This post was prompted by Syp’s excellent post about SWTOR, but I was otherwise diverted from posting this by other, shinier topics that came to mind.
In it, he discussed his feelings on the planetary missions of SWTOR and how the 12x Experience Boost for current subscribers rendered all of that work obsolete. Is that such a bad thing, though? In my mind, it isn’t. And SWTOR isn’t the only one that could benefit from this design idea.
Questing, by definition, should involve some sort of heroic deed that requires a great deal of time and effort, but in the MMO space it’s more often than not just busywork. You literally fill a honey-do list as commanded by nagging citizenry instead of a nagging spouse.
It’s a design choice made incredibly popular and effective by WoW that should see its time pass by.
SWTOR has literally shown that the quests involving your class story are where the Star Wars stuff begins and ends. The extra filler crap is just that–filler crap. The point of a Star Wars narrative, in my mind, isn’t to use your weapon to slaughter set amounts of enemies in this area only. It’s like being told to use a broom and sweep only one section of the floor. That’s the job of an R-series Droid, not a Jedi. Or even a Sith.
By comparison, the stories of each class are engaging. Combat has a point. Weapons are drawn at appropriate times. The planetary missions, when stood next to class missions, are just chores.
That SWTOR has made a character boost that lets you really experience the Star Wars stuff without handing you a free max level character is one of the smarter design decisions they have made. And I can see this being applied to many other MMO’s. I can’t tell you how much I would adore this in a game like XIV or LOTRO.
TOR has shown us how to fix what is broken already, but it would be even nicer if PvE themepark games made their quests actually feel like epic endeavors. Make a quest involve a large line of requirements that involve farther-reaching battles than killing 10 rats in a circle. And make them vague to allow players to make their own solutions.
For example…you are granted the quest to defend your realm from orc invaders. They have been sighted randomly by scouts but there’s no real clue where they’re based, just that they’re encroaching on your realm’s borders. So maybe you go out there to find an orc camp that’s somewhere in the northwest based on information you gathered from guards and scouts. You have to find this camp and clear out the enemies as well as raze the camp. Or maybe you set up a fake supply convoy to incite the orcs to attack. Or maybe you go out there, scout the region to know for sure orcs are out there and inform other players. They get kill credit, you get credit for finding them. Every gets XP. Everyone feels like they did something of impact.
It’s combining the dynamic events of a Guild Wars 2 with some sandbox openness to allow PvE players to band together and make a quest happen.
Or maybe have epic weapons formed from challenging fights. Use the raw materials from a slain dragon to make magical weapons or magic focii. There’s lots of ways to do it.
But in the end, the TL;DR is that quests should feel like quests. Themeparks can be fun but they should be explored. They need to be more seamlessly integrated with larger, challenging content to make you feel like you actually experienced an epic journey. XIV does this a bit with including dungeon runs in to their main story questing, but the greater bulk of its idea of quest is the same thing–moving from point to point or even just calling talking to a person in a new area a “quest.” That might be a heroic deed in your game’s world, but in our world that’s called “being a survey taker”.
Side quests are side dishes when we want to get to the steak. You’re having to eat about five pounds of french fries to get to the steak, and by then you’re pretty much exhausted of food. MMO’ing can do better. BioWare has shown just how incredibly simple it is to fix the problem as well as how useless all of that development time and money was in making planetary missions.