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.