EverQuest Next is a title of great mystery and intrigue. We've heard rumors. Then, after those rumors were dashed, we heard some more. The level of speculation is endless. Everybody has a wish list of things they'd like to see in the game, myself included. For starters, I desperately want to see EverQuest Next make a return to encouraging community-building through game play the way the original EverQuest did. There are a number of ways EQ forged its tight-knit community but, for today, let's focus on one subtle yet extremely powerful interdependency tool--buffs.
I love the title of this article and what it conveys. To the older MMORPG player, trained in the ancient ways of EverQuest at its heyday, it makes perfect sense. But to the uninitiated it looks like little more than the gibberish ranting of a man gone mad or, at the very least, acronym crazy. The literal translation of the title is: "Mass Group Buff Koadic's Endless Intellect cast at Plane of Knowledge bank in 30 minutes." What it really meant was, "Drop what you're doing and hightail it over to the main bank in the Plane of Knowledge to receive an incredibly awesome buff. I'm casting in 30 minutes and if you're not there you're out of luck."
Other classes could cast MGB spells and all of them were welcome gifts to the players they were bestowed upon. Even the non-group versions of many spells were hotly sought-after items. Magicians were able to summon full sets of temporary armor and weapons that would disappear upon the pet's death or your logging off. A pet's combat effectiveness was greatly increased by equipping these items and they were commonly begged and donated for. Clerics were able to cast health and armor buffs that would increase your ability to survive exponentially. It may sound presumptuous, but it was the implementation of these types of buffs and game mechanics that encouraged massive community involvement within the player base. I'm hoping EverQuest Next is going to bring back some of the same.
I freely admit that games are changing and the players with them but, in the pursuit of the next big thing, I think we've begun to lose some important aspects of MMOs we loved the most. There was a time when buffing someone was met with a thank you, or even a donation. Buffs actually mattered back then and their recipients were appreciative. Casting a buff for someone generally chewed up a large portion of a character's mana. The person who was kind enough to grace you with the buff of your choice (or a random drive by buffing) would inevitably need to sit and meditate, waiting for their character to gain that mana back, which wasn't always a fast process.
Different classes had different buffs available to cast on
others. This was also at a time in gaming history when classes were not
created equally. At all. Everyone had their specialized skills and
functions within a group, though. Their individual buffs worked in much
the same way. For example, Enchanters were the masters of crowd control
and mana buffs. Their most popular buff spell was entitled, "Koadic's
Endless Intellect", otherwise just known as "KEI" -- the caster's crack in
EverCrack. The amount of time it took for casters to regenerate mana was
significant and KEI was a buff that increased the caster's total mana
pool, mana regeneration speed, intelligence, and wisdom for a duration of
two and a half hours. This was a godsend to all casters and any other
class that used mana.
By creating a system where buffs actually mattered, were spread out between numerous classes, and cost the caster time, a self-imposed behavior system began to take form. Were you an asshat? Guess what? It wouldn't take many levels before other players realized it and refused to buff you unless you first donated exorbitant amounts of cash. The opposite was also true -- players who ran by handing out random buffs to help others got known (and rewarded) quickly. The community itself became nicer as a whole because everyone needed each other in order to be truly effective.
This community-building tool is poised for a comeback. Don't believe me? Think I'm off my rocker? Well, to that I'll simply say that it happened before and could very well happen again. I have high hopes for EverQuest Next and some of the staples I hope to see it bring back to the industry. I've got plenty more, but while you're waiting for me to share my list, pipe up in the comments and let me know what old EQ systems, zones, or game mechanics you'd like to see make a return.