Editorial

The Need to Iterate on Questing

By David Piner -
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Questing is pretty much a staple of modern MMOs. There is a lot going on when we talk about questing and there is even more examples of the various ways games approach the mechanic. Yet, at the end of the day, it ultimately comes down to walking down to a location, performing a simple task, and then returning for your reward (maybe). Quests were sort of kind an RPG staple, but they didn't come into their own as a de facto way to do everything until World of Warcraft. Previously, quests were essentially designed to obtain some rare item and return it to an NPC. This signified that you accomplished whatever your goal was and you deserved your reward - often the only quests in game were for your epic set of armor.

WoW was the first mainstream MMO to buck the trend and make questing the focal point of the game. Previous games did some questing here and there, but there was rarely a game that the quests took you from start to finish. WoW enabled this idea that you don't have to grind enemies from start to finish, the way other games did. There was no sitting in camps and waiting endlessly for mobs to respawn (which was the entire social part of MMOs and something a lot of people kind of do miss) but instead non-stop action and adventuring.

Yet, here we area, how ever many years from the launch of WoW and quests are still the same. We still are told by an NPC to go from point A to point B and to randomly complete a task that we will randomly repeat our entire career. For some reason or another, developers think that we really love doing that. The problem is that most MMO old timers don't mind doing it to get from point A to point B but in no way shape or form do they enjoy it.

I don't enjoy it! I love MMOs but I'm tired of FedEx quests, tired of killing ten bears, collecting their asses, and taking them to some weird NPC who not only mocks me, but needs them bear asses to make some kind of magical stew to FedEx over to some other NPC who now wants 20 Orc farts bottled up into a jar, but require the finest 2014 vintage, so you have to use an item in your inventory to date the Orc fart and half of them are going to fail.

We need something fresh, something new, something that iterates on the system that we already have to make it fun. The Elder Scrolls Online tried and well, came short. Sure, the quests are "different" and there are no breadcrumbs, but the majority of the quests are still kill some jerk over there, go fetch some item over there, go walk into a cave and wait for the quest to complete magically.

I'll tell you a game that did kind of sort of do a different thing with quests. That's Dungeons & Dragons Online which had voice acting in the dungeons as if it was an actual tabletop D&D session and most of the group was inside of interactive dungeons - but DDO isn't that much of a persistent open world MMO like the others.

What we need is iteration on the questing formula. We need to take what works (ease of access, ease of leveling, the ability to organize tasks) and ditch what doesn't (the boring repeating factor, bear asses, bottled Orc farts) and try to come up with a much cleaner system that is more fun and less the same regurgitated BS that has been going on for 10+ years.

For example, add in some random factors to the quest. Randomly generate content on the fly and make the quests feel different each playthrough. Maybe have a set of various options for quests that randomly generate on character creation and are affected (REALLY AFFECTED) by the choices you make in the game. Maybe make it where there is only one quest in the game and that quest is to kill monsters, once you kill enough of one type, its replaced by the next tier of monster.

I don't know, I'm not a game developer, and I'm no genius. What I do know is that we need something fresh and new with the next generation of MMOs if we're going to keep games exciting and fun. Because at the end of the day, no matter what, if you use the standard collect 20 bear asses and put them in your backpack, people are just going to go meh, I could be collecting bear asses in WoW.

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About The Author

David "Xerin" Piner
Get in the bush with Xerin every week for his column, Respawn, as he analyzes the hottest trends, buzz topics, and absurdities in MMO gaming. In addition to his ongoing war against early access titles.

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