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[MMORPG] A new method of presenting the player a new kind of quest.

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I was recently inspired by Guild Wars 2 to rethink how to implement common ideas of the mmo genre in new ways.  So what I started was to analyze the genre, strip it down to the basics and then design based of taking the basics to a more polished and eventual game level.


So to begin, I'll lay down the framework with what I have decided to be the two driving actions a player can do in an mmo.


Category one is combat. An mmorpg's core gameplay could arguably be about putting yourself in a situation where you (and possibly others) need to attack other things (monsters, or people) in various categories and settings. This is the typical grind, and this is also the "end-game" raiding. Also, this includes player vs player content. Needless to say, most players will spend a good portion of their time doing something about combat.


The other category of actions a player can do is simply non-combat. The reason why I grouped everything else in here is because in practical applications, every goal of a non-combat driven action is to feed the combat experience. Trading, crafting, selling, buying all provide extra levels, skills, or items for players to bash other things. Also questing and traveling are used to find new areas and new things to fight.  There are very few opportunities in the mmo-genre, in my experience, that offers non-combat actions that are entirely peaceful (ideas like gambling, mini-games and that sort of thing).


Now the game has to be able to guide the player to combat and non-combat opportunities, otherwise the game becomes a very expensive chat room. This has historically been done with quests. You talk to a person, most of the time its the one with a " ! " above their head, or a similar kind of marking, He then lays out a simple mix of combat and non-combat goals and tells you where to do them. Afterward you get a reward and you're off on your merry way. 


Now, with the advent of Guild Wars 2, there is a gradual curiosity building where people are starting to disregard the historical way of questing and try something new. In Guild Wars 2's case, the NPC is eliminated, and you just show up to an area and when you do, a brick comes hurling at your face with a list of objectives that can be done in that area. You do the objectives, fill the bar, grab your reward and leave.


From what I can tell, both of these presents the same core problems I feel are the cause for a lot of the complaints about the mmo-genre.

Problem 1. It's too transparent. You know what you have to do, how to do it, and where to do it at. This kills all kind of creative thinking, quest text reading, socializing and exploration. All of these are arguably what makes the genre so immersive and social.


Problem 2. It's predictable. After your first hub of WoW, you already know the pace of the rest of the leveling experience. Talk to everyone with an " ! ", leave the immediate area to the surrounding map, kill things and collect things until the bar is filled and return for rewards. In Guild Wars 2, it's also pretty predictable, even more so. What I do like though, is that it offers more incentive for exploration, since you have to find your hearts and events instead of being guided to them.


So now lets talk about my opinion on some solutions.


First off, remove all signs of an NPC wanting to give you a quest. No NPC should have a " ! ", because the ones that don't are generally ignored and then the town starts to feel like a ghosttown after all the quests are done.  In order to figure out if an NPC wants help with something, it should be obvious (or not so much) by reading his actual Dialog. For example, talking to a farmer could say "Boy, I wish I had a better tool to do this job with." Should be inclination enough that if you give him a tool, he could reward you. I also want to note here, that a quest journal should NOT be updated after talking to him. If a quest journal were to exist, it would be filled out by the player. For example, if the player finishes talking to a merchant and she heralds about a shiny gem she heard about near the west coast of New Terra, the player may choose to manually input in a journal (Kind of like a sticky note) "Merchant wants a gem, west coast New Terra" or something, so s/he can remember the details without having to talk to the NPC again.  Also since the NPC is generally not an omniscient, omnipresent being, their descriptions can be a little more vague than actually needed. So you may find a few gems, and trading them to the merchant she could say "oh it wasn't like this, it was more xxx" That way a player has to make the decision "well you think it could be like this? Do you think 15 would be enough?" 


Secondly, make the distances to complete a quest varied. This would encourage exploration. You don't know whether or not a quest would take you near or far, or if you should keep talking to more townsfolk to find more things to do. This would also encourage socialization. "Hey, I came this far to try and find X for so and so, or to kill Y for Z. I figured out he's too hard solo, can anyone help out?" Or by asking players "Hey is there anything I can do around here?"


Then when you're out exploring or killing things, anywhere can have something of value and any drop *could* be a quest item to someone, so in my mind, that encourages players to try looking for new things, go off the roads between cities, talk to NPCs and other players.


It would facilitate adding in Story lines, arcs and more "epic" feeling quests, where the player ends up traveling more, looking for more rare and harder to find things, forging alliances with players and reading NPC text which would promote an overall bond towards certain NPCs (which is dependent on how well the writers are and story depth is, but it facilitates it nonetheless).


I believe it would make a more "livable" world, where the NPCs are more colorful and humorous, the players are more engaging, and the story and lore are more built-in and the quests actually feel like quests and not intermittent rewards.


The only major problem I'd have with this system, I think, is that it is hard to implement with character levels, and the like. However, if I look for alternative ways of character advancement and derail myself from a level system, I could see this being a method of story telling and quest giving in a sandbox styled game where skills and alliances matter more than equipment and levels.


Thoughts? Agree/Disagree with any of my processes? Questions? Suggestions? Anything in *your* mind on how you would design a system?

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I agree that this convention is tiresome,  but you have to be careful with radical ideas like this.


The evolution towards removing the NPC is definitely a result of the 'lazy gamer' who is used to the convention and just wants it to happen quicker with less thinking involved.


It's risky to add cerebral elements to mainstream-types of games,  you know,  parts where you have to think and be creative.  I think it's risk because most players just want to shut their brain OFF when they play games.  Thinking is a BAD THING to most people.    We as indy developers are enticed by cerebral experiences,  but mainstream gamers really aren't.   The mainstream wants easy gratification,  and addiction badges that prove they have less of a life than everyone else and are therefore somehow better people.


I agree it would be a great idea,  but my instinct tells me that anything I think would be great is something  the mainstream just won't dig.

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Zummy, you make a good point about NPCs not needing an exclamation mark over their heads, however we live in the "age of speed," so to speak. Players want to get their stuff fast and they want it now. I personally prefer talking to every NPC in town to find out their stories. I prefer going through every crate, drawer or chest. When Fallout 3 developers added [EMPTY] to the game, I downloaded a simple MOD that would fix my problem and give me back my immersion.

Yes, the manually taken notes would make more sense and I would definitely want that in a game. Yes, drops that can also be quest items is also an awesome idea. But all these are complicating the game play and, if you look at how the big companies design their games and what does the players look for, you'll likely discover that your finished project won't sell that well and that it's actually kind of a niche game. Like Suese said, players want easy gratification. More like instant gratification if you ask me. It's like removing WASD from a shooter and just throwing in other controls because you think they make more sense. Don't do it; unless you're doing it for fun. smile.png

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WoW is so successful precisely because they rejected the old system - the one you described - and streamlined it to reduce complexity for the players.  Players don't want to juggle info on hundreds of people with hundreds of requests, and they don't want to spend a lot of time on some random, trivial task.

Bonus points if the streamlinedness guides players in the general direction they will have to travel in order to progress.

All quests are pretty much meaningless with the exception of plot arcs, which should follow along the desired path.

If you want fetch quests in the game, keep them simple because that is what they are, simple.
If you want anything more interesting, try to make a point to all of it.

One method would be a faction based approach, where a specific group needs to be helped to attain a specific end.
Here you can hide quests among the people, because there is an overarching reason to help them.  Which means while your objective is to help the fish-people so you can get the legendary fish-hammer of awesome +2, you only end up juggling the fish people, not the world.
Anything to that effect would work, really.

More rewarding or higher level questing could take you further, but really it better be worth the travel.

Its alright to hide them in the masses, but you better implement it right or you'll make it unfun.
Especially since they have no way of finding the quests relevant to their level.  But you can just hide those from them, saying "come back later when you don't suck" for example.

The only reason they still exist is to make grinding less horrible. 

Edited by MyNameIs

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The only reason they still exist is to make grinding less horrible


And there is the, whole, damn, problem.

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This is not impossible to implement, but how do you balance your Quests?


If the Quest requires the players think about what they do and research things in the game world, then that takes time. If the Quest on top of that takes the player far off, maybe even several times... (Oh this WASN'T the Gem? OK... Back across the sea I go).

Then the Quest reward needs to reflect that.

But what is stop a player, once the game is established, from having the game wiki up on one screen and just running the optimal path to finish all the, now very rewarding Quest?

You could lower the reward, but what about the player who genuinely wants the, exploration experience?


Well The Secret World has implemented a version of this. They have static Quest givers, with symbols above (or next to) their heads. But Different symbols for different types of Quests. So there is a combat symbol for regular, kill X amount of Y type Quests. And a research Symbol for those Quests the require research and exploration. Warning the player ahead of time as to what kind of gameplay experience he is choosing.



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I personally would like to see more quests that are puzzles that need to be solved. A little bit of thinking in order to solve it. The problem is that since they are not quick you would expect a hefty reward, but at the same time, the answer would be posted online and would reduce the effort needed to solve the puzzle so you are stuck with a dilemma. In this way, quests would be a lot less obvious.

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Short simple quests to ease grinding.

Over arching quests for anything that doesn't involve leveling up.

Like if you set a level cap every nth level and require the player to complete one of three quest chains to remove it.
Well then you have a cool system.  Let them know about it, what to do and such.  They'll have fun removing it.

Or for some much needed equipment (something you can't grind off).

It's complicated because no one wants to walk half way across the world to gain a level.
And everything gets out dated when you level.

Instead, WoW used quests to guide the player down a path where new quests await.
So it's pretty bland because 1) they have to mass produce them and 2) they are meant to be handled quickly, back to back.

If you want to do something more interesting, you'll have to get them on a path to solve it.
Why don't you toy with the idea of littering some kind of main quests which unlock the next level among simple quests.
Prevent them from missing out on the big quests somehow, and still keep them marching to the destination.
As you progress you can take this away more and more and make them puzzle it out.  Mainly at the endgame.
Then you have meaningful arcs and they can have their path guide them to the solutions.
Or look at RPGs like Golden Sun.  There are a few gates to the "somewhere in the world" quests, but you can still grind away lol.

Or hell, ditch progression and the endgame all together.  Now you are completely free to do whatever you want lol.

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I think one of the main issues with questing in our current incarnation of MMORPGs is the link between questing and the need to gain experience/levels. In WOW, one could theoretically level from 1 to 60/70/80/85 (whatever max is at this point) without ever embarking on a single quest. There are enough monsters of a varied level to provide a constant stream of experience and levels, should you possess the patience to grind, grind, grind your life away.
In truth though, the majority of a character's experience comes from completing quests. Even the experience gained from the monsters killed during a 'kill x amount of ys' quest is paltry in comparison to the amount you get when the quest is done. Add in the randomly useful piece of gear and sum of money rewarded as well, and you suddenly begin to wonder why people look for anything else to do in the game.
It is all tied in together far too tightly, all to support the drive to level up and get better gear. "Gaining experience" quickly replaces the basic reason you started playing in the first place - to "experience the game."
I think we need to work on divorcing experience gain from questing. A player shouldn't be pushed into a series of repetitive, uninteresting quests simply because it provides the swiftest way from level x to level y. The way I see it, while the events encountered while on the quest would naturally provide a character some experience in one form or another, finishing the quest itself should reward said character in any manner other than experience gain. Money, property, reputation, story, more quests...anything but experience. I should want to do quests because of what it brings to my pleasure of playing the game, not so I can do more quests.
In separating the two, we would see the overall design of the MMORPG change dramatically. In order to keep players interested, designers would be forced to create more interesting quests, more worthwhile rewards, and a world worth experiencing. Edited by Theis_Bane

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If you have played Ragnarok Online (I'm talking about the 1st one. RO2 is coming out soon.)

That game in its Vanilla age, didn't have 'Quest' as we know. The whole game is about exploring and finding out how to best level and find those rares you need. There's no quest that says 'Go out and kill 10 Giant Frogs (appropriate monsters to player' level). Players learn very fast what monsters are good for what level range. 


On the other hand, there actually were some form of Quests in RO. They were to unlock access to new map, or new skills, or new class advancement. ie.'You're interested in becoming in a Swordsman ? Prove your self to me, go kill these and these and these and these, then report back to me. If you pass, I will let you join the rank of Knighthood.'

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