by that point, all of their purpose had been gradually stripped away, anyhow.
The point is – in retrospect, there was a lot that actually worked, even if it wasn’t appreciated at the time.
While I recognize that many, if not all, of the changes were made in an effort to save the game’s not-meeting-expectations population, open it to the masses, make it more friendly to the people playing WoW, which launched in December 2004, and ultimately meet the bottom line, I truly feel that we’ve come a long, long way in the MMO market, dare I say even full circle.