Sunday, November 2, 2008

Bringing quests back to the 1990 level

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!


Openedge1 said...

I made a comment on Tobolds blog about Fable 2.
Basically this game has the things I think belong in an MMO, and would really work.

Anyways, the quest example is this...

As you walk around town, they still have markers (icons), but the quest giver will start to give you the quest as you approach like this..

"I am in need of someone to take care of some critters in the basement of Mollys home"

In voice (on PC it could be scrolling text as voiceovers get expensive)

And all YOU have to do is hit A to accept(this could be enter on the PC)

Now, I do not know what the quest is, but just where.

The quest giver then hands me a note that has a small descriptor like above (Goblins have ransacked Molly's wheat harvest in her basement) with directions and a rating.
The rating decides the toughness of the quest and the reward.

Once you get there it calculates the rating and then may throw 5 or 10 mobs at you...AT ONCE, and you fight.
THEN a counter appears to kill 5 or kill 10.

But, like you said, quests are also things like...rescue slaves, kill a troll, look for a map.

Simpler, yet with complex pieces leading to the main objectives.
Sure, I gotta kill a troll, but I am attacked by bandits on the road, or goblins in the wooded trails..and they JUMP out at you...they can hide.
They are not standing around waiting for me (ala MMO spawn style)

Sorry for filling up your comments, but it really is simple.
Lets get back the fun old quests of the TSR Gold games (Pool of Radiance) or Baldurs Gate, Icewind Dale...and make the RPG part of the MMO important again.

Good post!

Crimson Starfire said...

I so totally agree. I guess the biggest problem with not making the quests ridiculously easy to complete is that people will use wikis anyway. I think that's acceptable, but I would really like it if every quest had random/dynamic aspects to it. That way the quest would be ever so slightly different each time, and you would have to pay extra special attention to the quest instructions. I did an article some time ago about adding random elements and puzzles to quests. It would be great if it ever came true.