Cookie-cutter MMO questing systems.

Posted on February 17, 2011 | 4 minute read

The most common quests I tend to see in MMORPGs are:

  1. Kill x number of y

  2. Collect x number of object z, bring back to NPC a

  3. Go to place b and speak to NPC c

The first two types of quests are by far the ones that annoy me the most. At least going somewhere to speak to someone can actually progress you to a new location (unless the quest tells you to double back to somewhere you’ve already been). Why are we still doing this? Surely developers can get a little more creative. This is an MMO - why not have more quests with other players instead of killing off NPCs? Because really, repeating #1 and #2 over and over for different NPCs is not my idea of a fun way to spend my night.

I’m not saying we should do away with those types of quests altogether. I’m just saying they should not be so common. They should not be a staple of the whole questing system in every. single. MMO. When I think “questing”, I don’t want to automatically think points 1 or 2 above.

Here are some quest ideas. These may very well have already been done and if I remember a similar quest in a game I’ll mention it.

  1. Assassination quests. Instead of getting players to hunt monsters, get them to hunt other players who are also online in that region. Put an even higher reward on players who are on the other side of the world. Maybe an NPC puts a price on someone’s head for doing something it doesn’t like in-game. Or maybe the more highly ranked a player is the more that local rival NPC wants him/her dead. Of course you can’t send everyone after one player, so get the NPC to rank targets and get people to hunt specific ones. Maybe even let the targets know that they are now being hunted. I believe EVE has something like this, where corporations can get assassins to hunt people down. This is an awesome idea! Why not employ it for more MMOs?

  2. Thieving quests. Steal a particular item from another player (in combat or by stealth).

  3. Crafting quests. Whether it be armour smithing, outfitting, potion making, or another craft - why not a quest to craft an item of your specialty? But not just “Make this” and you’re done. Rather, the greater the quality of work, the greater the reward. Maybe you have a certain number of tries to revise your item and present a new version for review to the NPC.

  4. Knowledge quests. Say you’re a herbalist. The quest can be to search out and/or catalogue certain plants. But wait, you can’t just open a handy online guide listing all plants, because the different types of plants found in the world have ten different models. For example, a particular herb may look a certain way when it’s just a seedling and a totally different way when it’s in bloom. There is a time limit on each cataloguing “question” (I’m imagining a GUI where the NPC asks you to identify a certain type of plant by name or image). Maybe you have ten seconds to answer correctly.

But gasp Liza, this requires actual memorisation! In real life! Yes, my friend, it does. And I can assure you that I, personally, would rather spend time learning about my chosen craft - something that can actually help me when out collecting herbs outside of the quest - rather than running around killing twenty harpies for their feathers over and over again.

Make quests more player dependent

I think there should be more player interaction in quests. Not just partying up to kill some monsters, but having other players be actively involved in the storyline and action of that quest. I know that this can be a problem if there are no players around in a particular region, but come on - we’re talking about MMOs here. The whole point is for it to be a social thing. Perhaps there can be a player number threshold for each region. When the number of players in that area drops below this threshold, more NPC-reliant quests come up.

I just think the possibilities for more creative, more fun quests are endless. Why are MMO developers still holding on to this outdated, boring cookie-cutter quest template?

What do you think?

Do you wish developers would get off their butts and create new questing systems? Or do you actually enjoy the “kill x number of y” quest template? Do you have an awesome quest idea?




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