Thursday, October 18, 2007
Quests and decisions
Overlord, Fable, Knights of the Old Republic, and a few other games are offering you a choice between good and evil. In various ways you can either be helpful and nice, or cruel and self-serving. And the game keeps track of your decisions, so that you being good or evil finally has some consequence: you might get access to different spells and abilities, or your look changes. Compare that to the choice you get in a MMORPG like World of Warcraft. When Edward Castronova stated that only evil people play Horde in WoW, the idea was ridiculed. The actual activities of a Horde character are exactly the same as those of an Alliance character. You get a "kill ten foozles" quest, you go out to kill ten foozles, you come back and get your reward. The only difference is that Alliance is more likely to have to kill a mob who carries the name "bandit", while Horde might have to kill mobs called "farmer". But it isn't as if either player actually has the choice between killing bandits or farmers, once you have choosen a race you have choosen a fixed set of quests. And as the farmer reacts as aggressively to the presence of a Horde character as the bandit reacts to the presence of an Alliance character, players don't consider them to be different. There are no moral choices to be made in World of Warcraft. Many people played both Horde and Alliance, just to get access to more different zones and quests.
Much later in World of Warcraft players get the choice of Aldor vs. Scryer. But neither side is clearly good or evil, and there are very few quests for either side. Aldor vs. Scryer ends up as farming reputation for one side or the other, with the decision taken based on the rewards. If you are in a hurry, you can even buy the items for the repeatable quests in the auction house. Again no moral choice is made.
I would hope that future MMORPGs offer more choice. Instead of choosing a "good" or "evil" race at the start and then forgetting about the concept of good and evil, you could well have all races being initially neutral. And then you could have every quest carry a clear identification of giving reputation either towards good or towards evil. There would have to be more quests around, so people could level up either doing only good quests or only evil quests. Or they could remain neutral, and do both types. Choosing an alignment would have the advantage of getting access to quests only available to the good guys, or only available to the bad guys, or even only available to neutrals. And the decision could also have an influence on what spells, abilities, recipes, or even zones you'd get access to.
We talked this week about how it would be nice for a guild to have something in common besides going on raids. If you have good and evil quests, you could have part of the reputation gathered go to the reputation of the guild, so there would be good, neutral, and evil guilds. Guild members could get additional rewards for contributing to the reputation of the guild. And the older guild members would have an interest in looking after what the newer members were doing, to make sure they didn't do the wrong kind of quests.
Whether somebody has to be real world evil to play an evil character in such a system is a discussion I'll leave to the guys at Terra Nova. :)