The “Get To Know” line of articles are built to get a better impression of what I love/hate, and why, through a more direct means. While my tastes have been quite unconventional to the “norm” we’ve seen, I feel as if it’d be beneficial to run a series of articles that go into what I adore, and deplore, about gaming, and why.
I alluded to a major project I was going to work on throughout 2018, but due to repeated illnesses, I was unable to produce a healthy enough queue to get it going. That project was going to be my top 100 games of all-time, in which I would go into a great bit of detail on each game, and why it has a position on said list.
With this miniseries I have going with Get To Know, it’s given me a renewed sense of urgency to try and get some portion of this project revealed and shared with everyone. Instead of being overly ambitious, I’ll truncate the list to a top 25; that’s more than enough to show the kinds of games I adore the most, and the genres that they represent.
Lets recap the entire list, up until now:
- 25. Persona 5 (PS4)
- 24. River City Ransom (NES)
- 23. Super Mario Galaxy (Wii)
- 22. Final Fantasy Tactics Advance 2 (NDS)
- 21. Perfect Dark (N64, 360)
- 20. The Legend of Zelda: a Link to the Past (SNES)
- 19. Mass Effect (360, PC)
- 18. Super Mario 64 (N64)
- 17. Champions of Norrath (PS2)
- 16. Mega Man 3 (NES)
- 15. Super Metroid (SNES)
- 14. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (N64)
- 13. StarSiege (PC)
- 12. Super Mario Bros. 3 (NES)
- 11. Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic (XB, PC)
- 10. Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas (PS2)
- 09. Yoshi’s Island: Super Mario World 2 (SNES)
- 08. Super Mario Odyssey (Switch)
- 07. Super Mario Galaxy 2 (Wii)
- 06. Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike (ARC, XB, PS2, DC, 360, PS4, Switch)
- 05. Final Fantasy III/VI (SNES)
- 04. Suikoden (PS1)
- 03. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (Wii U)
- 02. Mass Effect 3 (360, PC, Wii U, PS3)
So what game did I choose as my all-time favorite game?
1 – EverQuest
- Developer: Verant Interactive (former), Sony Online Entertainment (former), Daybreak Games (current)
- Publisher: 989 Studios (former), Sony Online Entertainment (former), Daybreak Games (current)
- Platform: PC
- Genre: MMORPG
- Release date: 3/16/99
- Rating: N/A
What is EverQuest?
One of the granddaddies of the MMORPG genre, EverQuest is a 19 year old MMORPG with 24 (and counting) expansions, countless zones, thousands of items and just as many memories created.
What warrants EverQuest‘s inclusion on this list?
When I first started piecing this list together (when it was a Top 100), I knew that EverQuest was going to end up somewhere on it. It wasn’t until I decided to cut the list by 3/4 that I sat down and thought about each and every game that would make the cut, and how much of an impact it left on me. Not so much just that it left an impact, but how much it meant to me, how much I loved it, what I ended up learning from my time with it.
It didn’t really begin to hit me until I put it in my top five initially. I took a look at each title I had in that top five (the same five that you all saw), and I took the time to think back on the ones I hadn’t played recently, and then play the one I still play today – EverQuest. Each of these five titles have had a significant meaning to me; Breath of the Wild came out during a time where my health was still in shambles, and it was something to help deal with what was going on – an escape, yet it wasn’t. Mass Effect 3‘s multiplayer was one of the most purely fun and addicting experiences a game ever provided me, one that I’m trying to dip back into for the PC. Suikoden‘s story and soundtrack are still beyond compare. Final Fantasy VI has been a JRPG that I’ve dipped back to countless times, thanks to how near flawlessly every piece fit together, and how enthralled I became when I started a new game.
EverQuest though….it’s probably meant more to me, and has done more for me than just about every game I have played combined.
Lets try to understand what EverQuest is, at heart. One of the first and most notable massive multiplayer online roleplaying games (MMORPG), EverQuest is a fantasy title, where players choose one of 16 (14 at launch) classes, each class having a number of races that can play them. Through a majority of grouping with other players, you’ll earn experience, defeat mobs that may yield upgraded armor or weaponry, and in some situations, build friendships along the way. While you can fly solo, or just be a player that does group content (or boxes them), joining a guild and engaging in raid content will eventually earn upgrades of a more significant caliber, when compared to current group gear.
As the game evolved, group content, as well as raid content, became more complex. Named AE’s in group content became more potent, to the point where boxing, or even using a mercenary (an NPC-for-hire that was either a tank, cleric, caster DPS or melee DPS), was not the way to go. Same with raiding; where older raids were more about dealing enough DPS as fast as possible without worrying about any mechanics, later raids became more dynamic, with targeted emotes, directional emotes, auras, and so on.
There’s a whole lore and storyline that goes with each expansion and such; that was always on the backburner for me, as there were a number of other elements that superseded any desires to faithfully keep up with the ever-expanding story and world of EverQuest. I’d read a book of it all if one were produced about the very beginning of the series, right up until the current day product, just so it’s in an easier-to-follow format for me.
My earliest memories of EverQuest were as a half elf rogue on the Xegony server in early 2000. I had fell into a small pond in the town of Qeynos (Sony EQ spelled backwards) and wasn’t able to get out, and no one would help guide me out of this embarrassing situation. After that incident, I had found out that the man who owned GameSages (the then largest online video game code database, and website I first wrote for), Brian Preble, was playing the game, and offered to “twink” me (twinking meaning a higher level player giving a lower level character, whether theirs or someone else’s, items that would help make their leveling and progress early on that much easier). So I ditched my rogue and created a human warrior named Tyrannical on the Karana server (Tyrannical being a play off of the handle I used with GameSages, Tyrant).
The few items I got, looking back, weren’t that significant, but because of the decision to change servers based on the notion of being twinked, it began a chain reaction with EverQuest that, had I stayed on Xegony as a rogue, may never have gotten me to where I am today, for better or worse. For one, I don’t think I would have kept playing EverQuest, as even that little time as a rogue, I was not very fond of the class back then. Oddly enough, I actually do enjoy playing a rogue in my box crew.
Playing a warrior though, that was for me. That was me.
I spent about 35 real life days leveling Tyrannical up to about 36 in 2000. In that time, I had met a cast of characters that, for the most part, have long disappeared. One person though, never did disappear. She ended up becoming my best friend, who I affectionately think of as “the little sister I never had”. She started out playing a wood elf ranger, and then played a wood elf druid for a few years before she moved on from the game. Throughout all the good and bad that has transpired throughout the years, inside and outside of the game, she’s always been there for me. I owe her more than I could ever repay. 18 years later, we still talk to each other, and she still put up with me, somehow!
And that’s one of the most profound reasons why EverQuest is my all-time favorite game – the people I have met along the way.
Whether it’s dungeon crawling through the old ruins of Sebilis, or raiding alongside several dozen other people, trying to kill Gods in the Plane of Time, EverQuest is a community driven title. A predominant portion of players experiences are with other people, whether it be camping a named for a rare item, or being a part of a healing chain in a raid. I’ve met them all – from the most amazing people you could ever meet, to the absolute worst, most vile and despicable individuals imaginable, and everything in-between.
The most profound part about this though, is that no one person will ever share the same exact memory or time with EverQuest. Some will become close to those they meet from the game, others will find solace in doing tradeskills, minding their own business for the most part. There’s a little bit of everything for everyone, regardless of whether you’re a 19 year veteran, or someone just jumping in now, though there is quite a learning curve for a new player.
Going back to the game its self, I eventually let go of my human warrior, and remade him, starting from scratch (humans were virtually blind during the night, making combat, and especially traveling through some of the more treacherous zones, very unpleasant).
That warrior? A half elf named Galarian (yes, that’s where the name Galarian Gaming stems from).
As I leveled up more and made some more friends, I joined my first guild (well, second guild, the first one was mostly a newbie one). It didn’t last very long, and we never did any raiding content. A little while after that, I joined with a guild that did raid content, Valoran, who’s then leader and then succeeding leader actually lived nearby me in New York. That’s where this 18 year odyssey really began to take off, and when I began to broaden my horizons with EverQuest.
Eventually I hit the max level cap at that time (60, during the first expansion, Ruins of Kunark). My group gear was getting stronger and stronger, and that helped ease me into raid tanking, which was a vastly different beast than it is now. Before, raid mobs didn’t require a complex strategy; just DPS it as fast as you could, before AE’s or melee killed you. Hell, many early raids got so lagged, that we would crash the zone, and have to regroup in the chat rooms outside the servers.
Playing most every class at a high level in a raid (sans Magician and Shadowknight), there was no bigger thrill than playing a warrior. As a warrior, IMO, I felt like I was the glue that helped keep the raid from falling apart. That’s not to say that I was any more important than anyone else; there were healers healing me, DPS bringing the boss down, crowd control keeping adds away, and so on. The truth is everyone makes each other who they are through a unified effort. It’s hard to properly put it into words, but it felt like if I was tanking a raid mob, I was directing its overall raid placement, counting down my defensives, etc, with everyone else doing their parts as well. If I was second in line, I had to be sure that if the main tank died, that I didn’t die right away afterwards, throwing off the entire flow even more so. Regardless though, it was a unified effort, and there was no me, but we, when it came to raids.
Having a full understanding of your class was vital for raiding in EverQuest as well. As much as I love my necromancer, a class dependent on multiple damage over time spells, I don’t have the knowledge or know-how to be a DPS monster like the necromancers in my guild. I’ve been a raiding warrior since 2001, and while I know I have a strong feel for the class, I’ll always challenge myself and find new ways to better myself, and try to pass that knowledge down to warriors in my guild, and I learn a few things along the way as well.
Tanking, whether it’s a raid or grouping, is the biggest thrill I’ve ever had with a video game. Any MMORPG or action RPG, I start out as a warrior or whatever the equal class is for that game, because that’s the nature of how I play them. None of these games, other than, of all games, Star Wars: The Old Republic (while it lasted for me), ever gave me the satisfaction, thrill, addiction and love for playing a tank class like EverQuest has.
I’ve taken a number of breaks throughout the years. Took one from early 2003 til early 2005, early 2007 til 2009, and late 2010 til 2013. Each time I came back, it felt like a vastly different experience. I had made some poor decisions which led to me taking a break in 2003, and when I came back, I had to relearn how to play my warrior, gear him up again, and so on. With some of the friends I had from my first stint, I met a ton of new folks as well, a few of them I still talk to this day. I don’t think it was until this current run that I really understood warrior raid tanking, and how to properly apply myself to it. I had the grasp of it, but it wasn’t until this run I’ve been on, where I’ve got it down to a science.
When I came back in 2009, I joined a server called Mayong, which offered a level 51 character with 50 AA’s (alternate advancement points, which help permanently boost existing skills, or gain new ones). I went ahead and started a monk, a class I had played quite a bit in the early 2000’s, even at raid level, and one I had a deep love for. It was a radical departure to not be taking the majority of the damage for the raid, and instead, dealing that damage back.
Finally, I came back in 2012/2013, and other than a three month break due to major health issues and a few one month breaks, I haven’t stopped. If anything, I have slowed down considerably, but still do raids. I don’t have the time to do much else outside of them, outside progression when a new expansion launches. That’s not to say my heart isn’t still in it, but there are far too many obligations I need to tend to, which eliminates any time I can spend off-raid hours.
It’s not just about playing the game and making friends, as I’ve actually learned a myriad of things about life, thanks to the inordinate amount of time I’ve spent with EverQuest over the last 18 years. I’ve always been more of an introvert throughout most of my life, and I’ve actually learned to be more assertive and less reserved overall, thanks to responsibilities within the game. That’s not to say I’m the center of attention wherever I go, it’s just that I am not always in the back of the room, trying not to be seen. It forced me to be assertive, much more attentive, handle a plethora of questions and requests at once, help inspire literally dozens of others players all at the same time, and so on. Through these online tasks, I’ve opened up considerably more, and used many of these aspects in my everyday life.
Being an officer of a guild twice now, and for as long as I have been, I gained some insight on how to lead and inspire a group of people. Dealing with dozens of people on any given night as well, has helped shaped my patience, though there are times and days when my patience doesn’t last. There’s a lot of multi-tasking that goes on, and being on the ball with everything all at once is no easy feat. It’s definitely not an easy role, and it challenges me every night I raid, but it’s made me a better person because of it. It’s helped me understand much more about people, nuances, quirks and such. It’s helped me when I was an assistant manager at a game store in the late 2000’s, and was an essential set of lessons that I learned for when I helped do some public relations work with Chocolate Lemon. Now that I think about it, the benefits gained from my leadership roles, have paid off quite a bit more than I’ve ever given it credit for.
That’s not to say I love everything about EverQuest; some balancing issues frustrate the hell out of me, as well as some decisions on the content that comes out. I remember leveling my paladin when I had came back in 2013 because it seemed as if warriors were the worst choice of the three tank types, but a number of buffs helped bring them to the forefront once more. Also, I haven’t had in-game music or sound effects on (minus audio triggers) since 2006, cause it feels like it detracts from what I am trying to do. Usually I’ll blast some of my own music (as you’ll notice in these videos I have here). There’s a number of smaller issues that add up, but as a whole, the significance of EverQuest in both gameplay and what it’s done and meant for me as a person, cannot be measured.
Speaking of blasting my own tunes, I’ve had countless playlists throughout the years. It’s always felt like the music helped evoke a stronger emotion to the battle going on, and no matter whether I am at home or I am across the country on my laptop, there’s no way I will raid without music blasting away in my ears. There’s been an odd constant throughout the years, with newer songs thrown in here and there as I discover newer songs in general. Slipknot’s been a constant throughout the years, with some Metallica here and there. Lately my go-to track when I am tanking something major is Fozzy’s Wormwood. The biblical connotations may seem at odds with the action going on, but it’s a banger to listen to, and it exudes emotion throughout. Being a 14+ minute track almost covers the entirety of some events as well, so no shuffling around to find something to fill a gap.
There are so many stories I could tell from the last 18 years that I’ve played EverQuest. Perhaps my favorite one has to do with the third expansion, the Scars of Velious (maybe my all-time favorite expansion).
There was a quest item called the Eyepatch of Plunder, with a right click ability that gave melee players I believe a 20% haste for ten minutes (which was massive back then for melee DPS without an enchanter or shaman nearby). The bulk of the quest was collecting four map pieces, with two of them being the most difficult to obtain – one was from a giant turtle named Lodizal that spawned every 10-12 hours (and at that time, you needed two groups to defeat it). The other piece was from a griffon named Stormfeather.
I think I had tried to camp this mob several times before, without any luck. Stormfeather was a once every 16-18 hour pop (would sometimes skip its spawn time), and oftentimes it would be camped by others doing the same quest. So one day I decided to put my foot down and stay at that camp until it spawned. The hours went by, with nothing popping up on the snow capped island I was camping. Hour after hour came and went, still no Stormfeather.
Then hour 30 came. I was awake for 31 hours more or less in total, and that’s when I started to crack. I could remember giggling to myself every so often over absolutely nothing. I zoned out hardcore, staring at my monitor with the blankest of expressions. About 34 hours in, I actually started hallucinating. I reached the 36 hour mark and I just couldn’t stand it anymore. The manic laughing at nothing, seeing things in the game that weren’t actually there, being so dead tired that I decided to give this quest up once and for all. Luckily it was about 9:30am Sunday morning and my best friend had just woken up to check on me. She said she would log me on and continue camping it for me while I slept.
And boy did I have an Odinsleep. I was out cold for 16+ hours. When I came to, I logged on and saw my Eyepatch of Plunder in my bags. When I asked the next day how long it took for her to get Stormfeather, she replied “it popped a few minutes after you went to bed”.
There were a number of other hilarious instances I can go on and on about, like the time I tanked a dragon without pants on. I mean, not literally, but in-game. I think I was in the middle of switching to a new pair of greaves for my warrior that night and somehow forgot to equip the new pair. Then I had to tank a quest dragon named Dozekar the Cursed in the Temple of Veeshan, one of the two end game content zones in the Scars of Velious expansion. So I went ahead and did, completely forgetting that I had no pants on. What makes that story even more baffling is taking into consideration the statistical drop I took by dropping my pants, impacting my health pool and armor class. Yet I didn’t die.
Then there were the truly euphoric moments that have never been replicated, nor could they ever be. In the aforementioned zone, my guild Valoran (League of Legends so stole that from us, I’m convinced) had finally reached the final dragon, Vulak’Aerr, in the Northern wing of the Temple of Veeshan, from the Scars of Velious expansion. I was second in the tank order, and we had a miscue, which led to the tank ahead of me using his defensive discipline (defensive discipline is a warrior skill that lets them mitigate damage better for about three minutes, with about a 10-11 minute refresh). So instead of waiting for his defensive to pop back up, we went ahead and mad me tank Vulak’Aerr.
This was a time before GINA triggers that would tell classes when to duck out and away from an AE, so because of this, and with Vulak’s AE being a lifetap, it elongated the fight substantially. I basically stood there tanking it for just about thirty straight minutes without dying – something unheard of back in those days. Mod rods being popped, necromancers feeding clerics mana, it was insane. Bar none, that was probably the most memorable, enjoyable and greatest gaming moment I have ever had – going nearly thirty minutes with this dragon on me, while dozens of other people around me were either healing me, or dealing damage to this massive winged foe.
I’ve been the #1 geared warrior in two different decades – 2000’s (ahead of Furor Planedefiler who, oddly enough, went on to work with Blizzard and with World of Warcraft) and 2010’s, as well as being the #1 geared monk in this decade. I’ve more or less done it all, won it all (outside of Best of the Best competitions, as they came before my time had arrived). None of those accolades comes close to a marathon tanking session of epic proportions like that.
The scary thing about this all is that EverQuest has reached its 19th anniversary, and is slowly creeping towards its 20th anniversary; the playerbase isn’t what it used to be, and it’s become more of a niche MMORPG. Folks that play EverQuest are a rare and dying breed of gamer – one that doesn’t appreciate hand-holding in their games, much like the big MMORPG’s out there do. It takes a lot of effort to complete things, which is a bonus and detriment for anyone who would be interested in getting into the game. Now that I think about it, I’ve been playing this game off and on for nearly half of my life, and I’ve known people that I’ve become good friends with for over half their lives, if not longer.
I’ve seen a number of MMORPG’s close down over the years. From City of Heroes to Star Wars Galaxies, they were incredibly saddening to see disappear, even if my playtime with both wasn’t what it was originally. It gets me worried about seeing EverQuest disappear as well. Sure, there are alternate servers that are based off of the Scars of Velious code, ran by independent properties, but that’s not the same for me, and will never be so. Thankfully it doesn’t seem like there’s an end in sight, as the 25th expansion is being worked on and entering beta as we speak.
Most of the screenshots are from the last year or two that I’ve logged onto EverQuest. It’s absolutely heartbreaking realizing that, while putting this piece together, I’ve misplaced an old CD full of screenshots from 2001-2007. Those were some of the most fond memories I had with the game. It was a time when encounters were a bit more straightforward, and even though I was killing dragons every week, it always felt fresh, new and daring. I did manage to find an incredibly small handful that I added here and there, though I wish I was able to recover some of the classics from years past.
Looking back, I can’t really pinpoint the single run out of the four or so I’ve had, as my most favorite. Innumerable memories were created in each run, countless people were met, and so much was learned. There was an evolution that occurred, from day one to the present, in not just the game mechanics, but who I am as well. From the more straightforward gameplay and my erratic, oftentimes childish behavior and reactions, to more intricate raid and group designs, as well as being a lot more level-headed and trying to be a leader with whatever I set out to do, with a number of other aspects that have bled into my life outside the game. As EverQuest changed, so have I, and sitting back, putting this all together, it’s almost surreal seeing such an evolution in both parties.
It’s safe to say that EverQuest has made a larger impact on my life than any other game, by leaps and bounds. While it’s been a blast doing things in-game, while it’s been a thrill and a half playing my warrior throughout the years, while the game its self has constantly evolved and changed the way group and raid content is played, the biggest impact EverQuest has made is in the people I’ve met, the memories we’ve shared, and how it’s helped to mold me into who I am today. Having bonds of friendship that have transcended the game its self, is something no other game has provided me.
As I’m writing this (back in March), I am preparing to come back from a break I took after the guild I’m an officer in, Crimson Tempest, had another top 3 serverwide performance. The final video in this piece is the final raid of the current expansion, first attempt, and the last time I had logged on. I had the mindset of retiring and saying goodbye once and for all to EverQuest, as I couldn’t see how I could go out any higher than I did there. The thing is, I just don’t want to walk away. Time (and health) has taken me away from playing in a more consistent manner, but I just enjoy spending my time in Norrath, hacking and slashing away at dragons, orcs, gnolls and the ilk. On top of that, and more importantly, I just enjoy the company I have while doing so.
Fast forward to about late October, and I’m still at it, again, not as much as I’d like to be, but enough to be present for most raid nights. Daybreak Games announced the 25th expansion, The Burning Lands, and is slated for a December release date. Crimson Tempest has lost a couple of outstanding people/players, gained a number more, have dealt with folks with ill intentions, that saw karma dance her way in for both parties, and so much more. I feel that even to this day, I am continuing to learn from each night I play, not so much about raid mechanics and such, but how to better handle situations, questions, issues and such. The social dynamics manage to always keep me on my toes, though some nights it can be a bit overwhelming. It’s definitely an experience that I’ll never have again outside of this game.
EverQuest has done what no other game has accomplished for me – it gave me something enjoyable to play, with some amazing people, while learning actual life traits and skills that my otherwise introverted self may not have learned in the means that they were acquired. It’s been both, a learning tool (in regards to dealing with different types of people, managing them, etc), as well as a teaching tool (helping lead raids, trying to pass down my knowledge to others, while learning from them as well). More memories have been created from literally tens of thousands of hours that I’ve put into EverQuest, than every other video game that I’ve played combined. I’ve made a good number of friends that to this day, I still keep in contact with, and will continue to stay in contact with. I know I’ll likely never encounter a game quite like this again in my life.
And I don’t think I’d have it any other way.
Tanking without pants on. Surviving DT’s. One tanking dragons for 30 minutes.
Galarain iz uber.