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A Collection Of Thoughts On Gaming

Much like shower thoughts, playing certain games brings various thoughts, ideas and criticism to mind. I'll be sharing some of them here and see what happens!

Author: Annwyn

The toxicity of questing in MMORPGs today

Posted by Annwyn Thursday October 20 2016 at 6:40PM
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Before the age of downloadable content, Questing appeared in single-player RPGs in 2 forms :

1. The main storyline, typically a complex story carefully woven that will carry the player from the very beginning until the end. There will be plot twists, there will be drama and action, a bit of comedy and more.

2. The side quests/storylines. Many older RPGs would often hide various optional quests throughout the game, these quests would bring great loot, add to the story in some way, bring additional challenges (difficult optional bosses or puzzles). To reveal these "quests", a player would have to talk to various NPCs who would talk to the player about rumors and legends and it was the player's task, should the player decide to take on the challenge, to find and solve the mystery. Taking on a side quest was a choice that could benefit the player, but would not punish him for not taking on the side quests (with some exceptions of course). 

In older RPGs, progression happened naturally as the player would visit new areas, defeat bosses, etc. In some RPGs the player might also have to grind, but unless the goal was to reach level 99, the grind was not mind numbing.

 

Enter subscription-based MMORPGs where the goal is the keep the player active in the game for as long as possible. Progression is slowed down heavily, forcing players to grind for hours on end to gain a single level. This raises a problem however with an aging player base who has less and less time to spend gaming. To keep the player base entertained, developers moved to a different formula, one that allowed players to achieve and be rewarded for completing tasks that can be accomplished rapidly: they focused on questing, and there begins a new problem.

Whether you play FFXIV, WoW, TESO, etc, questing has become practically the principal mean to progress in the game, and with this came many problems that no MMO has managed to solve.

1. MMO Developers applied the formula of Questing from Single-Player RPGs, where the player is the hero, to MMORPGs. This means that all MMO players will complete the same quests and be hailed as heroes by the same NPCs, it takes away the chance for the player to properly feel like a hero when xXxSephiroth07xXx has completed the same exact quest and gained the same exact reward.

2. Because questing is now the primary form of progression and that MMOs must retain their playerbase for as long as possible, developers have to strike a balance between the amount of quests and the time it takes a player to progress. This often means that players will often have to complete dozens of quests in order to gain a single level up.

3. Exploration is also halted by quests, as in order to have access to the content of Area B, you may be required to complete the content of Area A, and so on for subsequent Areas. Players are sometimes "forced" to complete a near copy of the content in the Area before it, but with different flavor text, before being allowed to complete another set of the same quests in the next Area.

4. Producing a large amount of quests means a large amount of repetition. There are only 36 different types of dramatic situations and MMOs have thousands of quests. The quests can quickly become repetitive, uninspired, boring, but worse, they sometimes stop making sense. A so called "Hero" sheering sheeps and other chores for other NPCs makes little to no sense. How many gamers do you know who reads a quest's text? Personally, I know of none besides myself, and even then sometimes I just give up reading them for a while, not that the text is not necessarily uninteresting, but that it contributes in no way to the storyline or the lore of the MMO.

5. Players are not interested in re-visiting old areas they've already completed, because there is no purpose to it, nor will it help them progress towards the end-game. This will often leave the low-level areas underpopulated, making it more difficult for newer players to group up with other players or at the very least have some form of interaction.

 

Some MMORPGs have attempted to give players alternative ways to progress, often through "Dynamic" Events, by opening the PvP area sooner, creating multiple dungeons accompanied with a PUG tool that rewards the players for using it. Some have attempted to ditch Questing completely in favor of using almost purely Dynamic Events, but they all fall in the same trap : they have only changed the name, for the basic mechanics remains the same "Protect this farmer and kill 10 rats".

Questing has become toxic. Not only does it not create enjoyment, it hampers it, but worse is that no one has a solution. Instead, companies have turned this into another cash opportunity : "Pay $20 to unlock a level 100 character!", and there is something seriously wrong with that, and yet it works.

By now if you've kept reading since the beginning, you might be wondering, "Well what's your magical solution?" The truth is that I have none. You've read all of this for nothing, in fact, you knew all of these things already. MMORPG gamers have become so used to the current formula that I worry there is no going back, no opportunity for them to discover other avenues because they will all be savagely compared to the current formula. I don't see any foreseeable changes to the genre until it reaches Virtual Reality, which is many years away, maybe even decades.

My theory is that the arrival of mainstream MMORPGs in Virtual Reality will push the genre's focus back to the idea of creating Worlds for players to live in. It will not remove questing completely, but it will force developers to put more energy into building activities that caters to a wider range of gamers. Because keyboards are a liability in VR, developers would have to create a game that will use video game controllers, meaning that the combat would be more action-oriented, and this opens the door for content where a player's skills, as a person rather than as a character, will be put to the test.  Real "heroes" will be born, skilled players that others can look up to. There would still be a lot of quests, but now building the world would be a task just as important, if not more, not only in the eyes of developers, but especially in the eyes of gamers.

Until then however, as much as I love being part of a MMORPG community, I can no longer enjoy a MMO for extended periods of time, and that really saddens me. I can only play for a week or two before I need to take a break and play a different genre of games instead, otherwise it feels like a reenactment of the myth of Sisyphus, and I'm not one for pointlessly pushing boulders up a mountain, not anymore at least. 

 

Thanks for reading my long rant!

MMORPG.com writes:
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