Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Redesigning public quests

Lets just pretend I was a games designer for a big time MMO company (he he):

*boss walk in*

Boss: "Public Quests are the new rave Crimson. I want you to add them to our MMO, but do a better job than our competition... your ass is on the line!!"

Me: "Yes Mr. Boss sir..."

*scrambles for design pad and epic pen of inspiration*


What is a public quest?

A public quest is an open world event with a trigger, where one or more players can participate to gain phat lewtz. Problems with existing implementation are:
  • Can feel repetitive and grindy
  • Difficulty doesn't scale
  • Requires other people to be in the area (static locations)
  • Don't always get desired reward
  • Contribution is difficult to measure
  • Event always plays out the same
Possible Solutions:
  • Only one public quest is active at one time per main map
  • Have it occur at a random location on the map each time. The mini map could flash the location of where it is starting
  • NPCs in the area react and interact with the PQ when it starts (i.e. villagers run form a dragon or try to slay it)
  • Difficulty scales with the amount of people involved
  • Players are rewarded for early participation
  • Reward system based on 'PQ tokens', which can be exchanged for items
Nice to haves:
  • Have other players control the giant monster(s) involved in the PQ. They have objectives to complete, and boundaries etc. If the objectives are successfully completed (i.e. burn village), they get rewarded
  • Have quests spawn from the aftermath of a public quest. For example, players can help to put out fires and rebuild a village that has been burned by collecting wood/stone etc...
  • Make the PQ move around the map until players complete it
Ahhh who am I kidding, this is the MMO industry. Designers don't make it to the top by innovating, they get there by copying.

*boss walks in*

Boss: "Where are my ideas Crimson?"

Me: "Ahh... ummm... I suggest we copy WAR's implementation of PQs, but we make the bad guys more cartoony with huge shoulder pads like in WoW?"

Boss: "I love it!!! Crimson, you have lead designer written all over you! Good work!"

*boss leaves*


Sad but true...


Chappo said...

I think this post should begin with 'lets just pretend there were actual games "designers" not copy and past-ers.'

Melf_Himself said...

Nice ideas.

I think the secret to the real "MMO 2.0" is going to be to make *every single quest* scripted, dynamic, and scaleable like this.

So, the only thing I would change on that feature list is the bit about making only one on at a time... but then again, you wouldn't want too many because it would spread people out too much. Ideally the number of PQs 'popping' at any one time would be a function of the number of people currently doing PQs on the server (or at least, the number of people logged into the server).

Crimson Starfire said...

Lol. There's nothing wrong with copying, as long as you add quality improvements... like a WoW clone with public quests... no wait that's already been done... :P

Totally agree. Have two player controlled sides to every quest. Each side has different objectives. One group of gamers plays the 'good' side, the other the 'bad'. The quests are always dynamic because your not versing NPCs. Trick is getting equal amounts of players on either side. Hence the one active quest at a time. Dynamic difficulty scaling would help though.

Anton said...

I love your brainstorm approach, and your little role-play of being a game designer made me laugh.

As far as I remember, the only "public quests" I've done were the scourge invasion ships and putting out the fires from the headless horseman in WoW. Do those even count as what you're talking about?

Tesh said...

Interesting... the phrase "Make the PQ move around the map" seems to be imputing some sort of rudimentary intelligence to the thing. That just begs for there to be a lore/story to match that notion; Public Quests as storytelling elements, in other words.

That dragon over there? Yup, he's a Public Quest. He's also not waiting for heroes to come beat him up, he's doing his own thing, snacking on cows and burning homes. Maybe he gets tired of that if the heroes don't defeat him, and he eventually wanders off... but the town suffers for it, and there could be real consequences for that; the next iteration of the Quest could be:

"The Town Needs Rebuilding. Go kill ten rats in the bales of hay so we can get some clean materials, and then slaughter some aurochs so we can make some leather... and chop some trees while you're at it. Maybe build us some AntiDragon tech, you lazy Engineers."

It feels like one more step towards a living, dynamic virtual world. Truly, anathema to the mainstream.

Nice article. :)

Melf_Himself said...

Crimson, as always let me plug my design idea that solves the numbers-per-side issue:


Players can jump into each battle going on around the place, but even if there's only one player, the NPC's are still there to even out the fight. It also allows for some fun 'unbeatable odds' typed scenarios, where you have say 4 slots open on one side (your Aragorn, Legolas, Gimli and Gandalf), with 300 slots on the other side for all the orcs :)
(actually, that is simply Left 4 Dead in MMO form come to think of it... must be a good idea then :p)

Anton, PQs were one of WARs 'innovations' (I use the term generously) to the MMO genre. Anyone passing by can pitch in and lend a hand, and at the end all participants are rewarded according to their contribution.

Tesh, that dragon example is the perfect way to implement PQs. I'd go so far as to see you could make a pretty good game if the entire game consisted of chasing dragons around and killing them :)

I guess other variations you could do would be bandits (raiding the village, stealing the women :p), soldiers (taking over the village... village doesn't 'reset' if lost), goblins/orcs, etc. Fun :)

Crimson Starfire said...

I guess so. I haven't played any public quests in WoW, so I'm not 100% sure what your talking about. If you haven't played WAR, this article isn't going to make a great lot of sense. As for the role play, I'm just working on my DM skills ;)

Thanks. When I first played a public quest in Warhammer Online, I saw huge potential. It felt like Mythic had discovered something fantastic, but hadn't quite utilized it correctly. This article was about expanding on the essence of the brickwork that Mythic had paved. Hopefully one more step toward MMO 2.0.

Loved your comment about the dragon:

"He's also not waiting for heroes to come beat him up, he's doing his own thing, snacking on cows and burning homes"

Made me lol. It would be so awesome if this was actually in an MMO.

Modran said...

As far as I know, that was the original idea behind Ultima Online. I... Have sadly lost all my bookmarks, but there was an article where they explained they wanted a compelte ecology, from the rabbits eating the farmer's carrots (leading to a quest appearing when the rabbits' numbers were too high and disappearing once it was back to normal levels of rabbitness) to the famished dragon coming to town because those damn adventures killed all the wolves he was eating at home.
Never really made it into the game, in the end. But the idea was already there...

And yes, I would play that game too.

Nice article, BTW :p