Over the last few months, I have picked up and put down several MMORPGs including The Elder Scrolls Online, Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn, TERA, Guild Wars 2, Star Wars: The Old Republic and Skyforge. With the exception of Skyforge (I may go into the reasons for not playing that in another post), they all have something in common: boring quests which direct you through the world rather than push you to experience it.
In how many games must I pick someone fruit from the orchard only to be attacked by rampaging bees? How many times must I hit rocks with my sword for no apparent reason? The quests in nearly all MMORPGs since World of Warcraft seem to be nothinig more than the locomotive used to push the player along. They don't mean anything or engage you with any depth, as they aren't there to entertain. They are there to slowly push players toward the end of the game. I'm not sure about you, but I now value my time too much to say - as I used to - "It gets better at end game. It only takes about a week of playing time to get there.". I can't believe I used to say that to people.
I've been thinking about this for some time. However, it was not until watching a few episodes of extra credits and having a good night's sleep that I realised a potential solution. Procedural Generation and the two-part Why MMOs Rely on Repetitive Grind Quests + How to create Interesting MMO and RPG quests.
If you've seen the episodes, you may remember that the specifically mention questing in The Secret World and EverQuest as being prime examples of good quest building. The idea that discovery in games can be fun is something I seemed to have largely forgotten in the last 10 years - especially in MMOs.
I won't reiterate what's said in the videos as my own opinion. Instead, I'm going to outline a potential solution for MMORPG questing. I will continue to update this model as time goes on. Perhaps one day, I can have a hand in developing such a thing.
The idea (WIP)
Quests should be procedurally generated in parts. Instead of giving random quests, break quests up into parts which can be fit together. I have no illusions about the potential complexity of this. If done incorrectly, people will be experiencing the same content over and over which is exactly what we want to avoid.
For this idea to work there would have to be a huge amount of variations on quests in both structure and content. There would also have to be some very clever way to make sure that the quests still make sense once they are Frankensteined together.
I'd also like to do away with the traditional ! over people's heads and have players have to figure out how to interact with objects - possibly through the chat. One issue which will arise is that now days, information is shared instantly to everyone. If the quests are the same for every player, they will be able to quickly look at a Wiki and see exactly what to do. Of course, not everyone will do this, but it would be nice to have a bit more wonder surrounding the quests.
One way to tackle this problem is to have party-instanced quests. Perhaps something like this:
- Players in the same party can embark on the same quests.
- Players not in the party can see what is going on and are unable to join the quest unless they join the party.
- Each player's world could have randomly generated "quest-starters" which other people can not see.
- Each player could have reputation scores with NPCs based on a number of factors which effect whether they will speak to them about personal issues (quests)
- Reputation could be earned by speaking, but NPCs could be given biases
- an NPC may never tell you they dislike your haircut, but it could impact your reputaion with them