Gordo’s Gaming Blog

My adventures in the many worlds of gaming.

Posts Tagged ‘Questing

Quests, quests, quests.

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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.

Written by Gordo

May 28, 2008 at 9:45 pm

Posted in General, MMO

Tagged with , , ,

Age of Conan, Part 2

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OK, so I’ve been playing Age of Conan for 5 days now. As I’m sure you’re well aware, a lot of things can change in 5 days. However, I’m still feeling pretty positive about AoC now, even 5 days on, and after many hours more in the game.

What do I still like about it?

  1. The combat – it’s not gotten old yet, and it doesn’t look like doing so for a good while either; it’s really refreshing. What I think is the best thing about the combat is you’re always involved. You have to make the character move, make it attack, and as a result, when you kill your enemy, it feels all the more satisfying – especially if you get lucky and pull off a fatality.
  2. The sound – I didn’t really talk about the sound in my original post, but the sound is fantastic. The music fits each area perfectly, from the greek sounding background music in Aquilonia, to the chanting and tribal songs of Africa-esque Stygia. The combat sounds are great too – if you listen carefully you can even hear your enemy’s skull crack as you bring the sledgehammer down on their head. Tortage really was amazing though, with every quest and every NPC voice acted. Sadly, that is only carried on as you carry out your destiny quest – but there are rumours that more is being recorded as we speak and will come in future patches. Which would be great.
  3. The graphics – each zone is designed well, and looks beautiful. Even on my moderate PC, the areas feel alive, and look it too. I’m more of a fan of realised graphics, and therefore it suits me perfectly. Stylised fans may not like it so much, but personally I can’t see how anyone could think it ugly.

Although there are a lot of good things about Age of Conan, I’m starting to find areas which I don’t like so much:

  1. Quests. Quests in Age of Conan are highly variable – I’ve done some really good ones, some absolute beauties, requiring not much running between places, just lots of action and great storylines (an example of this – the quests in Border Range in Aquilonia – they were fantastic). I’ve also done some awful quests – quests taking me halfway across the zone to talk to an NPC, who then wants me to go back to the original quest giver. Also, it needs me to run through mobs 5 or 6 levels above me! Another problem I find with the quests in Age of Conan, is that, often, there aren’t enough quests for me to level up sufficiently. I had to grind 1/3 of a level earlier to get some quests within my level range again. This is poor design – nowadays, in pay to play MMOs, where questing is the main mechanic for levelling, I expect more quests than I need – I expect to be able to drop quests too easy for me, not have to do them for pitiful rewards just to get the next level up. On the topic of quests, each zone seems to have just 1 quest hub!? It seems like in the zones which are intended for a wide range of levels (e.g. Wild Lands of Zelata), I could be running huge distances to do a quest for me at level 36 or 37, because all quests can only be picked up or handed in at the very beginning of the zone where you join at level 20. Running disrupts immersion, and ruins the fun value of the quest.
  2. Zones. The zones in Age of Conan are meant to be small areas of a massive map. As such, you only play a fragment of the world at a time, and the zones are not connected – you need to travel through load screens to get to other areas, via fast travel NPCs. This also means that you can travel many many miles in seconds, resulting in a huge break in immersion, as you were in a sandy desert with tropical beasts, and now you’re in the mountains being attacked by wolves. Personally, I loved WoW in this regard – the whole area was one massive area where you could run from one end to the other uninterrupted if you wanted to. And the fast trave of riding a wyvern, eagle or bat was awesome, you got to see the whole zone and landscape; even if it did take several minutes to travel from one zone to another at times! As for the instancing matter – it doesn’t bother me too much, as in the larger zones, instancing only seems to be used to prevent congestion – I like that – I mean, what’s more frustrating than waiting around a quest mob spawn with 10 other people?
  3. Monotony – this comes from the requirement of many boring quests, I’m afraid. Sometimes, I find myself playing for a couple hours and getting bored – it stems from lack of immersion I guess, as I don’t feel ‘in’ the game, so my mind wanders to other things. What compounds it is the daunting task of levelling – there are so many levels to achieve, I feel as though I’m only just on the tip of the iceberg. That should be a good thing, but I’m worried that as I level up, the quest grinding will only get more boring, and the rewards will get lower.

Overall, I’m still happy in Age of Conan. I am, on the whole, enjoying the levelling process, though sometimes the lack of (good) quests can get to me. I don’t mind it, and every MMO I’ve played before has been the same; MMO developers concentrate on keeping players playing for many hours, and they do that by creating a bucketful of quests to do; sadly, this often results in monotony for the player, which in turns ruins immersion, and makes the player go away and do something else for a while.

Verdict? Age of Conan is a good game, and probably my favourite MMO of all those out at the moment. It doesn’t do anything worse than any game that’s come before, and it brings some really nice innovations to the genre. But, it’s far from perfect – the Holy Grail of MMOs it is not. It’s quite difficult to get immersed in it, but if you can cope with taking breaks occasionally between levelling, you’ll be fine. I know from my post it looks like I think there are a lot more bad things in the game than good, but in actual fact, that’s not how I feel. It simply hasn’t corrected all the errors in previous MMOs – I can live with them, and if you enjoyed a previous MMO, you probably can too.

Written by Gordo

May 28, 2008 at 6:48 pm