Monday, November 05, 2007

Minor MMO Idea #4: Meaningful Quest Text

One of the common occurrences in online, quest-based games, and WoW especially, is the fact that veteran players tend to skip reading the quest text, instead simply focusing on the pertinent parts, ie, who do I kill and what rewards do I get! I find myself even doing this with new quests that I haven't seen before. Just a quick skim to see who needs to be eviscerated and where they live and what my phat loot will be when I return with a bloody head as a trophy.

But why does this happen? Why is some quest designer's hard work ignored? Well, because its mostly just fluff! The details of the quest text have little to no impact on your character and oftentimes, don't even correspond to gameworld events!

A prime example is one of the early Blood Elf quests in WoW which is designed to teach you how to use the special racial abilities. It's called Thirst Unending.

Part of the quest text reads:

"If there is only one lesson you deign to remember from your time on Sunstrider Isle, let it be this - control your thirst for magic. It is a thirst unending, - you must absorb energy to survive via Mana Tap, and you must control how you release it via Arcane Torrent. Failure is to become one of the Wretched... hopelessly addicted and insane."

But is any of this true? Not at all! I can spend my entire WoW lifetime without ever using Mana Tap a single time. And if I do use it, I can release it whenever I want. There is no side-effect. I don't have to ever worry about becoming "one of the Wretched". All of the quest text above, while suitably ominous, is completely irrelevant to any actual in-game occurrence.

So why would should I want to read fluffy quest text that isn't even consistent with the virtual world. If it gave me some new insight into the land, that would be something. But, as it is, I, like most other players, simply scan for location, required objectives and the available rewards. Anything further is just a waste of time.

And this reminds me of Shadowbane. During development Shadowbane hired a writer to create incredibly engaging and detailed lore for the background of the game. But, when it came to actual gameplay, the lore was nowhere to be seen. This was a disappointment to a lot of players and left the game feeling extremely shallow (which it was).

It's kind of like the whole anti-drug propaganda that talks about the evils of marijuana. I bought into it when I was young. But then I met people who smoked casually, and I tried it myself, only to discover that all of those crazy tales my PE teachers related to me (why we were taught about drugs by the PE teachers I have no idea) were completely false! If you want to tell me about the dangers of inhaling super-heated smoke into your lungs, or the propensity for glassy-eyed TV viewing while under the influence, then I can accept that. But marijuana stories about friends trying to crack open car-sized rocks with their heads is just ludicrous. Are we still buying into Reefer Madness? But I digress.

My point is, if you're going to go to the trouble of creating interesting lore or NPC speech, tie it to your gameworld!


Alex Taldren said...

Irrelevant quest text is definitely a huge problem that needs to be addressed in upcoming titles. I've tossed around some ideas about it on my blog.

free mmorpg said...

nice post