EverQuest Next: The Magic of Hunting for Spells & Skills
EverQuest Next will be officially revealed at SOE Live on August 2nd. When that happens, the world is going to find out all kinds of awesome bits of goodness about the next upcoming title in the EverQuest franchise. While we wait though, I continue my commentary about how the brilliance of interlocking multiple facets of gameplay in the original EverQuest helped shape one of the greatest gaming communities the world has ever known.
If you were an EQ caster, you needed spells. If you were a warrior class, you needed skills. If you were a hybrid of these, you needed both. At the end of the day, no matter what you were hunting for to progress your character's personal abilities, you had to go out and find it. As an FYI, for the sake of brevity in this article, I'm going to refer to both skills and spells as the same thing. With that out of the way, let's carry on!
Long before World of Warcraft let your character get every skill they needed at each appropriate level step of character evolution from a single NPC, games made you run all over hell and back for certain spells. (Yes, I am aware there were some spells that required quests or other hunting actions by Paladins and Warlocks in the early days of WoW, but for the most part, you could get everything you needed by visiting a single NPC.) When EverQuest began, it forced characters to either trek through hell to get a spell themselves, ask for a higher level caster to create it using the Research ability, or buying it from an enterprising player. That mechanic was a stroke of genius.
While most spell merchants in various towns had a standard set of available spells, if you needed to get a spell called Shackle of Bone (a slow/debuff spell with the coolest animation of any spell ever) for example, you had to go to ONE vendor, or find someone willing to sell it. And I don't mean you had to go to one vendor in any major city, such as Freeport ... I mean you had to go to one vendor in the entire game. While the elderly merchant selling this spell wasn't too much of a hassle to get to, in the early days there were some sellers that were hell to either trek to, or to be able to buy from (see last week's article on KOS factions).
To this day, I still want to skin the hide off of Lissa T`Born, a Dark Elf merchant in The Overthere that wouldn't sell Exile Undead (an extremely effective Undead direct damage spell) to my Dark Elf Necromancer because, rather than being on Neriak Faction (the home of the Dark Elves), she was on a faction called Venril Sathir. Why does that matter? I may have spent an inordinate amount of time slaughtering Drachnids (who are on Venril Sathir faction) thus lowering my faction with every kill. Its not my fault. Honest! There was this little matter of revenge I had to sort out for all the deaths those bitches had caused me months earlier. When it was all said and done my faction was so low that when it came time to buy the spell, Lissa nearly attacked me on sight. It seemed that even though I slaughtered them for nearly a week (ALLEGEDLY!), they still got the last laugh since I couldn't buy my own damned spell. It was still worth it.
"Great... so you had to run around, get killed by things, and try to hunt down all the spells you needed?" Yes. It may not sound exciting in light of being handed all your skills each level in games today, but it was a huge deal back in the day. And as I mentioned previously, it set up a system for players to help each other out. The not-too-common spells could be had by getting lucky on a mob drop (and these mobs were specific per spell, not some random can-happen-anywhere event), or sometimes ... they could be created.
Casters had access to a skill called Research. Throughout Norrath, various mobs would drop words of power, such as Words of Material, Words of Eradication, etc. Assuming a caster had the appropriate amount of skill, they could create a wide variety of spells by combining different words. This skill not only added yet another layer to the necessity for community interaction, it also added another level to the incredibly intricate layers of EverQuest gameplay.
I will freely admit that when I first started playing EverQuest, I had no clue what was going on. I just knew that I was playing a game with a 3D first person view with my close friends and it was our old Dungeons and Dragons sessions on steroids. We were in a video game unlike anything that had ever been seen before and we loved it. Even after gaining spells for my Necromancer, I had no idea that my Warrior had to work on their skills and use them repeatedly to gain proficiency. Oh, the pain of being level 14 and discovering I had only 5 points in 2H Slashing (two-handed edged weapons) when I finally got my first magic weapon and it was a 2-handed blade. But that, my friends ... that's a tale for next week!
While you wait for next weeks piece, catch up on any previous EverQuest Next articles you may have missed! If youve got questions, old-school aspects youd like me to cover, or anything in between, shoot me an email or hit me up on Twitter!