This was prompted by this article. Syp says that real quest text has become a thing of the past, and rightly so.
I loved quests in old school RPG's. Give me a quest in something like Baldur's Gate and I would leap to it. Freeing slaves, vanquishing a mean old ogre at the bottom of a dungeon, finding a crazy old wizard that last ingredient in his magic machine of doom, stealing a rare item from a guarded museum at night, slaying a mighty dragon, solving a murder... usually with some plot twist thrown in to keep you on your toes. These were the glory days of RPG's in the freaking 90's man.
So what do these old school quests have over the mindless click fests that are the modern day MMO quests?
1) Something changes in the game world - yes, we'd need a lot of tech for this to happen in an MMO, but I hope we're all still optimistic that someone can do it.
2) No floating icons or points marked on a compass - you *have* to read it if you want to know what to do (yes, this would increase the required maturity level somewhat to play the game... yes, this would be a good thing)
3) Quests take longer, which cuts down on the amount of quests the writers need to write, and allows them to contain more story than the usual kill ten rats.
I can think of only one way to have MMO quests continue in their current state and for people to actually know what the quest they're doing is about, and to follow the plot of the game in general:
Picture in picture!
Seriously, why can't I have a little talking head of the NPC when I get within range (no clicking) who gives me some initial babble. If I like the sound of it, I click accept, and then while I'm running on my way to kill those ten rats, since I'll likely be bored anyway, I can entertain myself by just listening to some voice acting for the quest. And, if the developers really want to go all out, they could show a little machinima that illustrates what the guy is talking about. Like, a little movie of the bandit leader making off with the princess, or whatever.
Doesn't waste any of my time, and makes the quest more interesting because I've got something to do during my travel time. Let me pause and rewind the dialogue, and of course view the text, and replay the mini cutscene whenever I want later (Tome of Knowledge should come with video playback right? It's a freaking magic book, if Harry Potter can do it...)
It's kind of a band-aid solution, and I'd prefer to see quests like they did back in the old days, but I'll take anything at this point!