The Ruffled Crow

Animation, Art, and Other Shiny Things

Virtual Anniversaries

An anniversary of sorts just passed. One of those no-card-made-for-it-and-never-will-be anniversaries; Stanton was born June 3, 2001 – 9 years ago.

Granted, Stanton is a toon I created in EverQuest, but I’ve played him pretty steadily those nine years and he’s still my primary character. He’s remained in the same guild as well. While that may engender an array of opinions in the world of MMORPGs, in the real world, not so much…

I didn’t move on to EQ2, World of Warcraft, or City of Heroes like alot of other folks did, and I never really took to raiding. (Hunting with a dozen or more people.) Hunting solo or with a partner means I can’t always hunt the big game and I can’t always get the best gear, but I have a good time and my armor and weapons aren’t that shabby. I wasn’t the best Guild Leader either. A solo hunter generally isn’t, by definition, and of a “family” guild where we preferred casual players of any age as long as they were respectful of others and played fairly, it’s especially hard as three-quarters of my time was taken with answering questions and solving problems. Given that there used to be an average of 60-100 guild folks on at any one time, I had little time to actually “play”.

What’s been fascinating over the years is the social structures that build up and alter over time; economies, tight-knit hunting groups, in-game marriages, sometimes out-of-game relationships, guild-based armor/robe colors/play styles. There have been college papers done on in-game social interaction. EQ itself has changed to accommodate new structures as they evolve: mid-size associations larger than a 6-person group but smaller than a formal guild and new chat channels server-wide and cross-server for example.

One of the more interesting evolutions I think has been an internal economic one. In the beginning, to barter in-game items folks congregated in a tunnel in the East Commonlands and “shouted” what they were selling or looking to buy. It was quite the textual cacophony. Eventually this evolved into a special zone, The Bazaar, and now-a-days includes special backpacks, pricing functions and searchability so that it’s become a set-it-and-forget-it arrangement for sellers. Ah but for the days when you haggled a price and had to follow them across several dangerous zones to a bank to complete the deal!

Travel is another thing that has evolved hugely. Some classes of characters – Wizards and Druids especially – have the ability to teleport other players to various destinations around the EQ world and were in huge demand to do so for some years. I used to enjoy burying myself in far flung zones, hard to get to, and rarely see another toon and even rarer still, go into a town. Then came the Spires that could ‘port you to any number of spots every 15 minutes, then came the Books, then came the Guild Portals. Where it used to take us upwards of an hour to assemble a raid force (and often longer to recover our bodies after a nasty beating from nasty monsters.) and would involve an awful lot of running, avoiding monsters (generally called mobs, by the way. no, I don’t know exactly why), running away from the monsters that see you, swimming, climbing, falling from things you climb, falling into pits you didn’t see… that sort of thing. (I won’t be mentioning the Corpse Run I made and the multiple times I fell into a scorpion pit in Overthere. Search and recovery of multiple bodies that day was a long and terrifying process. Now-a-days you can summon your body and can’t lose it or associated armor and items like you could then.)

Considering that, anymore, one rarely has to actually travel very far to get where they’re going I think the next character upgrade that should be implemented is fat. If you take the portals or books everywhere then you ain’t getting the excercise and that perfect toon-tastic body will get pudgy. Drink too much ale? That’s a beer-belly, Buster Brown. Load up on Hero Cake? It’ll go to those hips, Missy.

Where my guild once boasted almost 600 members (300 actual people), it is down to perhaps 5 active still. 3,000 hit points has evolved into 25,000, and cutting-edge graphics in the new millenium has become HD and in some places can barely be discerned from a photograph. (On the other hand, how would you know how lifelike the dragon model really is?)

While much of these evolutions could be construed as possible negatives, the positives become evident when someone stops as they run by to reminisce of the guild’s salad days or a hunt I helped with. Many of these folks tell me how they’ve finally made it through college, or had a child, or finally retired, or appreciate how we helped them through a tough patch of life. Little things, important things in their lives, things that happened in Kentucky, Minnesota, Spain, Australia, Alaska, at work in NORAD (nothing classified or even close, mind you), on the way to Iraq, on the way home from picking up their kid for the weekend, at school. These are the little things that make an odd little anniversary kinda special.

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