Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The End of Side Quests?

There was a surprising tidbit on MMO-Champion yesterday:
  • The Jade Forest quests had a very clear story, but it also had a lot of side quests that could bog you down.
  • In Warlords of Draenor, your map will show you where to go to continue the main storyline, along with the locations of bonus objectives.
  • The bonus objectives no longer have any story text that go with them, just a list of objectives. Now when there is quest text, you will know that it is really worth reading.
I am more surprised and dismayed by this than anything else I've seen about WoD.

I know a lot of people skip quest text, but aren't there a fair number of us who don't? Back when it was still an option, I used to turn scrolling quest text back on when leveling so I could focus on the story.

I am not really thrilled with this decision. In fact, I thought a major complaint about Cataclysm was the extreme linearity of the zones. A single main storyline sounds like it will be even more linear than Cataclysm was.

I also liked side-quest stories because they would often give different perspectives on the situation. Maybe the three quest givers would send you to the same place, but each had different priorities. Now there will always be one quest and one priority.

What I find is that this lacks context, lacks those small stories that weave together. For example, in Elwynn Forest in WoW, I really enjoy the Young Lovers questline. It's nothing amazing, you take a note from Maybell Maclure to Tommy Joe Stonefield, get Grandma Stonefield to direct you to her old suitor, the alchemist William Pestle, kill some mulocs for ingredients for an invisibility potion, and give the potion to Maybell so she can elope. Nothing amazing, just a short little story. But I guess I'm a romantic at heart, so I always enjoy doing that questline. 
The thing is that, so far, the hearts in GW2 really lack that. They're just a bar on the screen to be filled with repetitive tasks. And the tasks don't really build on each other to form a story, except in the vaguest, most general sense. (There are bandits attacking the farm. You kill the bandits. The farm is saved.) It's also very UI-driven. At least normal questing has a semblance of interacting with the people in the world. 
Now, in the end, maybe normal questing is just the same. That the stories of side quests are just an illusion, a fig leaf over reality, and it's all about filling up many smaller bars instead of one bigger bar. But it turns out that I like--and maybe even need--that illusion. 
GW2 Hearts are quests for people who think that skipping through instant quest text is too much work.

Now WoW decides to follow in those footsteps. Apparently quests in WoD are quests for people who think that skipping through instant quest text is too much work.


  1. First off, I'm a text skipper. I'll read the main story stuff, but ignore the legions of "go here and kill ten rats" garbage.

    The second thing is that I too dislike the way GW2 handles this. It's an endless grind of kill ten rats to fill the bar for your bonus xp. In fact, I'd say that I care less about the NPCs there than the side quest givers in WoW.

    To me, however, I think this change will be a giant net positive. There will still be plenty of quests with text and lore and story. I presume that we will even have things somewhat comparable to that quest from Elwynn. What we won't have are all of the kill ten rats quests with copy pasted text, and maybe a changed name and location.

  2. Sounds like Carnage quests in Rift. No text to tell you to kill 10 rats, just the marker on the map to show you where to find them. I'd say it's not a change for the worse.

    But I'm not happy to get even more linear zones. I wonder if this change is due to players' feedback, or is this another one of devs' funky ideas (I'm looking at you, MoP daily quests + faction VP gear combo).

  3. I was a quest reader most of the time. I look forward to most the story of a game. However, I often found that wow story lines were a let down. To be sure, there were some great areas and quests. A lot of the quest lines felt very juvenile at times. Not a lot of complexity... most of em were a bad guy that needs to be stopped or a good guy (who is now bad) and needs to be stopped. To me Northrend quests were great especially everything surrounding Ulduar. As much as loved WoW, most of it wasn't up to that standard.

    This change doesn't sound good to me. It seems more suited to a game like Diablo where they only point is to kill baddies and get loot. The cut scenes are cool but the story doesn't matter, you just want to find more stuff to kill.

  4. Seems that Blizz is cutting corners rather than being innovative. Or perhaps they're setting things up so that you can quickly get to max level with a minimum of fuss.

  5. In Wildstar, your quests are delinated between "Quests" and "Tasks". Quests are story based. You have a main thread through the zone and several side quests. Tasks are your kill 10 rats kind of thing. They generally ar given to you via your radio.

    Wildstar also introduces Challenges which are timed versions of the kill 10 rats.

    I do like delinating the main questl line. In Wildstar, its difficult to figure out which is the main quest line and which is a side quest.

  6. I kind of like this.

    'Kill 10 rats' quest text was always unconvincing, an attempt to give some sort of story justification for performing these random menial tasks.

    I loved the flow of the zones in Mists. It really worked for me. It was by far the best questing experience I've had in WoW.

    When levelling characters I dread hitting level 60 and having to drag my self through TBC, Wrath (to a lesser extent, I did quite like Wrath for questing - it had the best Daily quests too - never got bored of killing scarlets at onslaught harbour) and Cata.

    And in WoD we are also going to have stuff that pops up at random like in world events that happen in Diablo. So even with the storyline directing your flow through a zone, it's likely each play thorugh will have some differences to it.

    I think this will help keep the main storyline defined and tied together. You'll know where to go, but you still aren't forced to go that way - you can still trail off looking for other stuff too.

  7. Expanding on Ted's post above: Also in Wildstar, if you bring up the quest in your mission log you get a summary version of the task or quest. The more important quests (or ones that are difficult) have a tab you can hit for Addition Information. This often gives you more detail about the mission and sometimes background on the elements involved.

    I think this is a neat idea. Here's what you need to know, want more well here ya go!

  8. To be honest, as someone who primarily quests in WoW, I'm a little concerned too, but this definitely feels like something that needs to actually be played and experienced before I can really draw any conclusions about how it will play out.

  9. The impression I got from the "announcement" was more that they're taking a page from TOR.

    It doesn't sound like it's affecting things that have a "story", just cutting out the middle man when it comes to the fact that in order to give you sufficient XP, they give you 5 quests for one area and 4 of them are just "Oh, while you're there..."

  10. That sounds odd indeed. I think other games like SWTOR have shown that there is absolutely room for bonus quests with no story attached to them as something extra to do, but the way it's advertised here is strange because it sounds like 1) they are taking something away (proper side quests) instead of adding something new to the game, and 2) they cite the freedom to go anywhere in Jade Forest as a bad example which does indeed hint at a return to more linear Cataclysm-style storylines. Sounds like a case of "wait and see" indeed.

  11. I know this is a slightly old post. One of the problems I had in Mists was that they said that we could do or not do any quest chains we liked. So as soon as I hit the level 88, I skipped all the rest of Kun-Lai Steppes, because I hated the yellow colour scheme. After getting to level 90, I was mucking around in Orgrimmar, with no idea that there was a 'Pandaria' city with rep vendors with heaps of end game stuff you needed. Had to be told by my guild leader that I needed to go back to Kun-Lai Steppes to unlock the city (WTF). I literally skipped the main thing that you don't want to skip, because they said you could skip anything.