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Role Playing (Games) Books Media Book Reviews

Quests 148

Posted by samzenpus
from the read-all-about-it dept.
Aeonite writes "Quests have always been a part of fantasy gaming; from the earliest days of Dungeons & Dragons to World of Warcraft's myriad quest lines, quests have given players purpose beyond button-pressing and mindless grinding. Jeff Howard's Quests: Design, Theory, and History in Games and Narrative is an exploration of such quests in both literary and gaming contexts, comparing and contrasting their appearances in each medium and striving to bring the two worlds closer together by imbuing game quests with more meaning." Read below for the rest of Michael's review
Quests: Design, Theory, and History in Games and Narratives
author Jeff Howard
pages 248
publisher A.K. Peters Ltd
rating 8
reviewer Michael Fiegel
ISBN 978-1-56881-347-9
summary A comparison of quests in both literature and gaming
In his preface, Howard first attempts to define quests, both in his own terms and with respect to the likes of Campbell and Frye. In short, a narrative quest is a "journey to attain a meaningful goal," such as one might find in The Odyssey, The Faerie Queene, or The Quest for the Holy Grail. Such quests are romantic, archetypal, and laden with meaning and purpose. On the contrary, a game quest is in Howard's words "an activity in which players must overcome challenges to reach a goal." The disparity in the language used here is clear, especially when Howard goes on to clarify game quests as being "about action that is meaningful to a player on the level of ideas..." Narrative quests are about meaningful goals; game quests are about meaningful action. Howard quotes Auden as saying that "the search for a lost button is not a quest," but is this not exactly the sort of quest we find in MMOs like WOW? Time-filling quests to give the player some sort of activity, to provide "meaningful play" in the absence of meaningful goals.

This inherent problem with quests in games is further touched upon in the introduction to the book, which explains that its own goal is to prove quests out as a bridge between games and narratives. "[I]nteractivity is a prerequisite of enactment but is not sufficient to produce it...," says Howard. "[E]nactment requires active, goal-directed effort, often in the form of balancing long-term and short-term goals." Campbell, Frye, Auden and Propp are all consulted and cited here, exploring their own takes on quests in terms of their place in the heroic monomyth, medieval romance, subjective personal experience, and a "sequence of defined transformations," respectively. However, the most enlightening point comes after an exploration of the history of quest games (from D&D through WOW) where, quoting Tronstad, the author explains that "the paradox of questing is that as soon as meaning is reached, the quest stops functioning as quest." The profusion of more-or-less meaningless quests in MMORPGs "causes the 'main quest' to disappear" according to Howard, who cites the "bleak scenario" of WOW as not being conducive to meaningful gameplay.

Given that challenge, the main portion of the book serves as a sort of lesson plan towards the creation of better, more meaningful quests in modern games. In Chapter 1, "Introduction to Quest Design," Howard asserts that designing meaningful action is key, and ample examples of symbolism and spiritual analogy tied to the story of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight are offered. The following chapters each cover a different element of quest design, more or less aligned along the same breakdowns as one might find in a MUD codebase: w(or)ld, mob(ile), obj(ect) and the like. Each one is broken up into two sections: theory, and practice, the former covering Howard's thoughts on the topic, and the latter delving into practical examples of how to create that quest element using the Neverwinter Nights Aurora Toolset.

Chapter 2 covers the "Spaces of the Quest," providing a sort of primer on level design and world design, from dungeons and labyrinths to dreamlike allegorical spaces. Chapter 3 then focuses on "Characters," both NPC and PC alike, including a discussion of encounters, dialog trees, archetypes and some minor venom spat Fable-wards due to the presence in that game of characters literally named Mentor and Hero; perhaps worth mentioning in Fable's defense is that both Hero (of Hero and Leander fame) and Mentor (Odysseus' sagacious friend) are both legitimate names derived from Greek myth. But I digress.

Chapter 4 explores "Objects," specifically those quest items that players seek out and gather on their quests. "[T]he drive to acquire objects in Everquest challenges literary understandings of games because players do not seek to interpret these objects," Wesp is quoted as saying here. The assumption seems to be that quests should strive to contain objects laden with meaning and symbolism, whether they be "rods of eight parts" that one must piece together or symbolic tattoos such as those found in Planescape: Torment. Certainly, many MMOs could learn a few lessons from this chapter, being as so many have players running around collecting feces, offal and skins. Indeed, the quests that send them off to do such things are explored in Chapter 5, "Challenges." Here Howard covers fetch/collect quests, kill quests, escort quests and the like, providing a somewhat awkward apology for kill quest proliferation by trying to compare kill grinding in games like WOW with the intense violence practiced by Odysseus. Of course, Odysseus was never sent on a quest to kill 12 Cyclopes to collect their eyes for a healing potion; once again, the difference between meaningful action and meaningful goals rears its ugly head. Indeed, Howard provides a somewhat telling example of an attempt to rectify this disparity in his scripting example, wherein he has King Arthur bestowing Gawain several keys to use on various chests so Gawain can open them in sequence to find objects hidden inside each which will help him on his quest. Surely there are examples of this sort of rote quest sequencing to be found in folklore and mythology; Russian mythology in particular is full of things done in threes. Yet one cannot help but feel that it makes the whole thing somewhat less epic in the retelling when a knight of the Round Table is reduced to playing puzzle games.

Chapter 6 of the book closes out the lesson plan with "Quests and Pedagogy," an example of how Howard used The Crying of Lot 49 with his own students to explore the nature of quests in a video game setting. This rather short chapter is followed by a Conclusion, summarizing what's come before, and then several lengthy Appendices: a guide to the Aurora Toolset; an excerpt from Sir Gawain and the Green Knight; and an excerpt from The Faerie Queene. An excellent Works Cited page (nearly as long as Chapter 6) and an adequate index close out the book. In total, the book weighs in at 248 pages, although 46 pages of that is introduction (15 more if you count Chapter 1) and over 80 pages is composed of conclusion, appendices and endmatter. Thus, about half of the book is either introduction or conclusion, frontmatter or endmatter, and this makes the book feel somewhat imbalanced, taking a long time to introduce and then back up the topic while spending not enough time (in my opinion) actually working through it. Howard's writing style is excellent and the subject matter worthy; I wish he had spent more time in his book's Act 2; perhaps he would have been able to extend his ideas even further than he does, striving not only to infuse quests with meaningful activity but with meaningful goals as well. Too much of game quest design is derived from the Latin origin of the word quest (which Howard tells us comes from questare, which means " to seek,") and not enough on the purpose of the quest, which is to have a heroic journey with a "Happily Ever After" at the end. Yet MMOs almost by definition require that many millions of players walk the exact same heroic path; would the epic tale of King Arthur be so epic if his round table had 10 million chairs, with ten million knights forever searching for their own copy of the Grail?

"Go and tell your master that we have been charged by God with a sacred quest," says King Arthur in Monty Python and the Holy Grail. "If he will give us food and shelter for the night, he can join us in our quest for the Holy Grail."

"Well, I'll ask him, but I don't think he will be very keen," replies a French soldier. "Uh, he's already got one, you see."

Therein lies the problem: he's already got one, and so does everyone else. Because everyone has done the quest, and furthermore everyone wants to keep grinding for the +2 grail, which will no doubt be available in the next expansion, or perhaps in the Player's Handbook IV, or as an exclusive Dragon Magazine feature, available to subscribers of D&D Insider. Many (if not most) fantasy games can never have meaningful, magical quests where you get the vorpal sword and slay the Jabberwock and save the world, because their Sisyphean stories can never truly end; the Horde will always be at war with the Alliance, and the ring will never, ever make it to that volcano, and there will always be another supplement or sequel, another dungeon to raid, another hamlet of Hommlet to rescue. One telling Neverwinter Nights module is called Infinite Dungeons; the solitary hero has turned into the solitaire hero, ever grinding away. Sure, Odysseus had his wandering Odyssey as he searched for home, and Galahad took years to quest for the Holy Grail, but in each case they eventually found what they were looking for. Unfortunately, right now much of the game industry seems to generally be following the example of King Pellinore, endlessly pursuing his Questing Beast.

What Howard attempts to do with Quests: Design, Theory, and History in Games and Narratives is truly worthwhile, and I look forward to the dialog his book will inspire. He would have us re-examine the game quest in terms of the narrative quest, and apply those lessons to gaming. The book is well worth a read, both as a lesson plan for making the activity of questing more meaningful, as well as a first step towards giving games that rely heavily on quests — especially MMOS — more meaningful goals. If the game industry can pull that off, it will be an impressive feat, worthy of Sir Galahad himself. If not... well, there's always another 12 wolf pelts to collect.

You can purchase Quests: Design, Theory, and History in Games and Narratives from amazon.com. Slashdot welcomes readers' book reviews — to see your own review here, read the book review guidelines, then visit the submission page.
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Quests

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  • by COMON$ (806135) * on Tuesday September 09, 2008 @02:10PM (#24935411) Journal
    While MMOs are not all that new (Ultima online anyone?), the quest part seems to be getting dumber and dumber as the world moves on to better graphics and larger quantities of gear. Grinding seems to be all you do in later games. I was originally a big Baldur's Gate fan, loved the quest line, side quests and customization there.

    I contend that MMOs wont get to this level of questing again until we go back to unique items. Eg the holy grail gaining a faction special privileges like +2 to all skills and only one can be in a realm/server at a time. Then the players can quest over it and battle and gain things that way. As the grail goes from faction to faction they can either guard it themselves or they can use resources to put it in an adequately difficult location. Have enough items like this and you get quests defined by players rather than the grind of doing it over and over again. As a guild gets more and more of the unique items it would get more powerful as a whole. You would get small uprisings with people trying to take over the guild and people moving around rouge style stealing items. It would be fantastic game play. Princesses giving special trade privileges, Relics gaining stats, deities granting favor.

    ahh but I am back daydreaming again. People love gear grinding too much. Thus the reason I quit Wow.

    This book though seems to point in the right direction though. I love questing, rather than the goal being button finding or getting to lvl 70, an emotional satisfaction is attached to completing a lengthy storyline. In WoW there is absolutely no attachment to any NPC in that game unless you went through Warcraft 1,2,and 3. But it is good to see that there is enough interest in the Quest problem to generate a book about it.

    • by WK2 (1072560) on Tuesday September 09, 2008 @02:17PM (#24935499) Homepage

      I thought of that a long time ago. Like most player-submitted ideas for MMOs, it sounds great at first, but has some difficult to pass problems. The problem in this case is that most players will never touch these items. As they realize how difficult it is to get them, they will give up, and move on to other things. Of course, if your game is good in other ways, then maybe the "other things" they move onto is the regular dime a dozen MMO quests. MMOs are different from single player CRPGs. In a CRPG, if there is only one item, that is OK, because there is only one adventurer.

      • by Amouth (879122)

        i agree most will quit looking.. unless the item is so amazing it is worth the time.. then you run into whom ever has it is broken beyond anyones ability to defeat..

        one game i play has a decent balance .. the uniques are rare - very rare.. but if you play enough you are bound to have a chance at one.. sadly the ingame economy sucks because of this..

        either youhave the best posiable and the cost is extreamly crazy or even if it is still damned good but not the very perfect best - it isn't worth much at all..

      • by PFI_Optix (936301)

        Disclaimer: I'm not an MMO player, because I hate grinding.

        The problem of low-level or casual players not being able to attain the really big items can easily be compensated for by creating quests for them that are related to it, quests with their own unique (or semi-unique) rewards.

        Games like WoW don't have the right kind of player base to do something like this, but I could envision a game where a half-dozen high-level guilds all fight to collect a set of relics that will . Those guilds could sponsor, hir

        • Hi, You just described EVE Online. Have fun with that game!
          • by X0563511 (793323)

            it would take a fan base dedicated to playing the game RIGHT

            Sorry, but killing people just for shits doesn't satisfy this condition. Fix that, and EVE may just fit the description.

        • by COMON$ (806135) *
          Exactly, now you may not get the Wow grinding kiddies over, but I am quite certain with the burnout rate of these games, something like this would be fantastic and would attract enough players to generate a nice income. heck just look at games like Kings of Chaos, viral games where recruitment is priority #1. Being part of a game guild that stole the Grail from another guild, or currently holds the most relics is great. Or being hired by a guild to use your rouge skills to become a spy in another guild
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          Things like that already happen somewhat in WoW, when it comes to higher lvls acting as a help to lower lvls. Is a common thing that lower lvls will pay for runs through lower lvl instances by a higher lvl, or paying for them to help in a quest that requires more than one person. Or even paying for enchants, items and craft when you twink a character. There's always interaction between lower and higher levels. When it comes to guilds, I've seen hardcore raiding ones that have lvling guilds at one side, whe
          • by vux984 (928602)

            Things like that already happen somewhat in WoW, when it comes to higher lvls acting as a help to lower lvls.

            Predominantly in stupid pathetic ways.

            Is a common thing that lower lvls will pay for runs through lower lvl instances by a higher lvl, or paying for them to help in a quest that requires more than one person.

            That would be a good example of stupid and pathetic. Do you really think a level 15 player getting a level 70 to 'help' him with an instance is anything but pathetic? Why doesn't he get a group o

        • Those guilds could sponsor, hire, or intimidate other, smaller guilds into fighting proxy wars and doing various other things for them. High level players would replace NPCs as questgivers, offering rewards to lower level players for retrieving various items that those players can't use, but will be useful to higher levels.

          I thought about this sort of thing years ago when Rockstar was talking about making a MMO GTA-- the idea being that a player could work his way up to being a mob boss, hire bodyguards, and decide on his own missions. Then you basically make an economy with limited resources, so that the different mob families are pretty much forced to fight it out. Even if you only limit the amount of land available, you can at least have turf wars.

          And then you could add in the ability to be a spy, to betray your faction

        • by vux984 (928602) on Tuesday September 09, 2008 @03:41PM (#24936537)

          The problem of low-level or casual players not being able to attain the really big items can easily be compensated for by creating quests for them that are related to it, quests with their own unique (or semi-unique) rewards.

          Easily be compensated? Don't be ridiculous. The problem is that you can't easily create anything unique. The entire point of games in terms of economics (ALL GAMES) not just MMOGs, is that you develop a small amount of content to be played hopefully by several hundred thousand or million players.

          To give casual players quests with their own unique or semi-unique rewards would turn that upside down... you'd be writing quests and designing items with the intention that only single or at least a small fraction of the players could use it. Since a given player will only play a small fraction of the quests you have to develop 10s of thousands of quests. Meanwhile the cost to develop your game goes WAY up, while players are PISSed because the quests they had available to them weren't as good as what their fellow players had.

          but I could envision a game where a half-dozen high-level guilds all fight to collect a set of relics that will . Those guilds could sponsor, hire, or intimidate other, smaller guilds into fighting proxy wars and doing various other things for them.

          Oh whee how fun for the casual player that would be! Lets log in and be some one eleses bitch. Lets mule their stuff around, and become their grunts and their farmers. Yeah that's real fulfilling and fun. I know I can't wait to farm 1000 units of tin and 2000 orc scalps and 4000 small stones so that your 'top' guild can build a catapult in its pointless never ending dick waving contest against some other 'top' guild.

          I hate to burst your bubble, but nobody wants to play THAT game except the people at the top, the people who think they can get to the top, and the lunatic fringe whose dream in these games is to run a flower shop, or be a tailor.

          Most "casuals" are exactly like hard core players except for the time invested per week. They want the good items, they want to see the end game. They are frustrated that the progress is stupidly slow (which is designed to keep hard core players from racing through it. They are frustrated that the end-game is blocked to them because you simply have to start scheduling life around the game to participate in raids, and they simply won't or can't do that. But its what they WANT.

          What would casual players REALLY want from an MMO? That the hardcore players somehow weren't in it.

          That way they would be able to be in the top guilds. They would be able to make discoveries. The designers could remove the most egregious of time-sinks because the casuals aren't going to race through it anyway. The designers could do the end game so that it could be played by pick-up groups instead of scheduled guild raids. That they'd get their money's worth since they weren't subsidizing piles of content they'll never be able to see and subsizing the bandwidth hardcore players use.

          I'm not sure HOW to best accomplish this, but that's what casual players really want. They want to play in a world DESIGNED to let them play as casuals, competing and adventuring with other casuals.

          Nobody really wants to be a casual in a hard core game, and suggesting that a hard core game would be 'teh awesome' for casuals if the hard core players could sponsor and intimidate them into doing their menial shit represents a complete and total failure to 'get it'.

          • by genner (694963)

            What would casual players REALLY want from an MMO? That the hardcore players somehow weren't in it.

            That way they would be able to be in the top guilds. They would be able to make discoveries. The designers could remove the most egregious of time-sinks because the casuals aren't going to race through it anyway. The designers could do the end game so that it could be played by pick-up groups instead of scheduled guild raids. That they'd get their money's worth since they weren't subsidizing piles of content they'll never be able to see and subsizing the bandwidth hardcore players use.

            I'm not sure HOW to best accomplish this, but that's what casual players really want. They want to play in a world DESIGNED to let them play as casuals, competing and adventuring with other casuals.

            Thats simple. All you have to do put a limit on how much time a player can spend log'd in. This will never happen though as hardcore gammers tend to be the most loyal and spend the most money. So executives will keep trying to please everyone.

            • by vux984 (928602) on Tuesday September 09, 2008 @04:55PM (#24937545)

              Thats simple. All you have to do put a limit on how much time a player can spend log'd in.

              I've often thought that might be workable. Its actually how the old BBS games used to work, since phone lines were limited, you had to restrict people to a limited set of time just to let people play. It worked very well, and everyone could compete effectively... even if they -gasp- had a job or life.

              This will never happen though

              Agreed. Sadly.

              as hardcore gammers tend to be the most loyal and spend the most money. So executives will keep trying to please everyone

              That is an interesting assumption. I'm not sure its actually true.

              1) Perhaps casuals are less loyal because the games are designed to punish us for being casuals. The ridiculous hard-core time sinks and blocked unaccessible raid-only content, being relagated to scavenging the hardcore leavings from the auction house because that's the most "efficient" way to gear up ... etc... all weighs heavily against us, and ruin the fun, and burns us out and bores us.

              2) Perhaps casuals in a game designed for them, would be every bit as loyal as a hard core, because the challenges and timesinks were appropriate.

              3) Hardcores may spend "more money", but the casuals are more profitable. The guy who logs in 10 hours a month pays the same $15/mo as a hard core, but uses a tiny fraction of the content and bandwidth that a hardcore does. He's also far less likely to raise a massive stink about some perceived class or weapon imbalance he's perceived.

              4) Casuals vastly outnumber the hardcores. I remember reading the statistics for everquest once that they published in a newsletter. The number of active (meaning paid) accounts that were multiple years old that didn't have a character past 50th level or higher was shocking. The number of paid multiple year accounts that didn't have a single character "flagged" or "keyed" for various high level zones was staggering. Something like 95% of accounts had never been to the top end Luclin Zone (Vex Thal), or visited Tier 2 planes in Planes of Power. (They later relaxed the requirements to get in... I'm not sure exactly.) The significant majority of players didn't have their "Epic 1.0" item, and this was at a point, YEARS after they were introduced, but were still considered 'good' to 'very good' for most classes and a desireable status symbol even if you'd gotten something better. (and really only a hardcore had much shot of having something much better in most cases) at the time.

              Overall most of the players had at least one high level player, and spent the vast majority of their time mucking around in the pre-endgame content of the most recent expansion or two.

              Everquest was clearly not designed for the majority of its players. WoW I'm confident isn't either, although I've never seen numbers to back it up.

          • by ShakaUVM (157947)

            I'm not sure HOW to best accomplish this, but that's what casual players really want. They want to play in a world DESIGNED to let them play as casuals, competing and adventuring with other casuals.

            Kingdom of Loathing (150k active users) limits the number of turns you can take. Food and rare/valuable items which can be collected by hardcore(r) players increase your turns per day (up to about triple the normal allocation). Works out pretty well. I like it.

      • by COMON$ (806135) *
        Well the idea being, that there are enough items and holding one affects your entire guild. So rather than a singular quest you get a guild quest where you (like arthur) get a group together to benefit the whole.
      • perhaps you think to much of an item as an object. It could be a Keep as in DAoC. Or why not a whole city?

    • by nine-times (778537) <nine.times@gmail.com> on Tuesday September 09, 2008 @02:24PM (#24935597) Homepage

      The big problem here is that people play these games primarily so that they get to be the hero. If they wanted to be nobodies in a big world of people who are more interested in more important things, then they could just go out into the real world. The aim of MMORPGs, I suspect, is to try to make each player feel like he or she is THE hero in a bigger world.

      Of course, you quickly run into the old paradox: In a world where everyone is special, no one is.

      • by geekoid (135745)

        except in WoW, nobodies a hero. It's all about collecting the lootz...some people it's all about the RP...and lootz.

      • One interesting angle that has not (to my knowledge anyway) been tried yet in MMORPGs would be to combine the extensive crafting and materials system(s) of the Mythic MMORPGs (Dark Age of Camelot [wikipedia.org] and soon Warhammer Online [wikipedia.org]) and the Neverwinter Nights [wikipedia.org] games with the quest system with no preset limited number of 'recipies' (i.e. every potential combination can produce something, but it depends upon the skill of the crafter and the materials available). This would create a great deal more variety in high level
        • One of the problems with choices, is that people don't make them. Does not matter if you have 5 or 5 million, pepople will find the most powerful ones and then choose them.
          • people will find the most powerful ones and then choose them.

            That is part of the fun, but if you have ever played a HERO System [wikipedia.org] campaign then you know that the vast number of possibilities make min/maxing very difficult to do in practice. The great thing about point systems like HERO is that everything, even wildly different types of characters (i.e. the fire mage vs the cybernetic super soldier) balance very well for similar point values because they are all based upon the same underlying skill and power system.

      • "Of course, you quickly run into the old paradox: In a world where everyone is special, no one is."

        I don't know about you but I play games for their interactivity I don't play them to be a "hero" many games have shit heroes and shit stories, but were fun games anyway. We play games to release and have fun.

        Even good games have shit characters, I remember hating almost all the character classes and the art for them in diablo / Diablo 2 but the game played like nobodies business.

      • by AP31R0N (723649)

        Guild Wars had a neat feature that sort of dealt with this. For levels 1 through 7 (or so) you are in Ascalon. When you finish the mainline quests you move on to Ascalon (that's been blasted to hell). Same notional place, but everything is different. You've moved forward in the story.

        It would be tricky, but one idea i had for an MMO would be that as you make choices (real choices) you move into parts of that world's history where others have made the same choice. For instance let the players decide whe

    • I still play WoW, still love doing quests. I specifically didn't touch some zones of Outlands until I had completed all of the quests in other zones first. While "questing" can be annoying, I still enjoy those simple interactions, a NPC drops an item, I turn in a quest to start a long chain. I still enjoy those chains, as evidenced by the fact that I still haven't completed everything in Outlands yet.

      It's the storyline that compels me to complete quests. I learn more about the lore than what I got out
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Darinbob (1142669)

      I think the "dumb" nature of MMO quests are partly what fuels their addictiveness. It's not that they're dumb per se, but that they're very tiny and quick. So the customer is always finishing up a quest and ready for another, with no down time. Everytime you log in, there is something new to do, and you accomplish something before logging off again. Compare to single player computer RPG games. There a quest may take days or weeks to finish. Players have long term goals, and some evenings they may do a

      • When level 60 was still a cap in WoW, the overall quest chain that went from essentially level 1 to level 60 was the Onyxia quest chain. It tied everything together very nicely - though everything in this case meant the human quest lines.

        I don't think that long-term goals is the problem. The problem, as someone else pointed out, is that in a world where everyone's special, no one is. As everyone can do quests, the differentiation comes from gear. Hence the gear grind to become epic.

    • by gknoy (899301)

      I contend that MMOs wont get to this level of questing again until we go back to unique items. Eg the holy grail gaining a faction special privileges like +2 to all skills and only one can be in a realm/server at a time. Then the players can quest over it and battle and gain things that way

      I'd like to contrast this with my experiences recently, playing Oblivion. I've restarted the game, and this time added a few mods that did things like add an archery shop and such. I've noticed that I have a really hard

      • by Jaysyn (203771)

        There is a Bag of Holding mod for Oblivion, its great because it allowed my PC to actually make some money because I can actually sell everything that I pick up.

      • Sure, I'm still too much of a pack rat. (That'll change once I get someplace I can permanently Stash Stuff.)

        That doesn't stop you from being a pack rat. I'm the same way, though. I purchased two homes in that game just for my loot. One of them was highly decorative, the other was just a shack for me to put potentially useful crap.

    • by Dracos (107777)

      Currently, no.

      Literary quests are have an inherently epic scale. The journey is long, the dangers are formidable, and the amount of interaction with the populace for research/clues/guidance is high. Often, the story is the narrative of the quest.

      MMOG's are limited by their premise that 100% of the players represent 1% (at best) of the population of a functioning society: the adventurers or heroes. At best, 1% of the characters in any MMOG (the NPC's) are supposed to represent 99% of the population: farme

      • I don't think the bottleneck is in the graphics. The bottleneck is in the fact that AI on such a grand scale is so difficult to implement and so burdensome on server hardware that it is exorbitantly expensive to implement.

        Once server hardware is powerful enough to, e.g., implement a different genetically generated AI algorithm for each mob, be it townsperson or creature from the black lagoon, and progressively mutate these AIs overtime based on their respective aptitude (ie, monster that has AI that lets hi

        • by Dracos (107777)

          Graphics isn't the bottleneck, and neither is AI. If anything is the bottleneck, as you say, it's hardware, both for servers and home. The same hardware advances that make server AI feasible are the ones that trickle down to home hardware and make penultimate graphics possible.

          Graphics is an easy sell for games, AI isn't. Pretty screenshots on the back of the box are self evident, a dialog box isn't: it can't visually portray the dialog as between the player and a capable AI, rather than the player and a

    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      "You would get small uprisings with people trying to take over the guild and people moving around rouge style stealing items."

      ROGUE. The world is ROGUE. People do not move over the world in the style of a *colour*. I bet you talking about player's "loosing" lives too, don't you?

      Seriously, why has the internet, as a whole, lost the ability to spell the words "rogue" and "lose"?

      (This is horrendously off-topic, and probably flamebait, so posting AC)

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by hellfire (86129)

      While MMOs are not all that new (Ultima online anyone?), the quest part seems to be getting dumber and dumber as the world moves on to better graphics and larger quantities of gear. Grinding seems to be all you do in later games. I was originally a big Baldur's Gate fan, loved the quest line, side quests and customization there.

      I contend that they are getting smarter, but I think your definition of smarter and mine are not the same. Grinding is very very hard to eliminate, because to eliminate grinding, yo

    • While you present a compelling gameplay experience, I feel like it would only work on a certain, rather small scale. If you got a couple hundred people in a game world without much variance in individual interests, sure that would make a great game.

      But take WoW for example. You have servers with tens of thousands of people on them. However, with very few exceptions, you find one guild that completely dominates the rest of the players in most aspects of the game. Now extend this model of a player base
      • by ArsonSmith (13997)

        Multiple paths to glory.

        Right now in WOW there are basically two paths. PvE/endgame raiding and PVP/Arenas and battlegrounds. Both are mildly incompatible, equipment, talent and skill wise. Yet both end in a very satisfying and powerful character in their element.

        Perhaps there should be more to this. Maybe SOLO High level gear that helps me fight by my self but is of little use in a group, raid or pvp setting. Something for casual gamers that don't want to deal with guild raiding and aren't fans of the

    • by edremy (36408)
      We've seen this at least twice in the last year, with Age of Conan and Lord of the Rings Online. AoC pretty much fails after the first few levels due to lack of meat to the story, but LOTRO actually does pretty well by this. LOTRO has the both the advantage and disadvantage of being heavily tied to an existing storyline that can be recited by heart by millions, so the framework exists but you can't change what actually happens. Instead, Turbine has done a really nice job of writing an epic sequence of qu
    • by jythie (914043)

      Take a look at EvE. It has quite a few 'limited' resources that there are only X number in the game and the players has to fight over them. Oh, and many of these items, once destroyed, never come back ^_^

      Now, many of these items just end up hiding in hi-sec hangers and never see the light of day, but others (like valuable moons or other territorial elements) can not be hidden or moved so they represent a constant target for someone else to come in and grab.

    • In WoW there is absolutely no attachment to any NPC in that game unless you went through Warcraft 1,2,and 3.

      I disagree. I have played 2 and 3, but there are some NPCs I've run into in WoW who are meaningful and special, even though they weren't introduced until WoW. Tirion Fordring, Bolvar Fordragon, guys like that.

      WoW lore is an experience where you basically get out what you put in. If you think the game is just a big grind, and approach it with that mindset, never reading quests, etc, you won't get anything from the story. On the other hand, if you invest effort into finding and participating in the story, you

    • by brkello (642429)
      I just think you are the type of person who doesn't like MMOs. There are a million single player RPGs out there that you can enjoy. Having unique items for MMOs is a horrible idea since only the most hardcore will have access to them. That's is only fun for the tiniest fraction of people (even less than the people who can participate in high end game level raiding).

      Everyone has all these ideas on how to make the "best MMO ever" but all these ideas are only thought out superficially and under any little
  • by yurik (160101) on Tuesday September 09, 2008 @02:13PM (#24935431)

    Recently a non-profit group, after 8 years in the making, finally released a remake of the old Sierra game Quest For Glory II - with a point-and-click interface. I was a big fan in the days, so in case anyone interested - http://agdinteractive.com/ [agdinteractive.com]

  • * Quest (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Hatta (162192) on Tuesday September 09, 2008 @02:13PM (#24935435) Journal

    So what does he have to say about King's Quest, Space Quest, Quest for Glory, et al?

  • "Of course, Odysseus was never sent on a quest to kill 12 Cyclopes to collect their eyes for a healing potion." To compare it to WoW, it should read, "Odysseus was never sent on a quest to collect 12 Cyclops, of which only 6% of Cyclops ever had, and thus he would kill about 150 Cyclopes."
    • by Kierthos (225954)

      *nod* I'm not sure which type of quest I hate more... the "bring me 10 goblin livers" type (and honestly, after killing a few goblins and not being to find a suitable liver in the resulting carnage, you'd think I'd just stop attacking them in the liver) or the "do something completely disgusting" like WoW's recent fascination with digging through animal poop.

  • geas vs quest (Score:3, Informative)

    by OglinTatas (710589) on Tuesday September 09, 2008 @02:22PM (#24935577)

    I'm pretty sure I'm getting both connotation and denotation wrong on these, but I had always considered a geas as a goal or task imposed on a person while a quest was a goal that the person has set for himself. For example, in the film Saving Private Ryan, the geas was the order to, well, save Pvt. Ryan. The quest, however, was revealed by Tom Hanks at the mutiny scene, when he declared he was going to reclaim some of his humanity (and the other characters subsequently adopted the quest, implicitly when they ended the mutiny).

    The actual definition of geas I think is a prohibition or obligation imposed upon a person, usually as a curse.

    Didn't RTFA.

    • Dude, you are wyrd [wikipedia.org].
    • 7 geases [eldritchdark.com]

      .

      Therefore we shall put you under that highly urgent and imperative kind of hypnosis which, in the parlance of warlockry, is known as a geas. And, obeying the hypnosis, you will go down to the Cavern of the Archetypes...

  • by ggwood (70369) on Tuesday September 09, 2008 @02:38PM (#24935755) Homepage Journal

    In MMO's you can't change the world in the sense that if you do a quest, say slay Hogger, and it prevents another person from doing the same quest, then the world would need sort of an infinite number of quests. It would be difficult to program. Otherwise it's first come, first kill, first to get the gear, first to advance and prevent others from advancing.

    The best resource for MMO's is the playerbase. Anyone who can harness that creative energy to create content, beta test new content, grade potential new content and vote to put it into the game world will open a new frontier.

    If you put in puzzle quests, someone will post the answer on a spoiler site, and many players will just read the site since they are just interested in advancing.

    How many people actually read the quest text in WoW in detail? Versus how many just skip to the "go here, do this" part? I bet it is at least 10 to one.

    So your design options are limited. Use a renewable resource.

    In single player games, some of the same difficulties exist, but at least your actions can change the world in more meaningful ways: you kill Hogger, he stays dead. Maybe a new farm crops up at his old stomping grounds. Maybe new people come in and have new quests.

    But in an MMO, what if I have the Hogger quest, and now he's gone?

    To be honest, I would not try to overcome that problem. I would try to work on the most pressing MMO problem, repetitive content. Maybe we have to accept the logical inconsistencies of the shared world (we kill Hogger, yet he is still there, we clear out all the Blackborrow Gnolls but they magically reappear).

    But maybe we could have deep instanced content? Then the problem arises, what if I need a group? What if they are not all at the same place I am?

    In conclusion, I think the MMO and single player experiences are so different it would be difficult to say something meaningful to both at once.

    • by paazin (719486)

      In single player games, some of the same difficulties exist, but at least your actions can change the world in more meaningful ways: you kill Hogger, he stays dead. Maybe a new farm crops up at his old stomping grounds. Maybe new people come in and have new quests. But in an MMO, what if I have the Hogger quest, and now he's gone?

      And that's the largest problem with MMOs - not the boring content. The fact that the world doesn't react to any changes that players make is what gives a certain 'pointlessness

      • by SL Baur (19540)

        The fact that the world doesn't react to any changes that players make is what gives a certain 'pointlessness' to the game as the only thing that can change in the world is you

        There is a limited amount of world changing in WoW. The zones in Outlands have zone-wide buffs that depend on certain PvP goals. The town of Halaa in Nagrand (and the merchants there) is only available to the faction which controls it. Capture all the towers in the desert and the Terokkar Forest gains a factional buff for six hours, etc.

        WotLK promises changeable scenery and that sounds pretty cool.

      • The problem is that you can't screw over the new players, even though you want to let the players change the world. So, you're stuck keeping a static world.

        The only workable solution to this problem is to have a world which appears different depending on where in the quest chain you are. WotLK is making steps in this direction, the Death Knight starting quests use this technique. Whether they can make it work in the wider world (instead of a 3-level starter zone for one class) remains to be seen, but it's t

        • by Aladrin (926209)

          I don't see how a changing world is 'screwing over new players' any more than advances in science are screwing over newborns in the real world. If the world is constantly evolving, they will always be part of the current time and have something interesting going on.

          DragonRealms (a MUD) has a long and rich history full of world-shaking changes. New cities that spring up, guild halls that were destroyed and then abandoned, or later rebuilt... Constant changes. For a graphical game, it would be more artwor

    • by Darinbob (1142669)

      If you put in puzzle quests, someone will post the answer on a spoiler site, and many players will just read the site since they are just interested in advancing.

      Yeah, this is a big drawback in an online game. We had that problem in MUDs when I worked on them. Spend ages creating a sequence of puzzles, writing long description, and doing my best to make something entertaining, and then I find an online walkthrough that reads "go w, w, e, n, get paper, s, slide paper under door, n, n, n, open chest, etc".

      With MMOs I think the long term goal oriented quests won't work so well because most players would just go to the web for a strategy guide, or badmouth the game fo

      • by ArsonSmith (13997) on Tuesday September 09, 2008 @06:40PM (#24938917) Journal

        So they should divide quests from tasks. You can have a quest log that has the epic literary quests you are trying to do. Like "save the princess" or "find the holy grail." but then you'd have a task list that would include "bring me 37 clam meats" "kill all the rats in my attic" or "take this message to my brother in ."

        If my boss came to me and said "I have an EPIC QUEST for you to do....Make 20 copies of this memo." It won't make the task any more fun. On the other hand, if my buddy said, "Hey could you run out and stop the gangs from selling crack in LA real quick." It wouldn't really make much sense either.

    • by geekoid (135745)

      But they could create something that once you have killed hogger you can't see him anymore.

      If you kill the big undead guy that makes everything ,look creepy, then once your defeated you don't see him and the area looks changed.

      This also eliminates, mostly, people outside the quest level range from helping you.

      I call this "Rose colored glasses" effect.

    • by Phrogman (80473)

      What you are describing is in part a sandbox game, like for example Star Wars Galaxies in its first incarnation. Yes, it did include quests which were much as you describe and entirely fixed, but it also had usergenerated content in the form of the crafting system, the player cities (which are right on the world map not in some instanced environment), and the world itself was huge in most cases (crossing Tatooine on foot in the original game would take hours and be extremely hazardous, even with vehicles (i

    • by Fozzyuw (950608)

      Actually, LotRO implemented a quest design that helped solve *some* of these issues. What they did is (for the major quests anyways) is instance the quest "room".

      You see, Aragon or Gandolf or whoever are always sitting in a room that's instanced. So, to get the quest, you go into the instance room and only other people on that step of the quest are there.

      Likewise, when doing the quest, you go into an instance. Before you do the quest, the cave might have baddies in it. After doing the quest (to clear ou

    • The only way I can see something like this happening -- and I think it could blow open MMOs -- is having different servers always in different, fluxuating states. This would require thousands, perhaps tens of thousands, of playable servers, and character transfer would have to be seamless and very quick.

      My first though along this line in terms of WoW is a ranking of zone control, from 100% Horde to 100% Alliance. With the sheer number of players and instances, there will always be zones that are roughly
    • by Aladrin (926209)

      "If you put in puzzle quests, someone will post the answer on a spoiler site"

      At least they'll have the choice, then. As it is, there's no puzzles to be had. DragonRealms, a MUD I used to play, has a few really hard puzzle quests that are necessary to get some of the best stuff in the game. I enjoyed figuring some of them out, but I was forced to turn to others for help on some. It was still a LOT more fun than a 'fedex' quest, though.

      "How many people actually read the quest text in WoW in detail?"

      Why wo

  • Run-once quests, as the only available quests, don't work in the context of a multiplayer game. Period. The players will tear through the content faster than you can create it, and will attempt to monopolize your time and effort from that point forward.

    The closest thing that I've seen to real 'quests' in games are one-time, large-scale events like the Hopeslayer running rampant in Asheron's Call, or opening the gates of An'Quiraj in WoW. An argument could be made for large-group events like raids, wherei

    • Unless you aren't the one creating the quests. (Once we have sufficient AI for smart/nonstatic npcs, we'll be at a point where we can potentially generate meaningful, world-changing quests on the fly. And by meaningful quests, I don't mean 'go kill 10 boar.' I mean 'save town/country/etc from impending doom')

      • by Bieeanda (961632)
        Sure, but at that point we'll be worrying about AI breaking the planet down to make matrioshka brains, and not favoring the players that it cybers between GM events.
  • In some old MMOs (Avatar, for instance) quests were integral.

    I like running Ninjas (ok, so I like beaters, so sue me), who get insanely difficult quests, and more of them. The best quests were for impossible items that only studs had and weren't going to give up. Waiting for someone to take pity on you, or perhaps find one and offer it to you before offering it to the studs was a terrible way to waste the Summer of '88. I waited for Wyvern Skin for 6 weeks. And then I paid an outrageous price (gladly)

  • I have a door here I need unlocked. The key I need might be behind a different locked door.

    I've extrapolated the key/lock concept in my head and applied it to many RPGs; this is why I've moved to FPS and challenge puzzle (eg: "Boom Blox") genres.
  • My current favorite quest for any game / any genre is the "haunted hotel" quest in Vampire the Masquerade - Bloodlines. Talk about a spooky-ass quest. They used the Half-life 2 engine to it's fullest potential on that one, shame the game changes from an RPG to an FPS at the end.

  • by Jabbrwokk (1015725) <<grant.j.warkentin> <at> <gmail.com>> on Tuesday September 09, 2008 @02:54PM (#24935921) Homepage Journal
    The book touches on Planescape: Torment, but doesn't really do that game justice. That game was all about finding out who you were/are, and who your companions were/are. There are few games that go outside the standard fetch/carry/kill RPG quests, and that was one of them. There was enough narrative in that game to fill a book. Sometimes I found myself wanting there to be less combat so I could get back to the story.
    • by Darinbob (1142669)

      The book touches on Planescape: Torment, but doesn't really do that game justice.

      One of my favorite games. But there are a lot of people out there who absolutely hated it. It goes against their very core, which is about killing and getting levels and money, not some nerdy story. That sort of game will never translate to an MMO well.

    • by Dan667 (564390)
      Yes, I loved this game too. The side kick skull and other people that joined your group, the tattoo's you collected, all excellent and incorporated into a deep story with questing. Also, the original fallout had a great story. I think this level of game could be done in a MMO, just the right guy has not been on the right job yet.
  • Casting Geas/Quest (Score:3, Informative)

    by Doc Ruby (173196) on Tuesday September 09, 2008 @02:57PM (#24935955) Homepage Journal

    Geas/Quest [systemrefe...uments.org]

    Enchantment (Compulsion) [Language-Dependent, Mind-Affecting]

    Level: Brd 6, Clr 6, Sor/Wiz 6 Casting Time: 10 minutes Target: One living creature Saving Throw: None

    This spell functions similarly to lesser geas [slashdot.org], except that it affects a creature of any HD and allows no saving throw.

    Instead of taking penalties to ability scores (as with lesser geas), the subject takes 3d6 points of damage each day it does not attempt to follow the geas/quest. Additionally, each day it must make a Fortitude saving throw or become sickened [slashdot.org]. These effects end 24 hours after the creature attempts to resume the geas/ quest.

    A remove curse spell ends a geas/quest spell only if its caster level is at least two higher than your caster level. Break enchantment does not end a geas/quest, but limited wish, miracle, and wish do.

    Bards, sorcerers, and wizards usually refer to this spell as geas, while clerics call the same spell quest.

    Geas, Lesser [systemrefe...uments.org]

    Enchantment (Compulsion) [Language-Dependent, Mind-Affecting]

    Level: Brd 3, Sor/Wiz 4 Components: V Casting Time: 1 round Range: Close (25 ft. + 5 ft./2 levels) Target: One living creature with 7 HD or less Duration: One day/level or until discharged (D) Saving Throw: Will negates Spell Resistance: Yes

    A lesser geas places a magical command on a creature to carry out some service or to refrain from some action or course of activity, as desired by you. The creature must have 7 or fewer Hit Dice and be able to understand you. While a geas cannot compel a creature to kill itself or perform acts that would result in certain death, it can cause almost any other course of activity.

    The geased creature must follow the given instructions until the geas is completed, no matter how long it takes.

    If the instructions involve some open-ended task that the recipient cannot complete through his own actions the spell remains in effect for a maximum of one day per caster level. A clever recipient can subvert some instructions:

    If the subject is prevented from obeying the lesser geas for 24 hours, it takes a -2 penalty to each of its ability scores. Each day, another -2 penalty accumulates, up to a total of -8. No ability score can be reduced to less than 1 by this effect. The ability score penalties are removed 24 hours after the subject resumes obeying the lesser geas.

    A lesser geas (and all ability score penalties) can be ended by break enchantment, limited wish, remove curse, miracle, or wish. Dispel magic does not affect a lesser geas.

  • Me likey grindy. OK, here's the deal. I want a game with a large world. Based on reality, as in cityscape, buildings with elevators and stairs, parks, sewer systems, etc. I want a buttload of zombies all over the place. Some slow, some fast, some as players. I want simple tasks: for example, when you start the game or login to a networked server, you get an address book from which you must determine who was your family. Then you must find those houses to determine if they're still human and savable or zomb
    • by Jaysyn (203771)

      This wouldn't be very hard to do in the Unreal Engine & I think there are already some zombie survival worlds like this for NWN using the d20 Modern System.

      • by wuulfgar (703966)
        I don't know anything about nor do I want any 'system'. I just want a large, interactive world for some occasional bouts. Like I do now with Call of Duty 2 (so I'm on a Mac). Fire it up, burn through a quick mission or two blasting away but still having to be careful regarding enemy fire and what not.
        • by Dutch Gun (899105)

          Well, any game you play is going to have some sort of "system" internally. Computers are not so good at understanding abstract, nebulous concepts, such as "a large, interactive world". You need a concrete set of rules to determine how all the various pieces of the world interact. We can't just model reality.

  • by mzs (595629)

    Michael Katz is that you, after all these years!?

  • Bought this with great anticipation a couple of weeks ago. It's boring as hell, a great disappointment.

  • Simple (Score:5, Insightful)

    by geekoid (135745) <dadinportland@@@yahoo...com> on Tuesday September 09, 2008 @03:36PM (#24936451) Homepage Journal

    In epic quest stories, the quest is about what the journey makes the person on it.
    In a game it's about phat loot.

    • by swillden (191260)

      In epic quest stories, the quest is about what the journey makes the person on it. In a game it's about phat loot.

      What you mean leveling up isn't character development?

      I know plenty of kidz who think that playing a 60th-level character makes them inherently better people than someone who's playing a 30th-level character

  • by PotatoFarmer (1250696) on Tuesday September 09, 2008 @04:13PM (#24936963)
    79 comments and not one single mention of shrubberies and/or herrings? What the hell is wrong with you people?
  • It seems to me that the biggest challenge to having meaningful quests in an MMO is the problem of not having enough resources to craft unique, meaningful quests for every player of the game.

    So, why not have players be the quest givers? Each player can give other players a quest and determine the reward for success. More powerful players would be able to give better rewards, and therefore give more demanding tasks.

    This could dovetail nicely with a deep crafting game. In a complex world, each player has a

  • Quests, in their current incarnation in mainstream MMORPGs, seem to be useful mainly for disguising grinding. WoW especially has mastered this art. Sure, a few of them are interesting and novel, but for the most part they're fedex or kill x # of mobs, and on your way to doing that, you'll need to kill some stuff that will daze/dismount you if you don't. Once you're done, you received some XP from the killing, some XP from the quest, some loot, some gold, and maybe an item. Rinse and repeat.

    I just starte

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