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What if..

My MMO thoughts and desires for all to enjoy (or flame). Sometimes it may be worthless, others may be a diamond in the rough. I hope to spark, tickle or cause thoughtful conversation.

Author: Hathi

The Open Ended Gaming experience

Posted by Hathi Thursday August 12 2010 at 5:42PM
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My first experience with the idea of a Public Quest (PQ) was with Warhammer Online. Mythic hailed it as innovative and new. The idea was interesting. An area where players can visit, jump in an event, contribute as much or as else as they wish and be rewarded accordingly.

To Mythic's credit, the concept has taken off. Champions Online has Open Missions. DC Universe coined their PQ areas as Live Events. Guild Wars 2 is featuring a Dynamic quest.

What all these have in common is easy. A location where an event is occurring. Players are usually notified what stage the event is at, what the objective is and a timer is counting down.

On the plus side, these are relatively new to the MMO formula. Up until recent years, most of MMO content was guided by tasks/ missions/ instances/ raids and PvP. It is a fresh change to just do something without the inherent "work" of finding a group, organizing a raid, repeating the same action over and over again. It promoted relationships that MMOs yearn for. A common goal for players to coalasce around. It also did not demand hours and hours of commitment for players. You only had 15 minutes for lunch, you can pop in and help out.

From what we learned in WAR, a lot of things had to be ironed out. Contribution to an event is a relative term. Does a healer contribute more to the event than a dps based toon? What about someone who spams abilities just to generate high contribution scores for the best loot? What about the tank player who is a master at keeping the end bosses attention, but because of poor dps skills had little to contribute up until the end boss? And what about the random rolling involved? Someone who comes for 5 minutes, but rolls a great loot roll gets the rare gear while someone there from minute one gets nothing?

How will these upcoming games address these issues?

How will upcoming MMOs who really like the idea of a dynamic area keep that area interesting? Is it still a grind if the same event resets and runs every hour? Will beginning areas become ghost towns because there is better loot to be had in another area or simple repeatable mission reward- essentially making the PQ a waste of time?

To me, it would be a step in right direction if :

- PQs had a reason for all levels to participate. Keep the stages of the PQ intact. Low levels bear the burden of overcoming beginning phases (and their respective "end boss/ challenges"), the mid range players have their stage to deal with and veterans have to deal with the final event objectives. This keeps an area interesting and often gives an opportunity for veterans to meet newer players and form relationships, give buffs, and recruit. 

- Mix up the threats. instead of the same threat being cycled over and over perhaps have a comparable threat randomly generated in the event. So instead of cycle of centaurs raiding a village, the threat overcome. Next have a raid of hobgoblins give it a whirl. Maybe followed after some recovery time a raid of orks, lizard men, and finally an undead mix of all the previous fallen. THEN go back to Centaurs. Keep the rewards on random loot table as well.

- City of Heroes/ Villians had Booty Bay and similar pvp zones where the game alerted everyone of Hot spots of activity. What a game can determine if a big pvp fight is going on (say 1-2 full groups flagged for pvp are engaged) and execute a dynamic mission in that area? 

- Another aspect of open missions occurs if the level of the open mission becomes too difficult for the players involved. in WAR, if we started a PQ, but could not finish it, we would have to wait til the mission failed and it reset to grind for the influence reward. What if the game offers an alternate set of objectives for those situations. Lets say the PQ area detects you have gotten involved in the PQ, but your contribution is stuck at a certain value for 10 minutes. The game then offers you an alternative objective. It may be constructing a war machine, or supporting an NPC, or thwarting an enemy alternate objective. The idea here is while the main event cannot be overcome, the event can still be completed with you assisting the NPCs complete the objective for you.

- As a former facebook junkie, I played a lot of those mindless games. One game was Castle Age. What intrigued me about this game was that epic bosses could either be taken down by brute force of player power, or a set of objectives could be met (set up a mega ballista, summon angels, summon a spell, etc). Sometimes all you needed was to ask someone to contribute one click for your objective to advance to the next stage. This could be a means to do these alternative objectives.  If a group has been whittled down to a few players to get to a final stage. Maybe there could be a mechanism where friends can contribute a consumable item from a marketplace or donate energy to bolster the group in need. The "favors" would enable to small team to complete big objectives to take down difficult challenges.

What else could Open missions have to make them better?

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