It's a bit unusual for us to talk to much about MMOs here at Co-Optimus. But the massively multiplayer online game genre is one full of great cooperative experiences. My own first experience with an MMO was way back in 1999: Everquest. A quirky set of circumstances led me to choose a bard as my character class. This was a fortuitous event, for the bard of Everquest is easily the greatest class in any game as far as co-op is concerned.
Everquest's launch was a glorious mess. On March 16, 1999, thousands of eager gamers attempted to log in and enjoy one of the most highly anticipated releases of the year, if not the decade. Servers were up and down, towns were packed full of characters, and monsters were being slain as soon as they spawned in order to gain precious experiencel. I initially tried playing a human wizard, but the lack of armor and weak initial spells led to a littering of my corpses outside the gates of Qeynos. Thinking a melee class might be preferable, I created a shadowknight, a sort of anti-paladin, and had some small success.
Unfortunately, the zone just past Qeynos featured wandering NPCs that would slay any evil characters on sight. It got to the point where I was spending more time looking for my corpse than I was fighting monsters. A friend of mine, half in jest, told me to try playing a bard, as one of their early skills allowed them to home in on their corpse with ease. I rolled up a third character, a half elf named Pistov (because I was, indeed, angry), and absolutely fell in love with the class.
Most character classes in Everquest had one area of emphasis that they specialized in. Clerics were the best healers, rogues the best melee damage dealers, and shamans were the best at casting "buffs", spells with a long duration that boosted a character's stats in some way. Bards had no real specialization; instead, they had access to a wide range of skills through their songs, which had an effect on each other group member. A dexterous bard could "twist" three songs together at the same time, for increased effectiveness. Healing, increasing attack speed, regenerating mana for spells, even charming a monster to fight on your side were just a few of the things bards could do. Because of this enormous flexibility, a bard could fill many different roles in a group.