2009 is now upon us and we here at MMORPG.com would like to take this opportunity to wish everyone a Happy New Year. As is our custom here, we want to kick off the year by announcing the winners of the 2008 Reader's Choice Awards. In each entry, we will give you the choice of the fans, as well along with a little bit of "editor's choice" commentary.
Before we announce the results of the voting for Most Innovative Feature of 2008, we want to take this opportunity to thank everyone for taking the time to vote. In the overall awards, more than 26,000 votes were cast.
In the voting for Most Innovative Feature of 2008, 2341 votes were cast. The editorial nominees were: Council of Stellar Management (EVE), Combo Combat (Age of Conan), Public Quests (Warhammer Online), Ship Combat (Pirates of the Burning Sea).
With an impressive 41% of the vote, the winner of the Most Innovative Feature of 2008 was Warhammer Online's Public Quests.
The voting broke down as such:
Combo Combat (Age of Conan)
Council of Stellar Management (EVE)
Public Quests (Warhammer Online)
Ship Combat (Pirates of the Burning Sea)
(login to vote)
Imagine that you are running through an MMORPG. Maybe none of your guildies are online, maybe your friends couldn't make it online tonight, or maybe you've just been playing this game solo. You stumble across an area of the game where one or two other players seem to be working to accomplish something. It looks like fun and you'd like in. Normally, you'd have to try to talk to someone in the group, ask them for an invitation to the group, and hope that they were working on a quest that might be fun or that your character even qualifies for. It can be a hassle, especially if you're not an overly social person (as seems to be the growing case with MMO players), and there are a large number of players who, even though they might be interested in working with others initially, would be turned off by the process.
Warhammer Online's Public Quests take much of the guess work out of the equation. In that same scenario, coming upon a public quest and participating with the people you find there is as easy as simply approaching them. When you approach a public quest, the quest's name appears in large letter on the front of your screen. In the top right hand side of the screen, the quest's objectives are clearly laid out. You, and the people around you, are now working toward the same goal. Success or failure will be as a group. As you contribute to the overall goal, you earn influence points that can be put toward special rewards when enough is accumulated. The quest is divided into three stages, each stage has a different objective. At the end, if the quest is completed, rewards are distributed based upon a contribution score and random roll.
I was happy to see Public Quests take the award in this year's voting and in this category I have to say that I wholeheartedly agree with the decision. It's not that the other choices weren't innovative, but I think that these public quests have the most potential to become something that we see as a regular feature in MMOs.
I often talk about the barrier to entry in MMOs for people from outside of the genre. One of those barriers has always been the social aspects that play such a large role in the "fun factor" of these games. The bottom line is that a lot of new players either don't know how to, or lack the ambition to join a guild from the outset or to ask to join a group... To this rather large portion of the potential player base, playing solo is the path of least resistance. It's not that they don't want to play with others, and help to contribute as a part of the group. It's that the steps that you need to take in order to break that initial ice is either more of a hassle, or more intimidating than some people are willing to endure.
With all of that said, it's easy to see the potential of Public Quests. Not only do they ease players into the idea of working with others in a game, but they do so in an easy and hassle-free way. Add to that the fact that players in that kind of an environment are more likely to talk to each other (often even just throwing out a thank you in chat can break the ice and lead to more conversation and socialization), and you have a recipe for MMO success in terms of bringing in a larger player base that might be put off by some of the MMO conventions that we all take for granted.
Now, before some of you reading this go off and point out that there are flaws in PQ design and implementation, I want to say that I'm already there. The design that Mythic has in place is by no means perfect, and has even been heavily tweaked in recent updates in the hopes of improving it, but that's really the point. Any new and innovative system is going to need some work and probably a few implementations before it reaches its full potential, but I have to agree with the voting audience on this one and give Mythic Entertainment a sound clap on the back for a job well done in bringing a new idea to the MMO table.