Playing an MMO is quite a commitment. Not only do you have to dedicate many hours to leveling up your character and collecting new gear, but you often soon find yourself involved in a guild with other players who end up relying on you. And then you're in for life. Considering MMOs only really began about 10 years ago, the genre is still fairly young, but there are some people out there who've been involved since the begining.
Such is the story of Ryan "Tnexus" Tirrell; a man who has been playing EverQuest for an entire decade. He's seen it all and lived to tell the story, which is exactly why we jumped at the oppertunity to interview this MMO master. He's forgotten more about EverQuest than you'll ever know. He talks about everything from early game patches to guild relationships to his favorite weapons and raids over the past decade of grinding goodness. You won't find many people with this level of expertise. Hit the Read More link for the entire interview.
G4: What was it like when you signed into EverQuest for the first time? How old were you? How did you react and what drew you in? Did you have to use a dial-up modem?
Ryan “Tnexus” Tirrell: When I look back at when I started playing, I can't help but think to myself, "How in the world did I play like that?" So, I have to give you some background information first. First of all, I was 16 when I first heard about EverQuest from a friend who was going-on for a week about how excited he was to play this new game. When he finally got EQ and he invited me over so I could see what it was like. Over the course of the weekend we end up on a 20 hour EQ binge killing rats, bats, and orc pawns trying to get his female Shadow Knight (Yes, "shims" existed even in 1999.) to level 3 on his lightning fast 56kbps AOL connection. Since the game was new, everyone was in the newbie zones so mobs were really scarce. Now he had a pretty bad video card that would only render perhaps 50% of the graphics. So everything else was just white with a black line outlining the shapes, characters and and NPC models. My first character I made incidentally was on his account- it was a Dark Elf Warrior who accidentally fell in the water in Neriak. Well, neither of us knew how to swim so there he sat, slowly drowning. Both of us were frantically trying to figure out what to do. My friend was scrambling through the manual to find out how to swim, and I'm mashing as many buttons as I could. Well, nothing was working and pretty soon all we saw was, "YOU are drowning! YOU are drowning! YOU are drowning!" In the end, the poor guy drowned and was promptly deleted out of frustration.
Fast-forward about a month and I finally picked up my own copy because I was wanted to level up my own characters. So I go through the install process, log in, and... everything is all white. I think to myself, "Okay, well I'm sure my eight megabyte Matrox video card can handle this. I must have some settings wrong." Well... no. I didn't as I quickly discovered. Being the diligent person that I am, I said screw it, and played anyway with my all white graphics with black outlines. Now for anyone who's played EQ, I picked probably the worst race possible for my starting character with my graphics disability, a Wood Elf in Kelethin. If you're not familiar with Kelethin, it's a city in the trees. If you fall off, you die. So I make my Wood Elf Ranger, log in for the first time and look for my Ranger Guild Master for whom I'm supposed to deliver a note to for my newbie tunic. I walk 10 paces and see "YOU have fallen to your death! LOADING... PLEASE WAIT." Now one of the bugs back then was your Guild Master note poofed on your death instead of respawning with it. So I'm freaking out that I won't be accepted at the local Ranger guild and delete the character and remake him. I zone in, take another 10 paces, "YOU have fallen to your death! LOADING... PLEASE WAIT." "CRAP!" Delete. Remake. Round Three. This time I get a little bit farther, but am still having a hard time making out shapes in a city I've never been in. A few minutes pass until, "YOU have fallen to your death! LOADING... PLEASE WAIT." "SON OF A $%&@!!!!11!!". Delete. Remake. Round Four. "YOU have fallen to your death! LOADING... PLEASE WAIT." "MOTHER F#$%&@!!!!" Speed forward a few hours (yes, hours) and I finally find him to hand in my note. I could keep going on with my early stories (including handing my Book of Discord to the Priest of Discord to make me PVP), but I'll spare you the agonizing details. And yes, I kept playing with no color in my graphics for close to three months.
G4: 10 years is a really long time; is this the longest relationship you've been in? And why haven't you proposed yet?
RT: Haha. Yes, sadly this is the longest relationship I've been in. I suppose I haven't proposed yet because I have a feeling my fiancée wouldn't be too happy with notion she's in competition with a video game. However, if SOE wants to forgo the courting phase and wants to directly hire me, I wouldn't be opposed to that!
G4: Was there ever a time that you quit playing for any amount of time? What was the reason? How did it make you feel? Did you go through withdrawal?
RT: The only time I really ever "quit" was in September of 1999 because I thought it would interfere with my schooling. Well, it didn't last long because by December I had re-subscribed. I'd like to say it was because I felt I could handle school and EQ at the same time, but I think in reality it was because I was going through withdrawal and just wanted to play again. Since then my account has been active for the last 9+ years straight. I've taken small three to four week breaks here and there, but other than that I've been pretty static.
G4: Over the years, what’s the most memorable moment you've had playing EverQuest?
RT: If you've played something for 10 years, you'd realize that's a pretty impossible question to answer. There's just way too many things for one in particular moment to stand out. Hmm... I suppose the one that stands out the most though was leading my guild to beat Overlord Mata`Muram and Vishimtar the Fallen in the same week. Both were extremely tough bosses when they first came out that completely rely on people paying attention, a lot of prep work, and a 120% effort from everyone in the 54 person raid. They were especially brutal because if one person was slacking, it potentially meant death for the other 53. We had been struggling on both encounters for a while so managing to beat both on back-to-back raid days was a huge accomplishment for us. Being the person to lead us to those victories was just icing on the cake.
G4: There have been countless changes and updates to the game over the years. Were you always along for the ride? Or did you voice your disapproval on Internet forums and gaming websites like everyone else?
RT: For the most part I've been in favor of necessary "fixes"... for the most part. I'm pretty understanding that the developer's goal is to create a balanced, fun game for everyone. Which, sadly sometimes means nerfs for some. I'm privileged enough to be part of a chat group composed of most of the developers and a few players so I generally have more inside info on upcoming "nerfs" and why they're occurring. That being said, no one likes to see something they're used to suddenly get changed or pulled 6 months after the fact. I'm an administrator for the unofficial EQ Ranger boards, EQOutrider, and there's a big incoming "fix" for one of our key new abilities called Harmonious Arrow. In its current state it's pretty overpowered, but it's made Rangers feel useful again in the pulling realm for the first time in years. So half of me understands why it needs to be nerfed and thus I feel the need to defend the developer's intention to my forum members, but the other half of me wants to join those same members and make a stand to keep it in its original state.
G4: How many characters have you had over the years? Can you remember all their race/class/stats/names?
RT: I'm not much of a "alt" person honestly. I really have only leveled up one character which is my level 85 Ranger. My highest other character is a level 29 Monk who's been neglected for about 6 years now. I do have access to a plethora of guildmates accounts, so if I really need another class for something, I just use theirs. They usually also don't complain because it generally means free loot for them.
G4: How has your decade long relationship with EverQuest affected the rest of your life? Has it taught you valuable social skills or ruined any real world relationship?
RT: MMOs seem to get this bad rapport for killing social lives and breaking up relationships, which for the most part, seems to be largely in the minority. Personally, I don't think it has affected me too much in the long run. I won't deny that there have been events I've missed, classes I ignored, or people I put off since I can began playing EQ, but I learned pretty quick the dangers of succumbing to a game when I watched my roommate flunk out of college due to gaming. (I suppose that example doesn't exactly help my initial statement, but I still believe those are the special cases.) To my knowledge EQ has never ruined any real world relationship. I won't deny it might have prevented some, but it's never ruined any. And, if anything, I've gained plenty of relationships with other players I've met in-game. Just because I'm not talking to them face-to-face in real life does not mean they aren't real. Additionally, I think it has helped my social skills more because it's let me feel more comfortable talking to people whom I may not know that well. It's also helped further develop my leadership skills by learning how to lead a team to a unified goal. Without a doubt, I would have to attribute my EQ experience as the primary reason for my love of leadership and management in real life.
G4: You have more play experience in the game than almost anyone. What is your list of favorites? Feel free to include anything; classes, weapons, spells, raids, etc.
RT: Oh so many favorites, so little time. Here's some stuff I can think of offhand:
Favorite Class: Ranger- Duh, that's kind of a no brainer if you know me. It is the best class after all. ? Along with bards, we’re probably the most versatile of all classes in that we can dps, tank, heal, crowd control, pull, and die gloriously like the best of the them.
Favorite Race: Wood Elf- Come on, everyone loves an elf.
Favorite Weapon Graphic: Sword of Truth- This is Lord Inquisitor Seru's sword. It's by far the best looking weapon in the game and the fact that was unobtainable to players for close to six years just makes its legacy even more epic.
Favorite Weapon: Scimitar of the Mistwalker- I'm definitely biased here, but having an original Scimitar of the Mistwalker that came from Lady Vox before it was removed from the game was huge bragging rights for me. That is, until they decided to put it back in the game in the game's casino. Still, it holds special memory for me because it proc'd a really powerful wolf pet in its heyday.
Favorite Weapon Proc: Ancient Call- This proc summons a skeleton pet with a Sword of Truth sword in its hand. (When you've augment the weapon with a Shard of Eternal Pain, it just makes it even more awesome with 2 pet procs going off at once.)
Favorite Illusion: Evil Eye- The Evil Eye illusion was great fun in the Crystallos zone where the evil eyes were avoided at all costs in experience groups. It'd be fun to run into groups with this illusion on and freak everyone out thinking one had come with their pulls. I got yelled at many, many times, but it was so worth it.
Favorite Spell: Cauldron of Many Things- Yeah I know it's a Mage spell, but it just screams awesome. This spell has the chance to randomly summon a random item from a huge list of options. Some are useful, and some... not so much. Either way it keeps you entertained.
Favorite Raid: Overlord Mata`Muram and the Portal of War- It's a tie to me. OMM encounter was just epic on so many levels, but the sheer beauty of the Portal of War event makes it put on this list. The portal's graphics were amazing and it was perfectly balanced for the level of difficulty it was intended for. Sadly, because of the prerequisites to trigger it, no one ever did it.
Favorite Zone: The Plane of Sky- People will think I'm nuts for putting that, but I loved and still love that zone. It's one giant quest zone which has never been duplicated in the EQ realm. Furthermore, it was brilliantly laid out for raiding even if it was ahead of its time. When you just want to sit and relax to chat, it fits that criteria too.
Favorite NPC: Old Man Thorren- He's only on the Beta server, but he'd turn everyone's favorite Pretty Kitty Princess (Tharkis on the Luclin server) into a female Vah Shir if you said the word "Princess" to him. That never got old.
Favorite NPC Model: Overlord Mata`Muram- Still awesome looking after all these years.
Favorite Death Sequence: Captain Krasnok- The dude gets sucked into the depths of his ship by tentacles. How much cooler can it get?
Favorite EverQuest Hero: Fansy the Famous Bard- You know you've made an impression when two-thirds of your server has it out to kill you on sight. Go Go Good Team!
G4: How many different guilds have you been in? Why did you leave/join them?
RT: I've actually only been in two since I started playing. My first was a guild called Azure Sky. I joined because a real life friend of mine was in it, so I decided to check it out. At the time I was a lot lower than most of the other members, so they really inspired me to level up as quick as I could to get into the action. I did my first Lord Nagafen and Plane of Fear raids with them which I still actively remember. I ended up working through the ranks to become an officer and the eventual guild leader a few years later. Sadly, the release of World of Warcraft killed off a lot of our core members and the guild slowly died. I had another close friend recently help create my current guild, Hand of Ka around the same time. I joined them a few months later and have been with them since.
G4: How many hours a week do you dedicate to the game?
RT: My play schedule is always in flux because of my job. I work in the production side of stage theatre, which really has no set hours. It's also largely freelance, so one week I could be working 70 hours and the next, nothing. Lately my schedule has been to log on around 10:30 at night due to performances and just chat it up or play till I feel tired enough to log off. (After all, there's not much to do in the late night minus TV and gaming.) Right now the Fabled events are taking place, which only happen once a year so I'm trying to cram as much as I can in before they end. But, if you've want a number, I'd say maybe 20-30 hours a week being logged in. Granted those hours don't necessarily mean I'm doing anything. I generally log in and will afk for hours at a time if I'm doing other things. Like writing answers to a questionnaire for G4 for instance. (My guild says hi by the way!)
G4: With all the MMOs out there, why do you think EverQuest is still valid?
RT: I'm a pretty big forum nerd, so I frequently keep up with various game sites even if I don't necessarily play many of the games they talk about. One of the ones I have a special affinity to is Fohguild.org which was created way back in the early days of EverQuest for the guild Fires of Heaven. The site has since expanded to focus on all MMOs, but without fail there's always at least one to two nostalgic threads going on that end up being a homage to the glory days of EverQuest. The key thing I've noticed in all those threads is that people remember their first loves. Their first relationship, their first car, their first house, and yes, even their first MMO. EverQuest was the first MMO for many gamers. It was the first time people were able to team up with 50 other players around the world and slay a dragon. It was the first time people felt accomplishment for finishing a quest or camping that item for 24 hours straight that no one else had. It was the best of times for gamers that probably will never be duplicated again in the genre. For those of us that have stuck around, it's more than that. Beyond all those accomplishments, we've built up a second life filled with memories, friends, and experiences. For me personally, setting that aside would be like moving out of the house you've built with your own hands. It's very personal to us now, and I think most that have still stuck around will agree with me on that.
G4: What’s the longest you've ever camped waiting for respawns just to get one frackin item?
RT: For probably a lot of the old EQ farts out there, it was Raster in Guk. For me though, it was this stupid Driftwood Treasure Chest from A Ferocious Hammerhead in Kedge Keep. (This was around the time when the Dragons of Norrath expansion was out.) I was in a bag collecting mood during that time and I really wanted this one due to its rarity. So I sat down one evening to camp it. Well, it ended up turning into a 27 hour camp before the darned shark finally spawned. It was his rare item on his loot table, but thankfully it dropped for me on the first kill. Promising myself I would never ever go back there again, I set out to link everyone my new item. Well, as luck would have it, the morning after I got it there was a patch that accidently put in some vendors with items that were not supposed to be in the game. Well, the "Powers That Be" decided the best course of action would be to roll almost everyone's characters back 24 hours. So yup, you've guessed it. I logged in later that day to find my Driftwood Treasure Chest gone after all that effort. Needless to say, it can stay on that stupid shark.
G4: Do you have any idea how many hours you've have played the game over the past 10 years?
RT: Well, my current tally on my Ranger is almost 480 days. So I'm looking at over 11,500 hours or so just on one character. Yikes, when you've look at it that way...
G4: Were you one of those a**holes that would train dungeons just to kill all the newbs?
RT: No, I was actually the guy who wheeled and dealed in the East Commonlands tunnel. I was generally too busy making loads of plat to be exp'ing in the dungeons to begin with.
G4: How do your friends and family feel about your dedication to EverQuest?
RT: I was fortunate enough to have a family that didn't mind me playing EQ so long as I still did well in school in the early days. Nowadays it's transitioned into the relationship with the fiancee. Thankfully, she's cool with it even though she doesn't get what the appeal is. We've been together for five years now so EQ was pretty much grandfather-claused into our relationship. She understands I've made lots of friends in-game so she doesn't mind sharing me so long as she's the primary love in my life. And frankly, that's something I have no problem with at all.
Thanks for the interview, Ryan!