Tome of Knowledge: Tearing down the Quest barriers

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paul barnett bears bears bearsOne of the hottest MMO features being talked about lately is Warhammer’s Tome of Knowledge (ToK). I’m not going to write another post about all the features we can look forward to because Syp from WAAAGH! has done a great writeup. Instead I’m going to talk more about how the ToK will be tearing down the quest barriers for Warhammer and future MMOs. With all these “next gen” (I really hate that term) games on the horizon we’re going to see a lot of developers try and set themselves apart from the competition; like Funcom is doing with Age of Conan’s combat system.

Questing has always been one of the more mundane features in MMOs. Ironically it exists to counter the widely criticized and disliked grinding approach to the leveling process. Several barriers have always kept questing from achieving its true potential. Here are a few:

  • Limits on the number of quests in your journal
  • Story driven, or lack thereof
  • Complexity, or lack thereof
  • Repetitive or unimaginative gameplay and objectives
  • Quest Hubs
  • Lackluster rewards

The Tome of Knowledge takes a stab of rectifying all of the above.

Limitations on quests have always been a pain. You’ll be adventuring along and find a quest out in the middle of nowhere but when you try to accept the quest you realize your log is full – it happens to everyone and it sucks. The Tome of Knowledge, based on my understanding gained from watching and reading several explanations, will alleviate this problem almost entirely. You’ve watched Paul’s explanation on bears, right? The classic scenario where you just spent 30 minutes slaughtering a field of bears making your way to a quest hub. When you get there you find a bunch of NPCs wanting to offer you quests to go kill bears… the very bears you just spent 30 minutes killing. In Warhammer Online those quests exist, but if you’ve already killed bears then you won’t have to go out and kill them again. The ToK, since it keeps track of every mob you kill, will allow the NPC to immediately award you for your deeds.

I’m not certain (maybe someone can confirm) whether or not there is a limit to the number of quests you can have in your Tome. It makes sense however that if the book keeps track of every kill you ever made that it would be capable of housing information on an unlimited amount of quests.

Questing has always been the main catalyst for telling the story in a MMO. Big walls of text will appear in quest details or from the mouthes of NPCs and it’s often a hindrance or tough to feel immersed in the story when you want to get back to the action. The ToK houses the complete lore and story as you are exposed to it. This means that as your character advances so does your archive of lore. This is extremely handy to reference later on to play catchup with if you’re not into the idea of reading everything when it’s presented.  The ToK will also unlock more of the story in addition to what the player might find in a quest.  It’s been noted that there are items or certain situations where you can unlock more of the lore within the game to be housed in the ToK.

Something I’ve always wished for was a more dynamic quest log. I’ve wanted to explore and kill mobs that I encounter along the way but I’ve always felt this voice in the back of my mind telling me “that’s not your quest objective.. you should be over here!” and I’ve felt compelled to play within the confines of quests. I’ve felt like questing has lead me from one location to the next. I’ve really been a slave to my quest log for the past 3-4 years. Hopefully the ToK will set me free. I’ll be encouraged to explore and experience parts of the world that are off the beaten path. I’ll feel a purpose in killing every mob out there because every action will lead to a direct benefit in my Tome. In a way I’ll make my own quests.

The entire Tome of Knowledge is a quest, or a meta-game, itself. As I mentioned before the ToK keeps track of every kill, every quest, every bit of information. It also serves as a constant source of rewards for the player. As you kill X number of Y type of mob you’ll get a title reward (like LOTRO) or even an item. It’s constantly enticing the player to become more than they are in order to keep the experience imaginative and always one step ahead of you. It’s constantly keeping the player moving while allowing them the freedom they deserve. The carrot on a stick.

The Tome of Knowledge itself is the greatest quest and reward. It’s the next step in mmo quest evolution.

  • It’s not the same thing as ToK, but I just wanted to point out that EQ1’s journal keeps a permanent record of anything any NPC ever said to you.

    Newer expansions also have more traditional quest and mission logs.

    Nice sketch of Paul Barnett 🙂

  • I should have worded it better to include that the Tome itself unlocks part of the story as you experience it in questing or find items/things to unlock more. So in a way it’s an archive and in addition-to. I’ll just edit that part in!

  • I just recently started playing LoTRO and I really, really, really like the deed system. If this is anything like that (or, it sounds like, a better version) then it’ll add a ton to the game for me.

  • I think it’d be a GREAT Tome reward that if you unlock enough stuff pertaining to a certain beast or area of lore, an in-game cutscene movie would open up for your enjoyment. I love reading, but sometimes you want to watch a little too. I sincerely hope the TOK will hold unlimited quests!

  • It does sound like a further evolution of the LOTRO journal, but it’s one of those features that seems so obvious and fundamental to MMO gameplay that you have to wonder, “huh, why didn’t anyone do this before?!” I hate limited quest logs, and definitely hope the ToK will rectify their limitations.

    I am so going to cry big blubbery tears of disappointment if WAR doesn’t live up to the hype though.

  • It seems to be taking everything the LOTRO deed journal had and everything great from previous MMO quest logs and journals and combines them with that long list of other features it has to make one seriously amazing feature.

    In a way though, It’s taking mmos back to where they were with EQ/AC/DAOC by emphasizing the explorations and adventure more than the “okay i have to go here next because my quest log tells me to”. The next step in mmo questing evolution is actually a combination of old and new. I’m really pleased with how it’s shaping up.

    I am so going to cry big blubbery tears of disappointment if WAR doesn’t live up to the hype though.

    You and me both.

  • I have one question: In the nice writeup on Waaagh it’s mentioned that you can fill out the lore from all three races in your ToK. Does this mean there are mechanisms planned to allow you to go back and do quests and achievements in other race areas that you outleveled in a meaningful way? If you unlock some lore about the Dwarfs by killing 100 Greenskins in the Dwarf T1 zone it’s not going to be much fun to do that as a Rank 40 high elf.

  • When I read that I thought the same question Graktar. I believe there has to be some meaningful way of fulfilling that achievement.

    In your example I’m not sure if it would be strictly killing the greenskins in T1 zone or just greenskins in general. Perhaps an Empire character might get dwarf lore by killing greenskins in any dwarf region regardless of tier.

    Hopefully it’s more fulfilling than simply doing gray quests. That would definitely be unfortunate. There are also items that drop to add entries in your Tome. Perhaps that’s another solution.

  • I hope the Tome of Knowledge works like (for instance) Angband’s monster log…

    In that game, when you examined a monster for the first time, you got something like ‘a wiggly mass of worms’. But as you killed them you got better descriptions, stats, etc… so that as you killed more and more of them, your knowledge of them increased.

    I’d love to see new monsters give very generic info, but a monster you’ve killed 1000 times give you the stat ranges, where they spawn, and even the loot table.

  • I recently picked up a bunch of the new WFRP2 rule books – WFRP1 was my first RPG, so it was a fun nostalgia trip. The new Chaos and Priest expansions to the core rulebook are called “Tome of Corruption” and “Tome of Salvation.” Nice link. 🙂

  • If you haven’t seen IGN’s interview with Paul yet, you should. He says Mythic had planned on protecting DAoC’s signature features by leaving them out of WAR until EA convinced them otherwise. He also has a really interesting take on judging beta progress (from “I” complaints to “he/she” to finally “them”).