Sunday, September 07, 2008
Bears, bears, bears
Paul Barnett is a highly intelligent guy with boundless enthusiasm. The combination makes for great stand-up comedy, and one of his best performances is the famous "bears, bears, bears" video, part of a Mythic production video podcast on quests (#7). In the video Paul explains why it is stupid for a quest giver to not know that you already killed lots of bears, just because you didn't have the quest yet, or because you didn't find the bear paws. He promised the kill collectors, NPCs that will reward you for any mob you kill. Quote: "If you wander along and see a lot of monsters and you're not so sure whether you should harvest them, remember somebody, somewhere wants them dangling on a chain."
I found the idea very interesting. So after making my first character, a dwarf, and doing the first couple of quests, I made a second character, another dwarf. I knew what monsters I had to kill for the first couple of quests, so I didn't take the starting quests, I just went and killed 4 squigs first, going to the quest giver later. Big disappointment: The quest giver completely ignored what I had already killed, and asked me to go and kill 4 squigs. Only much later did I stumble upon my first kill collector quest NPC. They exist, and they will give you some xp reward per mob you killed, but only for some very specific mob type. I haven't seen more than 1 kill collector per zone yet, and they only reward you for one type of mob, and it usually isn't the mob you were likely to kill anyway. The video made me think the whole game would work like that, every quest would allow "reverse questing", where you kill the mob first and get the quest later. But that is not the case. Kill collectors are in the game, but they are a minor feature, not a complete reversal of how quests work.
Meanwhile I had mentioned Paul in a blog entry somewhere, and called him Paul "Bears, bears, bears" Barnett. And Paul saw that, laughed, and wrote me an e-mail. That was just after my interview with J. Allen Brack from Blizzard, so Paul told me he wasn't hiding either, which ultimately lead to me having the opportunity to interview Paul Barnett. But my first response to him was that I would have to revoke his "bears, bears, bears" nickname, as the feature wasn't really in the game. As this was during closed beta, I couldn't write about it at the time, but now the NDA dropped, and we enter open beta today.
Paul explained me that he personally would have liked the kill collector feature to work for every quest. Warhammer Online already memorizes all your kills in the Tome of Knowledge, so rewarding you after the deed even if you didn't have the quest would have been technically possible. So he has "been running a one man campaign to get this feature into the game". Due to other things being more urgent (like the pathing issue, now more or less resolved), the feature didn't make it into the game for launch. But "it is scheduled for post launch and is on the white board for Paul's big moans".
Note that the actuall kill collector quest NPCs work somewhat different: They reward you for every single mob you killed of a certain type. In the closed beta some of these rewards were too high, and for mobs that were too frequent, like the dark elf kill collector in the starting area giving you extra xp for every high elf you killed, with nearly every other quest asking you to kill high elves anyway. Huge amounts of extra xp, while other races only got a kill collector quest for some rather rare spiders. You basically doubled the xp for everything you were doing anyway. That made me somewhat critical of the kill collector feature. But I think what Paul wants isn't that unlimited extra xp for every kill thing, he just wants reverse questing. If you meet a troll on your way and slay him, and meet a quest NPC later who asks you to kill 3 trolls, you'd already have one of them done. If you had killed hundreds of trolls, you would get the whole quest reward, but wouldn't be rewarded any more than if you just had killed 3. If you were rewarded extra for every kill, people would start looking up third-party database sites to find where the kill collector for the mob they just killed hundreds of were. But if it's limited to getting quests done before you receive them, it's just a nice extra feature so you don't have to kill things twice. I hope that makes it into the game one day.
Meanwhile Jeff Hickman and Josh Drescher gave a very interesting interview on Game Focus, where they answered a question about what the biggest challenges were with "making good on all the promises we've been making, especially those Paul has made". :) So, we might still see that bears, bears, bears feature working for every single quest sometimes later in the game, but not for launch.