Thursday, January 17, 2008

Adventuring is Hard: Part 3

You almost never do proper quests in RPGs. Quests, as defined by an online dictionary are ‘an adventurous expedition undertaken by a knight or knights to secure or achieve something: the quest of the Holy Grail.’

Killing 12 Vapid Rats is not a quest. Neither is escorting some brain-dead moron who attacks everything in sight out of a dungeon (that’s more of a trial aka ‘pain-in-the-butt’). These are really just Tasks, which are appetizers to the feast that is a real quest.

Tasks tend to be weirdly number intensive. Somebody lost an eye to a Frosted Bat and now he wants you to kill twenty of them. Is that the going rate for an eye? What would a hand be worth? Fifty? It just all seems rather arbitrary.

Real quests are things like taking the One Ring to Mount Doom, defeating the Evil that has Enveloped the World, or even Cleaning my Bathroom. Hint: you can tell ‘real’ quests by the number of words being capitalized.

Understandably, RPGs are limited in their scope. The Baldur’s Gate series has an actual quest as the overarching plot. The old Betrayal at Krondor game also had one (fun game, hard though). I’m sure that many others also have them. MMORPGS are a bit different, as not everybody can throw the One Ring into the fires from whence it was forged. They’d have to queue up on Mount Doom to throw the rings in. Orcs would set up souvenir stands and sell 9-fingered gloves. “I destroyed the One Ring and all I got was this lousy t-shirt.”

It’s all rather silly, once you stand back and take a look at it. This doesn’t keep me from playing though :)

And here’s one last look at Garin and Co. before we go.

“So, what’s Garin doing now?”

“Killing Murderous Mud Mammals.”

“Okay. Why?”

“Oh, some guy will give him three gold if he brings him twenty Murderous Mud Mammal Molars.”

“You’re kidding.”

“Nope. Oh, and some other guy thinks that a Murderous Mud Mammal may have mauled his mother’s magic maple margarine minder. He’ll give him 8 gold and a sword if Garin finds all the pieces.”

“That’s silly.”

“Nope, that’s 11 gold and a new sword.”

“Can I do it too?”



Liljenborg said...

Real quests: finding the lost City, bringing back the Holy Grail, destroying the Ring of Power; are huge, world changing events. MMORPGs are inherently prevented from allowing huge world changing events because there are 1000s of other people playing the game with you. If you actually defeat the boss of the dungeon, rescue the king, or reunite the long lost lovers, nobody else will get to.

This severely handicaps MMORPGs in the story department. Even in games with a fairly rich story, your character cannot be a main character in the story, you can only discover the stories of NPCs and assume relatively minor roles in them, so that all the other players can do it too.

MMORPGs must maintain a static world because you have characters spanning the range of levels from noobs to old hands, you have players that play hours every day, and players who only put in a couple hours on the weekend. So you can never wipe out the gnome infestation on Farmer Browns farm, because there's always some low lvl players who need quests.

That's why more and more MMORPGs are shifting focus toward PVP and GVG play. Which faction controls which dungeons or towns can change because that doesn't actually change the dungeon or the town.

I've played a few, and they're fun for a little while - while you explore the world. Then they turn into a pointless grind, where you're only playing to try and get your player up to the next level, or learn the next skill, or make another pile of gold, so that you can improve your gear and get to the next level more easily. Ultimately the only real attraction to MMORPGs is the other people you can meet.

Personally, I'd rather pull out my old single player RPGs, like Fantasy Star or Septerra Core. At least you feel like you've accomplished something when you've finished a quest, because you've actually affected the world.

Trich said...

While that is true of most MMORPGs you gotta admit that at least WoW did try for 1 grand quest, if you were playing when AQ was opened it was an epic world event. Both Horde and Aliance had to work together to get certain items to supply the war effort and guilds raced to get one of their members along the quest chain to be the one to open the gates and be able to ride the Qiraji bug. Many were the server crashes with everyone that could make it standing outside the gates on Malygos when Aeria raised the scepter to strike the gong and release the hordes from Ahn Qiraj. I remember it well and fondly, as well as cursing my guild for publicly announcing when we would be opening the gates, I was on dial up at the time O.o

Jason Janicki said...

I completely agree with you Lilijenborg. MMOs are inherently limited in their story-telling capacity (and for good reason). I have always wanted to build a MSORPG, a Massively Single-Player Online RPG. The idea is that you could play in an ever evolving game world where you did all the cool things like destroy the Ring at Mt. Doom. Obviously, it would have to be single player, but you could include an arena-style/inn type environment so people could get together and fight/chat as they wished.

Now THAT sounds cool Trich. They did have a few world events in EQ, such as awakening the Sleeper, but you never even got close to one unless you were in an uber guild.