EverQuest Next: Skills - Failure is Not an Option

Posted Tue, Jul 02, 2013 by Dalmarus

EverQuest Next skills

For a couple of months now, I've been talking about EverQuest and the importance of numerous systems interlocking to make the game not only an engrossing experience for the player, but to help ensure a community that worked together. Some of those systems involved each player taking a little bit of effort to do some homework and work on improving their play. Skills were not only an effective carrot that rewarded you with periodic increases, it was crucial for the player to keep them maxed in order to be effective in a group. And trust me, if you were not effective, you either learned how to play better quickly or you'd find yourself without a group in a hurry. That might not be a big deal these days, but back then, it could end a character's progress.

Okay, so you had to keep your skills up. No big deal, right? Yeah ... right. Let me give you two scenarios in which I failed horribly at this before I finally caught on. My very first character was a Wood Elf Warrior that followed Rallos Zek (that worked out well ... not!). I decided the character was going to be a master of one-handed blades. I got a sword early in the game and used that (along with the occasional minor upgrade I was lucky enough to find) as I progressed. When I was level 14 (this was after over a month of playing), I found my first magic weapon... a 2-handed blade with a +1 to strength. I was awe struck. It was the most glorious thing I had ever seen. I quickly disregarded my previous stance of only using one-handed blades and equipped my new epic blade.

Armed with my new weapon of mass destruction, I quickly called my best friend and he hopped on to join me for some sweet hunting. And it was sweet indeed... right up until the point when we reached the North Desert of Ro and I pulled the very first Dune Tarantula I saw. And then missed with my opening swing. And the next, and the next, and ... you get the picture. Needless to say, after a few blows (my friend didn't realize that I hadn't hit the mob yet), it spun on him and munched him like a Trisket. Right there, an EverQuest life lesson was reinforced: as the Warrior in a group, your companions’ lives are your responsibility. You’re the one who’s supposed to keep the monsters from using them as chew toys. Duly noted!

EverQuest Next skills

I failed to hit the Dune Tarantula more than once or twice during that encounter (neither of the few blows I did connect with increased my 2H Blade skill up from a measly 5 points... at level 14 it should have been about 70, if I remember correctly). Okay, no problem, I thought. I'll just go to some newbie area and get my skills up that way. And therein lies the moral of the story and proof positive that the EQ development team had yet again implemented a system that was not to be carelessly ignored.

You see, unless a mob would give you at least some experience points, you could not gain any skills off of it (no risk, no reward). As such, this meant my level 14 Warrior needed to spend an eternity fighting mobs of just slightly lower levels to gain any skill points. Fortunately, I had a friend who was a Cleric and was kind enough to waste an entire night healing me while I brought my 2H skills up. One more point of pain and woe in this tale - the closer you get to your max skill level, the slower you gain those skill points. OUCH! After that, I was sure to swap weapons and get my 5 skill points each level to avoid such pain again.

While I had gotten the point of this lesson through my head in terms of my Warrior, I hadn't done the same for my Necromancer. Oh sure, my buffs and combat spells were always kept at max and I kicked ass in groups. There was one school of magic I had virtually disregarded in its entirety, though. That is, until I hit level 18 and received one of the most coveted Necromancer spells of all time - Track Corpse. (Finding a lost corpse was such an event that it even spawned a song). Ah... once again, everything goes back to being designed to help others in the community. At level 18, my Divination skill should have been 90. By the time I reached that level, I think my actual skill was less than 10. It was going to take a hell of a lot of casting to get my skill up to acceptable levels. Ugh.

EverQuest Next skills

Well damn the developers, right? How dare they want me to keep my skills up, and then not give me access to any spells that utilized that skill! Actually, they did, right from level one with two spells entitled Sense the Dead and Invisibility vs. Undead. Unfortunately, I rarely if ever used them. The same is true of a number of other spells used for sensing direction (there were no mini-maps back then), invisibility, and some humorous spells to turn your skeleton pet into a ventriloquist dummy (dear gods, did I have some fun with that spell combo, haha). I didn't have to use those spells as I leveled my character, but doing so would have kept my Divination spell up where it should have been.

So, what's all of this got to do with the price of batwings in the East Commons Tunnel? Everything. Players were expected to take a certain amount of responsibility for their characters and how they could benefit the group, not just themselves. The gamers of the day took pride in the class, their character, and as I've mentioned previously, their reputation. By encouraging players to utilize the wide range of skills they had access to, it also allowed players to regularly come up with new and innovative uses for all of them. Warriors began to learn that blunt weapons were much more effective on skeletons than they were on Orcs, and casters came up with all kinds of wacky uses for the myriad spells they had available at their fingertips.

This wasn't the only method the EverQuest developers used to let the player explore and figure things out for themselves in the game. Back in the day, you would also have a conversation with NPCs in an attempt to discover quests and get clues to solve them. Of course, you know what that really means... I'll see you back here next week to talk about interactive quest conversations!

While you wait for next week’s piece, catch up on any previous EverQuest Next articles you may have missed! If you’ve got questions, old-school aspects you’d like me to cover, or anything in between, shoot me an email or hit me up on Twitter!

Great work once again Dal. I love these articles, they provide me a brief moment of respite during these terrible days before we know enough about EQN.

My main was a Paladin and I made a conscious effort to keep all my skills up, just in case I ever needed them. Thus, each level I would max all my weapon skills (1H Slash, 1H Blunt, 2H Slash, etc), as well as all my other skills such as Bash, Sense Heading, Fishing, etc, etc. I thoroughly enjoyed doing this as I never knew when I would get a new weapon that needed a particular skills, or when my Sense Heading would say the day (i.e. never).

EQ1 was so deep, I just wish developers could see it for what it is and go back to these good old days.

Lol seeing a wood elf druid toon as a warrior! I caught you! As somebody that played hardcore from Oct 99 thru June 01, I miss all the good times, the multiple hours raiding Fear, Hate, and Air, or was it Sky? Raids were hardcore, everything was hardcore and we loved it! WoW sucks compared to how hard EQ was. The lack of real quests and the mystery of how things worked sucked (like resists, which were broken when I played). As a badass Bard on Solusek Ro, I remember the skill it took to play and the positive feedback when things went well. If EQ was more translucent like WoW with statistics but still tough like it was, you would have the hardcore MMORPG people all playing EQ.

Love the inside of the backdoor of Unrest, the horrible pathing and chain aggro it caused sucked! Maybe it wouldn't have been as bad if the group moved in but it wasn't an instance, it was a crazy free for all! And we loved it like that, stuff was crazy!

Just chain linking off the first response, EQ was hard and solo'ing was a pain in the ass, you grouped and loved it! Camping and grinding Exp was what you did. Raids were 4-5 hours and not like candy ass WoW.

Hah Unrest, I lived there with my Paladin. Those damn hags as well... usually after a train people would hug the wall after the entrance tunnel and the hags wouldn't agro. But every now and then someone would be a bit too close or something would go wrong and they would nuke a bunch of people to hell and back. Those hags were always bad news.

I so miss EQ. Other MMOs haven't been able to capture the feel EQ had, even older ones like Vanguard (which I tried again last weekend) have gone to the way of quest crumbs.

Amazing as usual bro - just hope the folks over at SOE are reading this stuff...

Well, some people would suggest that EQ just had old, outdated game mechanics but I really enjoyed the skill system. As mentioned in the main topic, you had no in-game map to figure out where you were going, sense heading used constantly would at least allow you to know you were heading east instead of the other directions. Some skills were really dumb (alcohol tolerance comes to mind) but most all skills had a very important purpose. It didn't matter if you had the best 1h slashing weapon in the game, if you had never used a 1-hander and you were level 50, you were in for a rude awakening. If you dual wielded, it wasn't too bad but otherwise you were virtually useless for DPS in a group. I remember being in really strong groups and members asking if they could work on a specific skill and it was either approved or not. If you chose to do so and nobody wanted you to, you were kicked from group, reputation in shambles and good luck LFG again.

I would love to see a very strong skill system in EQN where it takes a serious commitment to keep your skills updated. Maybe even throw in a mechanic where if you don't learn a specific skill earlier in the game, you can never go back to it. Might hinder power leveling and be completely annoying at times but hear me out. You spend X amount of levels using only a 2h-slashing weapon. You may have accumulated 15 real-life hours of actually swinging that sword in combat. Today's games you could pick up a weapon type you have never touched and if the random number generator was in your favor, you could max out that skill in an hour or so. I'd love to see it where you could virtually have an unlimited cap on skills and the only factor deciding on it is how many real-life hours were used. I know this would have to have "some" exceptions (imagine a warrior with shield block used for 1000 hours where he/she could block virtually every attack) but I'm just sick of the way games are today and I truly want EQN to be different in that aspect.

One other really good skill would have been cartography back then. Unfortunately, cartography is about useless with today's UI's and fan-sites but it would be very cool if you could somehow work that skill up where you know every nook and cranny on a map. You know where every beast spawns or roams. You have increased odd's in loot (rare drops) or experience because you know the terrain better than your foes. It would be so funny to be one of the least sought out classes in the game until you mention you had max cartography (in a specific zone, hunting area, etc) where the group would almost be guaranteed a rare drop every time that player opened a chest. Wishful thinking but I want to see this game go in a completely different direction in almost every aspect.

Alcohol tolerance was a good skill!!

Some raid bosses actually had a spell that would make you drunk, and if tolerance was low you couldnt tell how far away you were from him and geting in range was hard to get right.

Also warriors often had that skill maxed out, as the more you drank your STR would go up! Was common to see drunk warriors.

Plus it was the funniest darn thing EVER to see someone try to navigate/ walk around Kelethin or try to go through a door while drunk.

And dont forget, things like how Monks could only carry so much weight or they would loose armor class for being to heavy. No game was ever so in depth as EQ1. Not to mention when you gained a level you EARNED it, like mentioned in the article, level 14 alone could take over a month of playing to reach! Now MMOs you can reach max level AND complete end game content in that time easily. I mean come on!

lol... touche. As a raiding Cleric I performed better sober all while planting my face into the nearest wall!

I agree, and love everything about old EQ. Question is, are there enough of us old timers to make the companies go down that path again? Probably not. Money talks after all.

I think you would be surprised at just how many people out there want that style of game play. If they want any kind of legs on this game - covering up a wow clone with "new features" is not going to cut it.

At the very minimum they need to have a classic server - I shy away from the word hardcore as corpse runs and xp loss are far from hardcore.

I recently started playing Project 1999 which is basically an emulated EverQuest server. Server I'm on is classic EQ levels 1-60 EQ, Kunark, and Velious. Nothing more. I started playing it just for that sense of nostalgia and if that's what you crave, give it a whirl. It's very humbling going back to 1999 and seeing the game as it was THEN. Leveling is brutally slow, no maps, no direction, mostly original graphics and UI, taking 5 levels to get enough cash to buy a bag, few armor pieces and 1/2 your spells... only to find a new set of spells are available... DOES IT END???? :)

Players this day and age would quit after one log in but I'm here to tell you it's a very gratifying experience if you want to re-live those early days. Everyone playing there is of the "old school" mentality. I absolutely love the place... I don't love it enough to spend every waking hour like I used to but it's fun nonetheless. No denying the fact that the slow pace of EQ is what allowed players to truly get acquainted with their class and to make some really good friends along the way. EQ is a great game... the friends and relationships you made throughout your journey is what made it a phenomenal game.

I've played on P99 up till level 53.
There are a few differences. Leveling is way faster than on classic EQ and the end game sucks because there are too many guilds competeing for the same bosses (unless Velious is released now?). Too bad really, I loved level 1-50. Breaking in to fear again was amazing. Scary as hell and you really DO NOT want to fail. Ah those were the days.

I can imagine how contested areas would be a true bottleneck right now. I never see more than about 900 on at any given time but that's not bad for an "unofficial" game. To my knowledge, Velious hasn't been released yet, just Kunark. This is solely based on what I hear through /ooc.

As I said though, it is really cool for nostalgia's sake... but you know, this ship sailed 14 years ago. I would literally hate to keep playing and something really pisses me off and it taints the otherwise beautiful image I have of EQ's classic roots. However, I will tinker till I get bored and then move back to some FPS's till EQNext comes out (or PS4 whichever first).

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