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I’m ready to stop questing

Really, I’m ready to stop questing right now.  I’m ready for the next phase in mmorpg PvE leveling design to come along and take us to the ‘next level’.  Actually, I would be happy taking a step backwards to the days of grinding mobs in the world and in dungeons solo or in a group over questing.  Questing, as this generation knows it, was neat and even fun for a while back when it was introduced in World of Warcraft.  The idea of having NPC’s offer me jobs to do for them or adventures to set out on for the chance to earn money, experience, items, and goodies without leaving the immediate area (for the most part) was a “woah!” factor for sure.   But too much of a good thing is bad.  Questing has turned in to the epitome of slackass development.  It, somehow, quickly turned into a means of cramming as much “content” into a tiny little area while at the same time allowing for the world to be neglected because the player no longer looked to the world for the answers but to their quest logs and objectives.

What has happened to us players?  Why is this acceptable and even favored by the majority?  Are people even aware of how mundane the questing in mmorpgs has become?  I was questing lastnight and stopped to analyze what I was doing:

1.  I walked into a new camp of NPCs that I had never been to before.  Instead of looking around and taking in the sights the first thing I looked for was the quest indicators over NPC heads as though enthralled by the song of the sirens.

2.  I quickly gathered up all the quests in the camp.  I didn’t stop to read any of them because why would I?  All the quest texts these days says the same thing in one way or another: “Go here, kill this” with a “story-line” reason tossed in.  “My brother is sick so you need to go here and get this” or “My father was attacked so you need to go here and kill this”.

3.  Without even stopping to catch my breath I was out of the camp again heading directly toward the red circle on the mob (or the area the first quest on my list told me to go).  I proceeded to complete all of these quests and when my log was full of “complete” signs I returned to that camp of NPCs and picked up the next round of punishment and set out to repeat the process.

After I completed a camp or two of these quests I became so far removed from the experience that I ended up logging off for the night.  I’ve had this exact same type of experience countless times.  It’s questing fatigue or burnout.  Repetitive and ad nauseum, the process of questing has become.   I’m sure many of you out there can agree whether in principle or from a similar personal experience.

What happened to the ‘goold ole days’?  Does anyone else here remember forming a group of people and having a “puller”?  That term probably sounds alien to most of you now but it was when your group found an area in the region that wasn’t too highly occupied by other players or groups and setup camp.  The puller then took on the task of going out into the immediate area and pulling in mobs for the group to kill.  The group worked together to bring down these monsters and repeated the process; somtimes moving to other areas if the group felt like it.  I remember one time I logged in to EQ (the first one) and went to Karnor’s Castle to look for a group.  I couldn’t find one for inside but easily found a group among the people hunting outside the castle near the walls.  We had pulled mobs (I think they were dryders or something) and all sorts of other beasts that occupied the Dreadlands near the castle.  It was through this experience that I made lots of friends and had the social aspects of the game enhanced.

Monsters in mmorpgs were also quite different before the ‘age of questing’.  Monsters didn’t go down in a few swings or a few hotkey strokes like they do today.  Monsters, often times, took careful thought and the process of taking down a monster for some classes included kiting or the use of many, many abilities.  Groups could be fighting a mob for 20-30 seconds before it comes down.  Today that type of mob would be considered “heroic” or “champion” or some indication that it’s harder than normal.  Groups attacking mobs today swarm them and beat them down in seconds – that’s the sign of a good group now.

The result of the questing system’s impact on mmorpg gaming is having an effect beyond just making the content cheap and the experience repetitive.  It’s also removing much of the social game, as I described above.  How many of you have honestly ever sought out a group to do quests together?  There will be a few of you who like to run them in groups, but for the most part you’ll acknowledge that questing is a system designed for the solo gamer and that having multiple people often increases how tedious the process can be (waiting for everyone to finish) or how little exp you get from the monsters you kill (because you can easily kill them all solo).  How many of you have actually met new people from grouping lately?  I’d be willing to bet that the only time you ever group up anymore is for “PUG’s” in “instances” (instances being a topic for another day).  There is no more incentive to group and no more incentive to meet people.  There’s no dependency on others anymore and that sucks.

I’m ready for the next phase please.  I have hopes that someone out there will realize that these aren’t Massively Multiplayer Online Roleplaying Single Player Games.   Let’s turn out attention back to the gameing world, the social game, and the adventure of playing something more involved than whack-a-mole.

I’m ready to look up from my quest log now.

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Kethro - November 14, 2008

I fully agree with everything you wrote. I installed Wrath last night and jumped from eve back to WoW. Within an hour I had half a level from questing and couldn’t remember seeing anything of worth because all I was doing was running from quest to quest. I don’t mind quests as content, but if thats the only content a game offers….whats the point.

and I haven’t had a group in wow since level 70. So much for a social game. (and yes I realize you can group up… the problem is you don’t HAVE to.)

So tonight i’m going back to eve, at least you get to talk to people with half a brain there.

Tipa - November 14, 2008

Last may, a bunch of us decided we’d had enough of the quest grind and running a game on rails and started up, from scratch, in EverQuest.

And hey, I’m the puller 🙂

We just recruited a new tank, so fewer mercenaries, too!

The thing about the old games that did it different, is that they are still around. And if you play with friends, they are just as fun as they were way back when.

Blacknimbus - November 14, 2008

I like to take the time to read the quests and figure out how the storyline is unfolding. And if you didn’t take the time to enjoy the DK starter quests, you’ve missed it.

Of course I started doing that after I rode around a lot of the new areas just for fun.

I am in no rush…in fact this time, I’m going even slower.

Yeebo - November 14, 2008

I remember the “good old days.” Stand around with your thumb up your butt hoping for a PuG unless you played the one class in five that could solo well. Get a PuG together, hope that your tank isn’t a total clown. Go to one of the four popular camps, stand there and grind your butt off watching your XP bar slowly creep up. Maybe once or twice an evening some feeble magic item would drop, but don’t hold your breath. Perhaps once every hour or three break up the retarded mind numbing monotony with a trip to town to sell trash loot when everyone’s bags get full. Woot…

Grind in that one spot for a few hours or evenings (depending on the game), using the exact same strategy on every single pull. After a few levels, move on to another camp . . .and do the exact same godamn thing.

Quests surely aren’t a perfect solution. They can get to be just as grindy in their way was straight up grinding camps. The difference is 1. you are killing a wider variety of mobs in a given space of time, 2. you have a guaranteed minimum reward, and 3. you are sent after objectives most classes should be able to handle solo, so your downtime at the beginning of the night is considerably lessened. It’s also often more challenging as a soloist, because you can be sent after a specific target deep in a hostile area you would only work the edges of if your were Xp grinding.

I feel some of your pain in WAR, it’s really just not a very immersive solo PvE game. As you imply in your post, it seems to be because the zones were designed with utility in mind more than to give you a sense of “place.” However, going back to the Stone Age design of launch EQ, EQOA, FFXI, or any number of FtP MMOs is not the answer. I’d love to see something better then quest come a long, but grinding camps until the loaded hand gun sitting next to my KB starts too look tasty is not the answer.

(No I don;t really have a handgun next to my KB 😛 )

paul - November 14, 2008

So youve had enough of repetative quests and want to do something interesting and varied like … pull,kill,pull,kill,pull,kill,pull,kill,pull,kill,pull,kill,pull,kill,pull,kill,pull,kill,pull,kill,pull,kill,pull,kill,pull,kill,pull,kill,pull,kill,pull,kill,pull,kill,pull,kill,pull,kill,pull,kill,pull,kill,pull,kill,pull,kill,pull,kill
for hours?
Whatever floats your boat.

Danath - November 14, 2008

Personally this is something wow also fails at… I would like more interesting areas that simply are NOT quest related, yet interesting and worthwhile to explore, if I travel off the path and find some hidden cave with powerful enemies I should have incentive to explore it even without quests.

Unfortunately blizzard has shown if you do this, you simply waste your time, theres never any worthwhile reward at the end of a seemingly random dungeon.

War has done this too… I remember on my IB I explored everywhere, got friends together to kill these random champion and hero mobs we found in the weirdest places, yet we never got a single drop. Probably the MOST dissapointing was the event in Nordland where you could fight waves of summoned monsters until you end up fighting an incredibly powerful LORD, yet killing him got nothing, no unlocks, no drops, nothnig for our group that fought so hard. Its punishing you for not questing, thats something I dont like.

Slurm - November 14, 2008

Well, running quests are MUCH less mondane than going to a specific spot in a dungeon or zone and pulling mobs as they respawn. And I do think the quest text is worth reading…it wasnt worth reading in WoW, which made more people turned off to the option as a whole, but it IS good. I agree that we need the next evolution, but what would that be? I like the idea of the realm war, and I think Mythic is on the right track with offering exp and incentives for participating. But the want/comfort for alot gamers for the old mechanics to be in place causes the dev’s to still keep them in place. Im wonder if Mythic had their druthers, if they would have made this a strictly PvP game. But the market share would have diminished…greatly.

I will say that last night, we broke away from going PQ’s and Scenarios and went to Mount Gunbad (my first time) and I had a blast, even though we got wiped.

syncaine - November 14, 2008

Yea I can’t say I really miss the ‘fun’ of DAoC AoE groups.

Groups worked in EQ1 because they were forced, not encouraged. Forced grouping meant everyone had to play nice or be excluded from grouping. Once you get blackballed, you might as well re-roll since that character is basically done advancing. To each his own on how much ‘strategy’ is involved in breaking a camp and farming it efficiently.

If you are so bored with quests, why did you JUST quest for an evening? Why not mix in a PQ, or some scenarios? During that entire evening, was no one around to do some RvR? Unless you are on a terribly low pop server, there are other options out there, just have to look around and find them.

Keen
Keen - November 14, 2008

This complaint about questing is far from limited to WAR. It was the same in WoW, LOTRO, Vanguard (to ‘some’ extent. Vanguard brought back the “find a camp and have at it” style). It just so happens that WAR is the game I was playing lastnight. I did mix in PQ’s – maxed my influence infact. 🙂 I did mix in scenarios. I even mixed in open rvr. The fact of the matter still stands that the PvE progression (which is what I am talking about) is limited almost exclusively to Questing.

WAR did a good job by adding progression through RvR (which should really be rewritten to “progression through battlegrounds-like scenarios”) but I’m not focusing on the leveling process or progression process as a whole – just the PvE aspect. It seems as though the PvE experience is becoming shallower and shallower to the point of drying up.

The negative connotations placed upon grinding are valid and can be looked upon in the exact same light as questing. Which is really ironic, isn’t it? Questing was designed to be the opposite of grinding and an alternative but in reality it’s just replacing once grind with another.

It’s not the act of grinding/group-play that I want to have brought back so much as the side effects of that system. The socialization, the “adventure”/exploration, the involvement of the game-world with the player beyond quest locations. As Yeebo put it above, game-worlds are now being designed with “utility” and not “place” which is what I point out as being WAR’s greatest flaw in previous blog entries.

Graktar - November 14, 2008

I agree that the quest grind has gotten tiresome and irritating. All the games are doing it, and it’s the same in all of them. I’m sure you could find quest text in WoW that could be dropped into LotRO or WAR and nobody would even notice the difference.

Quests really need more variety and options. One thing that AO started that could have really gone somewhere is instanced missions zones. Imagine the variety possible in a modern MMO if some quests led to instanced mini-zones with fully scripted and interactive events inside? EQ2 has a little bit of this, but someone could take it to the next level.

The other issue is that activities other than questing need to be viable methods of PvE advancement, but that’s problematic. If you grind mobs for xp, grinding mobs with a quest associated will always be better xp, leading you right back to questing. I suppose the developer could create areas of the world with mob spawns that have no quests associated with them, and are thus worth more base xp. Tuck them away in distant places so that only explorers come across them.

brandedx - November 14, 2008

The good ole’ days weren’t quite as good as you remember. We tend to remember the aspects of the game we really liked, and forget the parts that really sucked.

Grouping outside Karnor’s Castle? Yeah, it could be good, if you were the right class, if not, you could forget getting a group and were left to trying to solo stragglers.

They’ve basically removed the difficulties from the majority of MMORPGs and reserved that type of forced grouping for dungeon/instance runs. Games that have come out saying grouping will be important, have all eventually turned into very solo friendly games because that is the way to make money.

Don’t forget, regardless of what game companies say their “vision” for a particular game is, in the end, they are ALL trying to make as much money as possible. And they’ll make whatever changes necessary to make money.

The other final part of your post…honestly, I think you’ve just grown tired and burnt out on MMORPGs, me too. You want the next “new” thing that makes gaming feel fresh, and i’m eagerly waiting to see what it will be.

Amonost - November 14, 2008

I think questing is the main mechanic that current MMO’s use to cater to the solo play-style. More than likely a good portion of MMO player-bases are “casual” solo types of players, so if you force/encourage more grouping then these solo players will go find MMO’s which cater to them (games that use solo questing).

Now it does stand to reason that these solo quests do take away the “community” feel of the game since it’s the path of least resistance. So either you’re going to have a game with a good community but a small player base, or a game with less community but a large player base. Not sure if there is a middle a ground there somewhere but I’m sure there is some game incentive or mechanic that can be used to promote more community.

Now this is a little outside your posts concern (questing causing a lack of community), but I’m looking for quests that provide more drama, more feeling that my character is on an epic adventure, make me care and not just click through the whole quest. I don’t care if it’s with cut scenes, or instances, or voice dialog, or a combination of all of that but something, and not just a few quests like that but tons of them all the time. At least this would get rid of the grindy feeling of quests as they are now.

As far as old school EQ went…most of the pulling, and kiting, and camping were unintended strategies created by the player-base. Most of the Devs want players to do a standard dungeon crawl, not to stand outside and selectively pull individual mobs from within the dungeon. This however did create a situation of community within the game. It would be neat to see an few instances, areas, or zones where old school mechanics were purposefully implemented (training, pulling, camping) as a break from the norm, but not sure how that would fly with MMO players of today.

Nollind Whachell - November 14, 2008

Quests for the most part are how single players get enjoyment from the game, so don’t think they can really change that much, unless the game removes PVE completely. What they can most definitely change is the type and quality of quests given out in MMO games, as simple kill quests are used way way too much. How about puzzle quests, exploration quests, social quests, etc? Basically make quests like a real single player game that you used to play and enjoy way back when. I mean if the quest involved discovering something and the clues were in the quest description or encounter with an NPC then you’d be more apt to listen/read very carefully.

The question you’ve already asked though is why even have single player content within a game? Well because as some others have said, teamwork shouldn’t be forced but encouraged. This obviously requires really good game design though and has to be really evident to people. For example, once someone sees the effectiveness of a Heavy being healed by a Medic in Team Fortress 2, they quickly clue into how dramatically it can increase the effectiveness of their team.

Now back to my original point about quests having more variety and quality. Teamwork doesn’t just mean stronger brute force. It can mean more minds thinking on something as well. I mean if it’s an exploration or puzzle quest, two people can often find something or figure something out faster than one person. Thus while one person may be looking around in the quest area to find the object, they may bump into another person looking for it as well. Together, even just in talking about where they’ve each searched, they are collaborating upon the quest and working together to try to solve it. That’s teamwork, even though the two people may not even form an actually group together.

Nollind Whachell - November 14, 2008

As Yeebo put it above, game-worlds are now being designed with “utility” and not “place” which is what I point out as being WAR’s greatest flaw in previous blog entries.

Exactly!

Keen
Keen - November 14, 2008

Today’s Penny Arcade (Thanks Bartlebe for pointing it out!) ties in perfectly:

Teleth - November 14, 2008

Cant agree with you more keen.

Though quests in some incarnation would be good to keep around. For example

1. Quests that you could only get if you had a good track record of completing difficult quests. (The king doesn’t give out quests to just anybody)

2.Quests are given out to a single person! (Not everybody could walk up to joe the butcher and get his quest to kill 10 water bison) This could be time sensitive, like you have 2 hours to complete before you fail and someone else gets a shot. Less quests would have to be significantly higher rewards.

3.Quests should be really difficult. AKA require some thought.

4.You should have to look for at least another real person to help you with that quest. The quest could then be shared and the rewards split.

5. You would build a reputation for completing quests and more NPC’s would trust you with sensitive quests.

These are all just ideas. But i really think they would take the “questing” template to the next level.

-Teleth

Jeremy T - November 14, 2008

I think the passage of time has clouded your judgment here. It’s true that quests do suck, but not having quests simply sucks more.

Centuri - November 14, 2008

Check out WotLK. I have found many unique quests and some involved solving a little puzzle rather than simply killing the mob and selecting the thing.

Is there a game mechanic in War or WoW or whatever that somehow prevents you from gathering up a group of like minded players and simply grinding mobs all day long?

Sente - November 14, 2008

I got fed up with the type of questing you describe when LOTRO was released – all the “kill X boars” type of quests there was the final straw.

I had some hope for Tabula Rasa when it was released and it did have some neat missions – but also far too many of the mundane type of missions there also.

But if you do not mind questing as such in reasonable amounts, then play Guild Wars. There are not truckloads of quests there and many quests/missions are quite nice and have a meaningful story.And you have some competitive elements in a number of the missions also.

syncaine - November 14, 2008

Here is why questing in WAR work so well for me. I know every single one of them can be done solo, in 20 minutes or less, and yield similar results (xp/coin/items). That 100% guarantee is key.

What I don’t do is set out to grind quest after quest. Done for even a relatively short time, they are boring. I do them when I’m waiting for a PQ group to form, or waiting for guild mates to log on for some scenarios/oRvR. They are a good way to pass the time, and still get something done (advance the character)

One difference between WAR and MMO X for me is that in WAR, questing is a filler, rather than the main drive of the game. LoTRO was all questing, same with WoW. If you log in and are not in the mood to quest, you are SOL in those games. The rate of xp gain, and the multitude of activities that yield xp means I hardly ever feel the need to grind xp, it comes naturally as I do the things I really like. This also makes completing quests enjoyable, since it takes the whole mentality of ‘grind to advance’ out of them.

SleepySam - November 14, 2008

Personally, I just don’t do the quests anymore unless there is absolutely nothing else going on (odd hours gaming). If I have an opportunity to ORVR, Scenario, or join a group running PQs, I will do that instead. I am done looking for Bill’s brother’s corpse.

Of course, I do grab the RVR quests that you can do in the lakes or the scenarios.

Photonic - November 14, 2008

In all my game design courses and between all my BIxD friends we talk about how if MMORPGS are going to survive, they are going to have to remove or vastly change leveling in general. It’s not so much that questing is getting old, as that leveling in general is getting old. Most MMORPGers have now leveled multiple characters on multiple games. We don’t want to do it again and again and again. It doesn’t matter how different the quests are, they are still the same lame grind.

I think out of all the games I have researched, Darkfall seems to have gotten it right. Granted, it may never come out… However, in that system, there are not levels as we know them. You create your character, then your in end game at that moment. The world is the world. If you want to learn fire spells, find out where you learn them, traverse the world, get them (however it is required). After that, if you want to know how to be a master of the blade, you can do that. If you want to just jump into a player built city, or rob some players passing by, you can do that too.

MMORPGs as we know them now are too path driven. Level, get gear, THEN you can do what you want in the game. The problem is, it takes a month for that to even happen, and most people get sick with just 1 class. Why not remove the first two lame requirements like Darkfall is planning. You can do what you want, when you want, how you want to. That is the only way I can see MMORPGs being able to survive in todays game market. WoW made the market what it is, and at the same time, killed it.

smthin - November 14, 2008

There are some quests in WAR which are fun.. epic quests have good stories and are fun to do. The rest.. meh. I think in terms of pve leveling PQs are actually a great idea. Some of them have great story and are fun to do (not the kill 150 things on first stage kind)

I see what you mean though, I remember leveling in Lineage 2, holy grind crap. But the group I met up ended up becoming the clan I was with for a few years, ended up dominating the server there.. good times.

PVE grinding can be fun IF it has danger associated with it. DAOC had mobs in the frontier that gave more xp, I grinded on those a lot but you could get ganked at any time. Same in many other games, make hard camps that give large bonuses.. Caster mobs that 2 shot you, healer mobs that are a bitch, fast spawning stealther mobs that backstab 1 shot clothies..

Darkness falls for example, that’s how it should be done.

It is fun to have some story quests to do time to time, but they should not be the main way to level, ebcause that just sucks.

Wickidd - November 14, 2008

@Photonic

I have to agree with you. Darkfall is actually beginning to sound appealing to me. The graphics may not be next gen, but I don’t mind sacrificing graphics to have a good geming experience.

My favorite time in WoW was when my friends and i were able to level our toons through BGs. I really like the fact that I can level through scenarios in WAR, but it is still a very slow process.

I am really sick and tired of the monotonous pve level grinding in these games. I also dislike the fact that the leveling system makes vast portions of the game world irrelevant after you level beyond them. Ferelas was my favorite zone in WoW, and Marshes of Madness is my favorite zone in WAR. It would be really cool if my toons had some sort of incentive to go back to these awesome zones, but the whole leveling system makes these zones pointless.

I really hope that Darkfall completes its development. Not sure how well it will compete in today’s mmo market. But I believe that the concept may very well be what many of us are hungry for.

dug - November 14, 2008

The other thing about EQ that really made it social was going to EC to sell your goods (early in the game) and the fact that NOT everything was instanced.

I liked the fact that if my guild was BAD A we could walk into an area and people had respect because if you didn’t we could KS your mob, or when there was super guilds on our server we had to do the same.

I have 1000 times more stories from play EQ than WoW. When I’m in a crowd of friends, nothing will start a converstaion better than “Remember that suicide corpse run in the Kael,” or “I got up 4 times from bed to check and see if the guy that dropped the Fishbone earring was up.”

The worlds are not massive anymore. They have massive hubs and open areas, but the good content is just for you.

dug

teet - November 14, 2008

Sadly, I think Mythic pretty much fubar’d the quest thing.

Just got finished playing Fallout 3. Think I had done 33 Quests total when I got done. I also really enjoyed epic quests in EQ2.

Long scripted quests that have steps that require grouping over redundant similar solo quests any day.

Green Armadillo - November 14, 2008

If you compare the last of the great mandatory grouping MMORPG’s to the most common estimates of WoW’s NA/EU numbers, you’re looking at about a ten-fold difference. This is not because WoW is ten times better than those games, or because nine out of ten WoW players never got around to trying EQ/FFXI/etc, but rather because the vast majority of the modern MMO market requires some (if not all) of their gaming time to be flexible.

You don’t need to offer a solo version of your toughest raid boss, or let brand new players beat top rated PVP teams, but there needs to be something in the game that you can do when you don’t have a group. Warhammer’s scenarios are a perfect example of a real alternative to questing as that solo filler – anyone of any class can log on at any time, get boosted to the appropriate level and placed in a group to play. Judging from past posts, scenarios don’t appear to be very popular around here either.

If you don’t want quests OR scenarios, it’s time to write off 90% of the MMORPG market. That doesn’t mean you have to make do with 10% of the development budget – in fact, WoW-style quest content development actually requires the devs to put a lot of time into once-and-done quests (which is why it’s very hard to imitate WoW with a smaller budget). But it does mean that you’re going to have to pick one or more places to cut corners. Fewer classes. Less content variety. More bugs. Higher fees. Worse graphics. Somewhere, some compromise has to be made, without having the resulting game suck.

Ironically, most accounts are that Vanguard kind of pulled this off. They just had to launch way before the game was ready, permently scarring their game’s image, because that’s how much money they had.

Nollind Whachell - November 14, 2008

Agree with Photonic.

Either 1) get rid of levels like EVE Online or 2) somehow create a unique questing experience so that leveling is always a fresh experience, no matter how many times you level a new character (no idea how though), as the replay factor in most MMOs today sucks big time.

I mean EVE Online gets rid of levels quite nicely by utilizing skills. I can start the game and basically do anything I want, even travel into the middle of an interstellar war. Doesn’t mean I’m not going to be blown into a million bits in the crossfire but hey I can do if I want. The universe is pretty much open for you to do what you like.

My only downside to EVE is that I wanted space combat to be like a FPS. Word on the grapevine is that CCP, the developers, are looking into this in the future in terms of ground combat (Halo-like).

Nollind Whachell - November 14, 2008

Hehe, I just thought of something else in light of the “keel seex snow moose” dialogue in Penny Arcade and some things that Teleth said above. For the most part, quests are completely meaningless. I mean there could be a massive war on right now and a quest would be to kill 20 enemy NPCs but even if you do that, you know nothing will change and the next person who walks up to get the exact same quest will have the exact same results at the end, no “meaningful” change to the game world.

CMK - November 14, 2008

I was with you until you started extolling the virtues of doing a puller. Talk about mindless.

Everything else is spot-on, though. While I think quests are a step in the right direction, I also think some work could be done to really put the immersion and community back in. This is where the PQs come in, which were a great idea, but then you run into the problem of participation.

Vort - November 14, 2008

“What happened to the ‘goold ole days’? Does anyone else here remember forming a group of people and having a “puller”? That term probably sounds alien to most of you now but it was when your group found an area in the region that wasn’t too highly occupied by other players or groups and setup camp.”
———————————————————–

I remember those times, for me it was called FFXI and I hated it. I spent more time camping cities for groups than camping mobs. I simply don’t have enough time to sit around for 3hrs looking for a group only to play for 1hr of that time.

Developers and gamers need to get out of the “remember when” mentality and look to the future of gaming and how the population boom in MMO’s will change the way the game is played.

I don’t have the formula but I have the variables, solo when I want to, group when I want to, immersion, dynamic, engaging, no grind (or at least disguise it), and many more.

I don’t want MMO’s get get stuck in a vicous circle of redeveloping what doesn’t work just because it hasn’t been used for a while.

Shamutanti - November 14, 2008

Disagree heavily.

When everyone is in the same space as you. Then the levelling experience with quests/instances is the richest you’ll ever find. Unfortunately that experience is in such a limited time frame that we ever really get a week, maybe two, of what is pure MMORPG social and entertainment bliss.

Keen
Keen - November 14, 2008

I think a lot of you guys have some unresolved issues with having to wait to find groups that are surfacing and causing you to take your anger out on the system of killing monsters for exp instead of doing quests. Funny enough, most of you come from FFXI or have experiences with other games that have serious design flaws that have nothing to do with the theory of killing monsters (grinding, if you choose to call it that) which cloud your ability to see beyond.

If you want people to get out of the “remember when” and look to the future of gaming then YOU ALSO have to get out of the “remember when” and realize that some good came from “back then” and not all of it is so dated that it can’t be immersing, dynamic, engaging, etc.

And honestly, what population boom in MMO’s are you referring to Vort? The population still playing WoW? I have some unfortunate news: that “population boom” is interested in the WoW-style game and in a few years when WoW becomes the “remember when” you’re going to have an even harder time of getting developers and gamers out of that mindset. Might as well start now and not forget what worked – what STARTED the industry.

Game worlds being places instead of utility…
Players socializing, grouping, exploring, adventuring, immersion, dynamics…

If that’s what you want to get rid of then sure, abandon the “remember when” mentality.

Edit: Keep in mind that the intention of this post isn’t to say that we should return to the old ways. I too think that industry moves forward. However, there was something ‘right’ back before questing that has been lost. I’m ready for the next iteration of PvE progression and I think it will have to include the good things from questing AND the old ways.

Edit #2: Also, I’m not a fan of “grinding” when its being used to denote the negative repetitious act of killing. I’m a fan of actually killing monsters for PvE progression. I think there is a clear difference there.

Gustavef - November 14, 2008

Well it isn’t that I am opposed to questing is that WoW created a double edge sword putting so many quests in the game. At first I thought it was great, I always had something to do, but then you get hooked on them and realize that they are unfortunately the only way to level quickly.

A few things need to be addressed. The first is limiting the need to race to max level. Sure some people will do it anyway, but level should not be the end all of the game.

I think AO and CoH had the right idea. There were some kill 10 rats quests in CoH, but then you had the Instanced quests like in AO. Those mini dungeons were a lot of fun. Sure the looked the same after a while, but still you usually had to clear out the whole place and deal with a mini boss.

Having repeatable tasks like “Kill 10 rats” is nice to have in the game, but just make them that. Bounty hunts. Use the mission terminal idea from SWG. Quests have stories and you usually have to do something to even get the quest. Also there should be different ways to solve the quest. Or even two quests were you can only choose to do one (save or kill the princess)

What I think WAR did was start to give you different ways to level. I don’t recall any good “camps” like from EQ, but you could easily farm a PQ area for equal level mobs and Influence. Also you have PvP for leveling as well.

I think we also need to see more mini dungeons. Something you need to fight though to get to a boss type creature or even just to get to the other side. Scatter some nice-ish loot and you would be good to go.

Vort - November 14, 2008

Yes the WoW population boom is and will change MMO’s. The old way of MMO’s isolated, and to some degree, alienated gamers, WoW opened the doors to them. Now we have to deal with them.

You have a bigger population, and they don’t want to play the way it used to be played.

If you think that WoW gamers are just going to stick to the mentality of “this is not how its done in WoW” I think your mistaken. I’m an ex-WoWer and I’ve been looking for the next MMO to take the next step, WAR might be it, but I’m not totally sold yet.

WoW did a lot of things right, how else do you explain the over 10 million gamers, when most MMO’s are happy with 500k players. Yes, they polished what worked from past games, those aspects have reached their limit of polish, but at the same time have introduced new concepts that other games will take and polish. Thus the progression of MMO’s.

What I’m getting at is there needs to be an major overhaul in the core concept of MMO design, questing / grinding to level is one of them. And not go back to, can I solo or can I group to progress. MMO’s are no longer the private swimming pool of the few, but the public water park of the masses, and things are going to have to change.

I agree, I have more fun grouping, but something about that has to change too.

Once the industry comes down from their “MMO’s are a quick way to make a buck, look what Blizzard did, attitude”. Then we’ll start seeing more quality MMO’s. I think WAR is the first step in the right direction.

Qelln - November 14, 2008

Is there a perfect system? Maybe… someone denoted it above remove levels. The whole reason quests exist is for XP which provides the means to Level Up as per standard RPGs. Make the game strictly ability based where you “Level Up” through gaining new abilities by completing certain tasks or like Diablo 1 through scrolls and books.

I like gaining levels. I’m an achiever by nature so I like seeing my character grow. I like quests… well quest chains. Chains that take me one zone to the next in a natural progression path that has something to do with the world around you. Chains such as the Ony chain, or Linken chain in WoW. Send me on an adventure and to me that’s a good questing system.

Hate to bring WOTLK up but it takes away a big negative of questing I see in most of the comments, that it makes no impact on the game.

Phased Content removes that. You really have to experience it to see how cool it is. The zone you’re in literally changes as you progress through the quests. The DK starting zone is a really good example of this and honestly I’m hooked on it I love it, quick quests that send you on an adventure as a bad ass mofo.

WoW is already turning into “remember when” as the game itself has changed so much that those moments occur. But the fact that it keeps changing, balancing, and improving is the reason WoW will still be alive and kicking for quite some time… probably until Blizz decides to pull the plug.

Mahlah - November 14, 2008

The problem is that for some reason, the people that enjoyed playing single player games now want to play MMORPGs, and the companies are catering to them. Back 10 years ago, the key word is MMORPG was MULTIPLAYER. Now everyone cries if they can’t solo all the way to max level, and still have “end game” solo content. For a lot of the population, these games are single player games with a chat room (in fact, one of my close friends likes it for just this reason, he plays WoW and hates grouping, has no interest in it, etc).

A big part of MMOs used to be that you know, you actually had to come together with people you “gasp” didn’t already know, and get stuff done.

I mean, I don’t have anything wrong with the concept of quests per se, but really, they are just the code word for solo play in a “Massively Multiplayer” world.

Vort - November 14, 2008

“A few things need to be addressed. The first is limiting the need to race to max level. Sure some people will do it anyway, but level should not be the end all of the game.”
———————————————————–

Totally agree.

Limiting the games within games (Scenarios, battle grounds, even some dungeons). At least with the lean that WAR is running with, could be a good idea.

Frumples - November 14, 2008

That’s something I think Age of Conan did well: there are quite a few solo/duo instanced areas where you can go to if that’s your thing, but you can also enter any of them in epic mode where you need a group to survive. In this mode, the drops are appropriate to a full-group instance. So you’ve got solo content that can also become group content if you have the people for it.

I know a LOT of my WoW friends just get on to solo quests and then gather for instances and raids. Some of them love to duo, but most of them are so much out of the habit that it feels very awkward to them, or like “cheating”. How crazy is that?

Quests that change the world: that’s very cool stuff, and sort of what I was expecting from Open RvR in WAR. It doesn’t really seem like that’s what you get, though. This Phased Content stuff from the Lich King sounds interesting, but hard to do right outside of a limited area. I didn’t get it, so I’ll have to wait for someone else to explain it to me.

Dismantled - November 14, 2008

Good Topic. I’m part of the “remember when” crowd myself, and thinking back on your EQ stories brought back some of my own. I played UO before that for a few years and really enjoyed that as well.

Talking of moving forward in the genre, I also thought about AoC like the above poster, BUT what they improved upon IMO is combat itself. It was a huge risk and I think they pulled it off.

What makes me not play it? Well it’s exactly what started this topic. Questing… I get so sick of solo questing to advance now in any game, including AoC.

If Age of Conan would have been part AoC (combat), part Vanguard (race/classes, open world), part UO (skill based), and part AO (mission/quest hubs) where people gather and socialize to scroll through various intanced missions etc…. I’d actually feel I was truly playing a next gen MMO.

ah well.. heres to wishing.

Jeromai - November 15, 2008

Personally, I too am more than a little burned out on quests. I reacted to the news of Witching Night quests and Heavy Metal ‘daily’ quests with grumpiness. More chores to fulfill, strongly pushing me into logging on -every- day? Wasn’t WoW’s grind back that way?

I’m tired of going back and forth on someone else’s say-so. I’d like to be able to choose what I’d like to do, rather than feel like I need to take every quest in sight for the xp to progress to the next level, or do a long complicated series of grinds because I want the goodie at the end.

But I’m not ready to retreat to the past yet. Quests still have a place. They’re a nice easily achievable goal on a easily looked up to-do list for solo gamers with no time to find a group. Take that away and go back to the ‘good ol’ days’ of forced grouping, and a lot of solo gamers, me included, are not going to be paying you. These days, we want/demand an option to solo or group as time allows.

The lack of grouping does not correlate to the presence of solo quests, per se. It only becomes that way when it is more painful and tedious to form and stay in a group, and less rewarding than soloing.

City of Heroes has missions which dynamically spawn enemies based on group size. I’m sure plenty of people solo them. But I’m also equally sure that there’s a big PUG-seeking pool on the crowded servers – formed by people who have long mastered the art of soloing 3 monsters and like the interplay of a big group working in unison and mowing down mobs with AoE and increased safety/rewards. There’s just a lot more flashy effects in play and more fun too, as a big group.

(An interesting cost/benefit system is in play too. A less skillful person soloing casually gains the least xp. An average group gathers an average amount of xp. A heavily focused min-maxing soloist racing from mission to mission can gain more than a group. But ultimately, due to lack of endgame, CoX’s PvE game IS playing with people cooperatively throughout the levels.)

Back to quests. There’s no reason for our standard ‘kill ten rats on a ill-thought storyline’ to be the be-all and end-all of quests though.

I kind of like an idea suggested by a comment above. Individual quests. I’d take it a step further, taking MUD memories from the past, and make it a competitive individual quest. Add a few clues and puzzles. Reward the first 10 or 20 or 50 (whatever fraction of your playerbase feels right) to turn in.

Another new thing I’d like to see is what DC Online claims it’s going to be doing. Quests that approach you. NPCs that seem a dynamic part of the game world, coming up to ask for help, or mention that’s something wrong, and leaving it to you to choose to help or not.

Only thing is, there must be a lot of them, so many that it’s ok to turn one down. Or it’s just going to feel like a laundry list again. Lessee, the designers made 12 quests, I need at least 10 of them to get to next level…hell, I may as well just accept every one of them. And we’re back to reading a static quest log again.

WAR’s actually tried a few of these. There are wandering quest NPCs – alas, the rewards they give feel unimportant to the ones sitting static in the camps. Some NPCs periodically spout cryptic comments – that if you figure out, can net a tome unlock and a token xp reward and an occasional collectible item, nifty enough rewards for the types who like this sort of puzzle.

And nothing stops you from gaining very presentable xp destroying mobs in WAR (maybe WoW too?), unlike certain other games, *cough LOTRO cough*, where it’s just stupid to waste time killing 20 boars without a quest.

The only problem is it’s a solo gain. The xp gain in group calculations still need a little help for a number of MMO games. Look at Left 4 Dead. People cooperate if it’s in their best interests, otherwise, they’ll look for what’s in it for themselves.

Ryan - November 15, 2008

I agree with you that the current quest system used by most MMO’s these days is becoming stale. And I agree that social aspects and the attraction of exploration are not really focal points of development anymore, and that’s very unfortunate.

But I have to respectfully disagree with you that a return to the “good ole days” of xp grinds sitting in one spot for hours is the way to go.

The “good ole days” sucked too, just differently.

Qelln - November 15, 2008

You know your blog is good when it attracts Trolls 😛

Snezza - November 15, 2008

I agree with you Keen, I have stopped questing all together in WAR and I have cancelled my account in another mmorpg due to just being so bored with questing, there are far too many for them to have any good story to them or meaning with them.

Danath - November 15, 2008

Quests give good story, the issue I think is that they dont reward grinding in a similar fashion, you find random tough monsters and kill them for a nifty reward, or random drops actually having a high chance to be your level AND useful (in wow you have to consistently fight mobs 4 levels above you to get a drop that is your level). Quests are fine, the problem is grinding/exploring isnt a viable alternative because there is little/no reward for doing so… ToK unlocks dont cut it, and many times you dont even GET an unlock for actually going off into weird places.

Quests are fine, bigger areas with interesting or dangerous places to explore that are NOT quest related but still rewarding in some fashion would make grinding not so painful. I kind of find it funny they didnt emulate DAoC’s quests a bit more… DAoC actually had decent directions in most of its quests and decent rewards for doing them too, they just werent plentiful and the world was so big it was easy to get lost.

Keen
Keen - November 15, 2008

@Ryan: Remember, I’m not saying that we need to return to the “good old days” of grinding – just that we need to bring back the good things from those days and not neglect them completely as MMORPGs today have done.

@Qelln: heh, I guess so. I cleaned up the trolls. 😉

@Danath: I too think that questing and the ‘old ways’ can be woven into one. Vanguard did this and it worked very well.

Russell Gusto - November 15, 2008

Ahhhh Keen…your subconscious anger at WAR is showing. I know, I feel your pain. Perhaps one day we will get what you are asking for and the funny thing is there are thousands if not more wanting the same thing.

Malik - November 16, 2008

“you create your character, then your in end game at that moment. The world is the world. If you want to learn fire spells, find out where you learn them, traverse the world, get them (however it is required). After that, if you want to know how to be a master of the blade, you can do that.”
you mean like Oblivion……..(or maybe fallout 3 to?)

Nollind Whachell - November 16, 2008

“When everyone is in the same space as you. Then the levelling experience with quests/instances is the richest you’ll ever find.”

@Shamutanti: Exactly and that’s the problem with MMO’s today that are based upon levels. It’s a splintering environment. Sure there is nothing wrong with solo activities (PVE) requiring levels but multiplayer activities need to allow people of all levels, classes, etc to contribute in meaningful ways on the same goal. WAR does this to some degree (i.e. 10 lvl healer can help in Tier 3 and Tier 4 even) but it doesn’t go far enough.

“A few things need to be addressed. The first is limiting the need to race to max level. Sure some people will do it anyway, but level should not be the end all of the game.”

@Gustavef: Unfortunately it is when the game content you want to play is at the end game (i.e. Raiding, RVR, etc). You’d think MMO developers would have learned this by now.

“Back 10 years ago, the key word is MMORPG was MULTIPLAYER. Now everyone cries if they can’t solo all the way to max level, and still have “end game” solo content.”

@Mahlah: The problem isn’t the people, it’s the game design. Our society today is filled with tons of individuals who contribute to it in amazing ways. The game designers just need to design the game so that each individual can contribute to the greater community goals but in their own ways. For example, in EVE Online, I could be a lone wolf miner. Yet by doing my trade, I’m actually contributing to a larger community and economy. Same could be done in any game IF they design it that way.

For example, if resources / gear were a greater part of WAR then their could be a strong connection between the various play groups. Trades people would be out gathering resources which in turn would help build equipment (i.e. armor, weapons, siege weapons, etc). Even more so, if these trades people get attacked doing their work, then they’ll need the support of warriors to help defend them while they do their work. Therefore each group does what they prefer to do and everyone benefits. I mean just look at the original Warcraft II RTS game as an example of this. As the community grows (your side in the game), so too do the capabilities of the individual units as they perform their specific individual roles.

Nollind Whachell - November 16, 2008

@Mahlah: BTW with regards to my comment above, I’m definitely not saying that ALL content should be soloable. I definitely agree with you there.

I mean individuals should be able to obtain rare items on their own for the most part but there should always be areas or dungeons that require a group to participate to find those really unique items. And I’m not just talking about collecting unique gear but unique crafting components as well. They should be in locations that require a group effort to get them.

Above that, there is even “realm content” that should only be achievable by a concerted effort of a very large group of people (25+). Again though, these people don’t have to be all in the same group. Instead some could be solo, some in small groups, and others in larger warbands. It’s not different than in real war. Individual scouts and small elite units often performed key crucial activities in synchronization with larger military units. Just read stories about WWII D-Day and you’ll find a ton of them.

Gondus - November 16, 2008

I have Warhammer online, but i stopped playing after getting to level 24, i had fun with the pvp, but to be able to stay with the big group of people doing the pvp i had to pve for levels. That’s one thing i don’t like about Warhammer is its pve. I switched back to wow and got lich king because its quests are pretty much the same as Warhammer’s, but i seem to have fun doing it. I have quested with people i don’t even know, i talked to people in my guild all the time (which didn’t really happen in war..probably crappy guild). Plus if i ever want to find someone to pve quest with, i just shout out on general chat and someone usually reply’s. I tried doing that on Warhammer and no one said anything. No one really ever used general chat when i was playing on Warhammer. Don’t get my wrong, Warhammer’s pvp was GREAT. I really loved that part of it, and face it, you might be able to completely level off of pvp, but that would take about 2 months lol.

FenixStryk - November 16, 2008

I think MMO developers have to make a choice when they make a game, and that choice is usually one of two polarities.

1) They make a game that caters to soloists but allows for grouping. This usually means that mobs can be soloed within 20 to 30 seconds, and has certain Buff mobs that either kill the soloist in 20 to 30 seconds, take 20 to 30 seconds for a group to kill, or take 2 to 3 minutes for a solo healer to kill.

2) They make a game that caters to groups. This usually means that the only way to play the game is to find 4 to 5 other people and grind mobs, or a dungeon, or, yes, a quest. It is essentially the same thing as a solo MMO, except it forces the player to group with others; it force-feeds you the social aspect of the game.

The problem with encouraging the social experience is that it indirectly alienates all but the hardcore, “I can wait 2 hours to find a group” population. Even WoW did this to some extent; essentially every dungeon required a group.

The next generation of MMOs will likely abandon the PvE aspect of the genre and focus much more on PvP (which is what WAR attempted). The need to level or grind or quest… all of these need to be removed. We don’t need superficial timesinks, only an introduction to the ruleset and then the end-game.

/end

Romble - November 16, 2008

Bravo Keen! I agree with you on this one. However too much of the same thing is bad too. I remember the complaining we did in DAOC to get to lvl 50 in the early days and there were just a few spots worthy of camping in groups and man were we sick of it. We did the same spots for weeks! FFXI is still out there, to those who have played it… it is the epitome of this to the extreme! Forced grouping no alternative with harsh death penalty.

But I do agree with you on the quests of today being brainless monotony and laziness by devs to think of something new. I never thought I would say this but I miss those dungeons in DAOC(darkness falls, stormhenge, spindelhalla etc) where people of various lvl ranges would venture in, get in a group and pick a spot. higher level guys would go in deeper and hook up in another spot.. The dungeon was alive with people and many groups…. People would come and go groups would refill or start over etc…good times the social aspect was the best part. the other thing that made it meaningful is death meant something and so did resurection. When you were in a full dungeon and died you knew someone could be nearby and you would try to get a res.. This also lead to social experience and gratifying feeling on both ends.

As for questing, some of the best quests were done in AC years ago. This is where groups would venture out to do massive event type quests that would trigger things in other parts of the world. People in the other parts of the world would then react to those events (kill the invasion of a certain mob on a town etc) that would then trigger something else etc.. These quests were difficult to get started, needed good team work and planning but when completed were the top of the top and provided quest entertainments for lower level groups below. This is what devs need to look at instead of the NPC giving out a solo quest!!

Unfortunately, I dont think the clock can be turned back. The new generation of gamers would not tolerate having to read a cryptic parchment found in a tavern and actually use their brains to figure out where to start an event. Wow has set the bar for quests, War has made it even worse (marking your map, overly detailed maps, horribly dumb mobs, mobs that dont BAF, no death penalty etc)

I have quit War and am not playing anything right now. I doubt I will be returning to any of them. the genre is completely stale to me right now. Let’s hope for the future.

Speno - November 16, 2008

I agree with keen, my WH has been eating up dust as i have been doing t1 and t2 over again. Everytime i get on its quest or quest, it gets so lonely and boring. None of my guild are ever on so it give me a crap what to do mind set.

Gustavef - November 17, 2008

Another thing we need to see is some type of dynamically scaling open world content. One of my favorite camps in EQ was the Chessboard in Butcherblock. Lots of large skeletons ranging from pawns up to a undead king and queen. But those were all random.

What you need to do is have the area be aware of how many players are there by measuring the rate of kills and spawn more powerful Mobs if there is a sizable number of people. That way any area can support both solo and group content.

The Phased content is interesting. But it breaks the Persistent world view similar to instancing. Not everyone sees the same thing in the same place. Can be a bit confusing.

WRT to de-emphasizing levels. There are two important steps. First, get rid of the “endgame.” WAR mostly succeeded with its Tiered RvR content. The Second is to lessen the power gap between levels. CoH figured this out with its Sidekick and Exemplar system. Even in PvP areas, everyone was the same level. You just had a few more tricks up your sleeve if you were higher level.

naco - November 17, 2008

Really good topic. For me this comes down to the game developers and the need to create ‘time sinks’, coupled with the levelling mechanic. Now with MMOs laying everything on a plate nice and easy, questing has become the grind, taking out the finding the spawn areas and camping. Fine, so how do you evolve this?

I think Mythic have got a lot of the right ideas, by creating the rvr and PQs that give xp on top of quests, but you still have the xp variable.

As Photonic and a couple of others said Darkfall (and to EVE to an extent) have changed this formula, there is no xp. You can have as many skills as you want, but if you want to use them well you need to use the.

Quests still have a role, but not the role they have now. They shouldn’t be all handily clumped in the same place, you should stumble across them, less quests but more involved and unique.

Darkfall is currently in just starting its open Beta by the way and they think a end of year release/early 2009.

esky - November 18, 2008

Well Keen, I also hope to see some new innovations for levelling. No doubt about that, the difference between grinding mobs and running quest-errands is pretty slim. Spot on there.

However, I get the feeling most of your qualms is based around your hatred for those who prefer to solo instead of grouping and chatting. There, I said it.
Is the grouping/social aspect so important that you actually want less options, and less possibilities in the game – all to promote grouping, hanging around, chatting, and “immersing” i?

Fair play to you, but I’m one of the people who have very little patience for sitting around waiting for a viable group to form. Or waiting for the tank to go have a smoke. Or for the healer to go check on the baby. Or for the puller to have a parental disconnect midway through the fight.

I for one think WAR has struck a pretty good balance between solo players, small group/guild guys, and the big warband/guilds. That’s just opinion, but fact is that more solo-minded people (like me) wouldn’t be in the game if grouping was essential to progress. (Cue hardcore-casual game rants…)

nobody important - November 23, 2008

daoc had it right, you could solo if you wanted to, but grouping was a good deal faster, so what you did was you soloed but kept an eye out for a group.

I dont like games where solo is impossible (or so slow you may as well not even bother), but grouping should be the best way to level.

You know, city of heroes has a good system. Again it allows solo but encourages grouping.

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