I was 12 years old when my father bought our family’s first computer in 1986. It was an IBM XT Turbo, and it quickly earned much of my attention. In those days, I was primarily interested in playing sports and running through woods, pretending to be a soldier with my friends. The computer, however, proved to be my second love.
I soon discovered the joys of games free unblocked. I was especially drawn to flight simulators and spent a number of hours honing my skills in titles such as Chuck Yeager’s Advanced Flight Trainer. Despite the considerable amount of time I spent on the computer over the following years, however, I did not truly become a “gamer” until 1999.
It was that year that Sony Online Entertainment released Everquest, a massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) that would help give rise to the entire gaming industry. I was in the Air Force at the time and serving within the intelligence field. Being a bit of a geek who worked with numerous like-minded geeks, I quickly found a growing community of friends and co-workers who shared my love of this new, groundbreaking game.
I have never felt terribly drawn to linear games like those traditionally played on consoles, but Everquest was altogether different. As with other MMORPGs, the developers designed this title to function as a “sandbox” experience – which is to say that they developed a detailed, immersive world with countless options in which a player and his online companions could band together and create their own experiences. In Everquest, this rich, dangerous world was known as Norrath.
Like most games, Everquest went through a number of changes. Upon its initial release, the game was limited to the main continent, known as Antonica, and two islands, Faydwer and Odus. In the early days, something as simple as traveling from one location to another was a grand adventure. There were no quick means of getting from one location to another, other than finding a Druid willing to “teleport” the player to a different location and moving about frequently involved deadly encounters with very unhappy creatures. Thanks largely to such difficulty and the amount of time invested in something as simple as moving from one locale to another, Everquest proved to be a highly engaging world that quickly gripped the player’s imagination.
Over the years, developers added a number of new areas to the game’s geography and eventually provided less stressful and time-consuming means of travel. I believe the changes to travel were made largely in order to keep up with newer games in which travel had been made less stressful. The MMORPG player community, from my perspective, had begun to gravitate toward games that removed much of the stress involved in moving about the game world, and Everquest developers seemed to recognize this trend.
From the day I installed Everquest and created my first character, a Woodelf Ranger, I was hooked. I soon discovered that numerous co-workers had also purchased the game, and thus joined a growing community of gamers who enjoyed each other’s company within Everquest for years to come. My life is such that I can no longer devote much time to gaming and cannot honestly call myself a gamer anymore, but I do reinstall Everquest from time to time just so I can experience the nostalgia once again.
Many MMORPG titles have been released since 1999 when Everquest hit the stage, and some have been wildly successful. But perhaps none have achieved the kind of staying power illustrated by Everquest during its 13 years of existence. Although it is dated in some regards when compared to the current generation of games, Everquest nonetheless remains one of the most immersive experiences ever to grace the gaming industry. It still boasts an active, loyal community and the developers continue to produce expansions on a regular basis. In fact, a staggering total of 18 expansions have been created for Everquest to date. Few games maintain enough popularity and longevity to boast such continued success.
Just as importantly, Everquest has achieved immortality in that it largely influenced the MMORPGs which followed. Regardless of what happens in the future, I believe Everquest will always remain the gold standard of MMORPG design and the unforgettable experience that started it all. If you play an online role-playing game, chances are you owe at least part of that experience to the examples set by Everquest’s developers.