EverQuest Next - The Power of Class Imbalances
EverQuest Next is quickly coming around the corner and with it, the chance to reclaim the glory days of our youth. OK... it's not really coming right around the corner, and nothing is ever going to give me my youth back at this point, but that doesnt mean there arent old-school aspects of EverQuest that could see a comeback. There are quite a few concepts that can be modified and brought forward from our original EverQuest days that could drastically change the way players interact with each other and with the community at large. We've been talking about them for a while now, but today I'm going to explain why we need to do away with this continual obsession with class balance.
Whoa! Whoa! Wow. After the past few weeks, I would have thought you'd give me a chance to explain my position and thoughts before grabbing the torches and pitchforks. Before anyone has an aneurism, let me be clear that this does not refer to the PvP of any game. Even EverQuest recognized this back in the day so spells and abilities were treated differently on PvP servers so they wouldn't interfere with PvE content. In fact, why more companies don't go down this route these days, I have no idea. Nothing drives players crazier than having their abilities nerfed because of the way it affects gameplay in either PvE or PvP. As a PvE player, I couldnt possibly care any less about what happens in PvP and you'll find those players generally feel the same way about my PvE content. Anyway, back to the main topic at hand
Back in the day, classes were not created equally. Not even close. If you wanted to have a soloing powerhouse, you chose a Necromancer, Magician, Wizard, or Bard. If you wanted to get out of virtually any situation the game could throw at you, you chose a Monk. Tanks were tanks, healers were healers, and Enchanters were the undisputed masters of crowd control. None of the classes were balanced in terms of being equally viable for solo or group play and quite frankly, the idea was ridiculous. Each class had a very specific role in groups (keep in mind group play was the overwhelming norm at the time) and as a result, each played very differently. By today's standards, all the classes were horribly imbalanced and not remotely equal. Rather than detract from gameplay though, it gave each player a clear sense of focus.
Main tank, off tank, healer, DPS, crowd control - these were all various roles that were filled by players depending directly on which class they chose at character creation. A Warrior made for a horrible DPS addition, but could take more damage and keep the attention of even the most flighty beast. The Ranger could pull a mob off the edge of a cluster from an incomprehensible amount of distance since no one could match its ranged ability with a bow. Monks and Necromancers were also masters of dangerous pulling situations thanks to their ability to feign death. And when a pull did go badly, it was the Enchanter that kept all the mobs frozen and in check while the party went to work taking targets down. The Cleric would keep the main tank alive as the DPS classes slowly started to build up their damage. Yes, I said slowly - the person that pulled aggro off a tank quickly found themselves without a heal since the game was about playing your role well, not trying to do the most damage as quickly as possible. Again, everyone had their roles.
While we don't need to go back to the days of losing XP for dying, sitting for 30 minutes to gain enough mana to make it through the next 3 battles, or camping a specific location for hours just grinding, we do need to take a look at some of these aspects the original EverQuest. Class imbalance was the norm and it clearly served a specific purpose. We need a game to come along and enforce various class roles to help steer the community into a more cooperative and self-regulating force. Clear class separation won't matter at all without the consequences (both good and bad) of a reputation that follows your character forever... but that's next week's topic!