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MMO rants

I like to blog about things that I've found bothersome in current MMOs. So expect a lot posts about things I dislike and about how I feel they should be changed.

Author: beregar

Quest Design (Part I): Quest Types

Posted by beregar Saturday December 18 2010 at 1:28PM
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I'm very vocal in criticising how quest systems usually work in MMOs as I draw my enjoyment primarily from doing quests and find current implementations rather lacking. This lead to a longish wall of text so I'm splitting it into parts for easier consumption. First I'm going to talk about quest types and why I feel all of them are necessary. After reading all the entries you will come to understand why I've so high hopes for GW2.

When reading the entries keep in mind that I subscribe to idea where world zones have certain ”hotspots” called adventuring areas. Zone borders should be mostly invisible to players but they help avoid a situation where countryside is littered with enemies to a point where you can not move more than a few steps before you get assaulted by random woodland critter. Similarly we don't want monsters and events to spill into areas where they do not belong.


Quest types

I believe following quest types all play an important part when designing a quest system. However I feel many of them are implemented in a rather questionable manner, some barely exist at all, and some are too dominant. Here's my take on the different types of quests and how they should appear in games.

Crafting quests teach you the basics of crafting and even provide some income. However I feel crafting should actually perform useful role regardless of your level. You may remember I subscribe to tier based leveling model and personally I think crafters should be the ones used to customize your gear. I also like the idea that most epic items can only be crafted from materials earned through adventuring, but recipes themselves are earned through the crafting system or even through lore quests.

Hunts are repeatable missions for those who just wish to get online and bash a few heads or don't have the time for a full adventure. They are focused on adventuring areas and simply involve hunting certain amount of enemies. Each adventuring area has an NPC that grants these. The NPC also works as a store that exchanges ”trophies” dropped from enemies to cash and items. So if someone doesn't have time, or isn't interested in storyline adventures, they can just grind items and money through trophies. These are unfortunatelly the predominant quest type in MMOs even if my personal preference would be them to be fillers.

Note: These hunts may also trigger events. I.e. Gnarlwood adventuring area is well known of its gnoll population and players may receive hunts to clear patrolling gnolls. This eventually triggers the ”Gnoll Revenge” event that causes a large force of gnolls to assault nearby human settlement. You can choose to just defend the settlement or take the fight to gnoll fort. This way the people doing hunts can feel they achieved something.

Lore quests and exploration quests are quests that focus entirely on noncombat activities and learning the story of the world. They are usually represented by some sort of feats system and collections rather than actual quests. However I feel rewards for these should go beyond experience and items, and should be connected to the nature of the quest itself. For example you gather enough entries and you earn experience along with a minor trait, crafting formula or even ability that is connected to what you learned.

Note: I've always felt exploration and loreseeking should be rewarded in a manner similar to slaying enemies. If someone is willing to dedicate a significant amount of time to these activities shouldn't they be rewarded for it? Where exactly it says combat is somehow superior activity?

Public quests and events are cooperative quests best presented in the persistent world. Ideally persistent world should have multiple smaller localized event chains while dedicated adnveturing locations also have a larger primary chain that tells the story of the area. These public quests/events have a starting point and an ending point after which the quest resets. These are an excellent method for players to cooperate without actual need to form teams. They are also great for cinematic battles and scripted actions. These either don't exist or play very minor role in most MMOs which is very dissapointing from my point of view.

Note: I wholeheartedly support ArenaNet's plans for cascading event chains. Event driven world has been my dream since late 90s.

Storyline quests are done through instanced arcs. They may tell story of the game world but there should be also smaller storylines focused on adventuring areas. The key here is that these are the core quests. Sure you can get through the game world by doing only public quests or hunts, but you are going to miss all the fun instanced spaces can offer. I feel this is where current games could improve most and these are the focus on upcoming blog posts.

Note: I also like the idea that these may interact and trigger events within outside world. I.e. You go through the Necropolis storyarc which triggers the ”Black Tide” event where fleeing necromancers spill to surrounding areas along with an army of skeletal minions.

I skipped tutorial quests and class training quests as they are very specific in their use and shouldn't be used as methods for general advancement. However I'm very curious what people think about these quest types. Any particular favorites? Where do you think the emphasis on quests should be? Public quests? Instanced story quests? Hunts? Lore and collection quests? Perhaps on something I have completely missed?

Once you are done here I recommend reading the part 2 which actually gets into some of the specific issues that I've with quests.

- B writes:
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