I'm not happy with my experiences with quests in MMOs. Very rarely do the quests I undertake online feel as epic as I had hoped they would back when I was installing World of Warcraft
for the first time, back when I was still naïve enough to think each quest would leave me feeling like I'd undertaken an epic journey in the vein of Shea Ohmsford
or Frodo Baggins
– you'll note I never saw myself as Flick
It seems that the word 'quest' has been watered down so that it means little more than performing FedEx
duties, or traipsing off in a random direction to bring back the vital organs of whatever monster has incurred your quest-giver's wrath that day, but I've accepted that fact. I understand that not every action we take in-game has to rock society to its foundations, but it might be nice if we were left feeling that our questing through the game was more like a journey, instead of just a check list of objectives.
What if the quest structure in-game was an organic, naturally growing thing where instead of being handed a random sequence of unrelated quests, your journey through the world would be comprised of tasks which are connected to each other in one way or another. You could still have 'easter egg' quests where you have, for example, found some half-crazed hermit in the middle of a desert offering magical items as a reward for bringing him the heart of a genie who betrayed him in years past, but you'll still have a core storyline for your character.
What if your quest log wasn't just a list of errands that you've been asked to run, but was instead presented as a journal or a diary, that was updated automatically and written from your avatar's point of view, in character and true to the spirit of the game – a living document that kept a record as you completed quests or significant objectives – something that told your story through the game as well tracking your progress.
I spoke before about how games never really evolve, and how that's always been a problem with them. Another problem is that they employ mechanics which seem designed to ruin the sensation of immersion. Imagine that quest-givers didn't have grammatical symbols
above their head, but instead your previous quest-giver mentioned a friend or colleague in the next town over, so your character scribbled the name in their journal, and it's just a matter of finding them?
On entering a new town, you might have to spend a few minutes talking to a few NPCs, asking for directions or asking about work, to get the lay of the land before you were pointed in the direction of the NPC you're looking for.
It's probably a system that is better suited to a skill-based game, rather than the usual model where gear is used as the record of your progress in the game. It's a system that is, by its nature, both harder to quantify and more realistic. It does not lend itself well to 25 man raids on uber bosses that require multiple dedicated healers to keep your tank alive. It's a system that lends itself to lower populations of gamers interested in a more intimate style of gaming, where rewards are less tangible, not so much a material reward but more of a sense of accomplishment, of knowing that you and your friends took down a boss because you were skilled enough, and not because you'd spent the last couple of weeks gearing up for it. A game where success is based on your skill, and not on your ability to fill up a time sink.
Lest you think this is simply a "ZOMG BLIZZ YOU SHULD DO THIS!!" official forum-style rant, I've genuinely been thinking recently about ways games could be made more immersive and the way quests are handled, in my experience at least, are worthy of attention - and It's comforting that I'm not the only one with quests on their mind just now