Everquest Had It Right (And Why I’m Looking Forward To Diablo 3 So Much)
I must be getting old. As much as I love contemporary MMOs and could probably never go back to the original days of Everquest, there’s a trend emerging that I’m struggling to cope with: spell and combat ability overload. RIFT is the worst. WoW is pretty bad, as are other games like Everquest 2. You know what I’m talking about – the floods of endless abilities that end up filling your hotbars to the brim and cause your fingers to cramp trying to hit all of the keys. It’s button mashing digit dexterity gone mad.
Don’t get me wrong, I love choice. I want my wizards to have dozens of spells to pick from and I want my warriors to be able to choose between being a wrecking ball of destruction or an armoured tin can of impenetrable goodness. Choice is good, selection is good, variety is good. Having a UI clogged up with seven hotbars and 40 abilities, each of which require constant and consistent mashing is not. I don’t want a ’standard rotation’, especially not one consisting of a dozen attacks and I don’t want to have actions taking up space in my UI that I only fire once in a blue moon. What I want is to make intelligent, informed decisions when I play, with each action generating a clear and conceivable benefit. And I want to do it all with ease and simplicity.
Say what you will about Blizzard but I admire their design team and the thought process that goes into their games. They’re obviously trying hard to make WoW more enjoyable and less spammy although it’s unlikely, given the original design of the game, they will ever be able to achieve this. However, they seem to be on the right track with Diablo 3. If I was looking forward to it before, I have to say I’m more excited than ever now. I just love its skill system.
To me, D3s skill set up is perfect. You get dozens of abilities (something like 37 in total) and plenty of ways to customise them with runestones all adding up into one giant pile of versatile fun. And the best thing of all? You can only have six active skills at a time. No more cluttering your hotbars with endless rows of abilities that will sit and gather dust, no more worrying about how you’re going to cram in another spell when the new expansion comes out and no more taking your hands off the controls just so you can hit that rare ability bound to SHIFT+ALT+7.
Of course, some nerd will come up with the ‘perfect’ build for each class and no doubt plenty of us will stick to it like the mindless drones we are but, that aside, D3 skill system is a clever beast. It’s given us versatility and choice and the fun of trying out new combinations whilst removing the restrictions of play imposed by selecting talent paths such as can be found in WoW and the upcoming SW:TOR. Also by keeping the number of active abilities you can have relatively low, it allows us to spend more time actually enjoying the game rather than endlessly tickling your keyboard or scratching your head for what key to press next.
And where have we seen something like this before? That’s right, Everquest. It’s the only MMO that I’ve played that has a similar system for spells, only allowing you to equip (what is it now?) 10 active spell gems out of a spell book of dozens. It’s brilliant. The system makes you think, it makes you consider your choices before battle and it gives you the endless fun of playing around with different spell combinations. In the modern days of hotbar overload it’s nice to see that sometimes even the old dogs can still teach some new tricks. Or something like that.