The EverQuest franchise is nothing if not… um… innovative. Whether it’s the controversial sale of level 85 characters for EverQuest II (though it may just be controversial to me – in actuality it’s proving *very* popular) or going against the communities desire for specific race/class combinations (though I agree with their reasoning), there’s rarely been a time in the franchise’s history that they haven’t been at the forefront of some new concept or idea in the industry. This is not only one of things I’ve come to hope for from Sony Online Entertainment, it’s something I expect… nay - *demand* continue, specifically in the realm of flavor spells.
They may not be as flashy and immediately understandable as pure combat spells, but they add a needed ambience to any role playing game. It’s the flavor spells of EverQuest that helped cement innumerable memories within the hearts and minds of millions.
So what is a flavor spell? To me, it’s any spell that doesn’t have a pure combat component. A lightning bolt is clearly a combat spell, but something like Sight Graft isn’t. Sight Graft allowed a Necromancer to see through the eyes of their pet. It wasn’t the most useful spell since you couldn’t control the pet and use them as a scout, but when you eventually combined it with the higher level spell, Voice Graft, the results were beyond awesome.
I used mine like a ventriloquist dummy all the time. It drove most of my friends pretty crazy because like most budding ventriloquists, I was a pretty quiet and nice guy. My pet, on the other hand, was a total ass. Whether using him in low level zones to give new players quests I would make up (I gave them gold, so it’s not like they did it for nothing) or harassing my fellow groupmates, the spell was a blast. The best though was the day I realized I could use Voice Graft to create fake emotes. Let me tell you… when my buddy’s girlfriend saw my pet skeleton “steal 2 platinum pieces” from her, she snapped. To this day, I think she still wants to kill me over that gag. Priceless.
Enchanters had a number of illusion spells at their fingertips. This allowed them to not only access cities they would otherwise be slaughtered in to purchase spells or tradeskill items they may have needed, it also allowed for some amazing role playing. How? Remember that in EverQuest, there were race and class combination restrictions. An Iksar couldn’t be an Enchanter for example, so I was pretty shocked to discover an Iksar Enchanter one day. At the time, I didn’t even know illusion spells existed. When I stopped to ask how he made an Enchanter as an Iksar, he just laughed and tossed me a piece of gold. To this day, I don’t know what his actual race was.
There was also an illusion spell that allowed an Enchanter to turn themselves into a tree. That’s right… a tree. Seems pretty pointless and boring, doesn’t it? It was too - right up until some enterprising young soul realized that you would stay in tree form when you died. By leaving one item on their corpse, that “tree” would also persist for 7 days. Imagine my surprise when running through the Desert of Northern Ro one day when I came upon a forest where none had been the day before. Keep in mind that leveling took much longer back then, so I had been in that same general area for weeks.
It’s moments like these that shift a game from being just that to something genuinely special. Flavor doesn’t have to just come in the form of non-combat spells though. When developers have a little fun with the spells they create, it not only makes them more memorable, it makes the team more endearing to the players. Take for example, an Enchanter stun spell called “Whirl Till You Hurl”. It was a stun that spun the target in a circle while they were under the effect. Not really a big deal… until a mob casts that spell on you. Let me confirm from personal experience that the screen spins very fast and the spell is very aptly named. I may not have blown chunks, but even thinking about the first time that happened, I have to tell my stomach who is boss so it doesn’t get any funny ideas.
Another classic was my Necromancer’s Dead Man Floating spell. Back in the day, the developers of EverQuest had a penchant for combining spell effects. Dead Man Floating (or DMF as it was affectionately known) gave a player the following spell effects for a little over an hour: increased poison resistance, levitation, see invisible, and water breathing. It was an extremely useful (and popular) spell that any old EverQuest player remembers clearly to this day.
By creating spells such as these and more, the EverQuest team imbued the game’s spell system with more than just numbers – they instilled a sense of spirit and community. I know you hear me harp about the importance of anything that encourages community and this is no exception. It’s time for a game to take up the gauntlet and show the world how it can be done again. Here’s hoping that EverQuest Next: Landmark and EverQuest Next are the games to do it.