Ever heard or the Holy Grail, Beowulf or the Twelve Labors of Herakles?
Once upon a time the word “Quest” meant something, it really did.
Lately quests became a must to have in all MMO. The developers identified that the players have to be driven through the content, taken by the hand from the start to finish.
Quests and, in some extend, instances are the chosen solutions.
The need embark the player on a guided tour and keep him busy watered down the epicenes of quests. You don't really feel that special anymore when a lord asks you for a load of pig's tails, right?
It's funny to note that the idea is to make players feels heroic, unique.
The other issue is not all the pigs have tails; so much that you can wonder if some genetic experimentation hit their population badly.
When you finally embark on a quest, that makes senses and feel epic, you soon discover that you're just a peon among clones that done the same exact thing as anybody else around: the guy/girl standing next to you showing off with a replica of your epic reward.
Out from the shadows WARhammer tried out to bring some needed light in these dark times. Good on paper, the public quest idea fell a bit too hard on his back with the reality check.
Maybe it's time to get back to the roots. Instead of providing generic content and watered down quests, how about having the developers provide a living world before anything else?
Interacting with the world would have consequences.
You killed a few wolves wandering in a forest? Well you might have made the villagers safer and maybe someone noticed. Your next visit in that village might be rewarding. Maybe you angered the dryad protecting the forest and it would be dangerous to venture alone in the surrounding forests anymore.
Stopping by a tavern, a bar fight starts: do you choose to try to stop it, to participate or you don't even take notice? Your actions will be noted.
Ok, so far nothing epic [insert yawn]. We just replaced quest givers by events triggers.
Whatever you write it, no quests ever will be as epic as player made content managed by a few dedicated players/GMs. It's surprising how with very little some are able to create epic moments. Most of the time players enjoyed just being there, even if they didn't get big loot bags no were THE hero.
The magic of live events encompasses the supposedly epicenes of quests, always.
Now there's a new baby about to see the light in a few months: Star Wars The Old Republic. Their idea to bring some sort of class biography quest lines is interesting. It's still quests, but somehow writing a decent story next to your character.
Would once again a good idea turn badly? The issue there is your class dictates your main story, so you either choose a storyline or a combat style game play. And to what extend is following your story line optional?