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Wishes for EverQuest III - Pt. 2

Phil James Posted:
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When thinking about my ideal sequel to Everquest, a lot of consideration has gone into my characters. After all, I am going to be spending a lot of time looking at them and clicking their abilities. So here is my (occasionally unrealistic) character wish list for EQIII.

The world of Norrath already has an impressive number of playable races. Usually once you have selected your race, you enter the world and you get the same experience as everyone else. People start in the same areas and do the same quests regardless of their background.

Back in the day when EQII was new, we all started out as poor wretches left homeless by the shattering of the world. We were rescued and taken by boat to the Isle of Refuge where we earned our place in the new society. This idea has fallen by the wayside, the boat part doesn’t even exist now and the starter islands are soon for the chop too. I miss the origin story, and would like it to return as it adds lots of flavour and creates great memories. Dragon Age has several origin stories for you to play through depending on your race/class, and EQIII could borrow from this.

What I’d like to see is a story where your racial background makes a difference. You could have a recent war destroying your forest, so you, along with some other Elven refugees, flee to the safety of your capital. You could be an urchin, growing up on the streets, struggling to get by until you fall in with a band of thieves and learn the trade of the rogue. Lord of the Rings Online has instanced origin stories and these really do contribute to making your character feel like a part of the world around you. In my game the questlines would go right up to the level cap, with quests from your nations’ rulers sending you in to dungeons and raids to represent your countries’ best interests.

This is My Land

In many MMOs, a continent is a curious thing. There will be capital cities, certainly, and a few civilised lands, but not enough to give you the impression that it’s a real nation. Your country may only consist of its capital and a few outposts with your race staffing the shops there, but usually that’s it and the next land over will probably have only wilderness with maybe a small town to rest up in. How about calling each land a country with its own borders, currency and laws? The next land along would be another nation. This wouldn’t mean losing the wilderness to adventure in as many lands would have areas that were wild or dangerous but still fell clearly within the borders of a their nation.

Oh, What a Lovely War

This would lend itself to new adventures. As a live event your nation could go to war with a neighbouring one, adding new quests. This need not involve PvP. You could run supplies to the front; rogue classes could take on spying missions, infiltrating the enemy’s cities or assassinating its military leaders; necromancers could help to raise armies of undead; fighting classes could enlist for a tour of duty, taking on a set number of patrols before being discharged. There would never be a shortage of demand for supplies, keeping cooks, blacksmiths, alchemists and all sorts of crafters busy. When it comes to finding interesting things to do, never underestimate the opportunities a conflict brings. You could even undertake diplomatic missions to broker peace (one for the healers among us).

A Matter of Class

That brings me seamlessly to the subject of classes. I’m not going to be so foolish as to request that EQIII become a classless game. Let’s face it, it isn’t going to happen and the truth is that I quite like playing the archetypes on offer. However, I would like to see a change in how they are played. I don’t mind spamming hotkeys in order to vanquish my enemies, but with boundaries being pushed back in videogames in general, isn’t it time for a change? FPS mechanics are on the rise in MMOs which is fine and dandy for some games, but in swords and sorcery it may not be ideal. I came up with some systems for each character type.

Bards: For example, instead of clicking your songs and ballad keys, how about we play around with the concept of the class? Bards in RPG lore sing songs to encourage their allies and lend them strength so how about we make a rhythm action game out of it... Picture the scene: You and your buddies are in a dungeon and, unsurprisingly, a fight begins. So you sing your first ditty, which, instead of being a one off push of a button, requires you to keep the tune or song going, tapping the appropriate keys as they pass the line on your screen. So far so good, what if you have more than one buff you want to use? Easily done, just click your next ability and the game adds that to your current musical arrangement, but as you are keeping two spells going at the same time, the Parappa/Guitar Hero shenanigans become more complex. The more practiced you get at this, the more of a buffing powerhouse you become. Maybe we could even sing into a microphone (although this does prohibit us from playing in coffee shops).

For the Rangers among us, an FPS style set up might not be a bad idea. To complement your regular skills, while you level up you could unlock a range of debuffs that only take effect depending on where you shoot: Head shots for critical hits (this is a no brainer – pun intended); legs will get you a speed debuff; get a gut shot for a bleed effect, damaging over time. At higher levels and with greater accuracy you could get trickier shots for greater effects: Go for the throat or mouth for a spell interrupt or to silence your foe (gruesome, I know); shoulder for a strength debuff; and of course the groin – not sure what this shot would get you, but pretty much everyone is going to do it for kicks.

A while ago, I had a go of my friend’s Harry Potter game on the Nintendo DS. Not an amazing game, but I did enjoy the magic system. Each spell has its own rune which the player has to draw. Actually my memory is a bit hazy there; it may have been that you had to draw the shapes on a pentagram. Either way you had to memorize the spells’ shapes so you could cast them. As a mage in EQIII I could draw my arcane symbols using the mouse and that would cast my spells. I could even draw the spell over the mob or ally I wanted to affect, or for those tricky mobs that won’t stand still, draw the shape and then drag and drop it on my target. For AoE spells, I could draw the pentagram on the ground, making it any size I like, larger areas taking in more mobs, but with the drawback of doing less damage than a tightly drawn symbol.

Despite the fact that games are becoming more sophisticated, I guess I can’t really shoehorn in a style suitable for every class. I don’t know how priest characters would work, maybe we could pray in front of our webcams, but I don’t really think that’s going to add much fun to the experience. I also accept that it’s a going to be a bit harsh demanding that everyone master some minigames, especially in a raid environment where a slip up can cause a wipe.

Even though I may have pushed the point a bit far, I stand by my opinion that having hotbars full of icons for spamming is becoming a tad stale. A few MMOs have made the break from this, but slowly. I’d love to see EQIII be more creative in this department.

If we were to stick with hotbars, it would be great to see it use new technologies. Touch screen technology has come a long way in recent years, obviously I wouldn’t want to hold my arm up against the screen during the whole of an evening’s session, but in an emergency when you have to highlight somebody quickly this would be a great tool, especially if it could be combined with your microphone and a voice recognition program. This would be great for healers or tanks. Let’s say your dps has pulled aggro and you need a flash heal in an instant, just touch his character on screen and speak the name of your spell or even the number it is assigned to. Same for tanks – need to gather up the threat from all those new adds? Once again, just point and speak.

I’m sure that all the things I’d like from EQIII are things that some developers would like to see too. The fact that they aren’t in the game probably means that someone with more common sense than I have has vetoed them. Ah well, there goes my chance of landing that producer job.


You can read Part One of this article, here.


Phil James