Tobold's Blog
Tuesday, March 31, 2009
 
Tigole on quests

As you might already have heard, during the GDC Jeff Kaplan aka Tigole not only admitted having created the worst quest in World of Warcraft, but also now thinks he can do it better, and lists 9 WoW quest problems. Not a very coherent or comprehensive list, I'm afraid, although there are some good points in there.

Stretched over 2 points Tigole talks about quest texts which are too long, or as he says: "Basically, and I'm speaking to the Blizzard guys in the back: we need to stop writing a fucking book in our game, because nobody wants to read it." In a third, related point he talks about how players don't read quests because the quest hub has 10 different questgivers with 10 different quests, and players just take them all without even looking.

He didn't say how to solve these 3 problems. Hopefully not because he has no idea, but because he doesn't want to give away the idea before he has implemented it in Blizzard's next MMO. For me the solution appears to be pretty obvious: Instead of the village having 10 quests you can take at once, it should have one quest chain of 10 quests you have to do in sequence. Besides text, audio and visual means can be used to tell the quest story, one in which you are the hero saving the village. And voila, instead of a bunch of errands you get a real quest with a real story, one which you'll actually be interested in and which you will remember. Like you remember Veteran of the Wrathgate.

Tigole makes some other good points, like that quest chains shouldn't span several levels, because you'll forget them while leveling up. Or that the quest should give sufficient hints for you to know where to go and what to do. But where I didn't agree was that "gimmick quests" are a mistake. Don't get me wrong, we all know they are a gimmick. But I'd rather do an occasional bombing run or similar gimmick than yet another kill 10 foozles quest. And gimmicks like vehicles are probably better placed in quests, where they are optional, than in raid dungeons, where they are not. Funnily the picture Tigole showed for a "gimmick quest without polish" isn't actually a quest at all, but part of the Occulus instance. Go figure.
Comments:
It's always hard to guess what goes on behind closed walls but Tigole seems just a tad bitter to me.

In his exit speech he talked about WoW being left in great hands and mentioned three names without mentioning Ghostcrawler. I think he rather liked being the communicative developer and is a bit miffed that there is a replacement who is ten times as communicative (at least on the official forums) who has taken over.

I think that's why he's against vehicle quests. Not that they are bad but that they are the babies of people he doesn't get on with on the development team.

I have never worked for Blizzard but I have worked in the game industry.
 
My reactions are mixed. Some problems are pretty big, others are ultimately minor annoyances, and some aren't truly problems.
1) Excellent. I like the slower buildup, a more guided path. It also just makes more sense. Half the time in old quests I'd go kill the super-bad evil guy, and then notice a quest to kill his minions to weaken him. Huh? It allows for easier immersion as well. I try to stack quests for an area, but it feels so forced, that I'm intentionally delaying attacking the enemy.
2) This would be the true dumbing down. Who cares if many people don't read them? They add to the story. I like that.
3) Seems like a repeat of 2. Sure, don't try to write a book, but recognize that the stories are part of what make these worlds interesting.
4) I hate completely open quests, but don't make it too obvious. The exploring BF quest is good. You go there, not really knowing what you're looking for, but you find it because that's where the instance takes you.
5) Please fix. Stonetalon, where my druid is now, is terrible in this aspect. By the time you break away from the Barrens you're in your 20s and by then the starting quests are green and have you killing grey mobs. Wait a little longer and there are orange quests. The Barrens are even wider, but they have a better progression, with other quests to boost you to where you need to be.
6) Bad gimmick quests are bad, but sometimes it's cool to do something weird, such as fly on a dragon burning and eating ghouls. Blizzard needs to be more strict about testing the quality of quests but shouldn't be afraid to leave the "run on foot to this place and kill things, then come back" box.
7) Loch Modan is possibly the worst quest area ever.
8) I did not complete that quest until only a couple months ago at 80, having bought most of the pages off the AH. Still, I can see where he was coming from. It could be cool to see STV general filled with chatter about trading pages and whatnot and the neutral AH being used to increase the pool. But then again, this isn't Pokemon.
9) One of the worst mechanics ever, yea, proof-of-kill quests which don't drop on every kill.
 
Instead of the village having 10 quests you can take at once, it should have one quest chain of 10 quests you have to do in sequence.

This is in my opinion a bad solution. At least if it contains group parts, and probably otherwise too. If it contains group parts it's enforced grouping more or less, and that's one part which I hated with many LOTRO quests, especially the book quests. And if it doesn't contain group parts it, perhaps not enforces, but at least promotes soloing because it lessens the chance of having others around on the same step. In a way the "christmas tree" way that he mentions is better then if the quests are at least focused in the same area, because you don't have to worry about not being on the exact same step with each and every quest.

Of course the occasional quest line like the Wrathgate quests are still nice, but keep it at a minimum.
 
The part about limiting quest text made me sad.

Reading and stories have always been a part of RPGs. That's what made them. Now we're making RPGs for people who don't want to read? The term 'TL;DR' makes me want to physically back-hand people who use it. If you can't read, or you're just to goddamned lazy to, then shut the hell up because I don't want to hear anything you have to say.

Possibly Tigole seems bitter because he's seeing the direction the game is taking. He always was more of an old-schooler.

Hopefully whatever he's working on next has the the old Tigole gameplay and he gets left to just make a fun game instead of bowing to the whims of thousands of screaming spoiled brats.
 
I could understand if Tigole does not like the direction the game is taking.

But I do not like the guided bus tour of the "Cruise Director of Azeroth" either. No more single-player questing online.

He did not mention any solution to the problems of quest design that he recognized, right. Maybe the solution is to make a game for the many players who do not want to get guided by the hand all the time.

In Bartle's MMO player taxonomy I scored as Explorer, Socializer, Achiever, Killer. Jeff Kaplan caters to Achievers almost exclusively.

I can only hope they have some more exciting ideas than to create EverQuest III after the inofficial "EverQuest II + steroids", WoW. Which is right now on the ride down to casual carebear hell. :)
 
@Stabs: Interesting comments, I didn't read into that.

I think he touched on something brilliant though with that vehicle comment: Quests are supposed to be fun to play, not fun to design. So many designers fall into masturbatory design that isn't right for their game but that is a fun challenge to make. I'll be writing about this soon.

Mike
mikedarga.blogspot.com
 
Honestly, my pet peeve with WoW's quest hubs is that every time you get to a new outpost, all the NPCs treat you like the new intern - despite usually having been sent with a recommendation from the leader of the last outpost (and the one before that, and the one before that). My favourite bit of 'Hellgate: London' was the quest text because, by the time you'd gotten half-way through the leveling process, you were treated as a saviour when you arrived and started fixing all their problems. In WoW, there are a few quest chains up to the level of the Wrathgate or the alliance-side Onyxia attunement, but most of it's unglorious errand-running. Significance is almost exclusively reserved for raids.

Point by point, though:

2&3: Write a book. Give us the lore we want so much but, please, use the medium. The quest description doesn't have to be long; it just needs to describe the task, who to return it to, and where they are. Script us up some inter-NPC chatter. If it's a big issue, maybe even throw us a book item with a juicy backstory. I'm not sure it's TL;DR so much as the boring drivel in a large portion of the non-chain quests.
5: I don't mind a quest that spans a lot of levels, if they've got a sense of pace to them (and Myzrael was really building up to something). I can (and probably will) come back to it.
6: I'm also not a fan of gimmick quests. Mind-controlling akward abominations comes to mind. The vehicular gimmicks would have been more sensible if they used a consistent set of vehicles, such as the Wintergrasp ones, which could also have been made dailies if people wanted to practice with them.
8&9 Combined: The most PITA quests in the game are kill X and bring back 25 Y. Either the drop rate for an essential body part is going make you want to hit a developer (like 10 Murloc heads at a 15% or lower drop rate), or there are going to be fewer creatures than you need all sharing a spawn with something worthless to you. Please reconcile the body parts. If you want us to kill 60, fine, but I want a 95+% drop rate on a damned head.
 
I think Tigole is on to something here. In the past few months my MMO playing went from about 95% of my gaming to about 5%. Reason being is that I just can't bare to grind quests anymore. Questing was thought to be an alternative to grinding at first, but now MMO's just load up so many quests that we have a grind again.

It isn't WoW inclusive either. I tried getting back into WAR, and started a knight of the burning sun.....got bored of questing after a few levels and gave up....I tried Runes of Magic.....bored of questing, gave up.

It's not that I think quests are too long, or hard, they aren't. I just hate getting to a new zone and picking up 15 quests and then returning them all and getting a 8th of a level.....then picking up another 10 quests. None of these quests are interesting. Even the newer vehical quests get old after a few runs through.
 
Jez - agreed, even though that was done (a lot) better in WotLK (with some quest givers actually praising you for being such a famous, powerful hero). It was the reason why I never did the "grab five horses"-quest in Grizzly Hills, though. I am a damn hero, I've saved Azeroth over and over, I helped kill the elemental lord Ragnaros and drive back the silithid damnit. Why should I run errands for a kid?

The Wrathgate chain was really good, at least I felt like the hero I was supposed to be. And yes, the old Ony-chain (alliance side, at least) did that really well back in Vanilla WoW. Actually, the first chain I ever felt rivalled the Ony-chain (in dramatics, not in design - all that running back and forth could get tedious) was actually Wrathgate.
 
My wife loved the Green hills of Stranglethorn quest. She collected the pages and travelled to Org every evening before going off to put the extra pages in AH and buy a few missing ones. I am pretty sure there are many more who like to play this game this way.

Also having 1 npc with 10 quests handed out in order can be really annoying. There is a horde quest hub in Dragonblight (Venomspite maybe) and when they sent me to the same alliance fort for the fifth time I felt like I could kick them in the balls.

I liked Zul'Drak the most. Somehow their new quest design worked the best there.
 
I read every quest the first time. I go OUT OF MY WAY to read them the first time. I got annoyed when doing the Zul'drak arena quests that I didn't get to read the intros because the rest of the group was in a hurry to get the killing done.

Otherwise, I think the comments made are pretty much spot on.
 
Part of the problem with the quest text, I think, is that most quests when I was playing seemed to be some form of "Kill # of (creatures" or "Collect # parts", which after enough repetition, turns the quest description from a story about the world into just text box filler for killing stuff.

A lot of the issues he describes seem to come from how quests are used to level. A lot of quests could be quite a bit more fun if there wasn't the "need to level" pressure mixed in with them.

I definitely agree on the "Drop quests should have the creatures always dropping the item." (Although it seems kind of odd that they let those quests through in the first place.)
 
'There is a horde quest hub in Dragonblight (Venomspite maybe) and when they sent me to the same alliance fort for the fifth time I felt like I could kick them in the balls'

haha i have to agree with the above, than particular questline was a pain in the arse
 
The Wrathgate quest line showed both how good they can make quest lines and also how far they still have to come at the same time. I finished that quest line, truly felt like a hero, was working with some of the key lore figures and helped siege the Undercity. Top of the world, ma.

30 minutes later I flew to Grizzly Hills and was asked to find a certain weed that I needed to eat to help me crap out some seeds I'd eaten.

Top of the world, ma.
 
They already have solved the "too many quests at once" problem with Wrath. All the quest hubs only give you a few quests at a time and as you do those a few more open up and so on so while the total quests per hub is similar you never get overwhelmed with quests. In vanilla when the quest limit was 20 I was *always* having to drop quests and pick them up later as I leveled. When they upped the limit to 25 I occasionally had to do this but it was less frequent. Now in Wrath I never ever came close to having to do that. It was nice.

The mix of "you're the hero" and "fetch this for me, boy" is a bit weird. You do seem to get reset back to noob with each new zone. OTOH, if you stayed at "you're the hero" for the whole expansion after the 1st zone they'd have far fewer quest options since all the fetch and collect quests wouldn't make as much sense. In a way this is just being consistent with how pen&paper RPGs always were -- back in D&D 30 years ago it was much the same -- you'd be the hero of the town after one dungeon and then move on to a new adventure and be scrubs again quite often.
 
When reading through Tigole's points the underlying message I was getting was that questing needed to be easier (less reading, more spoon-feeding). The reason I rarely read quests and just plow through them as fast as I can is because they are rediculously easy and I just want to get them over with to get the reward/rep/exp to get to the more challenging content I want to play. When looking back, some of my favorite quests were the ones that I found challenging (like Green Hills of Stranglethorn).

I like quests were there is one roaming spawn of something somewhere that I need to find. Also, I like quests that encourage players to cooperate with each other. I notice that in WOTLK the quests where you have to kill a single boss, the boss respawns really fast (so people don't have to interact with each other). I find it really rewarding to group with people that I see are obviously waiting for the the same boss to spawn and quickly do something together with them.

Also, for new players, questing is tough. By the time you are half-finished the quests in a zone, you have gained so many levels that the quests become grey to you. I know they want veteran players to advance alts quickly, but the first time you roll a character in the game the leveling should be slower.

Other kinds of quests in WoW I like:
-repeatable hand-in quests that reward you for all the trash mobs you kill while you're questing in an area.
-quests that have to be done while pvp-enabled.
-server wide epic quests (like the one to open the ah-qirarj(sp?)gates.

Quests that I would like to see in WoW:
-random quests: something that is just randomly generated (you never know what you're gonna get, hehe)
-guild quests: things to work on to 'advance' your guild.
-really hard quests: something that you have to work on for a couple weeks (I guess that is Achievements).

cheers,
Zig
 
For the most part, the questing aspects mentioned by Tigole don't bother me at all. Quest hubs are good because I'd rather have an area to pick up and turn in quests than have to run around all over a zone trying to remember where a NPC was hiding at. Vehicle quests in WoTLK were pretty fun for me. And while I can't say I've read through every quest text or NPC dialog, I do realize some people love that aspect of the game. I can enable instant quest text and boom, I don't have to read a book...

What has always bothered me, and always will bother me, are the quests that require you to loot 15 of "X". My problem is that if you are in a group, it turns into looting twice as much of X. Or three times as much of X. Or five times as much, etc. And when you have quests with droprates of less than 25%, it can mean spending an absurd amount of time repeatedly killing the same mobs and possibly waiting for respawns. While that may be a fine way to prolong the game time of a single player game, it is just aggrevating in a multiple player game.

Among other things that WAR did right was making a quest item:

1. Looted by one group member looted by ALL group members. I remember getting credit for some quest item looted by a group member when I was half the zone away. Even having some sort of range would be nice and stop any exploiting...Refer a Friend is based on some range requirement. Make quest items the same way...quit punishing people for grouping up.

2. Quest items placed in a quest item bag, rather than in my backpack or other bags. It was nice, especially with the way bag slots were alloted in WAR, to have a bag that was used solely for quest items and quest items only. Not only is it easier to find quest items that you need to use, but it was nice to not have your main bags cluttered with stuff that was constantly incoming and outgoing.

For the love of god, if Blizzard made quests more group friendly by making one quest item looted by all group members, people might actually acquire some WoW social skills. No longer would people refuse to group up because they don't want to compete for the same quest items...and leveling would be so much faster for everyone (less spawn camping for mobs, or "stealing" someone else's mobs...and likely more grouping and overall faster questing).

But for whatever reason, maybe only time related, the issue wasn't brought up at all. Who cares about quest text? You either read it or don't. Vehicles? Just because you don't like them doesn't mean that 3 million people didn't find them fun. But I'm pretty damn sure just about everyone would appreciate quest items being looted by all group members. Fix that and you just fixed 70% of the quests in the game. Skip the other 9 areas that are just nitpicky and relatively fine as is.
 
I don’t like to do a lot of reading in a game. I am there to play a game, not read. Reading stops me dead in my tracks. If you want to tell me a story, deliver it another fashion – scripted events, etc.

I wouldn’t mind having my hand held even more. If the developers would like me to do the quests in a certain order, make that clear and obvious to me and I probably will. Of course, you’d better not send me to an area to collect 10 butterflys and then send me right back to the same area to collect 10 pig noses. You will get on my bad side if you run me around in a non-efficient manner.

I agree with most of what he said about quests. I like vehicles, though, if for no other reason than they are something different.

What I really wish we had were more class-specific quests that required us to use our unique class abilities.
 
What has always bothered me, and always will bother me, are the quests that require you to loot 15 of "X". My problem is that if you are in a group, it turns into looting twice as much of X. Or three times as much of X. Or five times as much, etc. And when you have quests with droprates of less than 25%, it can mean spending an absurd amount of time repeatedly killing the same mobs and possibly waiting for respawns. While that may be a fine way to prolong the game time of a single player game, it is just aggrevating in a multiple player game.

What you said here may not necessarily be true. If two players are attempting to complete a "loot # of X" quest, they will need to kill twice the amount of stuff that one player alone would, but they will also be killing creatures something around twice as quickly. If it's less than twice as fast, than yes, these quests hurt players overall, but if the kill rate is more than twice as fast, than there's an overall advantage to grouping.

It would be an interesting experiment to perhaps do, take different combinations of two characters, and measure the completion time of these quests.

Guild Wars definitely does this type of quest better as well, though. All creatures will drop loot, and because creature types are repeated across zones, there's no worry about killing, say "Large blue panthers" vs. "Huge blue Panthers", so the quests can be completed while doing other things a lot of the time, and in many zones rather than just one.
 
What you said here may not necessarily be true. If two players are attempting to complete a "loot # of X" quest, they will need to kill twice the amount of stuff that one player alone would, but they will also be killing creatures something around twice as quickly. If it's less than twice as fast, than yes, these quests hurt players overall, but if the kill rate is more than twice as fast, than there's an overall advantage to grouping.

Yes, but the XP per kill is cut in half. So while they may kill twice as fast and kill twice as many mobs, they are still only getting half the experience per kill. Ultimately, I'd rather solo the pristine yeti horn quest in winterspring than do it in a group of 5. Can you imagine how many yetis you would have to kill for all 5 group members to get 2 horns each? I'd think you would be waiting on respawns, many times over. If all quest items dropped 100% of the time, then it wouldn't be a big deal. But as is, you are burning time and the quest experience itself becomes less valuable in relation to the time spent completing the quest.

You need to factor in the experience for the quest also. Ultimately, the quest experience per hour will go down if grouped, having to get the quest items for each person. Again, a group of 2 may be able to almost make as much experience grouped up. But a group of 5 is heavily penalized for grouping up for those types of quests.

Bad quest design, IMHO.
 
Yes, but the XP per kill is cut in half. So while they may kill twice as fast and kill twice as many mobs, they are still only getting half the experience per kill. Ultimately, I'd rather solo the pristine yeti horn quest in winterspring than do it in a group of 5. Can you imagine how many yetis you would have to kill for all 5 group members to get 2 horns each? I'd think you would be waiting on respawns, many times over.

Unless the 5 players will be doing the quests at different times if they weren't grouped, than the respan issue still doesn't provide a net benefit, since five individual players will still be fighting for respawns, and in either case the rate of item drops would still be limited by the respawn rate, plus any creatures that were in the area before respawns were needed.

You need to factor in the experience for the quest also. Ultimately, the quest experience per hour will go down if grouped, having to get the quest items for each person.

I don't know how the group XP system works, but as long as it exactly compensates or overcompensates for the increase in kill speed of the group vs. an individual player, than the kill experience will be the same, and the quest experience will be the same as well, since the although more items would be needed, the players would be getting them faster. (This does assume that the kill rate increases by more than around whatever the group size is vs. a single person, and that the group experience numbers are designed well, which they may not be.)


What I would agree with is that the experience per time, kill experience, etc., for WoW style collection quests is less than that of an equivalent other quest, because the loot items are not given to everyone, while for boss killing, exploration, boss looting, kill # of X, the "quest completion" is given ot everyone as the quest is completed. So while "collect bear paws" quests theoretically don't penalize groups vs. individual players, they are not balanced with respect to other quests in terms of how groups complete them. (Hopefully that last sentence gets the point across well.)
 
Ever actually grouped for those kinds of quests? They take at least 2x as long to complete, with no increase in experience. Killing the mobs faster is fine. But if I spend 25 minutes doing some absurdly low drop rate quest, when it would take me half the time to get through it, the total experience I am earning has gone down, on average.

Simply make it like WAR, where if I loot X, my groupmates loot X. The experience can be cut in half, or whatever mathematical formula they use, but the quest gets done. Maybe I'm just really unlucky, but many times, especially when an expansion comes out, I am co-camping mobs because 20+ other people are killing them. And ultimately, they are doing so because its faster that way then to join a group and have to kill twice as many more. People don't want to join up to help you get 15 of X when they only need 3. They don't want to be stuck virtually doing the quest over again. But, if the quest items counted for everyone, not only wouldn't it be a problem, the quest would get done faster. Hence my issue with it the way it is, and my liking of the way WAR did it.
 
Ever actually grouped for those kinds of quests? They take at least 2x as long to complete, with no increase in experience. Killing the mobs faster is fine. But if I spend 25 minutes doing some absurdly low drop rate quest, when it would take me half the time to get through it, the total experience I am earning has gone down, on average

I have grouped for these quests, but usually in situations where there wasn't much spawn competition. In those cases, I don't remember the group version feeling like they took longer, though my memory is kind of fuzzy. I do definitely remember some annoyance at dividing the loot with other members of the quest, but also remember that doing them individually often took longer per kill, plus did not allow effective killing in cases of 2-3 enemies being pulled, so the results could go either way.

If it really takes you less time to do the quest individually than in a group, than there are probably other factors involved that goof up how I described things above. Mathematically, it makes no sense that a quest of this type would be faster in a group, and I could easily see some of the "Quest takes a long time" appearing to come from giving other players in the group some of the loot.

Maybe I'm just really unlucky, but many times, especially when an expansion comes out, I am co-camping mobs because 20+ other people are killing them. And ultimately, they are doing so because its faster that way then to join a group and have to kill twice as many more. People don't want to join up to help you get 15 of X when they only need 3.

This is probably the main reason the quests would take longer, (and is also different from my case, where groups seemed to usually form with about the same number of items left to loot.) My guess would be, though, that the quests would take a similar amount of time individually as grouped if players joined a group for however much time as needed to get their items, than left, with the group constantly gaining and loosing members, and with items getting divided equally between players. (Though setting up such a group would probably be quite difficult to do.)

I do believe you that the quests you've done take longer to do in groups (Because the kill rate could easily scale lower than the number of players, and because players will join with different numbers of items), and I do agree that the items should be given to anyone (and the drop rate increased), but those issues don't aren't what causes the quest to take longer in groups than individually.
 
Instead of the village having 10 quests you can take at once, it should have one quest chain of 10 quests you have to do in sequence.

Running backwards and forwards to the village is not fun. Particularly in games where slow travel is (incredibly) seen as a feature.

And gimmicks like vehicles are probably better placed in quests, where they are optional, than in raid dungeons, where they are not.

Raid dungeons are optional too.
 
That would be neat if you had to sit down with the quest giver and play some mini game against him while he spoke to you about the quest. I'm sure some people are thinking, that sounds fucking retarded, but hey it sounds new and interesting to me.
 
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