While Everquest wasn’t the first ever MMORPG, it was undoubtedly the one that put the genre on the map. Before Everquest (now turning 20 years old), games like Ultima Online and Meridian 59 laid the groundwork for what an MMO should look like in a general sense. However, it wasn’t until the arrival of SOE’s classic that all of those ideas were combined into a single, elegant 3D package.
Underneath its shiny and welcoming exterior, however, was a game that was gleefully waiting to kick your ass. Where death in most MMOs was merely a mild inconvenience, perishing in Everquest’s world of Norrath meant you could lose your entire life’s work if you died and weren’t able to go back retrieve everything. Thanks to its brutal difficulty, it certainly wasn’t a game for everyone. But those that stuck around got to live out an epic fantasy as a legendary hero — and did so alongside thousands of other players.
Looking back now, when Everquest launched it was severely lacking in “content” by modern standards. Sure, there were things like raids and dungeons to complete and vast quantities of loot to find, but the narrative in Everquest was more about your own personal journey and accomplishments than it was following exclamation points over characters’ heads.
For most people, the appeal of Everquest was the allure of being able to create a digital avatar and forge your own path through a fantastical world. Yet, unlike most MMOs, player autonomy didn’t start and end at the character creation screen. Nowadays in an online game, you expect a quest marker to guide you for hundreds of hours from one activity to the next. In Everquest, most of the fun was player-made.
Unsurprisingly then, it produced two decades worth of player-led adventures and watercooler moments. Yet, like all stories — some are more legendary than others. So, without further ado, here are a few of the most iconic player-made moments in Everquest history.
OK, This isn’t so much a beloved piece of player lore as it is the first moment where you really learn what Everquest is. When you first logged into Everquest you would be presented with an NPC who you needed to talk to in order to figure out where to go next. However, as fans well know, Everquest doesn’t make players’ lives easy. You couldn’t just click on an NPC and have them start talking to you. Instead, you’d have to press ‘H’ to hail them, or click on them and actually type into the chat box “Hail” to regard the character.
I’ll never forget the first time I played the game. I spent far more time than I’d care to admit trying to figure out what the hell I was meant to do next. Luckily, the community in Everquest was its greatest asset and everyone was (and still is!) eager to help each other out. Well, most of them anyway…
Fansy The Famous Bard
Chances are, you’ve heard of Fansy The Famous Bard before — even if you only have a passing interest in Everquest. In fact, many people consider Fansy to be the most infamous player in the history of MMO gaming, period. Sorry, Leroy Jenkins.
It all began with the creation of a little server called Sullon Zek. Unlike where the main bulk of players gathered, this was a no rules PvP server in which mischevious players could openly attack one another across all of the game world, save for city safe zones. In fact, the developers themselves encouraged players to handle differences in open combat to settle disputes or issues. The only catch was that if you were level 5 or below, then you were safe. Consider it like an MMO version of training wheels.
It was a brilliant idea that seemed to delight EQ players. If you attacked players unprovoked often enough, you’d be branded “evil” and considered one of the “bad” (or let’s face it, badass) players on the server. Soon after Sullon Zek launched, the vast majority (about 70%) of all players were evil. That’s when Fansy the Famous made his debut. As a level 5 Bard, he wasn’t high enough level to enable the PvP feature, but he was powerful enough to have access to Spirit of the Wolf, a buff spell that makes characters run incredibly fast. So, Fansy made it his mission to use his powers for good… sort of.
What he ended up doing is creating massive “trains” of high-level enemies by getting close enough to trigger their aggro and then casting Spirit of the Wolf and running away — but not so far that they stop chasing him. In doing so, he essentially amassed a massive army of enemies hellbent on attacking any players in their path. By rampaging this train all across various zones he was indirectly massacring dozens and eventually hundreds of people.
To read more about this legendary MMO troll and to hear how the developers dealt with him, check out our deep dive Fanzy feature above.
If you ever played Everquest even just for a single day then you probably have a memorable corpse run story. A corpse run is when you die in Everquest, causing your body to be left behind with all of your gear, and requiring you to have to run back and retrieve it. Most servers, like the PvE-focused servers, put a timer on the body so that you had a certain period of time to retrieve your items before others could loot it — which made the journey all the more intense.
Depending on how far into the game you were, a corpse run was either a minor inconvenience or a tremendous setback. Smart players would leave all of their most valuable items in the bank so that they couldn’t risk losing them, but sometimes you needed your best gear to accomplish whatever you were trying to do. Other times, you could get mauled by a random train (such as in the case of Fansy) or your whole guild could even get wiped out in a raid.
If you were in the mid-game portion, around level 35 or 40 or so, then you probably had some valuable stuff that you’d worked really hard to get, but not enough resources to replace items as a high-tier player would. As a result, corpse runs at this stage of the game were the most high-stakes of them all — because you literally had everything to lose.
Kerafyrm the Sleeper
This story is arguably less-known than the legendary Fansy, because, well, it’s far less silly. The Rallos Zek server was another open PvP server where players could attack and kill each other at any time — just like the one that Fansy was on. This consequence-less PVP would even prevail inside dungeons and raids. Three massive guilds more or less ran things and were in constant war with one another sabotaging raid runs, attacking wandering groups, and orchestrating massive open battles.
In 2003, Sony Online Entertainment created Kerafyrm the Sleeper to be not a raid boss or tough end-game battle, but as a truly invincible creature to stand as a symbol of the game’s power and omniscience. It was literally designed to be unbeatable. When players advanced through the tomb, slayed the four guardian dragons, and awoke the Sleeper, it was designed to wipe them out as a response — and the event would be over. It was a one-time thing.
Naturally, Rallos Zek was the only server left that hadn’t triggered the event, so players started to wonder what might happen if they actually managed to kill it instead. Guess what happens when you design an immovable dragon and put it in the path of three equally unstoppable forces? Yep, something’s gotta give.
In November 2003 the impossible happened, when those three warring guilds –approximately 200 players total — joined forces to put down Kerafyrm for the very first time. However, everything didn’t go according to plan. The guilds were having success against the Sleeper by having enough players there that they could revive each other faster than the Sleeper could kill them. So after about three hours of fighting the dragon only had a quarter of its health left and the end was in sight.
Then he suddenly disappeared.
Sony Online Entertainment had decided to despawn the dragon to prevent them from killing it — by claiming there was a bug. Following outrage from players they brought it back and let the guilds kill the beast after a four-hour long battle. It dropped no loot and would go down in history as one of the most epic and memorable moments in online gaming, but the original decision to despawn it left a black mark on Sony Online Entertainment and the Everquest brand that neither fully recovered from.
Curious to read more about this debacle? Check out our deep dive below.
Bogus Flasks of Water
We recently spoke with Alan VanCouvering at Daybreak Games, Assistant Lead Designer for Content on Everquest, and he told us about one of his most memorable moments. During the early days of development, he actually started out as a Community Manager and remembers that one of the first major issues players brought up to him involved a broken alchemy recipe.
He went to the development team and told them that the recipe was broken, then after looking at the data, they told him that “alchemy is not broken” and that the players were wrong. Obviously, players are never wrong, right?
Turns out they had named two items in the game as ‘Flask of Water’ but only one of them was actually the correct item for the alchemy recipe. It took a while to figure that out and until then, Alan had to keep repeating “Alchemy is not broken” which eventually got turned into one of Everquest’s first developer-related memes.
Buff And SOW Please!
Shortly after you figured out how to talk to an NPC for the first time, you’d probably notice all of the players running around saying “buff and sow please” to any magical-looking character they could find. As it turns out, this was a request.
Bards and other magical characters could learn buff spells that would increase your damage for a limited amount of time, as well as Spirit of the Wolf (aka SoW) which makes you run much faster. Since Everquest launched in an era without fast travel, flying mounts, or the ability to teleport much at all, running faster was hugely helpful.
The Terris Thule Guide
Since Everquest was such a notoriously obtuse and difficult game to learn, the developers created ‘Guide’ designations in order to offer assistance to both experienced and new players alike. These players weren’t employees technically but were instead more like moderators of an online forum, but inside the game world.
Unsurprisingly, it wasn’t the most fun job. Trying to be friendly and helpful to people on the internet in a world as unforgiving as Everquest can eventually wear anyone out — and that’s exactly what happened to one Guide on the Terris Thule server. Players got on his nerves so much that this Guide decided to teleport swaths of players to an extremely dangerous spot in Veshaan’s Peak and bind them to the location so even after they died they’d just come back to life at that spot and die again. Just endless punishment.
This took abuse of power to a whole new level and the developers had to quickly dispatch a group of Guides and actual GMs to take down the rogue Guide and put things back to normal. Hey, we’ve all had bad days, right?
Traveling From Qeynos to Freeport
Finally, the last player-made moment that puts Everquest into truly mythical status for anyone that played it combines all of the lessons and features I’ve talked about thus far. Everquest was a notoriously hostile gameworld, full of players who were ready to pounce on your corpse (or even murder you in cold blood if you were on the right server.)
That’s precisely what made traveling so dangerous.
In Elder Scrolls Online, I can teleport instantly to any Wayshrine on my map or even straight to a person in my group with a few clicks. Now in Everquest today there are portals and teleportation spells to get around the increasingly large game world more quickly than ever. Games like World of Warcraft are full of transportation options as well.
But things used to be very different.
Back in the early days of Everquest, if you wanted to go from Qeynos (notice that it’s SonyEQ spelled backwards?!) to Freeport — basically like running from LA to Boston — you did so at your own peril. That was a multi-hour adventure in real life time that required moving through a multitude of extremely hostile zones, and that’s if you were on one of the PvE servers. Don’t even get me started on the PKers (player killers) that lurked the travel route on PvP servers just waiting for groups to attack on sight.
Since each race had its own starting city in Everquest, a lot of friends would boot up the game, excited to go adventuring together, only to find that they’re on the other side of the continent in a game with zero flying and no maps. Talk about an intimidating situation.
This particular route was so popular, in fact, that many players made it their job to escort groups across the game and back over and over. In many ways, it was the groundwork for many of the player-driven professions and sandbox elements you see in other games today.
There you go! These are some of the most memorable player-made moments from the 20-year legacy of Everquest that helped secure its spot as one of the most influential and important games of all-time. Even if the MMORPG genre isn’t quite as big as it once was, the influence it has had over other genres — especially with the trend of online co-op loot shooters — cannot be overstated.