Massively informed me today that EQOA will be shutting down March 29th. I know. I got a little teary-eyed too.
My first taste of the MMO world started with helping my boyfriend set up his PS2’s fancy new network adapter. Compared to my wussy PS1, it was like he was zooming passed me and my tricycle in his new hovercar. I can still remember the funny little beeps and boops that setup disc made as you set up your network options. It was really neat to be taking a game console online.
But nothing will compare to that first time EQOA started up.
That song. Every time I hear even just the first few moments of that song I get both excited and wistful. It’s the sound of excitement, adventure, and friendship. It’s the anthem for my favorite gaming moments.
I didn’t play at first. I just watched. He created an Elf Ranger on the Marr’s Fist server, named Aaladanae, thanks to the random name generator. And, yes, I can still remember how to spell that, ridiculous number of vowels and all.
Tethelin was exciting and new. Tethelin is really the reason that I cling so hopelessly to games having community nowadays. It was at level 5, when Aaladanae was sent to retrieve the Elddar Seeds from some filching Orc Thieves, that we first found the potential kindness of strangers in a video game. A kind level 10 Elf Paladin, with no prompting from us, offered to help kill the level 9-10 Thieves that would have been far too hard for dear Aaladanae.
In addition to the kindness of the community, that quest introduced us to the depth and expansiveness of the world. EQOA’s Tunaria was the kind of world that you wouldn’t necessarily see most of if you weren’t the exploring type. There was no funneling quest chain that took you from zone to zone. Even that short run from Tethelin to the Orc tunnel between Tethelin and Fayspires shaped the world in our minds as enormous. If just the level 5 quest sent Aaladanae this far, this world must be bigger than anything we had yet seen.
Despite the fact that she never got much beyond level 20, I will always remember Aaladanae fondly. I eventually typed for Travis, keyboard in my lap, while he handled the controller. I helped him find groups and just enjoyed watching him play. Those early levels of EQOA still remind me of that scratchy old couch with its distinguished blue pattern that held up for so many hours of play.
Eventually, I made my own character on his account, a Barbarian Warrior at the suggestion of Travis because “in these games, the Warrior is usually easiest; you can just run around hitting stuff.” When I found that my level 5 spell was Taunt, we decided it must be a ranged pull spell. When it had practically no range to speak of, I simply ignored it. Fortunately, I never tried grouping with anyone.
At this point, we had no idea about things like trinities or aggro. His experience in this field amounted to the Diablo series and single player RPGs. My experience was was even less than that. We had no idea just how much we had to learn.
I grew bored of that Warrior at some point after 20 and started a new character on Proudpine Outpost, which would become our EQOA home for the rest of the game’s existence. That was where I created Laenei, my Druid.
Much like with the Warrior, we still had little clue as to what was going on with the overall game. Her stat points were being put in a bit wonky, and I didn’t even know it. She would have given min/maxers a coronary.
In her very first group, for example, she joined up with a Shaman, who promptly asked what her Charisma was at. Of course, I didn’t know it at the time, but Charisma is the stat that improves your heals. Since I hadn’t dropped a single point in Charisma yet, the Shaman called dibs on healing but instructed that Laenei should keep the caster in the party alive.
Well, we quickly had some sort of mis-pull that left us all running every which way. The whole situation ended up being one of Laenei’s prouder moments when the only one of us left standing wound up being the caster in Laenei’s charge.
As time went on, I gained a better understanding of stat allocation, and Laenei became a better healer. There were flubs and goofs from time to time, of course, and I’ve mentioned before how poor she was. She was so fun to play though because the game was a blast, and the people were amazing.
Travis went away to college, and I borrowed his PS2 so I could keep playing.
I made friends on PPO. I joined a guild. The people that I befriended were impossible not to care deeply about. Real friends. Closer friends than the ones I have on Facebook now. Along with my real friends, they helped me get through being away from Travis for months on end.
Sure, there was guild drama now and then and there were people on the server that I wasn’t fond of, but were it not for EQOA, I never would have befriended the kid who was going to a Last Chance school. Society might have deemed him a rebellious hoodlum, but he was one of the nicest people I’ve ever met, and I frequently referred to Marley as the son I was too young to have had.
Then there was the Shadowknight, X, stationed on a base in Hawaii, that I grouped with so frequently that I could tell when his gear was beat up to the point that it needed switching out. There also was Eipriah, the cheerful Gnome who built robots at his job and had a racecar, you know, for fun. And, in the post I linked earlier about Laenei’s financial struggles, I already mentioned Illict. The rest have faded from time unfortunately.
Poor Laenei never got beyond level 46 until recently. My friends just had more free time than I did, and Laenei fell further and further behind as a result. I’d log in just to chat or hang out in my beloved Murnf. Being spoiled by my guild grouping, I just didn’t always feel like trying to find a random group.
Travis gave me a PS2 and a copy of EQOA for a graduation present. We were finally able to play together! We leveled together on various characters, usually finding random tanks and damage dealers to play with us.
Upgrading to the Frontiers expansion was challenging for us. For starters, EQOA is just a hard game to find copies of, especially when you accidentally find yourself searching for the expansion at Best Buy on the busiest shopping day of the year.
Once we finally got the new expansion set up for our accounts, after much prodding and encouraging from our good friend Marley, we found that every damage spell cast triggered a screen shake that rocked me with motion sickness. The game had become unplayable. They, thankfully, later added a patch with the option to turn that feature off.
Later still, Travis found himself wanting to try dual boxing. And tri boxing. Four accounts and four PS2s whirring in our living room were proof of our love for EQOA. One of those PS2s even tipped over once, damaging one of our Frontiers discs so that it wouldn’t (and still won’t to this day) run anywhere snowy. We had to find a replacement copy, leaving us with five game boxes.
We sold one of the PS2s during one of our off-again phases when we thought we wouldn’t return to EQOA. That turned out to be a ridiculous assumption based on our needing to buy another PS2 the next time we wanted to play. Well, at least this new one was a slim. We’ve moved with our collection of EQOA TVs, feeling ridiculous trying to find places for five TVs in the new place because we learned our lesson about ever thinking we were done with EQOA.
EQOA is now free to play for those who had accounts in good standing. Our four TVs, though mine is noticeably upgraded from the last time we played, are sitting perched on our dresser. The whir of the PS2s is loud but comforting. Seeing that “Ready” next to Proudpine Outpost is breaking my heart. How much longer do we have with our beloved characters? Will Laenei be okay when she’s deleted? Will there be some sort of back-up of her that lives on?
I have no screenshots. I just have memories. I will have had a 55 Ninja and a 56 Druid. I will have had a 20-something Warrior and a myriad of other characters. Some of those numbers may change over the course of this free-to-play month, but in the end all I’ll wind up with is those memories and the few YouTube videos people have put together.
So now the question remains, “What now?” EQOA was always a fallback MMO for us. Our safety MMO, if you will. Sure, it was a pain in the rear to find room for and set up four TVs and PS2s, all of which need to be hardwired to the router because they have no wireless capabilities, but it was always worth it. Sadly, EQOA will not be around to be our fallback any longer. We will no longer be able to say, “Well, we could always play EQOA,” whether we were serious or not.
Our five copies will sit stoically on our shelves as a testament to what we once had, and three of our four PS2s will get packed up, presumably never to be used again. They’ll serve as a sad little reminder of a great game gone dark.