Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Public Quests

Let's discuss Public Quests. First, let us start by defining what exactly a Public Quest is.

A Public Quest is:
  1. In the game world. It is not instanced content.

  2. Requires multiple players to defeat. It's generally group content, not solo content.

  3. Repeatable. A player who completes the event once can do it again the next time it starts.

  4. Requires a minimal relationship between players participating in it. You don't need to be in the same guild, group, raid, or perhaps even faction to participate.

  5. Has some direction from the game. Either a questgiver or UI element directs the event. A random wandering monster, even if it meets the other criteria, is not a Public Quest. A quest to go kill that random wandering monster, on the other hand, is a Public Quest if it meets the other criteria.

So you can see that Public Quests are essentially ad hoc, repeatable group content aimed at the players in the immediate vicinity of the event. The idea is that these players would stop what they are doing, from an impromptu group, complete the Public Quest, and then return to what they are doing.

From this definition, we can immediately see three major issues with Public Quests.

First, the PQ relies on players in the immediate vicinity. If not enough players are around, maybe because it's late at night, or out of the way, then the Public Quest can't be completed successfully.

Second, the PQ also relies on players to stop what they are doing and switch to the PQ. The players might prefer to ignore the PQ. Maybe they don't think the rewards are worthwhile. Maybe they want to work on this quest right now. Maybe they'll do the Public Quest in a few minutes when it restarts. Maybe they've already done it once, and don't want to repeat themselves.

I know that in RIFT, I'd close a rift, then ride by 10 minutes later and see a new rift in the same spot. Rather than wanting to participate again, my thoughts would be more along the lines of, "I've already done this, no need to do it again."

Third, because the content is ad hoc, and the relationship between the participants is tenuous, you can't make the PQ require too much from the players. There might not be a tank, there might not be a healer, there might not be someone who can crowd control. You can't guarantee that the players will be in the same group.

The best implementation of Public Quests I've seen comes from RIFT. But it's not the normal rifts that dot the landscape. Rather it is the Rift Zone Events.

The Zone Events are rare, occurring every two hours or so. That's a lot of incentive to participate in one when it happens, because you might only see that one in your play session. Rather than saying, "I'll finish this quest, I can always do another rift after," it becomes easier to say "I'll do this Event now, there might not be another chance later, and I can always finish the quest when this is done."

The rewards are high, commensurate with the rarity. As well, the "vicinity" of a Zone Event is the entire zone, so the event draws from the widest possible pool of players (for non-instanced content, at least).

If I was designing a Public Quest system, I would model it after Zone Events in RIFT. They would occur infrequently and would be broadcast to the entire zone. Only one event would active at a time, and it would be different than the last event that occurred, to increase the novelty factor. It wouldn't necessarily need to involve the entire zone, just make the entire zone aware of it, and give players enough time to travel to the right spot, with UI support to tell them where the "right spot" is, of course.


  1. By that definition, killing Problim in Tol Barad is a public quest too?

  2. In my opinion a good game should focus on the journey of your character and not the impact you have on the world. Because in a world with millions of other heroes you won't have a meaningful impact.

    Those are the enjoyable quests, where you help a lone elf at the end of the world to find her father or something like that. Not the stupid story element where you cleanse the world of all evil with 9 friends, like millions of other people...

    That's why I think public quests can't work. You won't be able to create enough meaningful lore relevant to the journey of your character for all those public quests. Public quests will just be repeating elements without a meaningful impact on the journey of your character. It's just a treadmill you do again and again and will be as much fun as a WoW daily after the fifth day...

  3. I liked the PQ in rift for a while until I realised they have no greater world impact and they only seem to appear when the zone population is enough to defeat them. (only rifted up to lvl20ish)

    Basically they exist for the benefit of pcs rather than pcs assisting in some greater world issue.

    If not enough players are around some specific places ought to be overrun by the enemy.

    also since rifts are waves, subsequent waves should adapt to the number of players present. I liked soloing rifts. but then a few people would turn up and it'd stop being a challenge.

    ffxi has pq in the form of "campaign battle" in a whole bunch of specific zones.
    Battles occur over these zones constantly between good npcs and bad npcs. The more players assist the more territory the good npcs gain over the course of a week.
    The are some benefits to good npcs owning territory. Without much assistance, the good guys struggle to hold on to few territories. They fall into a cycle of gaining ground then loosing it.

    The mechanics are complex enough that in years no one really knows how it precisely works.

    There's no reason why PQ in rift couldn't be more complex.

  4. Nice post. However, I would not say that every 2 hours is "rare". I would say that is frequent. And potentially annoying.

  5. @Shintar, in some ways Problim is very close to a public quest. But I would say that it fails the repeatability requirement. If a player kills Problim and finishes the quest, they can't repeat the quest the next time Problim spawns. They can only do it again the next day.

  6. I agree that the zone wide events are one of the best things in RIFT. I always find myself dropping what I'm doing to participate in them when they happen. I do wish they offered a bit more in terms of variety though. Right now most of them simply consist of "defend X outposts, defeat Y invasions, close Z rifts." There are supposed to be more elaborate invasions with different goals, but I think Trion is having a hard time getting them to "fire" because of the game metrics and player populations.

  7. I agree that Rift has done it the best so far. Warhammer had a great system, but there were just too many of them and they restarted too quickly. Rift's system is nice, but the rifts start to get repetitive pretty quickly. They also feel separate from the game, like little bonus easter eggs that spawn giving you free loot. In WAR the PQs were a big part of the story in each zone.

    I wish the zone events in Rift were more than just an "oh crap, big boss invasion coming." In Stillmoore you could have a zone event with undead coming out of the citadel and attacking the camp, or spawning in the crater. In Freemarch you could tie in with the Iron Fortress and the Jakob lore.

    Rift also did a good job with the reward system. Everyone who helps gets something, and you don't feel like you're competing against other players for loot. In WAR you just tried to game the contribution to get as much of a bonus roll as possible, but even if you were #1 you could roll low and get left with nothing.

    I wish WoW would re-implement world bosses as PQs. Have a few "trash phases" that, when completed, would spawn the boss. Each trash phase would award everyone Justice/Valor points and the boss would reward a random BoP blue with a chance for an epic (similar to how the low level LFD reward is a BoP blue.) They could make them easier 5-man bosses in low level zones, like a "Hogger invades Goldshire!" PQ.

  8. The problem I see with these types of things is the scale. If they are easy enough to not worry about specific population to be available to assist, then most people will just end up soloing it anyway. I cannot think of the last time I didn't just solo most group quests anyway, it's faster and provides more satisfaction if it truly ends up being a challenging fight.

    Since there's zero reason for me to interact with anyone, then I wonder what is the real benefit? If we're not interacting with each other anyway, what difference does it make to me if the assist comes from another unspoken player or a game NPC?