Tobold's Blog
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.
So, I kill three bears and then three days later I stumble upon someone who wants three bears killed... "oh great, you've already killed three bears a couple of days ago, here let me reward you for that. Never mind the fact that I'm still having the bear trouble..." I'm not sure that's an example of great design.

It just doesn't strike me as more "logical" than the alternative, from a game world point of view. It would probably feel more appropriate in special cases, like with named mobs or with those "mass extinction" type quests (think Hemet Nestingwary), where the act of killing would grant the hunter a certain notoriety.

But the simple fact that I've killed three bears doesn't seem to connect well enough to the quest giver's "needs". Now, if quest items dropped regardless of whether you're on the quest or not... then I could at least hand him three bear ears!
how would this type of implementation work for quest chains that essentially have you kill 3 levels of mobs in an enemy camp? Would i be able to complete teh grunt, lieutenant, and commander quests all in one swoop? Would that even be fun?

Plus, you would still have people gaming the system. They would scour through databases for every single quest in a particular part of the map so that they would never have to make the journey back again. IMO, that would take a feature intended to add freedom to the game and simply make everything more linear. Players would systematically wipe out every single quest needed to move on to the next zone and then never look back
It's been disappointing to me that a few of the "Wow!" features that got me excited about WAR haven't materialized. This kill collector thing is definitely one of them.
An interesting variant would be for kills to 'fade' over time. So if you killed the bears a few days ago then you'd get the reward, however if it was ages ago (weeks / months / levels whatever) you'd only get partial or even zero credit.
I'd really love to have this sort of system in place for every game. If it'd be too much trouble to count everything beforehand, then at least for quest chains.

I find it very silly that if I am sent into a camp to kill 10 foozles and I go and do that, while in the process stumbling into the foozle boss and killing it as well, then when I go back to the quest giver he tells me 'I hear there's this foozle boss. I'd like you to go to and kill it for me'. Well duh, I just did that!
Doesn't this just encourage you to kill every single mob you come across?

I don't like the idea much; it turns the game into a grindfest.
There are "Kill Collector" NPC's in just about every camp. Each of those has you killing specific creatures and it is specifically for them which previous kills are counted. This mechanic does not apply to "normla" quests.

Here's a tip for some folks new to WAR: Look for Kill Collectors that want you to kill creatures in PQ's. You'll essentially get massive bonus exp for raising your influence in that PQ (along with all the exp you'd be getting doing it anyway *wink*)
...digressing a little bit here.

For me, the bigger issue isn't the quest giver or the quest (although if you made it a ridiculous number of bears, e.g. like the number of beasts you had to kill for Nesingwary, then yes, it's a problem).

The bigger issue is that the act of killing those beasts isn't much fun. A possible solution would be to make the combat more interesting.
I was also dissapointed that this feature did not make it live. Especially when it comes to tracking down named commander mobs.

I can't even tell you the number of times I killed a name mob while questing in an area and then turned in that quest to get the next quest that involves killing the named commander mob.
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