The scene in front of me is hectic. There are hundreds of people crowded together in a valley, gathering in a chokepoint that leads to a winter pass. They’ve been waiting there for hours, and they will be waiting for hours more, hoping for a chance to fight a big bad boss. These people aren’t united in that goal — in fact, it’s a competition, and one that requires an absurd amount of time, focus, and dedication. But they are united in doing it for a worthy cause.
In an ongoing series of back-and-forth battles, hundreds of people have assembled on a private server of EverQuest to raise funds for a family devastated by Hurricane Ida. The family’s home sustained major flood damage, and the money will be used to “purchase temporary housing,” according to their GoFundMe, created on Sept. 17.
This game may seem like an obscure pick, but the original EverQuest was World of Warcraft before there was World of Warcraft. Released in 1999, it was the original breakthrough MMORPG with mainstream success, although it never quite achieved the same heights as WoW. It still persists to this day; players have set up private servers, blessed by EverQuest developer Daybreak, so they can run through the game’s original challenges. And so far, members of the server have donated more than $10,000 for Murke Trahan and his family.
In order to raise funds for a family in need, a player with the handle Pacatus reached out to other players on his private server. P99 — an abbreviated version of Project 1999 — is a fan-made and fan-run legacy version of EverQuest. This private server goes back to the original era of the MMO, forgoing changes made in later expansions, allowing players to take on the same challenges. The population gathers in private Discords, as well as the P99 communities, and creates a social scene around the game. Players were able to organize — and share links to the fundraiser, as well as updates — through those channels.
EverQuest is from an earlier era, and its quest and boss design is demanding. Players don’t run into an instanced raid, where it’s player against a series of bosses and minions. Instead, they have to engage with bosses in the open world. Back when the original EverQuest came out, this naturally fostered a competitive environment.
For this challenge, players engaged in a race for FTE — aka, first to engage. A server-wide alert comes up: a boss is incoming, and it will arrive at some point soon. Only one guild can tag and ultimately defeat the boss, which randomly spawns at some point after the alert. Players gather to wait for the spawn, camping out for as long as twelve hours.
In order to defeat these bosses, players gather into guilds where they fight under the same banner. One guild, Kingdom, is a smaller guild that focuses on perfect execution. The Seal Team, on the other hand, prefers to overwhelm the boss with a larger group of players.
In 2021, the players on P99 have mastered these challenges, and they compete against equally dedicated players to complete the most important MMORPG goals of all: killing bosses using whatever tactics necessary in order to obtain loot and glory. The players know how the game works, and nowadays they can approach it in a whole new light — with a modern understanding of the code, as well as easy communication through platforms like Discord, they’re able to streamline the process down to a science.
So while hundreds of raiders crouch in the valley, waiting for the boss to spawn, most of them are on standby, going about their business. When Evanescence’s “Wake Me Up Inside” starts playing over Discord chat — the agreed-upon start signal for the boss’s sudden spawn — everyone rallies to their character. Meanwhile, the guilds send out runners to try and tag the boss.
The racer needs to do damage to the boss and pull it back to their guild without getting killed and losing credit. Then, the players take the boss down by any means necessary. Don’t have enough players? Have everyone switch to their Cleric so they can enthrall animals and build a NPC army in an attempt to burn the boss down.
It’s like a community speedrun, done between players who all share a love of the same game and want to re-experience a rare form of competition. Despite the fact that only one guild can win, the server still came together to help the Trahan family reach their goal of $10,000 in just three days. And this is just one of the ways games have played a role in fundraising for Hurricane Ida relief. Louisiana developers worked together, earlier this month, to release a games bundle on itch.io with proceeds directed to local nonprofits and charities. Through ventures like this one, EverQuest still lives on, including the sense of community only an MMO can inspire.