Everquest and Log Horizon…

Mayako Nigo rendered

So the guy who wrote Log Horizon novels, who is also the guy who wrote the Maoyu novels, plays Everquest. As someone who used to grind out late nights during my undergrad days in EQ, there’s a feeling, like some kind of radar signature, when I watch Log Horizon, that immediately identifies that “these are the same feels.” I immediately knew that whoever wrote this also did the same things I did, ran the same nasty corpse runs I ran, suffered through the same kind of mental drains that I did camping for crap, and all that, in EQ. In that way, Log Horizon is intriguing to me. And maybe only me, who knows? I don’t know too many people into anime that was into EQ at all. Anyone?

I always thought the stuff EQ put you through is nothing unusual by “today’s” terms. While that was true in 2002 or 2006 or even 2009, I’m not sure if it’s true in 2013 terms. I certainly don’t know how EQ is these days, now that it’s a full F2P game. Basically, no games today is as torturous as those early day MMORPGs; subsequent games simply have done the same things without the needless and painful details setting things up that way. Still, in a lot of ways EQ is the root of all these serious modern, western-style, full-immersive MMORPGs (along with UO, to an extent). World of Warcraft is pretty much extensively based on EQ, at least at first (I’d say all the way up to BC/LK era). In fact I remember getting into internet arguments about EQ2 versus WoW in terms of which is more of a derivative of EQ1, back in 2003 or 2004 or whenever it was. I think it’s pretty clear in hindsight. And with Sony buying EQ’s owner over time, I wonder how much of it bled into FFXI and now FFIV. Still, derivatives or not, EQ was a special thing back in 1999/2000, in a lot of ways, good and bad. And as someone who used to play MUDs, EQ was transformative in the same way Doom was transformative–its first/3rd person view changed the way the game was played.

Everquest’s impact on me is to the extent that I still think EQ is the game that defined me as MMORPG player. In episode 3 of Log Horizon, it explains that whole explore-new-territory thrill. As someone who’s done it (to an extent), it’s actually not so much thrilling as it is looking outside your window and seeing the sunrise, realizing you spent the past 12 hours in front of a computer climbing, I don’t know, The Tower of Frozen Shadow or something. You got to the zone boss and it’s bigger than the three of you can take on, so you call it a day after a silly wipe. And also because you got class in a couple hours. I really do not know how you can recapture that sort of exploration and adventure vibes in today’s MMORPGs, simply because it’s, heh, gone too deep in the database. It’s like the feeling of running in the plains of Egypt all by yourself, knowing no other soul came within a stone’s throw from where your character is standing, ever, because there were maybe 10k players for ATITD‘s first 3 tellings, and the thing felt more like “Full Gaia project” than anything. No popular game will be able to give you that sort of an experience, in this day and age. What we measure as popular has entirely transformed.

The lack of writing on this topic seems to reinforce my half-baked feelings about how relatively few people experienced EQ as I have, or as Mamare Touno. It’s all tempered by people who may have familiarity with generic MMORPG as typified by WoW. But WoW is sufficiently far from EQ in terms of “feels.” It wouldn’t send me into nostalgia trip every episode. It’s probably the only reason why I’m still watching the otherwise generic adventure anime. Well, “otherwise” because everything GOOD about Log Horizon, except maybe the moe or otaku elements, are basically the EQ-ness of it.

So in a way, Log Horizon anime is a great glimpse as to what drove a lot of people to play MMORPG during the genre’s formative days. It’s both about the gravity of social critical mass but also that the gameplay experiences built enough immersion to make adventuring a real feeling. Watching it and experiencing it second hand from media is certainly one way to share an otherwise elusive circumstance that’s within each’s reach.

PS. Full dive into nostalgia: I level an Enchanter for a while in EQ. From back then (I threw in the towel in Velious), it feels like the guy who is spinning plates while your party is focus-firing the mobs down. I mean, you literally went up to each mob and apply timer spells in order of your cooldowns and how long each spell lasted. And you sit the rest of the time (as a means to replenish mana). Actually you even do the same to your teammates to refresh their buffs. Needless to say if you are chain pulling groups of 4-5 a pack it really is like spinning plates. Enchanters do all kind of other stuff as well, being a utility spellcaster class, but that was their primary function in battle.

I mained cleric in EQ. So far we saw that one cleric (Yay same class as Yumi Hara’s character) from the Cresent Moon Alliance. At least back when I was playing, clerics are really must-have for high end guilds; you can’t really raid without them because they minimize the impact of wipes, and provides by far the best heal-per-mana ratios. In fact, you can only really field as many groups as you had clerics, because it’s a raid size cap in essence. Typical planar raids in Everquest was meant for 9 groups of 6, so that’s a lot of people.

Since Log Horizon starts you off at the level cap, it’s not clear what and how leveling from 1 to 90 is like. In EQ, it’s really the main game since it takes so long to level and by the time you cap, well, you at least know how to play your class (unless you bought your character or something).

Also, Shiroe and team … play on a RP server don’t they. It would explain a lot; or rather, how do Japanese MMORPG culture play out? Is it anything like the west? I guess FFXI players can chime in.

And then there’s raiding. I never really got into the raiding part of Everquest, despite being on a handful of them. That’s a topic I think more people can get into better because the core of it hasn’t really changed much, even if the dynamics in EQ was different than other games, and the hoops you jump through varied from game to game.

There’s also a big divide between PVP and PVE. I think that much is true for a lot of other MMORPGs, and in terms of not just game mechanics but culture and attitudes as well. It’s not unusual for two players to duel but it generally play out in retarded fashions in EQ, as it’s more about manipulating things like line of sight or casting range, playing to the Yakety Sax as one melee character chases another (melee or otherwise) in a circle around a pillar or something.

PPS. Everquest is kind of a crap game today. Although I guess so few people play it you can possibly relive the experience Touno lived if you got a group together. With just 5-6 people leveling together, with the right class combo, you can actually go through the far majority of the game’s content.

5 Responses to “Everquest and Log Horizon…”

  • Lifesongsoa

    I basically grew up on MMOs so I get what you are talking about. I didn’t actually play Ever Quest, but I did play other MMOs almost as old. I started on Asheron’s Call and then Anarchy Online. I also had nearly 3 years of play time on WoW, most of it before Burning Crusade.

    It was actually an argument in WoW about how weird Japan is that got me into anime. (I was actually on the it’s weird and creepy side of the argument back then.) One of my raiding buddies gave me all the episodes NGE over AIM and well, the rest is history.

    FF11’s Japanese players don’t seem that different to me, but they are perhaps a bit more polite and possibly more forgiving of endless grinding. Though honestly the biggest grind I’ve ever seen in an MMO still goes to WoW http://www.wowwiki.com/Gates_of_Ahn%27Qiraj

    WoW birthed a sort of solo style play that really broke away from the mentality of older MMOs. I don’t want to argue if it’s derivative of EQ or not, I don’t care, but it was the success of WoW that changed the MMO scene to make it all about the end game instead of leveling up. Honestly it was probably an accident. Wow didn’t even have all the things it needed to make raiding work properly at release.

    You played a healer so you should be able to appreciate this… WoW didn’t have raid windows at release. In a 40 man group you could only see the people in your direct party. Looking back I’m not sure if older MMOs had that or not, WoW was the first time I cared as played a priest.(and of course us first gen players gave the healers who came up after raid windows were a standard thing hell about the good old days of walking to school uphill both ways barefoot in the snow.)

    Some of my old MMO buddies complain that you can’t get the same sense of community out of newer MMOs and they are correct in that new MMOs don’t force you into it, but at the end of the day a good modern MMO is what you make it. I’ve been playing FF14 and having as much fun connecting with people through a fishing linkshell as I ever did forming parties for hardcore leveling. And when I do want to level up hardcore level farming parties are still a thing.

    Even for people who play games like WoW the community hasn’t changed that much. For most modern MMOs leveling up is just something you do before you actually play the game, as backwards as that sounds. It’s a weird mentality shift and one I personally don’t really like, but MMOs become the same old thing they were ten years ago once you hit max level. That’s why I personally haven’t focused on this aspect of Log Horizon too much. The characters are all max level already so modern or ancient isn’t really that important I think.

    • omo

      Your comment…

      …is a good example of why EQ players look down on WoW players. Or why old people say back in the days they walk to school in the snow without shoes.

      FWIW, I played about ~2 years in WoW, from launch to start of LK. I also took a year break during Vanilla. So yes, I know all about AQ grind, and no, it’s hardly the largest even at the time. Plus it’s really not an individual grind, so I don’t think it really counts.

      At any rate, for coop grinds, nothing in WoW comes close to EVE Online, so this is not really worth talking about.

      I get most of my FFXI info from people who play FFXI, but most of them have stopped for years now. Actually, I probably know someone who used to work for them…hmmm.

      And, in some ways, “sense of community” or “what you made of it” is cop-out answers. Life in general are both of those things, games are no exceptions. But it’s pretty amazing that I can have this connection with Log Horizon; it’s hardly the first work inspired by MMORPGs.

      PS. AC is… not that great, but I didn’t play it so I can’t say with authority (probably that is also why I didn’t play it). AO is probably more worth playing (I played it for a month) if it didn’t have such a terrible launch period. Instances, man.

      But in terms of spiritual successors, EQ is really succeeded by DAOC. WoW is distinctly NOT like EQ as I described above. It just doesn’t feel the same.

  • Lifesongsoa

    Haha, it’s been awhile since I’ve been made fun of by an EQ player. Probably because my EQ friends are outnumbered by my FF11 friends. I have known plenty of other MMO players who hold up EQ as the holy grail of the MMO experience. I think they are crazy for saying those elements don’t exist anymore, but at the end of the day I haven’t played it I guess and I probably never will.

    Everyone always likes to say that their first MMO had something special that other MMOs don’t have, and maybe everyone is right. WoW players look down on everyone else too, it’s just the cycle of things I think.

    For my part I find it really easy to get into Log Horizon and understand the mentality behind it. I think I get more of that from AO and D2 than I do from WoW, but I think WoW still has some of those elements to it, just not in the leveling process.

    Since we start Log Horizon at the end game I think most of the more “hardcore” MMO players can get into it easily enough and relate with that experience. I personally think the core of what end game is hasn’t changed much over the years regardless of which MMO you are playing. I also have friends who have aneurisms every time I say that. /shrug

    As I see it the bigger difference is that all older MMOs were hardcore experiences, period. Modern MMOs have a casual experience, but they also have that same old hardcore aspect buried in there somewhere for anyone adventurous enough to go looking for it.

    Plenty of trapped in an MMO stories have existed before now, but Log Horizon might be the first to truly tell a story about exploration and grouping with a party of friends. .Hack and SAO are both highly focused on solo play or the ability of a single player. Log Horizon doesn’t do that. I think that appeal reaches into modern MMOs personally, just not the more casual side of them.

    • omo

      There may be something special about your first MMORPG, but I’ve been playing games like this even before EQ, so I don’t know how true that is across the board.

      You’re right about the post-level-cap game, WoW really took that and turned it into something interesting, as opposed to the usual RvR type experience more common to Asian MMOs. Can’t really say which is better than the other, besides that both are interesting in their own ways. However, there’s a lot to be said about the 1-to-levelcap game that is really just not there for games like those.

      As for hardcore older games, well, that is a common way to describe them but it is also probably misleading. In a way it’s not so much hardcore as it is less guided and more sandboxy, too. So your sense of achievement at the end of the day (or when the sun rises) is greater, because what you accomplished is your own solution to a problem, not just because you managed to get 25 or 40 or whatever many people to not stand in the fire and dance the boss dance. It’s little things like “unable to look on the internet for a guide” that are more common to gamers of yore, not because they are hardcore, but they had to deal with a different situation. And it’s details like that in which speaks to me in Log Horizon.

      As far as the story itself, honestly I don’t really care lol.

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