Wednesday, May 12, 2010

A better questing system

I readily admit that I am not the person to ask about lore within this game. Actually, I'm pretty horrible. I think one time Nkm mentioned some person that I should know as a druid, and I was like "Who?". He was horrified. I am sure that I fail Gauss' lore quiz.

I am also really really horrible with actually reading quests when I receive them. I tend to just go "Yeah, yeah, yeah; blah, blah, blah" when confronted with quest text. I would love if Blizz took a second look at how they not only design quests, but how they think about the overall quest system itself.

Guild Wars 2 has come out with information around how they are changing their quest system. Colin Johanson, their lead content designer says:

"Traditional quest systems involve walking up to a character who usually has an exclamation point or question mark hovering over their head and talking to them. From here, you get a massive wall of text hardly anyone reads that describes a horrible or totally mundane thing going on in the world that you need to help with. You run off, complete this task, then return and talk to this character again to receive another wall of text and a reward. Traditional quest systems rely on these blocks of quest text to tell you what is happening in the world; this is just an outdated form of storytelling".

He continues with:

"In Guild Wars 2, our event system won't make you read a huge quest description to find out what's going on. You'll experience it by seeing and hearing things in the world. If a dragon is attacking, you won't read three paragraphs telling you about it, you'll see buildings exploding in giant balls of fire, and hear characters in the game world screaming about a dragon attack. You'll hear guards from nearby cities trying to recruit players to go help fight the dragon, and see huge clouds of smoke in the distance, rising from the village under siege."

What an interesting way to think about quests, eh? In the link he continues with saying how in most quests, the events that they describe aren't actually happening around you. You may get a quest to kill 10 ogres, but the ogres aren't actually attacking. They're just standing around so that multiple people can complete the quest.

Johanson's vision is to really make the game feel alive, making it a living, breathing world. The quests would have a real, visible impact (good or bad), changing the world based on player reactions.

"The core of this evolution is our event system, which allows the world to dynamically change based on actions and decisions made by the players. A single player decision can cascade across a zone, changing the direction of a chain of events until they dramatically alter the content played by players in a map."

Now maybe all of these concepts aren't necessarily transferable to WoW, given its larger player base. But definitely some interesting ideas to think about. I for one, would love questing in Cataclysm to move beyond the standard practice of give you a wall of text, and you do X. Perhaps a more dynamic questing system would get me more interested and engaged in the lore.


  1. Even though that sounds fricken awesome, I don't think that it will work for Wow. I think the main problem it would face is integration. Are we going to have NPC's screaming, and then a random window to accept the quest will pop up? Will we have to help the NPC's in whatever's going on, and while we're doing that we get started on a quest? I know that for me, I gather all my quests, and then go do them by location and proximity. This system would be cool to try, but I think it would confuse people more than be a fun new quest style.

    But I do agree from the bottom of my heart that Cataclysm needs better quests. Maybe vechicle quests underwater, or take an approach like warhammer did, and make them more group centric, like a mini dungeon that isn't instanced. I dunno.
    /end wall of text

  2. WoW needs a better FONT. I can't read quest text, or mail, or books, or anything with that stupid medieval style font with bad contrast. GAH.

  3. @Aituair: Yep, totally agree that it'd be harder for WoW to do, but they really should consider some of these concepts. The way questing is now, is too boring.

    @Jen: People underestimate the difference a decent font makes... I guess Blizz does too. :)

  4. Quests as they are now are basically chores. You talk to your neighbor and he offers to pay you a dollar to mow the lawn and kill 10 ogres. You don't need to know any part of your neighbor's story or his motivation. All you need to know is summed up by "0/10 ogres killed. 0/1 lawns mowed." Then, once you're done, the ogres respawn and nothing has really changed in the world. This does not feel like a heroic quest. It's actually pointless except that it gives you the means to leave and find the next, slightly more challenging chore of killing 12 ogres and looting 6 lucky charms.

    Part of the problem is new players. Phased zones suck so having the game state reset is convenient for the next hero who comes along and finds 10 ogres standing around waiting to be killed instead of a clan of 100 really pissed off ogres planning to massacre the town because some previous "hero" trimmed the wrong hedge.

    Any quest system that results in real changes in the world has to accept varying levels of difficulty and inconsistent player experiences. At this point with WoW, that would be a good thing.

  5. I remember when playing paper based D&D-style games how our dungeon master got tired of waiting for us bored players being silly and refusing to go for the hook that she was dangling in our face which led to ze epic adventure, and finally resorted to having us all attacked and forced onto the railroad tracks again.

    Maybe the ogres will attack you out of the blue and when you have fought back and defeated 10 of them the frightened villager will come running with a suitable reward?