Then koogrr encouraged me to reminisce, so blame him.
Lut and I started playing EverQuest maybe a month or two after it came out, back in 1998. I kept playing, more-or-less continuously, until 2001 or so.
One of the things about starting a new MMORPG shortly after its debut is that everyone else was new to it, too. I didn't realize how much this affected EQ until much later. But when I started EQ, the level cap was 50, and there weren't any people anywhere near that high. The really high level characters were maybe in their 30s. My mother had started a week or two before us, and I thought her 11th level paladin was wow! Powerful!
If there were fan-made websites offering all the tips and tricks, I didn't know about them. I opened the box and installed the game and played, and I had no idea what I was doing.
Neither did anyone else.
The "attack" key was bound to the space bar. My first character died three times trying to talk to her guildleader. Twice from trying to type before hitting the chat key and getting to the space bar, at which point my character would go *pif* at him and he would wipe the floor with her. Once from drowning. It took a long time for me to get used to the controls.
When your character died in EverQuest, your character respawned at his bind spot. His corpse, and all his stuff, remained whereever he'd died. In order to get the equipment back, you had to run your PC back to the corpse. The PC also lost a chunk of exp every time he died.
Which doesn't sound that bad, does it?
This is Everquest, so there are no resurrection spells of any kind until clerics reach 29th level. It's not until 39th that clerics got a res that restored XP.
Everquest didn't have in-game maps. Of any kind. At all. No mini-map. No full screen map. No radar with "you are here" on it. Nothing.
The box did come with a manual, which included a cloth map of the whole realm and maps for the individual starting cities. In some instances, these even bore a passing resemblance to the actual terrain. But in most cases, there wasn't much correlation between the two.
You got a skill, "sense direction". Like all other skills in EQ, you needed to practice sense direction in order to get good at it. You practiced by clicking the "sense direction" skill button whenever it recycled. It started at 0 and did not become useful until, I don't remember, skill rank 50 or so. Which took approximately two bazillion clicks to reach. For most of those first two bazillion clicks, this is the message you got:
"You have no idea which direction you are facing."
In one of EQ's many fine ironies, by the time you'd clicked on sense direction enough times that it would reliably give you a heading, you pretty much knew your way around anyway.
Until then, you spent a lot of time lost.
My mother's first character was a troll. The way out of the troll city was through a small, out-of-the-way cavern not marked on the manual's map. My mother spent half an hour trying to find the exit to the city. Finally, her character fell into a pond and drowned before she could get him out. He respawned outside the city: "Free at last!"
EQ had a day/night cycle. At night, it got dark. This was not a big deal for dark elves, who had UV vision and could see about as well at night as during the day. Humans, however, did not have any kind of night vision. When indoors or underground, various light sources worked reasonably well -- torches, candles, fire beetle eyes, and the much-coveted Greater Lightstone, that dropped off will o' wisps that could only be killed by magic weapons.
PCs didn't start with any of this, and none of it worked very well outdoors.
It was very dark at night.
EQ also had weather effects, like rain, which also cut down visibility.
So this is you, a human PC carrying a dead fire beetle's eye for light, hunting in the plains of West Karanas for lionesses at 5th level. It's night. It's raining. You have no idea which direction you are facing. Suddenly, an 8th level rabid grizzly looms up out of the shadow of a rain-slicked slope and mauls you. You flee screaming, as it chases you down and kills you. This is EQ: everything is as fast or faster than you. Only druids and shamans get a speed-increasing spell. It's the most popular spell in the game, but in the early days you still couldn't find a druid or shaman to cast it on you because we're all newbies and we don't know what we're doing. Also, no one is that high in level yet.
So you respawn back at your bind spot in Qeynos. You're only 5th level, and to keep the world from being carpeted with the bodies of dead newbies, the devs have -- no, not decided to spare you the pain of running back to your body and just give you your stuff back at respawn -- no, they've opted to make your corpse vanish after 30 minutes, whether you've gotten your stuff back yet or not. (Higher level PCs have 7 days RL or 24 hours in-game to get back to their bodies).
You run back to West Karanas as fast as your unenhanced feet can take you. It's still night, it's still raining, you still have no idea which direction you are facing.
"Has anyone seen my corpse?"
There was a /loc command in the game, which would give your coordinates on an XY grid (corresponding to no other tools available in the game -- remember, maps are not part of The Vision(tm)) so if you remembered to type that out in your blind ZOMG-it's-a-bear panic, you might be able to find your body on your own.
We spent many hours searching the plains of West Karanas for our bodies.
30s was the earliest that any class gained the ability to teleport other people around; I think wizards got a port for others at 32nd or 36th. In the early days, everyone walked everywhere.
You spent a lot of time walking. Well, running, actually. Characters could walk but no one ever did so except by accident, if they forgot to put their avatar into run mode.
Travel in EQ was dangerous. The newbie zones for various races and factions were separated by stretches of higher-level territory. The two major human cities, Qeynos and Freeport, were separated by the width of the continent.
I still remember the first two times we traversed that continent.
The first time was part of a player-run event, where a guild was chaperoning groups of twenty or more PCs from Qeynos to Freeport. There wasn't much safety in numbers: our guide was perhaps 20th and most of us were 6-15th. The guide knew the way and knew what to warn us about, "but if one of those griffons goes after you, you're toast. I can't take them, either." Monsters in EQ were color-coded when you "considered" them: green, blue, white, yellow, red, from least to most dangerous. You couldn't get a "this mob is 10th level" flag. If it was red to you at 5th, then you knew it was somewhere between 8th and 53rd.
We ran from Qeynsos to the Qeynos Hills, then across the West and East Karanas, through High Pass Hold -- the most dangerous part for us, full of teen-level gnolls, but they were kept at bay by packs of PCs killing them as they spawned -- through Kithicor Forest, across West and East Commons, and finally to Freeport.
It took about two hours.
I think we got back to Qeynos by putting all our stuff in the bank (magically, whatever you put in at one bank was available at any bank) and committing suicide.
The most difficult part of the run was that "you respawn at your bind point" bit. Casters got to bind at 12th, and cleric-types at 14th. You could bind yourself anywhere, but you could only bind other people at a city. The whole two-hour run from Qeynos to Freeport went through a total of one other city zone, High Pass Hold. If you didn't bind there, and you died in East Commons, you'd be back in Qeynos again.
I played EverQuest for three years. In that entire time, the devs never let melee classes bind anywhere but cities, or bind themselves. 60th level warriors still had to wait, begging, for a 12th level wizard to bind them at Halas before they could start fighting in the area without risking a two-hour corpse run.
There were these and dozens of other annoyances and inconveniences to playing the game. I haven't mentioned the lack of instanced dungeons, the kill-stealing, the 30-hour camps for rare spawns, the endless queue for the journeyman boots spawn, the 12-hour plane raids. Why did we put up with it?
Because we didn't know any better. Because it was the only MMORPG except for Ultima Online, which had even worse problems. Because we loved it even though we hated it.
It was awesomely terrible and terribly awesome.
That long run from Qeynos to Freeport (with Spirit of Wolf it was maybe only 45 minutes) was a noxious chore after the dozenth time, never mind the hundredth.
But that first time, it was an adventure.
I still remember getting on a boat for the first time, to sail from Qeynos to Erudin. I stood at the prow of the boat and watched the glittering graphics in awe. We didn't even make it all the way to Erudin. No one wants to wait 10 minutes to catch a boat that takes another 20 minutes to get you somewhere you can actually play. And yet ... that first time, it was magic.
I remember coming up out of the deep, dark, gnoll-riddled caves of Black Burrow to see the sheer blue-white ice walls of Everfrost rising around me, and it took my breath away.
Maybe it's because it was my first MMORPG. Maybe it's because it was so awful that it made for great stories. But when my parents first came to visit Lut and I, my mother and Lut and I would chatter nonstop about this or that thing in EQ. When I took brennabat to see my various Pacific Northwest relatives, we talked EQ with everyone who'd played and some people who didn't.
When I went to visit kagetsume, minor_architect and boingdragon, we spent more time talking about Mirari, the text-based RPG we'd played seven years ago, then City of Heroes, the MMORPG we were playing currently.
I've no interest in going back to EQ, not even if it was a living game now instead of an undead top-heavy husk. CoH is a far, far better game than EQ ever was, and its devs have a much better attitude towards their players.
And yet ....
I'm not actually sorry that I played EQ, either.
"In the snow! Both ways! And we LIKED IT!"