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Reader Comments (44)

Posted: Jan 22nd 2010 8:11AM (Unverified) said

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I personally believe, as a roleplayer who strives for immersion and player created stories, that quests are among the biggest immersion breakers in MMOs today.

The problem being that MMOs put the players in the leading role in a story the developers have created, and use quests to act out that story.

I believe this is a legacy from single player games. However, what I want from a massive open world that is an MMO, is to create my own stories and not follow a pre-determined path. What use is the big worlds and history created for MMOs if there's only one story to tell?

So should quests be removed from MMOs? No, but I would like them to be generic quests instead of tied together into a set story that everyone has to experience.

Remove the main storylines in MMOs that all players have to play through and allow us to play our own stories, without having to break immersion or go out of character to do the game's main story quests that everyone else is also doing.

Posted: Jan 22nd 2010 8:47AM Sephirah said

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RPers in MMORPG are very few (I assume they still prefer Pen and Paper RPG).
You can simply look at RP servers in WoW: they're few and with low population and, from personal experience, full of drama.
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Posted: Jan 22nd 2010 8:51AM GenericPerson said

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Look at the world on those RP servers. They are no different than any other servers Blizzard provides. I know I can't role play in a world where the only thing that I have an effect on is another player, because honestly what does that change? Or how about that boss? You've killed him and now he's waiting for you to come back? Blizzard does NOT cater to the RP crowd besides tagging a server as RP.
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Posted: Jan 22nd 2010 11:35AM archipelagos said

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Are you asking for more MMO's to be like EvE?
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Posted: Jan 22nd 2010 1:34PM wjowski said

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While we bitch and moan about 'quest-grinding' let us not forget that when it was first introduced it was a huge improvement from the previous 'Sit in one spot and grind mobs all day' strategy that was the most efficient method to advance in the previous big-name MMO (EQ). Overall though, while I doubt any action-based MMO is going to be able to completely get away from questing the genre could definately use more Joseph-Redpath type questlines and fewer Kill-Random-Forest-Critters style quests.
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Posted: Jan 22nd 2010 8:25AM Anatidae said

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Quests are great! If they are the only thing in the game to do - then it makes the experience more one dimensional. I hope that the wave of Sandbox MMOs do well and we start having vibrant worlds that players can set their own destiny in - while still having quests as fun things to follow.

Posted: Jan 22nd 2010 8:48AM GenericPerson said

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I agree with Jova. Quests are great things, but why not thing of them as tv show episodes where the player gets a quest to assist a farmer, town or some citizen of the world with something and make sure that quest takes longer than 5 minutes to complete. So many times we get these quests, fail to read what it asks and just kill what it tells us to kill. You lose the immersion and fail to feel like you're part of the world.

Not everyone is a hero, but everyone could be. That's the great part about RP, you can be what you want to be. If I chose to be a blacksmith I shouldn't be punished for not questing nor should I be punished because that one time I need to pick up a weapon to defend my town. Developers should move away from static quests and more to random, meaning don't tell me I can pick up a quest in spot x,y and then 10 hours later when I complete it that person is 100% guaranteed to be in spot x,y. Randomize quest givers, citizens of the city, etc. Make me feel like I'm in your world and not just some scripted society.

Randomize events, there is no reason that GM's can't toss out random events at certain points in time. And let some of those random events effect the storyline of the world. If there are is a town and a handful of of deviants attack it at mid day there might be people available to protect it or not, if there isn't quest givers may get hurt and you won't be able to turn in or pick up the quest they may have for you. I understand it could get frustrating, but if you're a true role player you'll be excited at the fact that you're finally in a living, breathing virtual world.

Posted: Jan 22nd 2010 8:50AM (Unverified) said

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FFXI had it's issues, but when drew me in was the sheer variety of gameplay at later levels.

Quests - Game could have used more of these, but they were there.
Missions - huge, cutscene-laden story arcs, definatly the "meat" of the game.
Ballista - PvP competitive sport.
Burning Circles - special PvE challenges for groups
Maze Mongers - build your own dungeons to show off
Chocobo breeding/raising - deepest mount-system I've seen in a game
Chocobo races - self-explanatory

Not to mention class-specific quests and story arcs for each advanced job, and more typical endgame raiding like Dynimas. I've yet to see an MMO yet compare with the diversity of FFXI gameplay features.

Posted: Jan 22nd 2010 10:29AM Suplyndmnd said

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You left a LOT out of end game. Along with Dynamis is Salvage, Einherjar, Campaign Battles, Assaults, not to mention quests and missions you have to be 75 to make a good run in, Crafting, NM Hunting, HNM Hunting, Sky, Sea, Garrison's, Besieged's. I think i might have missed some. Been a little while since i've played. That game is the most immersive i've ever played. Probably why i played it for over 4 years. Man, i miss it. Might resub now =(
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Posted: Jan 22nd 2010 10:58AM (Unverified) said

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The only flaw with FFXI was the time crunch in my opinion. I have never had so much fun on a MMO as I did in FFXI. SE knows how to make great RPG's, the Grand Master of storytelling. Missions are where it's at. Making the main story mission based with character driven story lines and amazing cut scenes is what all MMO's should implement. Questing could be fun if it was more innovative. And I think SE might have hit it on the nail with Guildleves for FFXIV. Which btw I cannot wait. FFXIV is the juggernaut that is going to be a thorn on WoW's side :)
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Posted: Jan 22nd 2010 8:51AM (Unverified) said

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I'm not so sure.

For a purely level progression system, it's a great way to deliver lore and, well, level.

Posted: Jan 22nd 2010 10:48AM Anatidae said

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Ahh, the second problem with modern MMOs... the level system.
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Posted: Jan 22nd 2010 10:06PM (Unverified) said

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I'd like to see more horizontal game play that didn't rely so heavily on leveling. But that said, I don't mind leveling.

It'd be interesting to see how specific level based systems would work. It would be like saying only level 20's can go into the Arena, but not nearly that restrictive.

Something that would give incentive to keep players hanging out at low levels, but not restrictive.
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Posted: Jan 22nd 2010 8:58AM (Unverified) said

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More quests and a more varied set of systems.

Posted: Jan 22nd 2010 11:55AM (Unverified) said

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I play for the quests. If anything I would like more of them, with bigger and more meaningful plots. A well written and engaging quest can draw me in more then anything else. I love it when they move me across zones and into instances and lairs. Some people call this hand holding, I call it an adventure. When I play a game, Im looking to experience a world and story. I don't want to have a spreadsheet open on a second monitor and be thinking, "Ok, if I kill mob X for the next 2 hours then Ill be able to move on to this mob for efficient XP." That's what really breaks immersion. As opposed to, "I need to kill the Priests of Dar'Khan and find the sacred amulet that will allow me to open the door to the Krahn Beast's lair and retrieve the golden sword of the village hero and return his bones to his widow who lives on the hill." Even if that isn't terribly important to the ebb and flow of the world at large, it is still important to me and my character on our journey to becoming heroes.

This is not to say that there isn't any room for growth and innovation in quest structure. Certainly we all get tired of "kill ten rats" and we would all love to see more variety, but ditching the quest altogether would absolutely kill any enthusiasm I have for the game.

Between WoW's phasing, Aion's campaign, and Warhammer's RvR quests and Public quests it is clear the developer's are thinking about how to make questing more engaging and meaningful beyond being a way to get quick bonus XP. I would love to see those trends continue to mature.

Posted: Jan 22nd 2010 9:02AM Feragola said

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For the purpose of revealing the story and lore of the game, I love the quest system. As long as the quests are not repetitive like, go here and kill 150 of some odd NPC's and then when you hand the quest in he sends you a different place to kill 150 more.

Posted: Jan 22nd 2010 9:03AM (Unverified) said

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What a hilariously ubiquitious debate.

I say less, mostly because "big new" MMOs are so utterly reliant on questing its hilarious. Give playesr an opportunity to forge their own fun out of your ownline world and grow that way. In short: put your theme park in a big giant desert. Let players go off the beaten path, and come back if they like... just supply them with the tools to build, and you may find your theme park in the middle of a sandy metropolis.

Posted: Jan 22nd 2010 9:25AM Jeromai said

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I'd like to see new-gen MMOs keep changing up the formulaic nature of quests. Not 100% sure how. If I had a sure-win sure-to-appeal idea, I'd be out trying to sell it to some MMO company. But if the attempt isn't made to be innovative and mask the repetition, then people recognise and get bored of the same old chores very quickly.

I'd also like mob grinding and quests to be on a relatively even keel, because I like 'em both. If quests offer more reward, the game feels like a FedEx challenge and combat a waste of time and effort. If grinding is faster, then the quests may as well not be there because players are going to just burn their way through things. There's always room for other lateral systems of improvement too, eg. crafting, Vanguard's diplomacy, whatever.

The idea of a quest is theoretically sound, and allows for elaboration of the game's story and lore and so on. However, somewhere along the line, they have been polished to the point of standard trope.

a) See static NPC with immersion-breaking exclamation point (or similar symbol over head.)

b) Player runs up and clicks NPC to interact. PLOP comes the wall of text, which is ignored by most, though I personally appreciate professional writerly care taken in this area to introduce me to the game's lore.

c) Summary text of 'kill ' 'click ' 'travel to ' and other similar Fed Ex variants appears in quest tracker.

d) Player follows in-game or third-party arrow/compass direction/quest marker to said location. Performs said action mechanically until done, often with repeat cycles of combat gameplay (hopefully that is fun, at least).

e) Player runs back to static NPC to turn in quest for a quantity of xp, and/or a reward item.

f) Rinse, repeat, up to 30, 35, 40 max quests going on at once.

Some games have spun a few creative twists on the above. I like the idea of dynamic quests popping up or NPCs that actually approach you to ask for help. CO has a couple 'hidden' quests where you have to be in that area to realise there's a quest, though it ultimately loses its mystery to efficiency walkthrough sites.

Warhammer's public quests were a great innovative leap of faith. Problem was, they repeated themselves entirely too often, I think, so you saw the scripted game behind it extremely fast and got bored of the repetition. They were also very reliant on having a critical mass of appropriate holy trinity class players coincidentally in the right area.

Age of Conan tried to introduce cutscenes and dialog to deepen immersion and let the player really experience the quest, which I think was reasonably successful. However, their core audience isn't PvE explorer types but impatient PvPers who would rather not be stuck in cutscene lag while they get jumped by some other guy passing by - this seems a mismatch of expectation/demand. And the writers really lost an opportunity because of the design decision on high that said every dialog choice should lead to the same place, no consequences if you skip through. Players very quickly learned that it didn't matter at all what the heck you picked, so hammer on "1" to get through it fast. So much for immersion and realistic consequences.

LOTRO tried to take away the quest tracker initially, in order to get folks to read the quest description and actually think through the quest. However, times have moved on, and the quest description itself isn't the clearest of clues...resulting in many pointless frustrated wandering in circles. People still resorted to third party map markers in the end. Personally I much prefer the game with the added quest cues because I still have to search a decently sized area, but at least I know it's -here- somewhere.

I hear EQ and EQII are the kings of quests and variants from soloable to epic, but haven't tried 'em so can't comment. I'd guess that Vanguard and Aion and their ilk are more oldschool in quest difficulty (leading to accusations of grind and frustration). In Aion, some of the quest NPCs move about, dependent on time of day, there are a couple of hidden locations and stuff. Nothing too fantastically epic, but a nod back to an older age, imo.

Thinking back to a much older age, one of things I enjoyed the most about MUDs was the slow, almost adventure-game like exploration of an area. Descriptions were everywhere. You'd have to 'look ' to find clues. If the area was built well, it was a fun progression, otherwise it was a frustrating guessing game and you'd end up cursing at its author. The relative obscurity of the various games and areas meant no real walkthrough online. Didn't stop an intrepid few from cheating via downloading the area file itself to read in text form, after getting stumped. *guilty* Some of those .are files were guarded like valuable intellectual property - one of my greatest sneakiest social engineering successes was befriending an immortal who had somehow collected rare .are files I didn't have, and persuading him to pass me a copy to pore over.

These days, wikis and third-party sites would thrash mastery of these obscure mysteries in a heartbeat. Still, if art/level design and quest writers worked in tandem a little more, perhaps there could still be some clues to be gained by observing one's environment - secret doors, planned interactive aspects of the scenery (rather than a tactical map-exploit), tracks, who knows?

Another kind of old MUD quest was the live quest. An immortal (dev/GM equivalent) would actually turn up on a chat channel and set up some kind of task to be performed. Get me such-and-such. Or offer some trivia clues to test one's memory and knowledge of the MUD areas that you'd have to race to first. A specially programmed mob to defeat.

I guess the nearest equivalents of those in MMOs are the holiday event quests in programmed, non-live form. City of Heroes' GMs and devs turn up to interact with the community and occasionally spawn in Giant Monsters for fun, but zero reward on special occasions. The closest I've found so far to the old MUD types were in A Tale in the Desert, where the devs would hold special races/contests (some lucky lotteries, some testing player skill at various minigames). Thing is, you can get away with that with a small community size. It seems to lose its charm once it gets automated.

Sandbox-y games are less about linear quests that everyone has to follow, and more about personal goals that the individual player has chosen at this point in their gameplay. Maybe a new MMO could allow for crafting one's own personalized story after you experience some sort of event in-game, and getting rewards based on that? Or level gain via achieving varied Achievement markers?

Who knows. Take a)-f) of the standard trope, turn it on their head, and see what we get. Chances are, an existing game may have sneakily tried it, but it didn't really register in the midst of the other 140232 easy-to-write template quests that look increasingly tempting nearer to launch date and crunch time.

Posted: Jan 22nd 2010 9:25AM Jeromai said

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Ok. That was a much longer wall of text than planned. Sorry! :P
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Posted: Jan 22nd 2010 9:39AM myr said

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It depends...

I love the bigger, more complex missions/campaign quests (or most quests in FFXI, even if they don't reward you nearly well enough for completing them, most had some decent elements of story in them).

However, I dislike quests when they do a halfassed job of trying to mask the grind, ie. most quests in WoW. I'd rather just buckle down and grind in that case (preferably in a group). Unless the game gives you things through those that you can't get while efficiently grinding experience - like rep and gear. Then it's just frustrating.

Of course, options are always good as well. Besides, it's virtually impossible for a good MMO to have enough in-depth missions to last you the hundreds or perhaps thousands of hours that you'd want to spend playing. The development capacity simply isn't there. You can have thousands of small quests that feel cheap, you can have grind, you can have a finite number of engaging missions, or you can mix it up and have some of each (not to mention other activities like crafting). Just keep in mind that players will flock to whatever advances them the most in the shortest period of time. That said there isn't an MMO yet that correctly balances everything at all levels.

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