EQOA, our first introduction to MMOs, was also our first introduction to the traditional MMO trinity system. It was our first real experience with a tank keeping mob aggro. The game was set up a bit differently from modern MMOs though. While there were quests in the game, they were only available every few levels. These weren’t your traditional FedEx quests or bring me seven wolf paw quests either, these were true adventures that your quest giver would send you on. You’d generally finish all the quests from that level with a full set of matching gear. It wasn’t always well itemized for your class, but it was always exciting.
Most of your time in-game, aside from hollering for a group, that is, would be spent stationed just outside a camp of enemies. Your tank would run into the camp, grab a mob and bring it back to the group. Your damage dealers and tank would wail on the mob while the tank taunted and the healer stood back and healed. Once the mob was dead, the tank would run off to get another. You’d stand at that camp for hours doing the same thing over and over until you outleveled the camp and moved on to the next.
There are obviously a few problems with this overall mechanic. First of all, if you couldn’t stand the grind, this wasn’t the game for you. This, however, was long before the post-World-of-Warcraft days which bred the legions of entitled MMO players we see today. Of course, there was still powerleveling and a yearning from most players to cheat the system to hurry the game up, but it wasn’t the kind of game in which you reached max level in a month. The game was the grind. There was raiding at end game, but it wasn’t what you were waiting to reach. It was all about playing, having fun, and getting new gear.
Another of the problems was the camp situation itself. Usually there were several choices at each level where you could choose to grind at. Most players developed a favorite camp for each level, which meant the most popular places were always camped. Sometimes you’d see groups standing around waiting for another group to finish up. You’d also occasionally see a group trying to make a single spawn point work by weaseling their way into a full camp and repeatedly waiting for a certain mob to respawn.
But the best problem, at least on my server, was Door.
Door was a level 1 something or another who would head to the most popular leveling zones in the game and cause havoc. That guy had some serious griefing skill. These weren’t verbal griefing skills; Door wasn’t about slamming you for your stat allocation or your playstyle. Door was about slaughtering you and your group. Now, let me clarify here, this was not a PvP game. They eventually added dueling, but a level 1 wasn’t going to be taking down a full group of level 30s on his own regardless.
Door trained. And he trained well.
If you’re not familiar with the term, in EQOA at least, training was the art of getting a mob’s attention without using any abilities on it, dragging it toward a group of players, and causing it to have a severe change of heart near that group’s healer (read: suddenly beating the magical snot out of said healer).
If you checked the Who window and saw Door was in the vicinity, your breath caught in your chest. You’d tell your tank to wait while you scanned the horizon looking for the scoundrel and his incredible train of mobs that he was sure to be dragging toward some poor unsuspecting group (which could, of course, be your own group). It usually ended much more unfortunately if you only noticed Door as you saw him running past your group moments before the sand worm would come and wallop you to death.
If you could avoid using any abilities while the attempt to train happened, your aggro wouldn’t be higher than Door’s and the mobs would continue to chase him; that’s why you needed to remain ever vigilant if you wanted to stand a chance against the trainers. I should also point out that training was usually a swift death because the mobs surrounding any given camp were usually 10-20 levels higher than the mobs inside the camp that were the right level for you.
The key thing to point out here is that Door was a level 1 character. I was always absolutely amazed by the mobs he could train with. Sometimes you’d see him cruising around hexbones in Zentar’s Keep, one of the highest leveling camps in the game, and he’d be dragging around a whole line of max level enemies — at level 1, no less — to bring one of the leveling groups to their figurative knees.
As the healer, I usually had more free time while leveling than the rest of my group. All heals in EQOA were large HoTs that didn’t stack with any other heals (except for the few specifically-designed patch heals). You got four heal ticks before you needed to hit another button. It was risky to waste time and mana tossing damage spells since the damage dealers were so squishy and heals were so mana-intensive. So, I mostly stood around scanning the horizons with a level of nosiness and paranoia. How were the other groups stationed at this camp doing? And just where was Door?
I’m pretty sure training was a reportable offense, which is why Door was always only level 1. Getting your character deleted is much less of a pain at level 1 than it is at a reasonably high level. It’s so much harder to train as a level 1 though. The goal is for your train to never touch you because otherwise you’re dead in one hit.
Even now, I think about Door every once in a while and smile. Okay, I know that doesn’t make a ton of sense with my accounts here of stressful vigilance and paranoia, but it really was always a nice break from the perpetual grind to see Door, three skeletons, a sandworm, and a wisp racing along the coastline. It’s hard to explain how something that seemed frustrating and offensive at the time could grow to be a fond memory, but the overall cloud of my nostalgia has washed those memories in a new light.
It’s no longer about the XP debt that we incurred from his griefing; it’s now about the exciting adventures through Tunaria’s Deathfist Citadel or the Myrmidon camp. It’s about something we once had that we loved but has now evolved and changed, as we have. Even though we’ve grown apart, EQOA and I will always have Door to reminisce together about.
This post was featured at Joystiq through The Game Archaeologist’s look at EQOA while we were formerly hosted at hownottogame.com. Thank you to writer Syp from Bio Break for the acknowledgment!