On Saturday afternoon at SOE Live the team on Everquest next broke down their approach to classes in the game. As many of you know, the game is filled with multiclassing. There were a few classes mentioned during the panel, we will get to those in a moment. But more importantly are the basic numbers. There are eight starting classes to choose from and over forty classes (that we know of) to mix and match skills. Here are some of the highlights from the panel and our theory on how things might play out.
The panel consisted of: Michael Mann (Class and Combat Design), Steve Klug (Technical Director), Aaron Carlson (Lead Animator), Michelle Schade (Principal FX Artist), Darrin McPherson (Lead Designer), and about half way in Jeff Butler (Creative Director) joins the team on stage. The only bad thing was that the team only mentioned a few classes during the panel. The Rogue, Wizard, Warrior had all been mentioned in the demos, we even heard the Ranger mentioned as well. The only real previously unheard class that was named during the panel was the Tempest, and the Blademaster. The Tempest is a warrior style class that uses electrical attacks and shocks from his weapons. The panel mostly focused on design and philosophy when building out the complex class structure in the game. Even so the team gave a lot of good information.
Darrin began with talking about the feeling and emotion behind a class. How the class feels when you log in to play it was incredibly important to a team. Warrior should emote a powerful and conquering persona. Rogue should feel sneak and skulk when you see them run around. The other thing the team starts with is iconic abilities. Players will only get four weapon skill slots and four character slots for abilities. Did everyone read that? You will have four weapon and four character skill slots to put on your screen, so only eight choices in a fight can be made. This combined with destructibility makes for some very quick decision making among the players. Each of these skills needs to be iconic and tie into the class. The next element added to the mix is iconic characters in the game world that can define each class.
The Warrior was explained as extremely violent and destructive. “You don’t serve at a dinner party,” Darrin explained. The class abilities highlighted for the Warrior were: Leap, Whirlwind, and Shield Bash. They then showed the Marvel characters Juggernaut and Hulk on the screen to emphasize how the class would be modeled. Darrin described the Warrior as a wrecking ball and they showed a short video of the Warrior Leap ability. You can see it in the video presentation we have on the site.
The Kerran Warrior
Fun is a major part of every thought that goes into the classes. Darrin said that the class had to be fun when it gets created. It goes through the “fun” exam,and they must each have personality. Michael Mann then talked about how three different classes would use the same weapon very differently. The weapon used for this display was the two-handed sword. One was held like a knight, another similar to a Samurai with only one hand on the weapon. This presentation led into the number of skills each class or weapon would give to the player. The team wanted to make sure a weapon was more than just stats and damage but also came with a unique set of abilities that match the class identity. Jeff Butler then added that because there are so many classes in the game each one will use a weapon differently. With a two-handed sword, some may just hack and slash and rage around the battlefield. While others are faster and more focused with their attacks.
In terms of how skills will look on the screen they really want players to be able to tell a character’s chosen class skills by their movement and attacks. The next topic was Character abilities. These are defined as non-weapon abilities players can use. Movement was the first example given with a teleport or leap ability as examples. The next character ability is an offensive skill with Darrin giving the examples of a Fireball or Magic Missile. The Defensive skills were next with Shield Wall or Spell Reflect given as examples. The Utility skill is something like a Pet Summon or Invisibility. The next class name on the screen was a Blademaster which they said uses all four styles of character abilities. The Rogue was much more Offensive in nature but uses a lot of tricks in a fight and therefore would have a lot of Utility as well. Wizards get two movement slots, a defense slot and an offense slot so they can move around the board more. The Tempest was also mentioned and gets two movement slots as well for speed and attack set up.
The Pokémon joke came into play next as the team wants players to collect all the classes and then choose which abilities they want to use in gameplay and make their perfect character. This is where they talked about class Tiers. Darrin said that you may have a Tier 4 Warrior who is also a Tier 2 Wizard and a Tier 1 Rogue. You can advance every class. You can swap these skills outside of combat fairly easily. This open system really unlocks new mechanics. Any progression you earn while playing one class can be applied to building up other class skills. So you don’t have to be just a Warrior to advance your Warrior, you can do it as a Rogue and put points into Warrior. The philosophy is “Earn anywhere, spend anywhere.” This keeps ever player in the action. With any player being able to take on multiple roles.
The Class Panel in Full
Michael Mann talked about the economy to class customization next. He explained that you cannot just have everything and expect to be able to succeed. There is a specific way to build play styles out of multiple classes that works with certain combinations. He gave the example of how your armor, weapon, and weapon abilities make up the core of your class. So a warrior with heavy armor and a weapon and shield will unlock certain attacks like Forceful Blow. These then combine with the Character abilities. Michael said that they wanted to make a darker more sinister character so adding something like Leap to the mix was a bit too obvious. He then said that maybe a character who focuses on killing casters would be cool. You would then look through your classes and find one that has a teleport with a more dark flavor to it to keep with your sinister side. Path of Shadows was the name he used which he described as a shadow-flavored teleport ability.
What he really wanted to do was teleport in and then use whirlwind, however those two skills are too expensive to use together. However you can fix this problem with itemization. The character could equip a ring which allows him to teleport and the teleports cost less energy. This adds up to abilities + items = class builds. So the character now teleports into a fight and whirlwind attack casters. For the Offensive slot he puts in Mana Burn which is an attack that impacts mana of those it hits. The Spell Reflect is used in the defense spot to spot casters. Then for the Utility slot he used Unsummon which can banish pets. This creates the perfect anti-caster class. Items will then be used to augment all of these skills. Once you have this build created you can name it whatever you want. Michael called his Mage-Bane.
Last we were shown the video of the Tempest before a brief Q&A. The class is storm-based and was shown doing lightning attacks from a two handed sword. He also moved around a lot in the animation which Michael said was a dynamic element to the Tempest.
The class panel was extremely in depth and I hope we covered it all here. For one this I really hope they launch the class lists and calculators as they ramp up towards beta. I am not sure they will though because they want players to discover and unlock these classes during exploration and through joining with different factions. You will not lose classes once you gain them, but you will be asked to do some tasks in order to earn them from the teachers, tasks that are never the same twice so wikis won't really help you much. Overall, we really liked the philosophy behind this approach; on paper it looks very strong with loads of customization. There is always the fear that it will lead to single builds that are extremely powerful. However, the team explained they are doing everything they can to balance skills and make everything useful to the type of class you want to play. The team did not talk about PvP at all, but that is where the balancing act becomes extremely tricky. We'll have to wait and see there.
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