It’s been a good 5 years since the release of World of Warcraft — the first MMO to focus on entirely on quests as the prime vehicle for it’s gameplay and storyline. As with any aging successful MMO, eventually long time subscribers start to ask existential questions about *why* things are they way they are. Thankfully the WoW community is starting to realize that maybe the Emperor has no clothes. Could it be that players are finally realizing that this quest based MMO has been a mirage all along?
Lately I’ve started to notice that long time MMO gamers who were initially mesmerized by the allure of quests are growing weary of being led around like horses and chasing after NPCs with yellow exclamation marks. There’s a feeling out there in the MMO community that quests are no longer special. Instead they have become very pedestrian and commonplace fare in MMOs. Even the meaning of the word “quest” has been lost and denigrated as any old task or job is labeled as such.
In August of 2008 I wrote an article that challenged the quest centric paradigm of current MMO design as popularized by Blizzard’s World of Warcraft. Recently Muckbeast at Bright Hub’s MMO Channel and commenters on his personal blog have picked up the torch and have dared to challenge this sacred cow with some superb insight.
While I feel I adequately covered this subject and all of it’s ramifications it’s refreshing to see Muckbeast amplifying specific areas of concern that demonstrate the negative side effects of basing the entirety of an MMO on quests. So I’ve decided to revisit this topic with another look at this subject.
In the Beginning there were Quests
It’s helpful to understand what Blizzard’s objective has been from the start with WoW: a very accessible, easy to understand and play casual game. From the first moment a player steps into Azeroth they are facing an NPC with an irresistible yellow exclamation mark. There is no escape from the questgiver in WoW and according to a very revealing 2004 GameSpy interview with Blizzard VP Rob Pardo it’s all by design:
Rob Pardo: …the main message that we always try to talk about with World of Warcraft is how accessible we are trying to make it.
David Lawrence: Uh huh.
Rob Pardo: Its very quest driven so we try really hard from the moment someone plays the game that they don’t really need to be a veteran MMORG player. They don’t need to know the lingo; they don’t need to know how things work. We are going to teach them all of that.
The interview continues with many references to Blizzard’s intention on providing a WoW player with a “single-player” game experience:
Fargo: The interface looks very much like a single-player game. It’s really streamlined.
Rob Pardo: Yes, and when you first start playing it, you can play it like a single-player game. We try to make character creation pretty easy, to get you right into the game. And, when you get right into the game we lifted the Diablo motif with the exclamation points (!) over non-player character heads. And you start right next to somebody that has something to give you and something to say. And you are right into the game. You go and right click on him, which is another kind very subtle of innovation, but something that just seems like when you go into a lot of common MMORGs you have to pull out the reference card and figure out, okay — how do I move, how do I interact, what do I have to do like slash commands?
In World of Warcraft we really try to make it as intuitive as we can. When you go into the game, there is a guy next to you that’s got a little exclamation point above him so you go, “Hey what’s that?” You just right click on him and suddenly it pops up what he has to say and gives you buttons and says, “Hey do you want to accept this quest?” And, it will kinda tell you what to do and you are off and running. It feels very single-player like. And as you kinda go through the quest chains you start seeing all kinds of other players doing it and you are introduced to the whole concept of this massively multiplayer community. But we try to package it in such a way so that it’s really accessible and easy to get used to that.
It’s evident that WoW was designed to attract non-MMO gamers all along. Here are a few points that demonstrate this:
- the simplicity of the interface (as noted by one of the interviewers)
- the focus of quests for herding the player into new areas
- the lack of challenge in the enemy encounters
- the story revealed to players via the quests
In retrospect it’s almost as if WoW was designed to be one big tutorial for gamers new to MMOs. A MMO so easy and attractive that it’s greatest strength would always be in attracting new players (defined in industry parlance as “churn”).
Yet here we are 5 years later and all is not well. Eventually new MMO gamers become veteran gamers. Veteran gamers need to be placated which bring us to the next evolution of MMO quests: daily quests.
The Daily Grind
Part of the reason we are all feeling quest fatigue is the introduction of daily quests back in the Burning Crusade expansion. For me this is when the whole notion of quests really jumped the shark in WoW.
Thanks to Blizzards snail-like development speed, daily quests were created to placate those players already at the level cap who had nothing to do and thanks to high repair and consumable costs were running into the arms of Chinese gold farmers.
Blizzard created a cure that was worse then the disease with daily quests. Encouraging players to repeat the same quests each day for gold was a shortsighted mistake that started the tedium nuclear clock ticking on their MMO. No matter what you call it players should never be forced to perform the same tasks each day. Most of us do this already — it’s called work. Entertainment should never feel like work or remind us of work — ever.
Wrath of the Lich King Quests to the Rescue
Fast forward to the current expansion Wrath of the Lich King and Blizzard has made quests more interesting and complex. Most quests now involve some kind of interaction with a vehicle or an item that an NPC hands you which honestly I find frustrating at times. Many of the quests are so bizzare and complex that I often have resorted to researching them on Wowhead just to get them completed. These days figuring out how to do the quest is more challenging then actually doing the quest.
On the subject of the new and improved WotLK quests, Tobold who commented on Muckbeasts article last week contends the following:
One major thing Muckbeast completely misses is the type of quest more and more used in Wrath of the Lich King, but already present in some corners of The Burning Crusade: Quests with vehicles or other unusual game mechanics. In TBC that was just bombing runs, but in WotLK there are giants to ride, abominations to explode, sea cows to mate, dragons to harpoon, landmines to lay, and a hundred other things that wouldn’t be possible without quests.
While Blizzard has added more admittedly fun bells and whistles into its quests all of the problems and unintended consequences inherent with quest driven gameplay still remain. For me the number one problem is that the current quest mechanic works at cross purposes to the idea that MMOs are about players playing together and enjoying the rewards of social interaction.
Phasing: Gimmick or Innovation?
Tobold also goes on to comment about phasing — another WotLK “innovation”:
Another big quest-related feature of Wrath of the Lich King is phasing, the technology in which you finally get to change the world. Okay, you only change it for yourself, but that was necessary to not have the first player to reach that content spoil it for everyone else. Without quests this phasing change of the world would be much harder, if not impossible to realize.
I’m not entirely convinced that phasing is the salvation of quests in MMO but I think it does have some potential perhaps as a way to address the passage of time in virtual worlds. Turbine’s Lord of the Rings Online was the first MMO company to use phasing in it’s newbie areas to create the illusion of the passage of time and I feel that they managed to pull this off fairly adequately.
Phasing does have a bad downside — it is problematic in that it can potentially erode the sense of immersion. Here’s Muckbeast’s illuminating reply to Tobold on the subject:
Honestly, I think phasing is a horrible concept. I think it makes MMOs even LESS like the virtual worlds they should be, and more like weird pseudo-single player games with IM built in. The idea of standing somewhere with a buddy, and I can see an NPC but he cannot, is massively immersion breaking. I think phasing is a really poor attempt to lessen the whole “will the real princess step forward” syndrome of tons of people questing in the same area.
Phasing is used by Blizzard to create dramatic impact (see the Death Knight starting areas and Northrend for examples of this). For some reason Blizzard always seems to choose the single player game sense of spectacle a la God of War over virtual world immersion. The reason for this is mainly due to the well established video game technique philosophy of making you the gamer to be the *hero*.
I’m No Hero and Neither Are You
Heroism comes cheap these days. I thought a lot about the concept of video game heroism last year when I penned a series of articles on WoW’s first hero class: the Death Knight.
Blizzard’s strength as a video game company from the outset has been to make polished games with engaging stories that put the player in the role of the hero. So it comes as no surprise that the Blizzard approach to WoW is any different.
With the success of those single player games, the notion of making a player into a hero has become the dominant game design philosophy in the past 10 years. WoW success and triumph is largely because it *is* the first single player MMO. WoW has always been about minimizing the multiplayer and community aspects of virtual worlds in favor of the safety and control of heavily polished and scripted single player games.
The existence of anti-immersive instancing technology in WoW is more evidence of this philosophy where you and your friends can become instant heroes with your own personalized gaming experience. The problem is that while you are saving the world from the bad guys so too are hundreds of other players saving the world from the very same bad guy in parallel instances. Hero shmero.
Given current technology and design limitations the single player can never truly be the hero in a virtual world. Heroism is a zero sum game; when everyone is a hero nobody is a hero.
Most of the quests in the new Wrath of the Lich King expansion praise the player as a hero. I find this kind of undeserved flattery and praise absurd and childish. I’m not a hero because I managed to figure out which buttons to press to kill 20 Foozles and neither are you.
Questing Disincentivizes Social Interaction
Probably the most important downside about questing in MMOs is that it disincentivizes social interaction so much that grouping with other players becomes unnecessary. If adventuring alongside other players is not the point of MMORPGs like WoW then what exactly is the point?
Muckbeast in his article does a brilliant job of demonstrating the Achilles Heel of current MMO design:
When grinding mobs in older MMOs, you could head to a zone and start killing things solo. If you met up with people, you could start a group. Perhaps you started off in a duo. This allowed you to move to harder things. As you added more people, you could move to harder stuff or larger groups. If people had to leave, no big deal. You either replaced them with new people or just moved back to easier content.
You could organically move from one thing to the next, everyone was always making equal progress, and it did not really matter how many people, or who specifically, were in your group.
In quest heavy advancement, you cannot do any of this. New people who show up are almost guaranteed to have totally different quests to do, and if your group shrinks below a certain threshold some quest chains will no longer be possible at all (so you will have to stop those chains before completing them for the big payoff at the end). This can be extremely frustrating and unfulfilling.
It’s hard to believe that Blizzard did not know that producing a quest based MMO would diminish the need for social interaction among players. I wager that this is the trade off that their designers knowingly made in order to be able to create the real WoW MMO which is essentially a grouping game held within instances.
WoW is two (three if you count PVP but that’s another story) different products under one umbrella: game one is an easy to play single player game full of quests and game two is more of a traditional fantasy RPG MMO where players must actually band together into a socially cohesive group in order to overcome shared challenges.
As I see it the problem has always been that both types of games are so different from each other that players have a difficult time transitioning between each. This is not the fault of the player, rather it is the fault of Blizzard for creating a MMO that has such disharmonious and disconnected component parts.
Are You the Captain of Your Ship?
Probably the worst thing about a quest based MMO is that you as a player are no longer in control of the destiny of your avatar. Now you may rightfully protest and say “of course I’m in control!” but are you really? The majority of players are not. Instead, they are following the dictates of a predetermined script and immediately go about doing the bidding of the questgiver NPC. To quote my comments posted on Muckbeast’s blog:
The unfortunate thing is that the current crop of WoW players will never know what it’s like not to be spoon fed quests and content. They will never experience the autonomy of being able to explore a world without a “questgiver” tell them what they must do.
The player may as well be on a tour bus complete with a tour guide as he progresses through Azeroth. There can be no deviation from the well trodden “golden path” previously determined by the puppet masters (game designers) behind the scenes. Everyone that plays WoW must do the quests or find themselves at a disadvantage with fewer opportunities such as less experience, less loot and gold.
For me the price we pay as players for this polished “on rails” MMO experience is far too great. Although we are given the choice to complete quests or not, it’s an illusion — we are not in control. It is no wonder that the WoW community goes through withdrawal when the content dries up and players are left with just themselves.
Whose Story is This Anways?
Virtual worlds should let players make up and experience their own stories — not just the stories made up by the quest designers. For me this is the unforgivable sin of WoW. MMO devs need to create the game mechanics, landscapes, and conflicts that provide a backdrop for players to make their own memories as they travel through the world in search of adventure. Players should be active participants in their own destinys and not just passive spectators grinding through hundreds if not thousands of quests.
While I think it’s too late for WoW as Blizzard has etched in stone their cash cow MMO quest formula, there is hope for future MMOs.
Do I think there is a place for quests in MMOs? Certainly. Here are a few solutions of my own and some from the discussion at Muckbeasts blog that I think would help:
- Quests should be much less common — less is more. How about questgivers that only appear once a week or randomly?
- To keep players on their toes quests should be dynamically generated and reflect the conditions and needs of the townsfolk and conflicts around them.
- Quests need to be more epic then they currently are. When I think of a quest I think of the quest for the Holy Grail not collecting 10 boar ears.
- Most quests offer far too much experience and loot. The reward should be the feeling of doing the deed not the greed. MMO developers need to stop being so insecure and start withholding the candy of the “reward reward reward” design mentality.
- Quest mechanics should be intelligently designed so that they do not erode the social interaction and sense of community which is the entire point of online games and virtual worlds.
- Developers also need to stop using the word “quest” when a more appropriate term like “task” or “job” or “contract” would do better.
- Quests also need to give players some actual choices instead of accept or decline.
- Let’s put some risk and tension when players deal with questgivers. If you just declined to help the King rescue his daughter, should you really expect to walk away without being arrested or facing some consequence?
- We need more quests with a sense of urgency like timed quests that actually expire if not completed.
- Quests need to impact the world around the player in some way even if ever so small.
In an effort to build up the self-esteem of players by making them into instant heroes MMO designers have given us the sideshow of quests — a novelty and a distraction that have taken virtual worlds one step forward and two steps backward. They are the MMO equivalent of fast food — engineered to delight your taste buds but laden with empty calories and harmful preservatives. Meanwhile social interaction — the true nutrition of MMOs and why we came here in the first place — stays untouched and uneaten in the back of the refrigerator.
Of course WoW was always designed to be an insidiously accessible MMO for the masses. We can’t fault Blizzard for this. No matter how much we may want things to be different, we may just have to deal with the reality that Rob Pardo’s creation will forever be a juvenile entry level MMO.
The problem is that WoW has gotten so dominant and profitable that it’s impact on the design of future MMOs will be felt for years leaving few alternatives for a more mature audience. Regrettably every MMO must now cater to the lowest common denominator and sadly every MMO will end up being like WoW. What happens if players finally get sick of WoW and it falls out of favor with the game buying public? Will a MMO industry that wasted all of its capital developing a parade of WoW clones have any viable MMO alternatives for players if this happens? What then?
Wow, it is quite interesting to see that you came to the very same conclusions and observations way before the many people responding to Muckbeast’s initial and later on improved article. There is some hope, it seems. Many more people voice similar concerns. I would like to call many of them seasoned MMO gamers, those who at least tried most MMOs and played a lot since Ultima Online / EverQuest, who do this.
I see a split in the playerbase. WoW tapped into a player base that plays an MMO that actually is a task-driven single-player experience with a little online-chat and some pvp. The infamous endgame is then what Rob Pardo and his guildmates in EQ made the “Rockstars” of the MMO age, raiding. Or in other, more cynical words, some weird mix of gangbang and dancing course/choreography. 😉
They realized this dichotomy – and made raiding more accessible to Joe Average or even less. Raiding for everyone, the very lowest common denominator. Raiding as easy as questing with ! and arrow pointing to the “epic” mob/task in question.
While you were posting the article about questing in August 2008, I was looking forward to Wrath of the Lich King in late 2008. I had more than caught up to my friends who were playing WoW for a longer time by now and had run out of quest but the daily chores called Daily Quests to raise “Faction Standing” with this or that Faction. I was playing Guild Wars before, and it felt like picking flowers compared to the insane achievement grind requirements of Guild Wars that totally put me off.
Soon I was more fantasizing about Wrath of the Lich King, reading up about it. As it was released, I knew already a lot of what to expect and while it was stunning and epic to do some of the quests, I soon reached the point where I ended up in TBC: Some actually minor daily faction grind for standard epics. Raiding and dungeons also felt a bit empty and not engaging.
Really great work, Wolfshead. You were quite ahead of me and many others in this insight about WoW. And you expressed the issues of Quests and WoW design very well.
I am afraid of future MMOs. Champions Online wants me to run around as Super Hero. I wonder if we will see more shoulder-patting of the “you are the hero! you killed 10 Foozles!” kind gameplay…^^
I am really afraid of the lowest common denominator nowadays. The wish to get back to more community spirit and more of a mmo world than a quest driven bus tor is there, but will games featuring this different approach appeal to the masses?
Will they not just feel disoriented, or will they begin exploring on their own again? Or will the notion “No Quests – no Exclamation Marks – No Arrow pointing me the way???” (15 seconds of disbelief and waiting for a ! to appear) “SILLY GAME! WOW AND BLIZZARD ARE BEST!” drive them away?
I fear a MMO that “is not WoW style” will by default appeal to less people than WoW, who opened the markt to everyone and his daughter and served them an accessible but inherently flawed kind of MMO light experience.
An interesting footnote here from the GDC 2009 being held this week. I’m going to link the transcript for this speech when it becomes available.
I wonder if Tigole/Kaplan is going to design the rumored “NextGeneration MMO” in this way… or just throwing all other MMO designers and developers a bone how to copy WoW and fail again? :>
It will be interesting to see which direction Tigole takes the new Blizzard MMO — hardcore, casual friendly or back to the WoW donut.
Thanks for the comments in your previous post. I’m going to reply to them after I get some sleep 🙂
As much as I would absolutely love to tell you this wouldn’t happen- it would, and it does. I’ve seen it with lots of people, they wont play any other MMO with me :(. The quickest way to drive away gamers from your new MMO is to not make the quests visible from 500 yards off, and any quest-centric game will have that problem. The alternative seems to be a mob grind though, and typical WoW players are may be so reliant on the quest-given direction that they would feel lost in a world that doesn’t push them to go out and conquer.
EverCrack was a very real thing, and unfortunately there is no clever way to make a drug name out of WoW, but addiction to WoW can be just as bad. It will be used as a business benchmark ideal for MMOs, and I have a hard time seeing that as something beneficial.
WoW is effectively a single player game. I’ve argued that for a while now, and I’m happy to pay for it as such. The brilliance/deviousness of Blizzard is that they have managed to monetize the time spent playing a single player game, while everyone else was just selling them straight up for a one shot fee.
Of course, I still have concerns with the overly linear aspects of the game, but honestly, if it were sold as a single player game, a lot of this, including the “hero” syndrome (get it? “if everyone’s super, no one is” Syndrome? Eh… I’m tired) doesn’t cause trouble.
WoW is definitely two MMOs in one. A casual MMO/single player game that pays the bills and a hardcore raiding game that’s made to satisfy the egos of the designers.
I had similiar experiences. The “new” proposed content of the expansion was very tantalizing. I’m still playing WoW so I can experience many of the quests and see it for myself. Although I am pretty despondent about WoW as a game designer it’s pretty much required reading 🙂
Good point. I think that it’s going to be almost impossible for a fledgling MMO company to be able to raise venture capital to make more of a social sandbox style MMO. This will almost guarantee that you’ll be seeing more WoW clones in the future complete with neon exclamation points.
All we can hope is that MMO consumers will grow up and cast aside their childish ways. I don’t watch the same TV and movies that I did when I was in my 20’s. My tastes have refined over the years. Let’s hope this happens to the current MMO demographic soon as they grow weary of the sophomoric idiocy that populates the WoW player base these days.
The more mass acceptance that a MMO gets the more dumbed down it has to be. Someday soon a mass appeal MMO will arrive on the scene and make WoW look as hardcore as EQ was — that’s a scary thought. 🙂
I think I finally understand why you are not in favor of the subscription model for MMOs. 🙂
It seems to me that casual players that play only a few hours a week are subsidizing the hardcore players that play hundreds of hours a month. One way to combat this would be to charge different rates for different usage patterns. Many service type industries offer packages and plans depending on the usage and choices of the user.
Telecommunications companies, cable companies, Internet service providers to name a few use this model and it’s only fair.
I’m sorry for my typo up there, it should read “The alternative seems to be a mob grind though, and typical WoW players may be so reliant on the quest-given…” I was in between Ideas and rewrote that sentence four or five times and got it all jumbled up.
I’m not so sure though that WoW is really a single player game. Would an offline version of WoW really be marketable? Would you seriously play WoW if you had zero chance of finding other people to play with, and is the gameplay alone really so entertaining that you wouldn’t tire of it? If so then there might be hope, otherwise I don’t think we can write it off as a viable single-player game quite yet. Even though it may be enjoyable alone, the sense that you could run into another player at any moment is still always there, and influences your perceptions of the game you play “alone.”
Jedi, that’s precisely what I’ve argued. I’d pay fair money (the equivalent of a Mass Effect or mainstream JRPG) for a single player offline WoW, and I’d enjoy playing it, probably sinking hundreds of happy hours. It doesn’t play much different in my experience, and the “multiplayer” raiding content isn’t significantly more impressive than a multiplayer dungeon run in Diablo. It could have been sold as a single player game with optional multiplayer and not have lost much.
I do blather a bit about what I think MMOs ought to be, and what I thought they would be, namely vital, living, dynamic interesting worlds where players are a critical component of reality, constantly affecting the world and making it an interesting place. That’s something that I could see paying a sub for, since it’s always fresh (though I’d still want gradated plans for different schedules). That’s what I thought WoW offered when I heard about it way back in ’04.
What we got was a single player game with very light multiplayer options and a highly static world. It’s not exactly the same as a WoWJPRG, but the core gameplay isn’t all that removed. Certainly not enough to merit paying for the privilege of playing it online at $15/month when I can get much the same core gaming experience by picking up a generic DIKUJRPG in the bargain bin for $15.
I think this is part of the magic, Jedi: People like to socialize.
You can play WoW like a singleplayer game. and refuse to talk to other people.
But you can also have chitchat with them. You can get angry about someone camping your corpse. You can find friends. My first WoW char (Paladin) was totally in love (or better, ME) with a female paladin player, who turned out to be a male with an ultra-low voice. I should have known better. But we got along very well and teamed up, getting to level 40 early and getting admired for our level 40 Paladin Welfare-Horses (favorite topic: ENVY – why do Paladins and Warlocks get a horse for free!!!!)
The strength of MMOs is socializing, and WoW removed the “forced” grouping from the EQ-formula. It also removed a lot of positive aspects, but it was ultimately a very accessible MMO light, not in a negative sense.
Nowadays I cannot get back to these days. I never ever had similarly bonding experiences in WoW as on the launch day. My guild met for work, erm, raiding for items… sorry, fun! 🙂
Today three of my friends play Horde, on another server. We were Alliance, A. on a different server, one more different A. server, Horde for a short time, back to Alliance, and now they are Horde again while my main char is Alliance on another server.
I wonder when my friend Steve picked up WoW, he had his arms broken as WoW was released and “HATED THE GAME”. Now he is the most avid player. Hum! While I do not like it anymore.
WoW is really two games for me nowadays. Even WOTLK has shown it: Levelling up in WoW has, in contrast to release, become a totally LONE, QUEST DRIVEN GUIDED SINGLEPLAYER EXPERIENCE. Then you are max level – congrats, now you hopefully have some FRIENDS AND/OR GEARto get into a raiding guild!
My Warlock was taken reluctantly because of her bad gear, as I proved that I am capable of the amazing feat to click the buttons at Magtheridon, I became an “experienced raider”, as I could also prove that I was raiding Molten Core back in the days…^^
WoW lost more and more of the social element of MMOs as time progressed. Maybe Jeff Kaplan was talking about this on GDC:
“Directed Gameplay within WORLD OF WARCRAFT” – he named it himself.
Oh, and I’m idly concerned that Bioware is going the same route. They make great single player games… but now want to do that in an MMO venue? I can’t shake the feeling that not only will the game be even more on rails that WoW, but reallllly should have been designed as a single player game (or series of games).
Jeff Kaplan delivered his speech. He is really all focused on guiding players by the hand through the content.
Thanks for the link Longasc! Lots of good insight in Kaplan’s speech 🙂
I second the thanking for the link! Kaplan has gained a lot of respect from me for a lot of the things he said. As you just said Wolfshead he had some great insight, enter the cliche “The first step to fixing a problem is admitting that you have one.”
@Longasc: There IS a difference between guiding and forcing players though, and WoW is, as Kaplan mentioned, a medium in which they are trying to tell a story of sorts- and he is wise enough to acknowledge that, “[They] need to stop writing a fucking book in [their] game, because nobody wants to read it.” That in and of itself is a huge step in the right direction. A Virtual World and an MMO are two clearly distinct things in my mind, and Kaplan wants WoW to be an MMO, where a story is told with you as the champion, not a Virtual World where you live life.
WoW didn’t become a single-player game because it was a developing Virtual World, it happened because it was getting further from a Virtual World. If you play Neverwinter Nights or Oblivion, or any other standard single-player RPG there will be a “world” around you but you’re guided through it in the form of storytelling.
I wrote an article about expansions not being what MMOs need but now I understand that Virtual Worlds need to be expanded instead of extended- while MMOs like WoW NEED to be extended because you run out of story, and I think it’s fair to say that an actual storyline is Blizzard’s goal, whereas with a Virtual World the developers may include lots of fun lore-oriented events and content, but they do not have a single grand master-story they are trying to tell.
Perhaps the optomistic idealist in me just HOPES that this is what Kaplan is getting at, but if it really is then I could see WoW as having incredible potential still, but in a way I haven’t really been thinking about MMOs.
I would also like to point out that my sister who, may the Good Lord bless her soul, is a bit of an eccentric LOVES WoW for the fact that it is, in many ways, a lot like a book. She revels in reading all the quests and exploring every nook and cranny of their world. Someday I may want to go back and try to play WoW through her perspective, but I find that I am very much focused on finding a good Virtual World for my online game, not a story-based MMO (if that all made sense :x).
Yes, some did not like the occasional f-word, but he was speaking blunt and to the point, while Paul Barnett was talking a lot of hot air earlier.
He really cares and made good observations, I think he really got it that a story needs to be delivered differently in a video game, walls of text being a no-no and so on. It still makes me go crazy when he says people don’t want to read anything. I think it is more because all what quests are about is go there, kill that, as he said himself. You do not need that much text for that… or collection quests.
I unfortunately miss the part where he says “Now we need to get away from quest-guided content delivery”.
(All roads lead to Wolfshead – I just travel more slowly than some.)
I went back to WoW last December after having unsubscribed back in 2005, and when I first encountered daily quests that was my exact reaction — well, I may have thought “WTF?” Since I hadn’t followed WoW that closely after leaving, I hadn’t heard of these and when I did, it just struck me as really odd. I already have to do a bunch of daily routine tasks, not only in RL but *also* already in games (especially an altoholic like me — inventory management is *my* daily quest)… it boggles the mind.
However, as I recently read elsewhere (http://mikedarga.blogspot.com/2009/03/make-cheating-part-of-your-game.html), stealing gold-seller business is a pretty good explanation for those too.
Also, your posts are even longer than mine (not to mention much better informed). Thus, I can come here and not only be enlightened and entertained, but also feel succinct and concise. Win all round.
Thank you for your kind comments Ysharros! Let me just say that I just recently discovered your MMO blog as well. I must say that I’m really enjoying your thoughtful and insightful articles. Your blog is like discovering a great TV series on DVD — I’ve got lots of good reading ahead of me now 🙂
I cannot believe I missed this second article.
I really enjoyed the read – especially some of your suggestions.
Quests aren’t bad, they are just overdone, and people need to see them for what they are. Too many people think quests are the opposite of a grind, or the savior from the grind, but that is simply not the case.
Daily quests are an absolute abomination. I quit WoW completely within a few days or weeks of their implementation.
The biggest problem with quests is the way it kills socialization, organic play of the game, and exploration. That kills the wonder of MMOs, and destroys the all important social aspects.
First of all, you have to consider Eastern Vs Western Markets, MMO shelf life, box sales, pre-orders and sub fees. Then balance that against salary for coders, programmers, quest / lore folks, character class balance people, customer service, tech supports and upper echelon people.
Would look something like, aion, knows they have a 22-24 percent MMO market share (wow has a 66) but 4.5 million subs at 15.95 a month with 2.5m pre orders and a western / EU Launch.
But it takes 1.5-2.5 years to get into profitability.
Wow shocked us and increased subs thru almost 6 years now, passing its shelflife .. and why?
They had a good product, they made an MMO for the people (masses) not a niche product with a big name (like LOTRO ect) marketed it aggressively, rest spready by WOM (word of mouth)
Ideally, to succeed you need to time your release, Aion will do well western markets initially because wow players are restless …. however aion is a pvp centric game, people are axing pre-orders and its western shelf life might not make the 2.5 year cut for an mmo …. Western gamers hate “korean grind fest and pvp centric games”
We want PVE, lore, a game that offers a smooth experience, customized characters, detailed quests, lots of gear options and graphics, pvp options that are meaningful, but not a center part of the mmo. We want balanced stats, and not nerfs or abilities or gear that give x while taking away y … we want to see our characters progressively get stronger given out time and money investment.
We want crafting options and lots of it (and meaningful) we want main jobs and sub jobs (not like GWs something like FF11) and a new gimmick …. like tank / healer / dps archtypes are fine … but have it so a healer is a B almost A class DPS’er as well, and tanks throw out impressive damage ….. and the pure DPSers or hybrid specs wreck havoc each with their own niche …. none of this overlap BS blizzard threw at us!
If you want to bust open the market, you need a game that offers sustainability, beta tested, nearly bug free with lot sof options … great story and I mean something like 12-14 classes at launch, 1000 point customized character feautuers, high server populations, the ability to solo and group .. and choose the mo focus …. PVE particularly, and base your game on that, don’t switch to apease the lower pvp population and nerf your classes ….
This is what is eroding wow … along with the casual overhaul from the vanilla wow days .. raid groups of 12 seem to be the magic number .. 25 might be a little much, I would launch one 12 man, 8 mid and 6 on the low end with parties making up of 4 max … that way guilds can run multiple events, not get upset with gear because ff you read this, there will be a ton of it and another thing .. dont flood your game with purples … an established loot system!
Make the just rare gear hard to get and most comon end game, a tier up very hard to get and 1-2 upgrades past that, with the final having a drop plus solo effort plus x. Immerse us, make us feel like we have a world to explore and cant wait to get home and log on ….
Also RMT … for little bonuses .. maybe guilld houses and player houses … expanded features, name changes … server xfers ect .. its a huge cash influx.
Lastly factions, most games do good vs evil (or similiar) wow alliance . horde – aion elyos vs asmodes ect … make 3-5 factions, make various worlds even for 1-2 each and a couple end game places where they all meet. Have a good archtype, and nuetral, an evil, and hell make a genre of class that is on par with the enemy NPCs …
Mounts – flying world – I mean it has to have it all, but in a new fresh and dynamic way … Its hard for me to explain here … I am actully a market research analyst and avid gamer here in Manhattan …. I have tracked this and picked winners and losers for a very long time. (and very accurately)
There is room to develope a new MMO, and new brand but you cant get greedy and mistime it, launch it with not enough content or beta testing, not market and hype it, not go thru the pre-order process ect … it needs to be polished and feel like a luxury mmo .. (not like bargain budget LOTRO for example with their band aid nerfs and bridges the size of tooth picks lol) or cartoon graphics wow with casual feel .. or pvp centric aion that will piss a lot of western gamers off when they relaize pve is an after tought haha!
Learn lessens from games like Ragula and Warhammer that launched too early with too many bugs that didnt catch on main stream … or stubborn genres like FF11 online that never adapted …
You could even take another whole direction and make a FF tactics type MMO too that would do well and not cost a whole lot to develope either … but thats another thought.
Startgate … I am sorry niche market at best, and people will lose interest to Studio 38s new MMO, Aion, the hardcore wow population, KOTRO MMO, Diablo 3, star trek, starcraft, Champs and ff14, lest we forget blizz plans a next gen MMO too announced at blizzcon and other sin the pipeline.
So yes there is an opportunity … but most people have no idea what the bulk of players want, what makes us leave an MMO and what really matters …. it’s sad really but thats the present MMO climate.