Outside The Box: Public Quest System
By: Garrett Fuller
Editor's Note: This is a new weekly column from our News Editor Garrett Fuller. Each week, Fuller will highlight new innovations in MMO gaming as well as smaller games that you may not be so familiar with.
Many of the next generation MMOs have brought out some unique gameplay features for players to experience. One of the big titles that people have their eye on is Warhammer Online. I know there are many areas to talk about with this column; however, I chose to look at the Public Quest System in W.A.R.. Granted, this is primarily because I had experienced it last week at the EA Mythic Press Event. Please understand the following write-up is based on what I have personally seen so far. Do not take this as being written in stone, Warhammer Online is still in development and anything we have seen may change in the near future. For now, I am writing this based on personal experience and opinion. Yours may differ drastically.
For those of you new to MMOs, questing has become one of the primary ways for you to level up your character. Players in most MMOs meet with an NPC and are given a quest dialogue to play out. “Go and kill swamp rats, collect ten swamp rat tails and bring them to me.” This is just an example of the common grind quests we have gotten used to in MMOs.
Little has changed in the last five years with this type of quest mechanic. One of the things Warhammer Online is trying to do is break this mold of individual questing and give players a chance to accomplish their goals together. Don’t get me wrong, many of the quests in other games call for a group to aid you in completing them, but what if you are always a solo player? How can you take part in group activities?
Well, the Public Quest System allows you to enter a zone in the game that is designated specifically for group content even if you are playing alone. In other words, once you enter, a flash will appear on your screen telling you that you have now entered a public quest. Even if you are solo, you can take part in the group effort of all the players in that zone.
These quests are delivered in stages and you can enter in at any time. If the quest is on the final stage and you are just showing up, you will still get credit for the work that you do to complete the quest. Granted, players who are there for all of the stages will get more experience. The point is, everyone is rewarded based on their participation.
In W.A.R. you begin the quest at an early stage, say gathering wood. Once these goals are achieved, the players are faced with a new challenge: because you have been chopping down trees, the local dryads are angry and have risen to stop the destruction of the forest (ahh, tree huggers). After battling the dryads, a huge tree man spawns to once again crush the enemies of the forest. This boss-type character is huge and would crush solo players. But, because all the players in the area are working toward the same goal, they are able to team up, without forming groups, and defeat him. All this, just from entering a certain zone.
Now, if a guild or large group of friendly players decides to join the zone or start the quest, that doesn’t mean you can’t come in on your own and help. From what I understand the rewards and experience is based on your individual contribution to the quest itself. So if you sit in the zone and expect to soak up the XP, you won’t get much. If you actively gather wood and fight the dryads then you’ll be rewarded accordingly.
This may raise some concerns about camping. Well, keep in mind everyone in the zone is getting the XP based on their contribution. So if players are just sitting there, they really won’t get much. Also, even if the area is camped, you can still join in. The point is that it takes a lot of players working together in the zone to get through the stages of the quest.
Do I believe that this will cut down on the grind that players have to get through in order to enjoy higher end parts of the game? I am not quite sure yet. There is always the balance between theory and practice. From what I have seen so far, public quests are great for bringing the community together and creating a sense of realm pride. Also, they do give players a chance to gain experience without having to run around and pick up quests from all the NPCs in the area.
Don’t get me wrong. From what we have seen; Warhammer does not exclusively use public quests in the game. There are other types of quest as well. However, these go hand in hand with the public quest system. While the concept of questing remains common in MMOs, giving players the chance to join up and do something together just by being in the same area definitely presents a new gameplay mechanic that will add to the community as well as the content of the game. I know EA Mythic still has more to develop and test in regards to questing, but from what I have seen this is definitely a step in the right direction. Even if it does not cut down on the grind of PvE, at least it makes you feel more like part of the world or realm. With public quests, you are active just by showing up. The classic NPC-Go-Do-This format really only lets you do things for yourself. Here not only are you doing things for yourself, but also for a purpose and for the realm as a whole. We will still have to wait and see, but for now the Public Quest System is certainly, Outside the Box.