From official forums: http://eu.battle.net/wow/en/forum/topic/6443804404
Quests in MMORPG’s have been the main way of conveying the lore and the storyline to a player. There are some key aspects to quest design that are experienced by the player; a) system or method b) lore. The actual design is far more complex than this, but I will be focusing on these two today, since they affect gameplay experience directly.Disclaimer: This is not a suggestion thread. I don’t expect Blizzard to do what I wish. These are simply my observations. Please do join and share your ideas with the community. I’m wondering how other people feel on this subject.
The system is how the quest is carried out by the player. It can require you to kill X amount of mobs, help communicate between NPC’s, bring back or find items. This is the most basic method of doing quests, and arguably the easiest to apply to a game.
As a game progresses (WoW in this case), so does the development team and the available technology. With the introduction of The Burning Crusade, few new questing methods have been introduced. Notable ones are bombing quests, using turrets to AoE many creatures and so on. They have received great positive comment from the general public, because it had broken the linear quest progression of ‘Kill X monsters’. Arguably, these quests require more planning and are somewhat more challenging to apply to a game.
Naturally, these kind of ‘fun’ elements needed to applied to multiple zones and quests for them to be completed as much as possible, also sparse enough to remain fun in order to not bore the player. I think Blizzard has learned a great deal when they continued designing quests.
In terms of questing, the game has developed a lot when compared to the original release. We had in-game cinematics with Wotlk, new quest methods that pushed the boundaries of what is available at the time. With Cataclysm, phasing technology was used extensively, and with MoP a combination of all the aforementioned methodologies can be seen to be used very successfully. There’s little doubt that questing system has evolved through the time.
This brings me to the essence of my argument, the quest lore. While quest systematic has evolved throughout the time, the way that lore is conveyed to us has remained comparably very simple. We still have a great deal of texts that tell us the story. And it is my belief that in today’s gaming world, using text as the main medium of communication is somewhat outdated.
With the advances in gaming technologies, we as gamers seek more and more action in the games we play. The changing times require us to pay less and less attention to reading, and more attention to doing stuff; basically killing creatures. Whether this is beneficial to our literary needs may be a discussion for another topic, however, my main concern is that lagging behind on this matter may prove to be a risky one.
As expected, Blizzard has realized this and applied many other ways of communicating the lore. Cinematics, NPC’s narrating the quests for you etc. are some of the new ways of conveying lore. These are certainly good steps in creating the ‘next generation’ of quest experience.
There are however some points to take into account when applying such methods. The first obvious one would be that the cinematics should not be disruptive to the gameplay itself. Many game critics agree on this (TotalBiscuit is the first name that strikes), that the use of cinematics should have a purpose. Inserting a gem into a stone is fine; waiting 10 seconds in a cinematic screen that shows us the appearing of a magical bridge is not. It takes away the control of your character, and it feels more and more as if you’re watching a movie, and not playing a game.
The second one concerning narrative is that the pacing should feel relevant. If I’m supposed to kill 10 spiders, the NPC should tell me the reasons why I should do it in a relevant matter of time. I do not want to sit there for 2 minutes listening to him explain stuff, and run away and kill 10 spiders. Having the NPC follow me and narrate it could do the trick, as then I could apply quest mechanics to quest lore. There may be some limitations, such as the NPC having a fear of spiders where in that case it would be logical for him not to come with me, and these need to be dealt delicately. The extensive use of this medium may also prove to be simply boring. So balancing is another issue that needs to be checked.
Of course I’m not defending that we should get rid of written quests all together. Quests that have you reading a newspaper post, or investigating an old script should etc. still deserve to be in written forms. I do feel that having to read the entire quest for any quest is somewhat an outdated idea in the MMORPG world of 2013.
Thanks for reading, and sorry for my mistakes. Not a native speaker. ^^