I started playing Everquest about 11 years ago, roughly a year after the game first came out. Prior to that, I had been a strictly text-based gamer and played Modus Operandi and Gemstone IV (both from Simutronics and available at www.play.net). A friend insisted that I try EQ, and after much cajoling I finally relented and became an overnight MMORPG addict.
I was working at the time as a Development Support Manager for a lucrative and market-leading software company, which occupied the 8 to 5 part of my day. The rest of my free time was spent in the world of Norrath (the online gaming realm). If I wasn't working or sleeping, I was playing Everquest. My boyfriend at the time was also a gamer, so we would sit about three feet apart, at our own desks, playing EQ on our own computers. Sometimes we would group together in the game and sometimes not. Either way, I was averaging 70 to 90 hours per week of EQ game time.
EQ has had well over a dozen expansions to the game since it began, and with the release of the Gates of Discord expansion, I quit playing. The game was very hostile toward casual and/or solo gamers who like to venture alone rather than in a group, and it became more focused on high-end encounters with large masses of players. If you didn't have an entire evening to spend in front of your computer performing the same quest over and over until your group conquered it, you might as well not play. If you played a character that was group-dependent (like a healer), forget anything about playing on your own.
After about two years, I went back to Everquest. There had been quite a few changes to the game that improved a solo player's ability to venture without group assistance, traveling had been made easier, spells had been changed, and the overall game environment had shifted slightly (but not very much) from hard-core, high-end, "uber" guild raids to more of a "large ensemble of groups, duos, and solo players" just doing their own thing.
I quit again.
Another year later, I went back....again. The game had almost entirely changed by that time. Solo players could "hire" NPC mercenary fighters and healers to help them, which enabled them to play alone. The former group-dependent classes (like healers) had some massive improvements in higher level spells and could very formidably take on creatures that would've eaten them for a snack a decade prior. The game became extremely solo and very few things actually required a group to undertake (the instanced dungeons still required a certain number of players, however).
Eventually, because players had gotten so used to solo functions, there was no grouping anymore. The previously "uber" guilds no longer existed, other than marginally. There seemed to be no goal to the game anymore. It became boring.
I quit again.
I haven't played Everquest in a couple years now, and I have to say I still miss it. There are quite a few things from "the old days" of the game that made it exciting and fun, and those things are missing now, but the game still beckons occasionally. I've moved on to other online games like Evony and Wizard101 (mostly because they are free), and I still dabble with Gemstone from time to time. But I do remember and miss Norrath. Only the old school gamers will remember some of the things that made your pulse race and your heart pound, and I think they'd agree that those elements have long since disappeared from a game that has certainly had a long run but has been on a downhill slide for quite some time.
Running from Firiona Vie proper to the Lake of Ill Omen, dodging arachnids along the way. By the time you reached the zone line, if your palms weren't sweaty and you didn't need a Valium, you really weren't that much of an EQ gamer.
Hanging out in the Oasis of Marr (before they converted it into one big zone with North Ro), and panicking whenever someone yelled through the zone, "Spectres to dock!" or someone led a sand giant into your midst and died, leaving you to flee or fend off the angry monster.
Spending countless hours in Rathe Mountains farming hill giants for their precious platinum pieces, to the point where your pockets were so full of coins you couldn't move faster than a very slow walk.
Nagafen and Vox raids...dying and being resurrected just to die again, over and over and over, and then hoping you'd win a random roll on the coveted loot (that is so ridiculously wimpy now that it isn't even considered yard trash loot).
The Boots of Flowing Slime quest for caster classes...what a nightmare. With the gear available now, those boots aren't even worth using as a doorstop, but back then, they were like Gollum's "precious" in Lord of the Rings. You HAD to have them or you weren't worth your weight as a caster.
Epic quests...that can now be completely solo'ed. How many times did you try to get the pieces for your 1.0 epic? Now all they are is extra weight in your backpack.
These days, a player can go into zones that previously were locked or required a quested key to get into. The Sleeper's Tomb, for instance. And the mobs there can be solo'ed by the "weakest" of classes...where before, those classes would be terrified to even set foot in the zone line for fear of being summoned and slain.
I guess I'll probably be back again someday.