Posted Tue, Aug 06, 2013 by Dalmarus
Last week we were finally released from the shackles that kept us from sharing all of the EverQuest Next goodness we’d seen at E3 earlier this year. Thanks to the game’s official announcement and a mass amount of EverQuest Next panels at SOE Live, we can now talk about everything we’ve learned so far. One thing that hasn’t been clearly covered and is still up for speculation, though, is the pace of combat in EQNext.
Combat in the modern MMORPG moves too fast. Now, before anyone from the peanut gallery pipes up with, “Get with the times, gramps!” or some other comment of that sort, I’m not saying we need a combat system that lets you fall asleep at your desk. I do, however, think today’s combat has become more about speed, the perfect rotation, and how many mobs you can kill in 60 seconds.
Back in the days of the first EverQuest, combat was a much longer affair than it is now. Last week I talked about how everyone needs a little fizzle in their lives. That goes for the melee type players as well as the casters. Spell slingers had to deal with their wares being resisted on a regular basis while also getting the occasional (or often, if their skills weren’t up to par) fizzle. On top of all this, they had to watch the amount of aggro they were building. This went for healers as well as DPS types. Not that they had to do this without any type of meter. It was something the player felt, and really became an art form in and of itself.
Melee types weren’t off the hook either. A good Warrior had a ton of manual skills to keep up while leveling – Taunt, Disarm, Bash, Kick, Archery, Hand to Hand (you never knew when you’d have to fight back to your corpse naked), Bind Wounds, and every single weapon type… 1H Blunt, 2H Blunt, 1H Slashing, 2H Slashing, and Piercing. Even if you kept on top of them, these skills didn’t climb quickly. Can you imagine trying to keep all these skills up to snuff at the pace of today’s combat and leveling speed? I can’t.
So with all the skills above, melee types had a wide range of things to keep in mind during any battle and, just like a caster could be resisted or get a fizzle, those players that preferred going toe to toe with their opponents had to deal with misses… a lot. An average fight could last 15-30 seconds if you were a group tagging mobs of equal level, or minutes if you were just out hunting with a friend.
Having combat move at a slower pace may sound boring, but it was actually just the opposite. Because you missed so often, had your spells resisted so often, or just had the damage of your “OMFG I’m unloading my biggest spell on you!” spell cut down to 1/20th of what it can hit for on a semi-regular basis, combat was more exciting, not less, because you couldn’t count on everything to go as planned. Ever.
It all goes back to adding a serious level of random chance into combat. When you were in a fight, you paid very close attention to what was happening on the screen. If you were a fighter, you were watching the mob to see if it started to cast a spell so you could time your shield bash to stun it. If you were a caster getting beat on, you paid attention to your opponent and the moment he hit or missed you was the optimal time to get your spell off without being interrupted. Fighters taunted to their heart’s content, and casters slowly built their heals or damage up in order to allow the tank to keep taunt from them. It was a different world of art and feel rather than trying to rush through every fight as quickly as possible.
As a result of all this, players also had time to learn to play classes very well, and took pride in doing so. When your party wipes in the bottom of Kaesora, and you then discover that you have a Warrior who kept his unarmed skill maxed out and you all fight your way naked back to your corpses, that Warrior goes on your friends list immediately and will never wait for a group if you’re around ever again.
Combat took long enough that you could tell who knew their class well and who didn’t. For those players who did, they were set getting groups. For those who didn’t, many treated it as an opportunity to learn and get better – again insuring they were quick to be picked up for future groups. It was very rare for someone to really suck by level 20 and still be around if they refused to learn anything.
The pace of combat and its prominent elements of randomness were not the only thing that kept combat interesting and a bit in the realm of the unknown. EverQuest also had a masterful mob consideration system that is in desperate need of making a return to the modern world. But of course you know that’s a topic for next week!
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!