Updated Tue, Aug 07, 2012 by gunky
The Guild Wars 2 beta weekend event was a real eye-opener. I consider myself sort of a "noob" in terms of MMO experience - for the past few years, my attention has been fairly strictly focused on a very small handful of games. I'm surely not alone in this. A lot of players come from a long, narrow history of one or two games, and experiencing something new, like GW2's dynamic questing, can throw some of us for a loop.
Running up and talking to a NPC to receive a quest is how RPGs have worked since the days of DOS. In the olden tymes, when we rode our dinosaurs to school, three miles uphill through the snow both ways, and the 486 with a 4mb VGA card was a top-end gaming rig, we would use text to communicate to the pixelated denizens of our gaming worlds, and they would tell us to go kill ten rats, goblin, skeletons or whatever other 0-level mob was pestering the helpless citizens of the noob area. The mouse revolutionized RPGs by allowing players to point and click on these NPCs to extract our rat-killing quests without worrying about spelling errors or the like. Click-for-quest-bestowal has been the industry standard for nearly 20 years and continues to be our predominant quest delivery system.
Guild Wars 2 goes outside the box for their Player-versus-Environment questing system, keeping in-step with the rest of the game’s gonzo weirdness. You no longer need even to click on NPCs to receive quests - simply walk near them, and the quest is automatically bestowed. Walk past an event taking place in your area and you are given that quest. Hang around an area long enough and something is likely to just sort of pop up, welcoming you to take part or continue on your merry way.
It's a much more "organic" way of picking up quests, but long-time gamers may find it rather unnatural. There are no people with exclamation points or flaming rings over their heads. You don't go to town to load up on quests, or to turn your current batch in for rewards - mostly. There are different rules for different types of quests.
The personal story occasionally requires click-to-talk interactions with NPCs, which initiate fully-voiced cut scenes. However, a lot of these cut scenes are initiated by proximity rather than clicking - move close to your target and the dialogue starts up on its own. Personal stories do require the player to return to a quest-giver to receive a reward.
The personal story cut scene
This part of the game will be the most familiar to the uninitiated. It's the closest thing to "normal" questing that can be found in any other game. But it plays only a small part of GW2's PvE. The majority of the PvE game comes from reputation quests and dynamic events on the landscape. The personal story feels more significant than these – it has a deeper meaning and uses fully-voiced cut scenes, after all – but most PvE’ers will spend a lot more time doing the other stuff.
Reputation quests have marked NPCs - they are indicated on the map and on the landscape with a heart icon - but the player usually doesn't need to talk to the reputation NPC in order to get the reputation quests. Walking near one of these guys gives the player a selection of tasks to work on. Occasionally, the reputation guy will have more specific tasks or instructions – for example, the charr guy standing by the cow pasture will give the player timed quests to capture bugs and feed them to the cows, and the player must return to the quest giver for each timed run. But this is the exception rather than the rule.
Usually, approaching a reputation quest-giver generates a list of tasks for that area – kill some local pests, interact with nearby objects in a particular way, help local citizens, et cetera. Typically, the player can do all of these tasks in equal proportions or just do the ones he wants to do. Completing a set amount of these tasks earns the favor of that NPC and fills in the heart icon, turning the NPC into a specialty vendor.