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Monday, 16 September, 2002, 07:46 GMT 08:46 UK
Epic wait ends for gaming heroes
EverQuest screenshot, Sony
Ragefire looks set to die much more often
No matter how brave a warrior counts themselves, you would not expect them to look forward to fighting a huge, enraged dragon.

Yet in the hugely popular online game EverQuest, many players are eagerly taking their chance to kill such a fearsome beast.

They are so keen to fight because before now they have had a wait of months for a chance to kill the dragon and complete a key stage of their in-game character's development.

EverQuest creator Verant made changes to clear the bottleneck causing the long delays, but some fear the alterations will unbalance the game.

Stolen glory

In EverQuest players control characters that grow in skill at a particular profession, such as warrior, thief or priest, by completing quests during which they gather booty and kill monsters.

When they are powerful enough, every profession can complete an epic quest which rewards them with a powerful magical artefact.

These items cannot be passed on to other characters or sold. The only way to get them is by completing the quest.

The epic quest of EverQuest's clerics, priests and healers, demanded the killing of a powerful red dragon called Ragefire.

Ragefire appeared between two and six days of real time after its human form was killed. The timer was re-set every time the EverQuest servers were shut down for maintenance.

EverQuest screenshot, Sony
Adventuring in EverQuest is fraught with danger
This delay, and the fact that only one group could take him on at any time, forced some players to wait months for their chance to kill him.

The bottleneck led to some unsporting play by some groups, or guilds.

One player who suffered more than most was Dale Graham from Florida who controls a powerful cleric called Seyiyes.

Mr Graham sat in front of his computer for days waiting for Ragefire to turn up, only to have his guild's chance to kill it snatched away by another group called Silent Resurgence.

"It really hurt our entire guild," Mr Graham told BBC News Online. "We have lost many members."

"I have played very little in the last two weeks," he said, "a lot of it is because of loss of respect and love for the game."

Rule breaker

The practice of barging in and taking someone else's chance to deal a monster a mortal blow is called "kill-stealing" and is banned under EverQuest's terms and conditions.

Now Verant has changed the method of triggering the dragon form of Ragefire which means it appears much more often. The result has been lots of clerics completing their epic quest much faster than they otherwise have done.

The change has been widely praised on many EverQuest discussion groups because it removes the bottleneck but remains as challenging because good teamwork is needed to complete the new part of the quest.

Others fear that the proliferation of powerful magical items the changes will cause could make some parts of the game too easy.

Mr Graham has been told that Verant is investigating the "kill-stealing" incident he suffered and that action could be taken against Silent Resurgence if they are found to have broken the game's rules.

See also:

24 Jul 02 | Technology
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29 Mar 02 | Science/Nature
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10 Sep 02 | Technology
12 May 00 | Science/Nature
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