Archive for July 2, 2010

“Why We Blog” or “A Love Letter to A Name”

July 2, 2010 2 comments

My post the other day on what WoW can learn from RDR seemed to illicit an interesting spectrum of comments. The responses ranged from complete agreement to thinly veiled resentment. Although I find it odd that the responses were so varied in scope and context, I was pleased to see that the people who wrote them were not only civil, but that they had very carefully and lucidly articulated their arguments. There was an actual discussion on the issue, a clash of ideas, a symphony of thoughts. Kiryn’s response was particularly interesting and then along came “A Name” with the following:

“This is the same gimmick as the Spiderman games. You wander around, someone yells for your help, you go save them, or not. Basically the reason more people don’t do this is because after you’ve saved the wife from hanging once, for no reward to speak of, you just don’t care anymore. Fact of the matter is, half the time these random quests get you accidentally killed while you’re on the way to do something far more important, like chasing live bounties or pursuing getaway bandits.”

Then you have choice, or more importantly the illusion of choice. One could argue that MMOs are filled to the brim with choices, you could level in any direction you wanted, in any particular order, siding with any of the many factions. If you are on a quest, that quest dictates where you must go and what you must do. But you are at least afforded the option of choosing which quest you finish, and which one save for later. In the same vein, if you are pursuing bandits or live bounties, and you come across a random quest, you have a choice. You can weigh the options and decide for yourself which mission you wish to attempt. You may think the former is far more important, I would respectfully disagree. I think helping the poor bastard and his hanging spouse is more important to me, and I would change course to engage in the random mission instead.

“Basically its just crap. Your whole basis for this writeup is years out of date, played out, and entirely useless unless you find a game developer willing to put out random CHAINS, which then affect the WHOLE GAME, and cause something to be SUBSTANTIALLY DIFFERENT once completed. Furthermore, they should never show up again. If I save some dude’s wife from hanging, I never want to see that quest again.”

You feel that the only way random quests will work is if they are done in chains. Again, I respectfully disagree. You feel that things should be substantially different when you complete the quest, and again, I disagree. Consider WoW. In the thousands of quests you are likely to have completed thus far, how many have made a substantial difference to anything? In Northshire, despite millions of human rogues, mages and warriors fireballing and hacking their way through the near-hapless diseased wolves, the wolves still remain. In Loch Modan, despite the fact that you saved the dam from the Dark Iron Dwarves and their Seaforium charges, they are still an ever-present danger. In Blackrock Mountain, you vanquished Blackwing and his seven minions, but the very next Tuesday (and every Tuesday since), he magically reappears, and threatens the world again.

You claim that once you save the husband and the wife, you never want to see them again. What of the daily quests in WoW? How many have you completed? Which ones have you done regularly for reputation gains or items gained through higher reputation? That doesn’t annoy you a lot worse than a random quest in which you have to save a family from marauding bandits? What about the Kill Ten Rats cookie-cutter quest mechanic. Shouldn’t you, by definition, be sick of MMOs because regardless how how creative they manage to make the monster, at the end of the day, killing precisely 10 of them is what will do the trick. Except it won’t, because somehow it never does.

The point is that you cannot claim my argument to be at fault or being “just crap”, because the current MMO design does not facilitate substantially changing world events through player (inter)action. A random quest chain does not have to bring about game-altering changes for it to be effective. I think you and I are suggesting the same thing but in separate capacities. There needs to be impact in MMOs, some form of a tangible reminder that what we did mattered, and wasn’t just a mechanism for experience gain so we could move on to the next (non)crisis. And in that I agree, if I rescue that husband and wife, I don’t want to come across them again. In fact, it would be nice if the next time I visited a major city, I find them selling fruit on the streets, grateful to me because without me they wouldn’t be alive or have each other. That small gesture right there would be enough of an impact for me, it doesn’t need to be substantially game-changing.

“Also you compare RDR, which is basically a single player game with no substantial multiplayer or MMO content and only the re-playability you can come up with yourself, to WOW, which currently entertains 11 million people at the same time, changes every 2-3 months, constantly re-balances and reinvents itself. Why do the quest givers stand in the same place giving the same quest? Cause you can only do it once, but the game is shared with the other 10.999 million people still, several thousand of which may be on your server at any one time. There are around 4-5000 quest in WoW. If even half of them were randomly encountered (Which some are actually, in the form of drops from monsters you just happened to kill) you would spend your whole life just LOOKING for them.”

First, the topic of the post was not: “Why WoW needs to be more like Read Dead Redemption”, the topic was “What WoW can learn from Read Dead Redemption”; it is like when I suggested that WoW adopt the spawn mechanisms from Borderlands, because they made more sense in an MMO context than mobs appearing out of thin air.

Second, I understand why quest givers stand in one place and why player experience should be generally similar; but that does not mean there cannot be any randomness involved. By all means stick to what you know best, hell stick to what we as players know best. But at least give us the option of randomly coming across a flaming wagon under attack with kobolds and their goddamn candles!

Finally, You stated there are about 5,000 quests and WoW, and then made an argument around the premise that “if half of them were randomly generated…” This is where I disagree, I think that would be a nonsensical number of randomly generated quests. Consider Northrend. Each zone has roughly 80-100 quests. Even if 10% of them were random, it would give the game a flavor it currently lacks, and it would still allow players enough content to level through even if they never came across (or completely ignored) every random encounter. My point wasn’t that random quests should be forced on the player population. My point was that there should be a choice for doing them, if you so please.