Critiquing quests is quickly becoming theÂ norm around here. Â Every time a new MMO comes out the first thing I’ll say is how much the questing sucks. Â Killing ten rats has becomeÂ completely cliche, but seriously the extent of questing innovation has been to change what monsters you kill or what they drop — that’s it! Â To this very day, even in the upcoming WildStar, my level 20 Engineer was killing 10 oozes. Â Why do I do it? Â Because the NPC in the camp with the ‘!’ over his head told me he would give me experience. Â Why do developers do it? Â I could insert a dozen critical remarks.
If I were to suddenly and miraculously have total control over the direction questing would go in all games, here are some of the changes I would make immediately.
Questing â‰ Â Leveling
I would remove all desire for players to complete quests in order to level up their characters. Â Questing would provide great items, epic adventures, and glorious tales to recount. Â Any one of those three things are worth more than a thousand levels. Â Leveling shouldÂ be based on your character’s profession. Â I’m going to write an entire post on this soon. Â Here’s the quick of it: If I’m a warrior who kills things then I should level up by killing things. Â If I’m a thief then I should level by stealing. Â Worst case scenario, and there’s nothing wrong with this, everyoneÂ should level by simply killing monsters. Â It sounds simple, but it works.
Questing should be EPIC!
Yes, the overused word ‘epic’ is yet another cliche, but there was a time when this word meant something grand. Â The Odyssey, Beowulf, The Epic of Gilgamesh, The Iliad, and the quest for Jboots all share one thing in common: They were anything but easy, short, and unmemorable. Â Quests should require effort. Â Notice I haven’t made a single mention of ‘time’ as a mechanic. Â I think time is a dangerous beast unto itself and an easy pitfall. A long quest can still take a short amount of time. Â How involved something is that play into the perception that something is ‘bigger.’
Go on adventures. Â See the world. Â Truly have to accomplish something to complete that quest. Â Even the name ‘quest’ should evoke something. Â It’s a QUEST!
Quests should never reward a few coins and a sword you’ll use for 10 minutes. Who would go on a ‘QUEST!’ for such a meager offering? Â I demand a king’s ransom! Â I want that epic glowing mace with the ability to resurrect. Â I want the boots that provide me permanent near-spirit of the wolf speeds. I want the items that will radically alter the way I interact with and enjoy the game. Â Quest rewards should be character advancements.
Never Design Around Quests
The world in which we play our games should never be designed around quests. Â In today’s landscape we see the entire world shaped around hubs offering up dozens of quests. Â The world is shaped in order to offer a pathway from one quest hub to the next. Â Loot, character advancement, balance, heck — everything is centered around them! Â It has become so extreme that once aÂ player reaches max level it’s almost like they have unlocked a completely new game.
Quests should be added after you have a fully-realized world designed to incorporate your lore and goals. Â Quests should offer opportunities for players to go places and see things, not lead them by the nose and tell them how to progress through a world.