Ed. Note: Our thanks to Daily-Quests.com for the AWESOME comics! Be sure to head over to read some more!
Repeatable quest content is actually nothing new in the MMO world, but in the last few years formalized daily or weekly quests have been incorporated into almost every game I’ve played or keep an eye on. WoW, my current game of choice (at least until I get a TSW beta spot, hint hint), is no exception – if anything it’s at the forefront of that crowd, with more dailies than you can shake a +1 Stick of Bashing Things at.
The attraction from a design point of view is obvious. For starters, you can design a limited number of not too complex quests that people are going to do over and over again, as opposed to designing complicated quest chains that players will only do once, and hey presto, you have instant lasting content. WoW now takes this a step further in its latest Firelands patch, allowing you to access more dailies only after you’ve done certain other dailies a bunch of times. It’s transparent, yes, but as usual with WoW it’s pretty slick in presentation, and judging by the crowds in the new areas since the patch it’s working pretty nicely for them.
From a player perspective, or at least this player’s perspective, the attraction is much more ambiguous. I’ve done a fair few repeatable quests in other games, not least of which were the endless work orders and crafting “dungeons” I did in EQ2. I actually have a very high tolerance for repeating content, which is almost obligatory if you’re a serious altoholic like me, so I don’t have the achiever’s objection to redoing something I’ve already done before. However, I also don’t have the achiever’s tenacious desire to obtain whatever is to be obtained just for the sake of obtaining it, or so that I can say I have something the Joneses don’t have. I’ll repeat content just as long as I find something interesting in it, but once that interest wanes I really don’t see the point of putting myself through something that’s become tedious.
Still, dailies do have a number of upsides for me, and I’ve become very aware of those in the last few months because a large part of my WoW playtime has been taken up by them. They structure my playtime, which is especially important at max level; knowing what I plan to do when I log in (even if I often change my mind and end up doing something completely different) beats logging in and standing around hoping for entertainment to come to me. That’s not my style.
Dailies also tend to take a fairly predictable amount of time to complete and I can do them alone, with a couple of other people or as part of an amorphous mass of people all doing the same thing. That’s helpful, given that my schedule can be unpredictably hectic; even if I’m run off my feet with other stuff, I know I can log in and spend an hour or so doing my daily quests. And while I’m not really much of an achiever-type, I do like to know I’ve done something I consider useful (as well as fun) with my time in game.
Speaking of achieving, dailies let me access stuff I might not otherwise bother getting, especially since I’m not much of a dungeon-crawler. Gear isn’t a huge focus for me but I do like getting better stuff and smacking things around more efficiently, and I’m hugely drawn to fluff items like pets and mounts. (And if someone could influence the RNG so my main can finally get her Strand Crawler crabby pet from the fishing daily, I’d be most grateful. Almost all my alts have theirs and they’re laughing at her… it’s sad.)
And last but not least, dailies let me hook up with friends on a regular basis. It’s almost like meeting down at the pub after work for a quick pint and a chat; the dailies don’t tend to be very demanding in terms of brain-power, so we can get on with them and still socialize with each other while we’re collecting armadillo tails or whatever we need that day. Since I live too far out in the boonies to actually go to the pub every day (and I’m not that much of an extrovert), that’s a definite plus, especially since many of these are RL friends who don’t actually live close enough for us to meet up all that regularly.
But yes, there are definite downsides for me as far as these dailies go and the more of them I do, the more the downsides become evident. Most obviously they’re static, which means that they can rapidly get samey and tedious. There’s one particular rep grind in WoW that only offers two dailies, and while those aren’t hard to do, I’m starting to wonder why I bother when it’s going to take me most of a year to get the reputation I want. Do I really need the stuff that badly? (Clearly I don’t, or I’d be doing other things like dungeons for the reputation gains, but the point is that it’s a chink in the mechanic’s armor.)
It’s hard for me not to be aware of the fact that dailies are really just a form of grinding that’s artificially paced (read: slowed down) in order to provide minimal carrot goodies with maximum repeat-stick. Good for retention, bad for fun. I’m wary of using the term “grind” in general because it’s far more subjective than most people tend to admit, but still: when you’re doing the same thing over and over and you’re not having as much fun as you once were, or having no fun at all, then for most people that constitutes a grind. In my case, something becomes a grind when I’m no longer sure I want the rewards it offers, or when the tedium of repetition becomes so heavy that I start wondering if the rewards are worth the investment in time.
When any game activity starts to feel like a job, or when I feel an obligation to log in because there’s some daily or weekly activity I feel I have to do – that’s when I know it’s time to stop. I realize that’s not the case for everyone, and that many players enjoy knowing that they have something to do every day. I do too, but only up to a point. I play games because they’re fun, not because I need more work to do; SWG taught me that better than any other game I’ve played. When running a business empire in a game starts to feel like real-life work it’s time to move on, or at least to re-evaluate one’s priorities.
Like I said, I’m ambivalent about my dailies. I do have fun with them, especially because I really enjoy questing in general, but I’m also aware that the mechanics and the intent behind them aren’t necessarily for my benefit. So I’ll only do them if I’m in the mood and if they’re fun; and while different personality types get different things out of MMOs in general and dailies in particular, it’s worth taking a step back now and then to make sure you’re doing them because you really want to, and not because someone thought it would be a good way to make sure you keep logging in.