Gordo’s Gaming Blog

My adventures in the many worlds of gaming.

Quests, quests, quests.

with 4 comments

Have posted about Age of Conan recently, and currently playing it, and also discussing it a bit on Keen & Graev’s blog, it got me thinking – what is my ideal questing system?

First of all, it’d have to be engaging – properly engaging. I mean when I see someone standing, bolt upright like a board, with an exclamation mark above their head, I have no empathy for them. Even if they they go one to tell me how their son was killed by bandits from a nearby pirate camp, I’m just thinking – ‘What the hell are you standing there like that for then!?!’. No, for a quest to be truly engaging, the person I get the quest from, I must be able to empathise with. By that I mean, if I see a drunken man with eyes that haunt you as you look into them, due to the pure sadness they convey. If I saw that quest giver, I’d talk to him. First of all he wouldn’t want to talk about it, being a man and all, but then, as I probe deeper, he gives away the story, but doesn’t ask for help. Something I hate about quests in RPGs (MMOs specifically) is how all these NPCs stand around all day, demanding help. Life just isn’t like that! So, you, being the kind and heroic protagonist decide to help – or, alternatively, in a game like Age of Conan, you see a benefit for yourself, so you help.

Secondly, the storyline should be non-linear. By that I mean, at each stage of the quest, you have choices. You are told what has happened, and your action is your choice. Take the man with the son killed by bandits example I gave above. OK, well, you see this guy has had his son killed by bandits. What do you do now? Depending on how you play the game, it’s your choice. You could charge into the camp, and slay them all, and bring back a portion of the spoils for the grieving father as compensation. You could go to the leader of the town he resides in, and ask his advice on what to do. You could explore a completely different line and simply try to take the mans’ mind off it, maybe (if you were playing Age of Conan), by hiring him a prostitute, or if you were playing a more morally centric game, by finding him a nicer woman for companionship in his time of need. Now, I’m sure many players, given these choices, would choose to raid the camp – there’s profit in it for them, as well as killing. But, my ideal questing system would give players free choice to act how they see fit, and in the process, getting different rewards and outcomes. E.g. you get monetary rewards for raiding the camp, but if you set this man up with a woman, he might give you his prized possession for making him happy again. Or if you spoke to the town’s leader, you might be given the authority to raid the camp, and although your monetary rewards would be fewer, you might be awarded a title of the saviour of ‘Mmosville’.

Thirdly, although this sort of ties in with the second point, the objectives should vary. Killing stuff all the time is just as repetitive as running, and the quests I hate most are those which command you to kill 50 of the same creature. Quests with a true storyline should evade this point, and by giving you the option, you can do as you choose. Sometimes you might feel diplomatic, others, you might prefer to let your weapon do the talking – but variety is good, and simply grinding killing quests is just as bad as grinding mobs in the first place.

Fourthly, there should be minimum ‘downtime’ that is, time when the quest storyline is not being advanced. Running miles ruins a quest for me, I feel bored by the time I get there, and have lost the urge to act that I got when I left the NPC. I guess it ruins the empathy I felt, as I zone out, I lose immersion from the game when it happens. And in RPGs, when you’re playing a role, you need to stay in that role – you need to be immersed. Hence immersion!

Finally, your actions should affect the world as a whole – this point is fairly self-explanatory. You should leave a town after having quested there for a while, with citizens now saluting you as you walk past, and thanking you. Not standing stiff as a board as you leave, in the same way as they did on your way in.

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Written by Gordo

May 28, 2008 at 9:45 pm

Posted in General, MMO

Tagged with , , ,

4 Responses

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  1. Sounds like what I would like to see as well. Quests design from single player CRPGs put in MMORPGs. Fallout had many quests with multiple outcomes. And at the end of the game, depending on what you did, you got a story on how each area you affected was changed.

    In an online game, you can’t so easily change the world, but as you complete a Quest, your place in that world changes.

    Gustavef

    May 29, 2008 at 5:55 pm

  2. Warhammer Online I believe is featuring ‘Public Quests’, which if I’ve understood correctly affect the world (they contribute towards the continual war effort). I like the sound of that and it’s a really good way of implementing quests which can affect the world into an MMORPG I think.

    But yeah, reputation should be implemented, and not just as something to grind when you hit max level, but as something that affects what quests people give to you, the rewards you get, how people talk to you, how much they sell you items for etc… It should be much more than just unlocked gear when you get to the endgame.

    Gordo

    May 29, 2008 at 6:00 pm

  3. I remember hearing a story about a guy who made a foam exclamation mark hat, stood on a street corner and tried to give “quests” to people, something like go to a store and buy something like a pack of matches (or something like that)– his results were very mixed, the only people that really played along were the ones that recognized the concept from games.

    Rog

    July 9, 2008 at 12:08 am

  4. Haha yeah it’s a crazy concept to a non-gamer, but I guess it kind of evolved and adapted through stories, P&P RPGs, then text-based RPGs, until the quest giver became a static feature in towns, most of the time appearing lazy and irritating to most people – but for some reason, as gamers, we accept it.

    Gordo

    July 10, 2008 at 3:24 pm


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