Stropp's World

Games And Gamery

Recommendations: Here’s A Thought

Posted by Stropp on October 6, 2011

Nice little quote of the day at Biobreak.

I wish the thousands of factions and villages I’ve helped in the past would forward a letter of recommendation to the ones I’ve yet to visit.

Here’s a thought. If a hero has built up a formidable reputation why don’t the villages with problems come and seek the hero out?

Rather than wandering the world anonymously like Kung Fu, or Bruce Banner, and then proving his worth time after time, wouldn’t a heros fame spread across the world in such a way that people come to him to solve their problems.

Kinda makes more sense than some random NPC standing in front of their house fretting about their rodent problem. Wouldn’t they at least look for an exterminator?


Quests, Good Or Bad. I Vote Good.

Posted by Stropp on May 13, 2011

The question of the day. Quests, are they good or bad.

Wolfshead thinks quest are the worst thing to ever have been added to the MMORPG experience, and wants to remove them from the MMORPG experience. I kinda think he hates them because the current flavor is the smooth creamy WoW flavor. But he does have a couple of good points in his article. Quests can certainly hurt socialisation as players hurry to carry them out at the expense of interacting with other players. Quests can also make what should be a virtual world experience in to a far more of a linear affair, making the experience an on-rails ride.

But, a game without quests? What does that mean?

Well, if we are talking about a typical progression based MMORPG, then we revert to the heady days of yester-year where the only way to advance was to grind out several million NPCs.

In that sense the humble quest has been something of a godsend. Even though we now have the quest grind, I think I like it better than finding a spot to camp, and then grind out mobs for hours on end until the ding. Then finding a new spot and repeating until max level. At least quests offer a reason for going to a location, and for knocking off those ten rats. Old Lady Knickerbocker doesn’t care for rats in her basement don’t you know? Or is that bats in her belfry?

Where I think the quest has gone wrong is that it has been overused, and used in a way that makes it the sole means of progression. You do quests until you get to the level cap, and then do your dailies and raid. Quests are simply used to get a player to the level cap quickly with the distraction of a story.

I also think that quests are used to denote activities that are hardly questlike. When I think of a quest, I think of Frodo and the Ring. I think of Luke trying to escape a boring existence and falling into a great destiny. I think of Decker and the Replicants. I think of meaningful stories, not the killing of some of the local wildlife, or helping a Hobbit deliver the mail. Those are tasks, not quests.

But named correctly, or not, I think what we have now is better than before. What would be better still, would be to have more variety in what activities we can do in MMORPGs, but that also applies to the exclusive combat nature of the current crop of MMORPGS (EQ2 and ATITD not withstanding.)  Perhaps it would be better to re-evaluate and rejig the quest model, but throwing the quest-baby out with the bathwater?

Rather than doing away with quests, lets thin them out by adding more to do.


Reuniting Meaning and Mentality

Posted by Stropp on February 16, 2010

Evizaer at That’s a Terrible Idea has just written an article called Gameplay is not Grinding in which he explains that it’s not simply a set of repetitive actions in a game that constitutes a grind. Evizaer states that a grind is present when the mental process of play becomes separated from the game’s meaning.

It’s an interesting thought for me because when I was writing my Is It Time To Make Levelling Hard Again? article my primary concern was with the difficulty of keeping the grind out of a game while extending the time it took to get to the level cap. If we forget about non-levelling style games for the moment, it almost seems to be a set of mutually exclusive ideals to either minimise grinding or to extend the time to the cap.

But Evizaer might just have the answer.

If what we call grinding is simply a separation of a players mental process from the games meaning, then perhaps reuniting the two might minimise the grind while at the same time allowing a slower pace through the game. Let me explain a couple of things.

First, what I think Evizaer is getting at here is the concept of meta-gaming, or in MMORPG terms min-maxing. If all a player is interested in is getting to the end-game with the most powerful character possible, in order to be accepted into the end-game content (raids, PvP, or whatever.) Then that player will stop being interested in the meaning of the game and will start only doing the things that will help achieve this goal. Quests now stop being entertaining stories to play through and become a more efficient way to get experience. The relevance of a quest falls soley in to how it helps the player get to the end-game.

We see this in the World of Warcraft guides that recommend the fastest way to get to the level cap is to not do Instances because the XP per hour is less than grinding quests. The fastest way to the top is to forgo the less efficient content. I’ve been guilty of this myself when I’ve just dumped gray quests because the rewards, both XP and loot, are not worth the time.

The problem often is exacerbated by the quests themselves being highly repetitive. The kill X monsters quests are especially bad for this because they don’t offer a story, or really any meaning. These quests are really just an excuse for the eco-system in the area, or as filler content to help the player get out of an area. Developer 1: “Hey look, I’ve just filled this area with a bunch of skeletons.” Developer 2: “Hmm. I’d better write a quest then.”

Quests are presented solely as a way to advance, not as ends to themselves.

So where does that leave us?

Perhaps one of the solutions to the grind is to give the player a reason, aside from just increasing the character stats, to interact with the content. What if doing that quest doesn’t give you any experience but opens up a possibility to advance your character in another way? What if the reward offers the choice of a new skill, or perhaps even opens up a new area in the game? What if heading into that dungeon and finding a magic sword opens up a whole series of events that would allow you to enjoy a terrific story?

Would that be enough to reunite a games meaning with the player and eliminate the grind?

BTW, notice I said ‘interact’ there, not ‘kill.’ But that’s for another post.

Dragon Age Time Tip

Posted by Stropp on November 8, 2009

Warning: This has some slight spoilage ahead, but not too much. I won’t be giving away storyline.

There are at least some quests in Dragon Age: Origins that have an element of time criticality, and I’m not all at sure if ‘some’ should read as ‘all’ since I’ve only done about 15% of the game after nearly 15 hours on this one character. It may be too soon to be conclusive about that.

Now for the spoilage.

The first village I came to offers a quest to deliver notices of conscription to three individuals scattered about the kingdom. I’m not sure if the quest indicated a timed element, but I instead went off and did two of the premium downloadable content quests before I went to Redcliffe and (as part of my other activities) delivered one of the notices. I then saved the village… hurrah! Checked my journal and noticed the quest was missing.

It turned out the Blight was on the move and had overrun the village I received the quest from. That was something I wasn’t aware of. It may be that completing the major parts of the Blight quests advance the Blight across the map, in which case it’s a good idea to do side quests when they are received rather than let them pile up and do other quests first.

If only I hadn’t dilly dallied.

Although, in keeping with the game play aspects of making choices that matter in Dragon Age: Origins, it may be that whatever I do in one direction, the big bad will affect something else.

Tis something to keep in mind for the other quests.