Sign in to follow this  
Kylotan

cyclic resetting quests

Recommended Posts

As we know, online games often feature quests of some nature, which require an activity to be performed in return for some reward. However, you obviously have many characters in the game, and quests therefore need to be reusable in order for there to be enough content. Obviously re-using some quests can ruin the integrity of the storyline, so one approach might be to make sure that such quests never do anything important. Another approach might be to simply ignore this and hope that the players don't mind. However, what if there were certain quests which could be re-usable without any integrity being broken? Obviously this applies to simple bounty-hunting or mercenary-style tasks, such as "Retrieve a sample of X from Y", "Map area Z", "Kill 10 monsters in the X region", "Carry this message to X in town Y", and so on. But it would be nice to have quests that change the game world significantly, even if only temporarily. And that's where cyclic quests - for lack of a better term right now - come in. In FPS games, 'Capture The Flag' games encapsulate much of what cyclic quests are about. From the normal state, one faction can change the game by capturing the flag. Their first 'quest' - to capture the opponent's flag - is complete. The second faction now effectively has a new quest - to retrieve their flag. Once that is done, they have effectively reset the system. Both factions had a different quest, and the state of the world was actually changed in the mean time, but now the state is reset again, fresh to be re-used. Can this be extended to the typical MMO, with the key benefit being that quests can have more apparent effect on the game world with no significant increase in developer time and no significant decrease in the number of quests available to players? A couple of very simple examples from me, including the tangible effect on the world: - Temple of Good-Nature god asks Person 1 to plant a field of wheat for an NPC. That NPC can now sell the wheat, etc. - Later, Temple of Evil-Nature god asks Person 2 to cast a Blight spell on that field, destroying the crops. NPC is out of business, for now. - Repeat. - Assassins Guild commission Person 1 to poison a wealthy merchant. Merchant now cannot sell goods to the player. - The wife of the bed-ridden merchant later commissions Person 2 to find ingredients for an antidote in the forest. - Intergalactic mining corporation pays 1000 credits per head to transport 500 workers to the mines at Lave. Mining work can begin and that corporation will gradually earn credits for other activities. - Intergalactic mining corporation pays 1000 credits per head to transport 500 workers from Lave back to the 3rd planet in the Solar System, twenty cycles later, when mining has ceased. Any more ideas, or thoughts on this sort of thing?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I would certainly enjoy the impacting nature of these quests, the only question I would raise is if you wouldn't run into stopping points when the majority of players has moved past a set of quests, for example. If you can't take the "evil' version of a quest until the "good" version has been completed by someone, and no one happens by to re-seed the wheat field for a while, you're essentially screwed out of a quest that other people were able to come enjoy, for the simple sake of timing.

I like where you've taken the idea though, definitely something to look into.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
How about something like a power outage or a plague - something goes wrong somewhere, such that magic is temporarily disabled (only from that player's viewpoint) or all monsters appear as zombie versions of themselves (again only from that player's viewpoint, and perhaps limited to a particular area). The player then has to go repair the problem. This could recur randomly, cyclicly, or directly as a result of the player's own actions (accumulating pollution from using some ability?)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I believe that some of your examples are good, but others are not. For instance, your "poisoned merchant" example would appear as silly as the existing quests, because instead of repeatedly asking for a message to be delivered, the merchant gets repeatedly poisoned and cured. It feels fake because an intelligent being (which the NPC is meant to approximate) would have taken steps to avoid such a nasty situation to repeat itself.

I think the crux of the issue is to make the repetitivity of both the request and its fullfilment feel natural. Even if the repetitivity is slightly reduced by making quests an alternating event, the problem of repetition is still there, unless the cycle size is much larger. So, by introducing a cycle of (mutually sensical) quests instead of a single quest, you're still left with the problem of making the entire cycle a believably repeated event. The real world gets away with repetitive tasks being done regularly. So, what kind of work, in the real world, has to be done repetitively?

The easiest is the daily repetition of many "urban life maintenance" tasks, ranging from milk and/or mail delivery to editing and printing newspapers. The fact that you delivered milk yesterday doesn't make delivering milk today any sillier. This is akin to your "transport miners to mine" quest, which could alternate on a daily (in-game) basis with its evening task of "transport miners to dormitories", so the tasks could be associated with the time of day or the completion status of the quests.

For example the village produces meat when players go and hunt things, the restaurants and shops need the meat to be delivered from the village to the city distribution center by players, and then delivered to them again by players. And if one of the quests in the chain is not performed for a while, then quests before and after that one would either clog or run dry (respectively).

You can even introduce basic economy in this: if nobody hunts for meat for a time, the price of meat rises (this increases the quest incentive) and NPCs start worrying about the shortage. This has been done in games such as CAESAR III, so it should not be overly difficult to get done in a MMORPG as well.

Another repetition is the yearly one. It's longer, but it's also stronger, since the effects are longer-lasting. In spring, you sow the fields. At the end of summer, you reap them. In winter, people need christmas trees cut down and delivered to them. A new military draft occurs each fall, so new weapons need to be forged. A giant party is thrown every year when the parliament is re-elected, so the wine, fireworks and spices (and myrrh) have to be escorted from distant lands in large quantities. Every spring, deathspore fungal behemoths arise from their hibernation, grow, and march on the outer boundary villages, so the larvae have to be destroyed. The forces of nature make great explanations for repetitivity :)

As for the storyline integrity, you should usually handle storyline one a one-shot basis, instead of leaving long-lived quests around. For example, you decide that a war appears between two cities: then, you would create new individual quests that represent the individual actions of people in that war, and group quests that would change the direction of the war. Fundamentally, you don't want to leave world-changing quests to individual players, it just isn't fair. So, give flavorful but fundamentally indifferent quests to individuals (which may give a sense of achievement towards a greater goal) and create larger quests which can only be accomplished by the coordinated work of many players.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
It's funny to see how far 'quests' have been degraded into a near meaningless activity. Usually in a rpg, a 'quest' would be something special, a puzzle, possibly solvable in multiple ways, an undertaking, something hard to achieve but with a reward attached to it.

Kill 5 gobo's. Talk to my friend. Pickup item at location x" y' and return it. Do a little dance. Press a button in your UI. Maybe they should just be honest and call these games 'paperboy MMO' (now with money to buy different bikes & caps!)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Sorry for abandoning this thread; we had a deadline at work last week. :)

Quote:
Original post by BCullis
If you can't take the "evil' version of a quest until the "good" version has been completed by someone, and no one happens by to re-seed the wheat field for a while, you're essentially screwed out of a quest that other people were able to come enjoy, for the simple sake of timing.


Yes, to look at it mathematically, this concept in its naive form means that up to 50% of the quests implemented in this way are unavailable at any one time. Therefore you'd want a decent variety of the usual re-usable simple quests (eg. bounty hunting, message carrying, etc) to keep players busy. The cyclic quests would just be for the more important events that are supposed to tie more closely into the game world and the plot, which arguably can't be done with the simpler quests.

Quote:
Original post by sunandshadow
How about something like a power outage or a plague - something goes wrong somewhere, such that magic is temporarily disabled (only from that player's viewpoint) or all monsters appear as zombie versions of themselves (again only from that player's viewpoint, and perhaps limited to a particular area). The player then has to go repair the problem. This could recur randomly, cyclicly, or directly as a result of the player's own actions (accumulating pollution from using some ability?)


There is definitely a place for repeating events that can be explained by the story. However I was mainly thinking more of events where players have more direct causality, both in changing the world in a certain way, and in reverting it to the previous state. I think that gives the players a stake in the world that is greater than if they were just combatting a periodic environmental threat. It could even be considered player vs. player by proxy, in a sense.

Quote:
Original post by ToohrVyk
I believe that some of your examples are good, but others are not.


The examples were never supposed to be the backbone of the idea. :)

Quote:
For instance, your "poisoned merchant" example would appear as silly as the existing quests, because instead of repeatedly asking for a message to be delivered, the merchant gets repeatedly poisoned and cured. It feels fake because an intelligent being (which the NPC is meant to approximate) would have taken steps to avoid such a nasty situation to repeat itself.


Firstly, it wouldn't have to be the same victim each time. The idea extends to multiple potential victims in much the same way as regular quests are often based on templates. The main difference is that players are involved in the whole part of that story without an arbitrary reset.

Secondly, your points raise some interesting ideas for extending the concept. After a couple of poisonings, the quest could be to stem the source of the poison to the Assassin's guild, and finally to secure a new source for the guild. You don't want to go too far, or you're generating quests that only a small proportion of the game world will ever get to experience, but a little variety is good.

Quote:
So, by introducing a cycle of (mutually sensical) quests instead of a single quest, you're still left with the problem of making the entire cycle a believably repeated event.


I don't think it's feasible to do away with the repetitiveness completely, but I think it can be reduced by a scheme like this, and the players can hopefully feel like they have more influence over the game if the quests they complete have a tangible effect on the game - an effect we can now allow if the quest system is guaranteed to correct this effect in time.

Quote:
The easiest is the daily repetition of many "urban life maintenance" tasks, ranging from milk and/or mail delivery to editing and printing newspapers.


Yes, there is definitely a place for the simpler 'job' style tasks, which I anticipate would make up the majority of the quests players can participate in. I don't think they are an adequate replacement for more involving quests however, as by their nature they have little lasting effect on the game world and don't impart much pride or glory upon the participant.

Quote:
Another repetition is the yearly one. It's longer, but it's also stronger, since the effects are longer-lasting. In spring, you sow the fields. At the end of summer, you reap them. In winter, people need christmas trees cut down and delivered to them. A new military draft occurs each fall, so new weapons need to be forged. A giant party is thrown every year when the parliament is re-elected, so the wine, fireworks and spices (and myrrh) have to be escorted from distant lands in large quantities. Every spring, deathspore fungal behemoths arise from their hibernation, grow, and march on the outer boundary villages, so the larvae have to be destroyed. The forces of nature make great explanations for repetitivity :)


I like the seasonal aspect, but again I would be concerned about making it interesting for players. Making work for them is easy; making interesting work that become the focus of stories and legend is something else.

Quote:
As for the storyline integrity, you should usually handle storyline one a one-shot basis, instead of leaving long-lived quests around. [..] Fundamentally, you don't want to leave world-changing quests to individual players, it just isn't fair.


One-shot quests are expensive in developer time. You suggest compensating for this by involving multiple players at once. That is the standard MMO approach so far, and it works okay for them. But I would like to get back towards the idea of individual heroes, where each person has their own story to tell, rather than all swapping the same anecdotes about the same dungeons they all visited and the same recalcitrant monster they each temporarily vanquished. To do this, I need individual players (or preferably, small groups of roughly 2 to 6) to be able to have important effects on the game world, even if they only last for days in real time.

Quote:
Original post by Dunam
It's funny to see how far 'quests' have been degraded into a near meaningless activity. Usually in a rpg, a 'quest' would be something special, a puzzle, possibly solvable in multiple ways, an undertaking, something hard to achieve but with a reward attached to it.


MMO games are really quite different from normal RPGs and therefore it's impossible to have the same functionality. Therefore what would have been a special puzzle in a single-player game rapidly becomes a commonplace occurrence in a game where thousands of people beat that puzzle. I use the term 'quest' here to refer to any sort of specific task that a player can opt to attempt. It's not that quests have been degraded, more that the term covers a wider set of activities.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I've always liked the idea of allowing players to impact the world. It makes for more interesting gameplay give the player a more vested interest in the world they are playing in.

One way this idea could work is with a complex web of interconnected quests. Quests would have to be completed to enable others, while some quests would reset over time and others that are mutually exclusive. These quests could be used to unlock new areas in the game world, change the monsters available in a dungeon, items available in shops all manor of things.

If it was well done then players could participate in many quests during their characters growth that seem disconnected but ultimately converge to enable the ultimate quest.

For instance let us say that the ultimate quest is to reseal the Longheim Wyrm after its release. The Longheim Wyrm can only be killed with one of the fabled Swords of Shambala. The Longheim Wyrm is normally dormant and seal in the rift of eternity. But it can be awaken by open all seven Gates of Nephilise with the Shrine of Ages. Each gate once opened allows access to a new area with in the shrine to explore. Each gate also has its own separate chain of quests required to open it. Clever player who love exploring could come to see how even the most minor of quest by level 1 players made possible their attempt to slay the Longheim Wyrm.

For example:

Helping building a dam in the mountains stops the caverns of Nim from being flooded that month. This allows players to harvest shade stones for blind Naboo. Who needs them to brew shadowsbane a deadly poison that brotherhood uses against Lichs. This intern allows a player to incapacitate Lo Ti the Defiler and steal a page from the book of the dead. That is one of items need by the Necromancer Al Shi-ed to create the undying flame and fill his necropolis with the armies of the undead. Which then means players can then steal the flame and use it unlock the first Gate of Nephilise.

Which all leads of course to Kevin Bacon... I mean the Longheim Wyrm

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
If by chance Leonardo Dicaprio would stumble upon my house and get the brilliant idea to donate 4/5 of his fortune for me with the words: Make an awesome MMO! I would love to experiment with cycles; building up a real infrastructure with the player in focus.

Currently MMO games seems to be more of a large persistent hub for multiplayer cooperative adventures rather then the Massive multiplayer it boldly proclaims it is. This statement probably contains a lot of faults but I don't think it is far from the truth.

Of course doing this kind of thing would be as easy as designing a game of chess that never ends. Possible but to maintain the tension and intensity a high level chess game has when there is no end? A bit harder, perhaps.

I believe to achieve good cyclic resetting quests the contents of the term quest must be changed into different actions or moves the player can make to affect the world. Like the moves in a game of chess. Stringed together in different combinations they would make a story. I would dare say simple errands like delivering milk isn't much of an exciting quest or move. But if they had a real effect rather then just giving you some red healing potions as reward such as making the town you live in richer thus eventually giving it enough resources to expand their business and provide better travelling equipment. Of course other players would notice the town getting richer on resources and start robbing the houses, thus preventing the town from improving. Another player may then think it is a good idea to start patrolling the street and protect the town from thieves. Marx would be proud.

If I made an MMO I would try to give at a structure to inspire the players to make the quests for them self. Just as fps games doesn't give you quest like objectives on what to do when you play online I want MMOs to also provide a game systems that gives the player incentive to do what needs to be done without the motivation of a back-story from a poisoned merchant.

Most likely depending on the way of implementation this could be very boring, in the hand of a brilliant designer it could provide an interesting experience. I would imagine the infant games of this type would require game masters to lead the players into exciting situations. Later on you could let dedicated players get the fancy positions within the game that could affect the game on a larger scale. It would be all about managing chaos and make sure each and every situation is balances and provide a fun result.

Oh right, we’re discussing the typical MMO, I’m way off topic. In that case, no I don’t believe it can be implemented efficiently. These kinds of quests might simulate the feeling of a real persistent online society without there existing one. I believe it would mean way too much work and ultimately they would feel like your typical quests. Having these cyclic resetting quests would just prolong that feeling. The amount of work compared to the amount of extra content it would provide just simply isn’t worth it.

Since it is late this is very likely to just be a lot of nonsense. I'm not sure this would be the recipe of a best selling game but it would be an interesting social experiment nonetheless.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
For cyclic or oneshot (seemingly) quests for MMORPG:


Needs maximal reuse without seeming repetative.... (Note also that this does include reuse on all servers running parallel worlds.)

Combinatorics to be maximally applied to make it unlikely the same happens for any player...

Templates that allow alot of substitutions (locations, NPCs. prop Objects, rewards, storyline verbage).
Templates that are recursive (inner ones are substitutable parameters for the outer....) (ie- just one of all the templates may have a set of 3 options and lists of 10 locations, 10 prop items, 10 NPCs (NPC names could be another easy variability) giving 1000 different combinations (likely each option would have MANY more than 10 different...). That of course would be only one out of a multitude of templates.

Parameter options (lists of optional items) can be built up (like a Chinese menu). They are usually simple in their selection criteria so can be created without too much work. They can be localized into sets geographicly in the game
to eliminate incongruent randomness (templates grab sets from the location they
are activated upon).

Sequential stepped sub-quest templates (Do A then Do B then Do C to increase the pattern length). Incidentials between stages make the quest seem less linear. Some patterns may be 'do A,B,C, then repeat' and be assigned as a duty.

Validation rules (probably at each recursive step) could be used to detect and discard particular combinations that dont make sense or are not currently applicable to the World situation (ie- some only would be correct for a local 'War' situation...)

World situations vary from place to place and change due to the World macro plot line. Different selections of 'quest' templates would occur at different times and circumstances. The situational factors could be controlled by a crude mechanism or an intricate one or by 'WorldMaster'(TM) staff (with minimal effort as its just changing some flags for areas of the map).

Ability to add new templates and to expand options parameters for existing templates as an ongoing game staff task (many players would do just about anything for something new to do in many existing MMORPGs).




Another aspect that often isnt used in MMORPG is quests with 'strings attached'
that have consequences if the player doesnt finish them (or withing certain conditions like time). This would of course have to be done lossely as many players are subject to conditions out f their control/time constraints etc...

Group oriented 'quests' -- guild assignments to bring in the added complexity of interactions between players in carrying out the task.


Thinking along cyclic lines, templates could be made bistable so that when one is completed its complement gets activated in its place. And templates being recursive, you could have some high level ones that activate whole rafts of related sub-quests. Whole independant cascades of different quest sets could be controlled to make them far less fixed and predictable (it would give the guys who write those 'cheat books' fits....).

(Of course this is growing into a larger player driven game plot mechanism....)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I think that cyclical quests can make for a richer world.It means that even as players advance in the game, they will always need players to perform the mundane tasks (although they could perform them themselves).

If the more advanced quests need these lower level quests to be completed (on a regular basis) to enable them, then it encourages players to form social groupings outside their level (ie the more experienced players will help the noobies and the noobies can help the more experienced characters) and also give a reason for all that grinding.

Not all cyclic quests needs to be tied to a single character. A simple one could be resource gathering. In WoW they had resource gathering to unlock new areas of the game world.

For example:
In a battle between 2 factions (The Legions of Huin and the Barbarian Hordes) each needs 1,000,000 Food and 1,000,000 Iron to further fund the war. The first faction to complete this quest attacks and controls the Highlands converting it's attitude to friendly.

Once the other faction reaches the goal mark, their faction can then attack the Highlands. The battle can go back and forth with control of the highlands switching from one faction to the other.

The highlands could then serve as a platform that unlocks certain quests while it is within your faction's control (with other quests being available when it is not in your faction's control).

You could then add in sub quests that could make it harder or easier for your faction to gain control of the highlands (may be increasing or decreasing the amount of resources needed - and these could be the individual quests).

Of course, these quests that are contained in the Highlands that can be locked and unlocked by the faction's fortunes should not be essential to the core of the story in the game world, but they should be designed to provide an on going content that players can involve themselves in. They would be like side quests, but form part of a cyclic story (so more like an interactive back story than side quests).

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Quote:
Original post by The-Per
Currently MMO games seems to be more of a large persistent hub for multiplayer cooperative adventures rather then the Massive multiplayer it boldly proclaims it is.


Without wanting to get too sidetracked, this just requires you to define what you mean by massively multiplayer. Without cooperation or competition, it becomes 'massively singleplayer', but if everybody cooperated, it would be quite difficult to manage, not to mention potentially being boring as everybody is relegated to the same sort of level.

Quote:
If I made an MMO I would try to give at a structure to inspire the players to make the quests for them self. Just as fps games doesn't give you quest like objectives on what to do when you play online I want MMOs to also provide a game systems that gives the player incentive to do what needs to be done without the motivation of a back-story from a poisoned merchant.


Unfortunately, such systems are very hard to get right. Even if you do manage to create a system that generates useful goals, it may be hard to make them interesting without human-written narrative, and it may be doubly hard to ensure the system has a degree of elasticity that prevents the game world from spiralling towards one extreme or the other.

Quote:
Later on you could let dedicated players get the fancy positions within the game that could affect the game on a larger scale. It would be all about managing chaos and make sure each and every situation is balances and provide a fun result.

Oh right, we’re discussing the typical MMO, I’m way off topic. In that case, no I don’t believe it can be implemented efficiently.


We weren't discussing 'the typical MMO'. In fact I know some smaller games that allow players to hold all the political positions and start wars against other city states and so on. The problem is designing a system that provides enough interesting content, is stable in the long term, and is low on developer effort. Giving dedicated players important positions in the game is low on developer effort, but it's not particularly stable, nor is it always particularly interesting for the other players.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
What about creating cycling Quests that are not "on" or "off" triggered, but insteat offering two alternative Quests. (hmm hard to explain, little example)


#####
Trigger: Farmers dog is sick

Good Guys Quest: Get a medicine for the dog
Bad Guys Quest: Steal crops, dog is unable to protect it


If one site completes their Quest.
Trigger: Farmers dog is fit again

Good Guys Quest: Gather crops.
Bad Guys Quest: Poison the Farmers dog
#####

With this system you have no problem if the Good or the Bad Faction does not complete their Quest.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

Sign in to follow this