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Thursday, October 20, 2005

Aggro Book Review: Everquest Companion

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Welcome to the first book review here on Aggro Me. Don't worry, this isn't turning into a literary criticism blog. This book is Everquest related. The full title is Everquest Companion: The Inside Lore of a Gameworld by Robert Marks. It's available on Amazon, though only from secondary sellers (blasted book farmers!). I'm not going to link to it because I don't want you to think I'm getting wild amounts of Amazon referral dollars. I'm sure you all know how to search Amazon.

Ah, before I start, I have to thank the guys at
EQ2Daily. I heard about this book on one of their podcasts and I really appreciate the fact that they mentioned it.

So here goes:

Price: Unbeatable. I got my copy for 87 cents. Yes, that's right, 87 cents and it was in perfect condition. The shipping was a few dollars I believe, I forget how much.

The Title: Terrible. It's too long and the Everquest Companion part makes it sound like a Prima Strategy Guide, which it certainly isn't.

The Writing: Not good. I don't want to beat up on the author here with specifics but I'm also not going to lie to you. It's just flat, ungainly prose.

The Content: Ups and downs. I think a big part of the problem is that the author was trying to write both for people who never played Everquest before and those who did. I think that was a mistake because I really don't think it would appeal to the non-EQ audience. The title doesn't help in that regard. The decision to make the book palatable to "newbs" leads to questionable decisions like a long and quite boring summary of a night of gameplay.

But some of it is absolutely great. We get a wonderful insight into the history of the game, the problems it faced and the people who worked on it. There is a lot of fascinating stuff about the technical struggles and very newness of the game concept that the team was trying to present.

We get a peak into the creation of the EQ lore. For example, the character Lucan D'Lere was based on a character named Sir Lucan deBoterlere played by Tony Garcia in one of Bill Trost's D&D campaigns. According to the character sheet, he's "immune to fear of any kind" so don't be stepping to Lucan with the fear spells.

I think the fact that this was an "official" book prevented it from relating what I really wanted to hear, the dirt. There's a quote by Smed about McQuaid being big into debating politics but that's about it.
And that's a rare personal item, most of the stuff on SOE/Verant is rather dry. It does get personal again when discussing controversies like the guy who got banned for posting "a story about a Dark Elf slave master trying to have his way with a 14-year old Elf" or the suicides/fake suicides involving EQ.

Another problem with the content is that it's oddly repetitive. Also, there's a whole chapter on the future of gaming which is really pointless and out of place.

Still though, there's a lot of other great stuff I'm not even getting to. I might use some of the other material as a source of quotes when I write future posts. It's a great reference for me.

Sidebars: The sidebars are some of the best part of the book. Most of them were taken from the news group alt.games.everquest and a lot of the little vignettes are great. I would have liked to have read even more stories from players and coverage of the in-game drama. They capture a lot of the laughter and flavor of the Everquest world that the main content misses.

Artwork: Very nice. There are full color pages in the middle that make it worth the 87 cents right there. Heck, it's worth the 87 cents as a paperweight. But the artwork, specifically the concept drawings, is great. However, like some of the content, it is strangely repetitive. Certain artwork appears on multiple pages. For example, the same concept art of a female dark elf appears on three separate pages. That's just lame.

Outside the Game: The book covers the "spamming" (my term) of EQ into such varied elements as a tabletop game, a comic, a Pocket PC game, a cellphone game and an RTS game. Some were successful, others were
not. And to me, it's not so much the lore or intellectual property that made EQ such a phenomenon, it's the fact that it was a great game with a fantastic community. That's a lesson that is well worth remembering.

The Greatest Quote Ever: This was worth the price of admission for me.

"A person's out-of-game status should not be able to affect their in-game status," Smedley said. "For example, a rich person should not be able to buy their way into a great character. My personal feeling, and that of the rest of the team, is that it is something that could be harmful to the game."

Ah, okay. You
sure about that one?

Overall: I've been pretty negative in my review, and I had a right to be. It's a flawed book. But the truth is, I couldn't put it down. Maybe part of that is due to my fascination with the subject matter, but it's really one of the best looks at the whole Everquest phenomenon that you're ever going to get.

So, confusing as it may seem, I was disappointed in the book yet I still recommend it to EQ fans. Welcome to the strange world of Aggro Me Book Reviews.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think the book is just far to out of date now.

I read it when it first came out 2-3 years ago and enjoyed it quite a lot.

Now it's probably more "retro" than realistic just because we now have the benefit of hindsight.

5:03 AM  
Blogger jaipehg said...

I just finished it myself, I bought it for 34 cents, hah! I pretty much agree with you. The repetitive pictures kinda botehred me, haha.

"Wait.. did I see that a couple pages ago?"

9:18 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here is a link to more of Monual's Adeventures

I remember buying this because:
1. He was a fellow Canadian.
2. I read all his articles on diabloii.net
3. I like learning more about Everquest.

Being used to his writing style and having an interest in the subject matter probably made me notice those flaws less. I fully enjoyed reading it.

Maybe you can review this next.
Engineering Everquest

11:32 AM  
Blogger Hirebrand said...

There is nothing wrong with Amazon referrals, you know. If you are helping Amazon sell books and they want to pay you for the privilage, go for it. :)

3:19 PM  
Blogger Love Kpop said...

I often get emotionally involved. Like when I read your post, I can cry, laugh, sad, funny, depending on your written words. I think you are a sensitive person.

11:59 PM  
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