Updated Thu, Jun 20, 2013 by Dalmarus
I’ve been an MMO player since the launch of EverQuest’s first expansion, The Ruins of Kunark, released in early 2000. Since 2005 I’ve been involved in the game industry, whether on the press side of the fence, or from inside game companies themselves. One of the most perplexing things I’ve witnessed in that time is the disappearance of KOS (kill-on-sight) factions, and it’s high time they made their return. I’m hoping EverQuest Next will be the game that does it.
So what exactly do I mean by KOS factions? In today’s games, when you try to approach a guard post or enter a town belonging to a faction that doesn’t like whichever faction you happen to be a part of, you’re either magically blocked from entering, or ignored completely. Even those games that do have KOS factions really have no reason to do so. For example, sure, my human Paladin would be set upon if he tried to enter Orgrimmar, but this is a failure for two reasons.
First, there’s absolutely no reason I would ever need to go there. I have no need to enter for any quest, there isn’t any vendor there with a spell I can’t get elsewhere, nor is the town blocking any shortcut to a desired hunting ground. Because of this, the concept of making any faction’s guards attack players is pointless at best and a slap in the face at worst.
Second, and more important in my opinion, there is no system in place to allow you to earn your way via friendly status. Now before you get your knickers in a tizzy, I don’t mean some system where I only need to kill 50 humans to gain access to the deepest secrets of Orgrimmar; I’m referring to a long and grueling method of gaining favor, whether that means having to kill tens of thousands of certain mobs or a new system equally as difficult but less mind numbing.
Why would anyone want to do such a thing? For bragging rights, of course. In the early days of EverQuest, everything took time and there were numerous ways to earn bragging rights without having to say a word. Were you a Dark Elf Necromancer with a duck staff? Sure everyone may have laughed at the way the staff looked, but they weren’t laughing at the Necromancer because it was instantly clear just how much time and effort he put into getting that weapon. Maybe you were a High Elf that could waltz right into the heart of the Iksar city, Cabalis. Not only would such a sight cause instant shock and awe in any witness, it was clear you had spent a completely incomprehensible amount of time killing more Sarnaks (or other mob that granted favorable faction with the Iksar) than anyone would think possible.
Finally, there’s also the matter of genuinely needing to get in and out of cities. Freeport was a hub of activity, quests, merchants, and more. Numerous races were unable to enter the city without having to work for it. Those who couldn’t enter through the front gate either snuck their way through the sewers or asked an Enchanter, Magician, Wizard, or Shaman to cast Invisibility to grant temporary invisibility. As a side note, even then, the spell duration was always unpredictable at best, so there was always a certain level of panic waiting to boil up from the pit of your stomach.
At the end of the day, it’s that tiny spark of panic that I think I miss the most. Whether you snuck in somewhere you shouldn’t be by timing the movements of the guards, were aided by a spell, or attempted the brute force method, it was exciting to explore places you knew you were unwanted. Having a system like this would never entice players to push the boundaries on their own though – for it to really work, players need a reason to go anywhere gaining entrance to would prove incredibly difficult. So how do you pull something like that off? It all goes back to making game mechanics interlock and support each other. You see, back in the day, we didn’t instantly have access to all our new abilities when we reached X level. We also didn’t have the luxury of getting them all from a single trainer. Spells and abilities were scattered across the continents, and some of the most highly sought-after could only be gained by traveling to the middle of a dungeon and buying them from the merchant there, or created through the Research skill. But as you’ve probably already guessed, that’s an entirely new topic we’ll talk about 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!