What I should have read a few years ago.

Posted on April 19, 2012 | 3 minute read

A while ago I wrote this, which summarised my frustration with cookie cutter quests in MMORPGs. Later I mentioned here that playing SWTOR and seeing how they tied an interesting storyline with traditional quest mechanics made it more enjoyable while reiterating that while I don’t think traditional quests need to be eliminated completely and can be made fun, quests still need to evolve.

And then today I read this. And I thought “Why didn’t I see this before? I could have just linked there instead of writing my own rant.”

Because it turns out Jeff Strain summarised my views on MMOs perfectly and much more eloquently than I could all the way back in 2007. Especially this:

Don’t force your players to endure play mechanics they experienced ten years ago. The much-maligned FedEx quest is a classic example of an old-school mechanic that is still manifesting in modern games. Even if you have the best intentions at the beginning of the project to avoid FedEx quests, you will often be stymied by the fact that the FedEx quest is a manifestation of the traditional MMO RPG design, and you can’t change the symptom if you are not willing to address the cause. The traditional MMO world is a steady-state machine, much like an episode of the classic Star Trek television series, in which characters, equipment, and the state of the universe had to be reset be the end of the episode. While this design certainly allows for content to be scalable – fetch 20 pig hides, fetch 40 pig hides, kill 10 rats, kill the rat queen – it doesn’t allow players to be part of an epic quest, or feel like their actions have a material impact on the world around them. Ten years ago, players were willing to accept this in order to enjoy the benefits of the communal play, but today they expect more.”

(Emphasis mine)

So yes. That. That is how I feel about MMO quests right now. I just want to make them better. Whether that’s through sugarcoating them with a cool storyline like SWTOR at first or re-evaluating how we look at MMO quests completely (preferrably both), they need to be better. I think that this - coupled with the standard level grind mindset that we’ve come to expect from MMOs (and I think the two are very much related) - is what is killing them. Because let’s face it: MMOs are dying. And I don’t mean as a genre, I mean individual MMOs - the attempts to release something that sticks within the genre. There’s so much potential, but people are still stuck in trying to make the next WoW.

And at this stage it’s obvious. People know this is a problem, and yet they keep doing this anyway as if you can make those tired old mechanics better than the dozens of other games that came before you and thought the same thing (and failed). I think developers understand this. It’s publishers that are sinking millions of dollars into these games, so risking it all to completely turn the concept of an MMO upside down (at least some aspects of it) is understandably worrying. I’m not sure how many dead ends it will take to show publishers that it’s time to take that risk because the current path is not the right one. It just really fricking sucks to see all these games fizzle out. It sucks a lot.




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