Tobold's Blog
Friday, June 06, 2008
Nice feature or groundbreaking change?

Heartless recently did a feature comparison of Age of Conan with Warhammer Online, including a silly percentage of WoWness count. But what was interesting about it is his claim that WAR's public quests offer a new way to play PvE, which is not quite as solo as in WoW, and thus significantly breaks the mould of previous games. Massively has a detailed description of how public quests work, so based on that information, is Heartless right? Are public quests a groundbreaking change to how we will play MMORPGs together, or is it just one nice added feature to standard gameplay?

Massively talks in detail about how to get rewards from public quests, which, let's face it, will be the reason why people participate in them. Apparently there are two kinds of rewards: Finishing a public quest lets every participant roll for loot, with a modifier based on his degree of participation. But parallel to that everything you do in a public quest also earns you influence points, with which you can buy stuff from a NPC vendor.

I couldn't help but notice that far from being revolutionary and new, public quests seem to be WoW battlegrounds applied to PvE. Now I'm not saying that this is a bad idea. In fact I do like the way in which you can join a battleground without having to be invited by other players, and come out with some points to buy stuff with whether you win or lose. If WAR introduces the same principle to parts of PvE, I'm all for it. I just don't think this will revolutionize the way people play with each other. Yes, technically they are doing a quest together. But do you really feel a strong social bond to the people you are in a WoW battleground with? Battleground chat always seems like one or two armchair generals barking orders, and the rest of the players studiously ignoring them. If you don't do what the raid leader says in a raid, you risk to get kicked out or not to be assigned any loot, so you behave and fall in line. In a battleground you do whatever you want, because you can't be excluded from the action or the rewards. And I suspect WAR public quests will be just the same. People will try to gather a maximum of influence, both for a better chance on their loot roll, and for the influence NPC vendor. Being busy with that, they'll play just like they play in a battleground, that is tanks won't tank, healers won't heal, and everybody is trying to do maximum damage.

I'm looking forward to public quests, because they seem to be fun from what I could see in the videos. I just don't think that they will provide MMORPGs with a way out of the soloing isolation the genre has slipped into. Will people really think of public quests as being a place to play together? Or will they just fear that somebody else gathers influence faster and outrolls them on the final loot?
Different - yes. Groundbreaking - no, unless most of the quests available are of this type.

If the game only has a few of these mixed in with regular quests, it will just a nice added gameplay element. For such a feature to have a significant impact it would have to be the way the majority of quests are handled.

Tabula Rasa currently has 2 missions which work similarly to the public quest idea here, although simpler in its reward handling. If you participated and the goal was met, you get the reward.

But with only 2 missions like that it has very little impact on the general gameplay.

Whether people will just run around and do their own thing or be encouraged to actually cooperate will depend on other mechanics and whether teams and cooperations are facilitated in a good way. Just looking at the public quest system itself is not enough.
I had never quite looked at the PQ dynamic in that wy, and I think the analogy is both reasonable and largely accurate.

However, I believe that there are two dyanmics that enable PQs to serve as community builders in ways that the current WOW battlegrounds cannot:

1.) PQs are inherently done with people who play on your server. This means that not only are you likely to run into the same people multiple times over the course of your character's life, but you will also happen to meet up with them in areas outside of the PQ as well. See someone enough times in enough relevant contexts, and all of a sudden have a reason to make a new connection with that person.

2.) PQs are in static locations. Anyone who wants to do PQ X will have to travel physically to location Y. Wow Battlegrounds are such that you talk to one of the battleground masters scattered throughout the world and don't have to interact with anyone. Sure, the BG masters in WOW are centrally located, but you have no idea who is going to what battleground, and have no reason to interact with them. With PQs, everyone knows why everyone else is there, giving people a good icebreaker for interaction.
one of the games i'm currently playing has (what is for me) an interesting variation on the public quest.

the quests are repeatable (which isn't the variation) but the number of foozles needed to be collected is static, regardless of the size of the party. so a 6 person party (the max size possible) can essentially do the same quest six times in the time it takes to do it solo once (give or take the time it takes to go back to the quest giver and complete).

this has quickly meant that ppl have learnt to party: not necessarily in 6 person parties, but certainly they party. it doesn't detract from *my* game if you join my quests and just leech, and any contribution you *do* make speeds up *my* quest. there's a certain verisimilitude breach (there's always someone saying 'this quest is bugged! it only says 30 foozles when it should say 90!,), but it's a great mechanism for encouraging cost-less partying.
I think it could make a bond Tobold. One thing about battlegrounds now is that they are xrealm. Many of the people you will never see again; however, i remember the sense of community that there was in battlegrounds before xrealm (Although the queues were atrociously long...)

I think that such a chance could build community because these people are sharing the same server. One may remember a name of two over time ^^.
The catch, though, is that in the article I said 'contribution', and not damage. In the PQ I ran through twice, the little Goblin Shaman I was with was in the top spot both times because he was a really effective healer.

The game incentivizes you for fulfilling your class roll, not just for spamming DPS.

It's eerie ... they've actually thought this crap through a bit. :D

- Michael Zenke

That's true. Thank you for pointing that out so we won't get any confusions here. I think I saw somewhere that it is quite possible that for an example taunt for tank characters will also give you influence when you use it.
I think, for those who remember DAoC's more RvR centered objectives, that you very much can create a bond with the players around you out of merely wanting to squash the opposing faction.

That's exactly what Mythic's trying to do in this game with their PvP, and there's little doubt that it will work in that aspect.

These Public Quests are their way of relating that sense of realm pride into the PvE game as well... and it just might work judging by what we've read and seen.

I don't know Michael Zenke personally, but from his blog and his articles I've come to be of the opinion that he's not easily impressed.

If this game's having the kind of impact on him that it seems... we should all be excited.

I honestly was losing steam for Mythic's game until his coverage hit this week... now I find myself eager as ever to try it out.
It's going to come down to the kinds of players who are participating, just like it was in WoW BGs. The people who work together most efficiently will reap the most rewards.

If you can only cooperate enough to complete phase 1 or 2 of the PQ, you're just not being efficient and aren't getting the full reward. And considering the influence component and roll modifiers in their Vegas loot system, it's in your best interest to farm as much influence as you can.

The most effective way to do that is to beat the PQ and work together as a team.

Will it form lasting bonds? I'm sure it will for some people and won't for others. You only get what you put into an MMORPG.
A few points. Xrealms and the relatively short duration of BGs is more of a factor to playing solo than anything else. Plus outside of BGs, there is no other PvP on a larger scale. On the other hand, you can make friends in a PQ, and then with that same group/raid travel out to a PvP zone and engage in some good RvR.

If I spot a player who is playing really well, it would encourage me to keep him in the party and take him into RvR with me, as they would be a nice plus vs the enemy. Nothing like that dynamic exists in WoW.
This isn't groundbreaking, but it's very cool. Public quests are a new concept that can certainly grow in a lot of cool ways. I wouldn't be surprised to see some form of this action in Wrath, as Blizzard is notorious for taking a concept like this and smoothing it into perfection.

What I like about public quests is that they let people solo without playing a dps role. If implemented properly, a healer or tank can jump right into the fray... and then actually heal or tank! That's a huge thing for non-dps classes, to be able to pop in and do their role any time without the difficulty of forming an instance group. PVP battlegrounds only solve half the problem (healers, not tanks), and they have a number of other negatives that come with the "solution".

If done right, I think they're almost groundbreaking. ;)
Just to get people to WORK TOGETHER...
So many have a single minded mentality, and as such lose touch with those outside their own space..
They could care less that someone is waiting in a spot for a spawn, and will attempt to steal it from you if they can...
So, if there is some prrotocol in place to prevent this griefing...then PQ's could be good...
I think this will be my one complaint and where I watch closely..
Every game has the high hope that their mechanic will work...and there are those (I think we know of which guild I speak of) that find every single way to undermine that mechanic...
I hope somehow Mythic finds a way around this...or I smell issues with the PQ...and not so much community building...but hate and exploiting instead...
If I understand it correctly, public quests sound like resource-gathering tasks and quests with one or more scripted encounters, but with grouping completely open (everybody who accepts the quest can participate in the same "run" of the quest) and rewards related to individual effort.

It does look like they lifted elements out of a battleground like Alterac Valley, which has such scripted encounters (and tasks) where everybody in the battleground can join. It also sounds reminiscent of the Ahn Qiraj resource-gathering effort.

It's a long time since I was in Alterac Valley, but I remember that it could be alternatively a community-building exercise or a stupid, mindless zerg-grind. I once participated in a somewhat organised effort (allianceside) which ended in victory, on a RP-PvP server. But I also dipped into it and arrived in the middle of chaos (if I was Alliance High Command, I'd have executed the lot of us and displayed the severed heads on the walls of Stormwind, "pour encourager les autres").

So, in the end, whether public quests are an asset to the game may depend on a combination of the actual implementation and the number and kind of players Warhammer attracts. If it's mostly dedicated PvP'ers / wargamers it might be great. But it might also degenerate into mindless zergdom, where the structure of the quests destroys any chance of community-building or organisation: unstructured mayhem rather than organised warfare.

With all due respect to Michael, he only got to see and experience what Mythic wanted him to see and experience, under circumstances that will probably be very different from how it will play out in practice after release.
One thing that ticked me off is that the quest with the giant used as an example in Michael's article is one which was already used in presentations a year or more ago.

Another question I'm wondering about it that there are supposed to be 300 public quests now; with 3 different fronts and 2 sides that would be about 50 per faction per each "front sector". Not a very grand number. Will there be more? Are those 300 quests already implemented or is this just the number whose design is more or less complete?
Evolutionary, revolutionary, some point, it's semantics. PQ's are a nice new feature. The word we attach to it probably distracts from the fact that Mythic is on to a good idea.

I covered this a bit in a blog post yesterday, but here's what I like about the PQ idea.

First, you can solo a PQ, sure. But can you contribute more with a full round of buffs from groupmates? With a healer who's got your back if you grab aggro? In the early PQ areas, I'm sure we'll see soloing. But when the tougher mobs come out at the end of each PQ, or as PQ's get tougher as you get higher in level, I think some people will see an advantage in grouping.

Second, it's so easy to group for PQ's, and PQ's are all over the place from the time you're a wee character, so people have the opportunity to group much, much earlier in their character's life cycle. With PvP scenarios available at a similarly low level, I'm hoping that players will learn how to play their class in a group much earlier than they might in WoW.

Really, the nice thing about PQ's is that Mythic seems to be accomodating both solo and group preferences. I think you can effectively contribute either way.

Bildo and Syncaine are exactly right that what Mythic is offering is team-building, or realm-building, opprtunities. The best part about DAoC's RvR was seeing the same people night after night, working toward the same objectives. Mythic is continuing that with the open-world PvP objectives in WAR, and extending it to PQ's and PvP scenarios.

@Zenke: "It's eerie ... they've actually thought this crap through a bit. :D"

First, lol. Second, they have! That's really evident. Mythic is a smart bunch of people. It's clear that this isn't their first time around the MMO block.
public quests are the best thing about the WAR beta for me so far. However they are rather repetitive and just feel like a solo quest most of the time. WAR is apparently everywhere although at lvl 10 I have yet to see any pvp!
Rofl, I love how you put stuff bud "that is tanks won't tank, healers won't heal, and everybody is trying to do maximum damage" So true. I think it will be a good thing added to the game and make it a better game though. Certainly raiding differs depending on how responsible the individual members feel. I once had a goober go, on purpose, and pull a mega boss early just to wipe us, then he ran away laughing. This was someone who had been a friend and good guildmate but had just gone crazy. It happens.
Just to note: there are hundreds of PQs, 300 approximately is what the developers have stated for launch.

WoW has 4 battlegrounds and I don't think they compare to public quests at all. Sure, battlegrounds are objective based, but there is no incentive outside of a teeny bit more rep/honor for a win.

Public Quests offer a flat out reward if completed, and as stated by the developers, influence will only take a FEW (3-5) completions to max out.

On top of the Public Quests, there will be regular quests leading players to that area, all while gaining Tome of Knowledge unlocks for experience. This shows how well thought out and implemented these systems are throughout the game.

Players will be interacting with Public Quests the majority of their career, from the very first levels to two years down the road when they are capturing an enemies capital city. Each and every PQ may work similarly, but just the mere though that a lot of them will have a RvR (aka PvP) component makes me cream in my pants.

That is a HUGE difference than the TACKED ON feeling of the WoW battlegrounds.

The only Public Quest type stuff in WoW would of been the gates of AQ opening and the recent patch 2.4 Sunwell Isle progression. Both of which were great for the WoW crowd, and players begged for more of it. Blizzard just can't deliver that sort of content on a reasonable pace and it shows. Blizzard can make static, challenging PvE content and thats about it. Anything that involves any sort of progression or dynamic content takes Blizzard way too long to sustain those of us that like it.

PLUS, WAR will have normal battelgrounds ala WoW, but many many many more of them, with wider level ranges, and NPC interaction to ensure the sides are balanced numerically each and every game.
PQ's seem like a nice addition certainly not a revolution.

I really cant see them being anyhting more than a solo excercise however just to get the influence "rep" rewards.

will be nice when the nda is lifted and we can hear tobolds honest opinions!
I'm still looking at all of WAR's quest features and including public quests they strike me as fixes to questing problems. Good fixes. Clever fixes.

Groundbreaking? Gameplay changing? I don't see it. It's way easier to get excited about this stuff ahead of time, but these IMHO are more incremental improvements rather than a revolution in MMORPG gameplay.

City of Heroes' Sidekick feature was far more groundbreaking than all of these quest features.
If anyone noticed I went into 100% fanboy mode on the post linked by Tobold, but I did it for a reason, to fight back against the haters that are equally as guilty as me.

I will agree that MMOs do not change in leaps and bounds, and innovation is a slow, iterative process. However, I think the lesson that we learned with WoW is that enough small changes can smash the doors wide open for this industry. Suddenly, changes that seem small are refreshingly new and exciting on a large scale.

That is where I am with Public Quests. WoW brought the idea that there needs to be rhyme, reason, and direction to a player's adventures in a diku-inspired MMO. What WoW didn't do, was give rhyme and reason for people to work together until it was absolutely necessary to support long-term development of group-required content.

WAR is just putting players together far earlier in the game, with reason and direction on how to work together. It may seem small, but trust me, when you put players in situations where they can freely work together, without feeling forced, magical things happen. That is what MMOs are all about.
I've got 4 level 12-15 characters and I was rank 5 renown by the time I was level 6 on all of them. I've probably logged 10 or so hours of solid pvp'ing by level 10 on all of them.

Heck, there are PQ's that have both factions staring each other in the face and the PQ is a competition to kill mobs first! Granted, you can avoid pvp in War if you want, but you'd really have to take a deliberate path to avoid any rvr by level 10.

Heck yesterday I did the same PQ for about 5 hours (yes they are that entertaining, even at the early levels, especially the competitive ones) and during that time it was pvp on and off the entire time.

After spending quite a bit of time on the beta I have to say War does appear to be the real deal. Blizzard is going to have their hands full when it's released. Rinsing and repeating won't work I'm afraid.

It's a great balance of Pve and pvp, but like I said you can avoid it if you want. The game really is very well done and very polished even in early beta.

one difference between PQ's and wow's pvp quests are that the PQ's reward you instantly with loot at the end of the quest. Also, the renown rewards come within a couple hours. not weeks of grinding.
Eve Online's Factional Warfare expansion (releasing later this evening) is supposed to have something almost exactly the same I think. If the Eve expansion works the way I think, then I'd have to say that WAR PQ's aren't groundbreaking because you can't break the same ground twice. It's hard to judge exactly how much alike the two game systems actually are, but everything I've read makes them sound suspiciously similar. I wonder how much corporate espionage goes on in the game world?
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