Tobold's Blog
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
 
Blizzard's quest tracker didn't happen

It was widely reported that patch 3.2 would introduce Blizzard's own version of Questhelper to the standard interface of World of Warcraft. I found that interesting, because it touches some important questions on what a "quest" really is: Is it really a kind of search, like the quest for the holy grail, or is it just an errand?

So I used my wife's account to log into WoW and check out the new feature, now that patch 3.2 went life. Only, it wasn't there. I couldn't find any quest marks on my world map, nor any option to turn them on in the interface section, where the other new features had helpfully been marked with a golden exclamation mark. And reading the patch notes, the text about the addition of the quest helper feature was missing as well.

After some searching, I found a forum announcement that for some technical reason the feature didn't make it, and they hope to implement it later. Which still leaves us some time to ponder why the average player can't do a quest that tells him to "kill 10 wolves in the mountains north of the village", unless the wolves north of the village are marked on his map, and preferably there is a big arrow pointing towards them.
Comments:
That's why I liked playing a Hunter, because my quest Mobs always had an arrow pointing to them.
 
It's not that they can't, it's that the alternatives are easier. While a designer might say that the players are "optimizing the fun out", the players think they're doing just the opposite: Optimizing the tedious searching out and getting on with the killing. An explorer's idea of fun is different from the achiever's.
 
I'd suggest it's because the individual quest is less important than originally conceived; players collect large numbers of quests at once and players that tackle them with an efficient circuit are more successful. A tool that helps players plan and avoid unnecessary travel time is a good thing, as long as it isn't completely automated (hence trivialising the planning).
 
WoW isn't what it used to be. It's no longer a game of exploration. Everything has been found, discovered, categorized, screenshot, and optimized for maximum efficiency.

In short, WoW has become a game of min/maxing. All sense of roleplaying and exploration are pretty much gone.
 
So that's the explanation for it. Thanks! I was a bit puzzled too not to see it. I guessed that it was some addon like Cartographer that interfered with it. But in fact it didn't happen. Thank's for telling us! As a matter of fact I don't miss it.
 
Which still leaves us some time to ponder why the average player can't do a quest that tells him to "kill 10 wolves in the mountains north of the village", unless the wolves north of the village are marked on his map, and preferably there is a big arrow pointing towards them.
Hey, leave us WAR players alone!!! :D

I'm so used to WARs built in quest tracking that playing Aion over the weekend was a bit of a shock not having that nice red circle around the location for the quest. Mind you, it does have the "locate" feature that is pretty much the same, but I could only locate one thing at a time.
 
I believe it is because the leveling part of WoW, the main part we achievers and explorers actually enjoy, is no longer considered part of the game, but rather the speedbump involved in getting to level 80 so that one may raid. Most of the development involved in WoW nowadays is in my opinion totally concentrated on the level 80 players. The speedbump formerly known as levels 1 to 79 are actually the only way ActiBlizz has of extending the time of your subscription.. lest we forget it is about your 15 euros every month and not about YOUR enjoyment of the game.
 
I am sympathetic to Spam's comment. I think the real issue is a cultural shift. It's very interesting if it turns out to be true that the next WoW expansion is only five levels. What they are saying is that they want to make leveling meaningful again. But I'm not sure how you can make leveling meaningful without making questing meaningful (except for perhaps battlegrounds). And making leveling meaningful has to be something more than a chase for the next Pavlovian "ding". If you take away the lust for the ding what is left but story. And WoW has been really thin one story as of late.
 
I wonder how long it takes till all quest mobs get marked with a special "X" symbol, too!

Maybe they even get numbered, "6/10" means you killed already 6 of this species for a quest that requires 10.

I tell you, we need to get away from quests that are merely "tasks". Guild Wars mission style for the win. Our contemporary quests are no quests for the holy grail but occupational therapy.
 
TBH i'd prefer if they made meta achievements telling me how many quests i missed in each old world region.

Better yet a queryable quest api.
 
The only problem I ever find with the quests in WoW is that Blizzard seems to use a different compass to the rest of the world.
 
Lotro introduced a similar quest tracker in a recent patch and I like it. It doesn't really affect kill ten wargs quest Tobold because it only points you to the general area not to the specific mob.

Oddly I find I am more likely to read and follow the story of quests now because I am not struggling to decipher poor quest directions: "Go North for a bit and turn right".

And of course you can always turn it off if it spoils the game for you.
 
But Tobold.... are you suggesting that players should have to read AND think?!?!? That's so old school of you! Spoon feed the masses! Down with thinking!
 
Lvl 1 - 80 doesn't seem to matter anymore. Just something players have to do ASAP to get to the end game content.

You can see it in other patches: heirloom items for faster levelling. Less experience required to level. Recruit a friend - triple(!) xp. And now a questtracker addon. Everything to make levelling as fast as possible.

I don't mind the mod, I'm one of those min max players myself. I'll use a guide (James guides) to get the perfect quest routes anyway. But I do find it a shame that the levelling part is getting less and less attention.
 
I think it was in before 3.2, but if you have a quest selected in the log, your minimap will have a small arrow pointing in the direction of it, though I don't know if it does that for everything.

@Hirvox: Is the achievement not lessened by the lack of effort or time investment? If we're going to go for efficiency in questing, when are we not ported directly to the mob to kill? Perhaps also given a buff for double damage against quest targets.
 
Actually, it would be cool if you had, say, a Horde scout or guide that you could ask for help if you wanted it.
 
When WoW first came out everyone loved quests because they put an end to the mindless mob grind. After leveling up from 1-60 I was happy with the amount of quests. BC came out and each quest hub has TONS of quests. I was happy because it was quick XP. WotLK came out and WOW even more quests.

Basically we wen't from mindlessly grinding mobs to mindlessly ginding quests. Thus is why quest trackers are such a helpfull tool. NO ONE WANT'S TO READ THE TEXT.

IMHO blizzard should hand out fewer "kill 10 mob" quests and focus on more epic Wrathgate type quests. Perhaps each quest hub has 2 or 3 normal quests and 1 epic quest. Follow that epic quest to the next hub and get a large chunk of the story from the quest, not the quest text.
 
I think that if the Holy Grail had pointers to it, the knights would have gladly used that too. In fact, in a way it did, but only Galahad was able to see it constantly and consistently, and followed its form to the quests completion. For most of the knights, just seeing it again was the point of the quest.

The other Knights would have loved that vision, because they were goal oriented, which is not unlike the players in WoW using the easy route to finish their tasks (called quests in the game).

The term quest in MMOs is poorly chosen, however. Arthur warned that the quest for the Grail would be the undoing of his kingdom, because a true quest like that was more likely to devour men’s lives and their years, and was seen as an impossible task. I always think of Guinevere tearing at her hair and weeping as Lancelot and the rest ride out on their quest, crying that this doom had come over them all as punishment for their sins, knowing that even those who survived would be forever scarred and changed by it (this would be the Tennyson version, which I adore). She never did that when they went to tournament, where men died and were maimed, nor did she do this when they went to war. A quest was something altogether more terrible and more personal.

I just don't see Sir Percival forsaking knighthood, lamenting "this quest is not for me" as he chokes on dust and ash, and becoming a monk because he failed to kill 10 wolves for farmer jack. It just doesn't even come close.

So, by all means, have arrows, maps, pointers, circles, and what have you for these tasks. This is no quest, but a grocery shopping outing.
 
I think the problem is the idea that the 'real' game starts at end game. Therefore, everyone is in a rush to 80 so time can't be taken to read quest logs. I just want to get there as quickly as possible and get it done. It's kind of sad, but that's where I'm at with WoW these days.
 
last week I tried to level a toon without quest helpers of any kind, not even looking in wowhead or thottbot and I realize why we like so much those helpers, things I noticed

- some quest lack the explanation, telling only, north from here.
- sometimes we have to do multiple travels to the same place because we didn´t know/notice there were more than on quest in the same place
- it´s hard to plan a quest route, if fell more like wandering killing whatever the tooltip says is part of a quest
- and finally, I spent too much time just trying to understand the directions, maybe because english is not my first language
 
You might as well ask why players have to have their quests' handed to them all neat and tidy in a "quest tool" or why they can't be bothered to find a group before venturing out of a city because not a single part of the world is safe for a solo player. Games more on, that's all.
 
As said above, hardly anyone reads the text. You just read the Quest Title and the Progress Log that tells you what you need to do.

In my mind, since that's the only "text" that gets read, the best designed quests are going to be the ones where the quest title and progress log tell you everything you need to know about the purpose and goal of the quest.

Example:
They Took Our Beer!
0/8 - Steal back Beer Kegs
0/12 - Kill Thieving Foozles

Poison the King!
0/1 - Lure Foozle King with Poison Beer
0/1 - Slay Poisoned Foozle King

The only thing missing is WHERE to find the Foozles. That's where the "quest helper" feature comes into play. It's just a way to tell you where you will find them in a more visual way than reading the quest text.

It's not even unreasonable to think that the quest giver would point out the region on a map when they gave you the quest.

If you think about it, they already "tell" you in quest text, so why wouldn't they show you on a map? The map pointing is just a more visual and obvious way of "telling" you the location.

The challenge of a quest shouldn't be in "finding" the location, but in the actual completion of the task itself.
 
It's not those quests that are the problem. Quests where you kill a number of beasts that are generally milling about the area are really no problem unless people are farming them.

It's the 'Bring me head of Fred the Unpleasant' quests that are the problem. Firstly the directions to Fred are often less than helpful (Southern Barrens) and in a number of cases actually wrong. Secondly Fred may be found in one of 2 or 3 different locations. Thirdly if someone else acquires Fred's head before you do you may even be at the right location and not know it.

It's those situations that tools like QuestHelper solve.
 
@Hirvox: Is the achievement not lessened by the lack of effort or time investment?
Not directly, although it tells a lot about MMOs that effort and time investment are used as synonyms for challenge.

If we're going to go for efficiency in questing, when are we not ported directly to the mob to kill? Perhaps also given a buff for double damage against quest targets.
Because pleasing one customer segment sometimes has the effect of disillusioning another. Sure, some consider the questing to just be an obstacle and would love measures that you proposed to get rid of it. But then the explorers, the killers and some of the achievers would cry foul. Think of these guys as the WoW equivalents of people who have orienteering as a hobby. To them, having an optimal route is just a small part of the fun, there's still the challenge of successfully travelling that route. If you proverbially clearcut the woods and pave them over, then the execution part becomes moot. So they cry foul whenever Blizzard increases experience and reputation gains and enables mounts at lower levels. They did get their Feats of Strength as a compromise, though.
 
Quests in MMOs are the equivalent of Wordsearches or Paint-by-Numbers. That's not a criticism. I quite like them being that way.

Being old enough to have begun with text adventures and having seen that "match a word" functionality replicated in Everquest, I think the current quest iterations that let the software do most of the grunt work are just dandy.

I don't think WoW particularly needs the new quest feature, but many other MMOs have it and it will become the de facto standard in the future, I'm sure.
 
Totally agree w/ Marlus. How many times have I read in blogs or in chat sanctimonious asses asking people "did you bother to READ the quest directions?" Yes, I have read MANY quest directions. They all stink. The say, "north of Farmer Black's field" which invariably is not labeled on the damn map! I have to remember that I passed through an area 2 hours ago in which "Farmer Black's field" flashed briefly on my screen. It's ludicrus. If I've explored the whole damn zone, any quest log named area should be apparent on the map by passing the cursor over it.

If they expect us to explore and wander blindly through zones searching for needles, then they need to disable quest-log & map coordinate addons, increase XP for quests that are hard to find, and/or design more quest givers/targets that randomly move around the zone.
 
Since 1-79 don't matter, then wanting my time sink to be more efficient seems reasonable.

I disagree with all the "just read the quest" ideas. In fact, the part of WoWHead I find most helpful is the "is bugged/must dismiss pet/long respawn" warnings about design flaws that Blizzard can't ever tell you.
 
Great post. I also don't understand this relentless drive to make quests into mindless errands. How is that fun?

Optimizing the tedious searching out and getting on with the killing.

Well, some people think that killing 10 rats is tedious. Should we add an "I win" button that automatically kills any opponent in one blow? That would give players the option of optimizing the tedious combat out. More fun for everyone, right?

Ultimately, you can take any aspect of the game and find someone who doesn't enjoy it. If you take everything out of the game that some people don't enjoy, you'll end up with nothing.
 
Well, some people think that killing 10 rats is tedious. Should we add an "I win" button that automatically kills any opponent in one blow? That would give players the option of optimizing the tedious combat out. More fun for everyone, right?
See my comment above.

Ultimately, you can take any aspect of the game and find someone who doesn't enjoy it.
Yes, that was kind of my point. Making a product for multiple customer segments with conflicting interests is a balancing act. You try to bow to as many directions as possible while trying to avoid mooning the rest. What we see here is Blizzard trying to decide which directions they can moon without severely affecting the bottom line.

In that sense, this is nothing new. Blizzard has made official implementations of fast quest text, multiple hotbars, CT_RaidAssist, Scrolling Combat Text, an item database and many others. Conversely, they have banned TravelBot and multiple versions of Decursive. And let's not forget the many, many directs changes and tweaks to gameplay. Sure, there has been some pushback (like me canceling my subscription), but all in all, they seem to have a pretty good idea on what directions are more acceptable to the overall player base than others.
 
Making a product for multiple customer segments with conflicting interests is a balancing act. You try to bow to as many directions as possible while trying to avoid mooning the rest.

I would be happy if MMOs were honestly trying to balance competing interests. But they aren't, really. They're almost uniformly becoming easier, more linear, and more focused on Achiever gameplay (at the expense of Socializer and Explorer play). And it's not just WoW; the same thing is happening in LotRO and other games. In the balance of interests, Bartle Explorers seem to be getting missed.
 
I would be happy if MMOs were honestly trying to balance competing interests. But they aren't, really.
And I would be happy if I had a pony. :-) As I said, Blizzard's balancing profitability. If a certain market segment is large, they naturally get the most attention because they provide the most bang for the buck. If I happen to be in that market segment, great. If not, I'll vote with my wallet.

In the balance of interests, Bartle Explorers seem to be getting missed.
Yep, but if I had a solution to that, I would be making my own game. :p Continously making new content to sate the explorers' desires is hard, and procedural content can only take you so far until the pattern starts to shine through. Even Eve with it's huge galaxy is no different in that regard. Every system has slightly different stargates, planets, moons, pirates and asteroids and a different color palette for the nebulas and the sun. The only real difference between systems are the players residing in them, and a large chunk of 0.0 and wormhole space is empty at any time.
 
The quest system has been greatly streamlined over the course of WoW. In WotLK there really isn't a need for a quest helper in general, because the hubs are designed to do multiple quests roughly together and at the same spot (usually nearby). The need for it was more prevalent in old content, where you could be given a quest to some faraway place that you won't get to until later.

WoW has always, always been an MMO about end-game content. Blizzard was fairly explicit about that even when it first came out, that they wanted the "real game" to start at the cap. That's the way it is.

Last, quest helpers are optional. If you like running around an entire 1/3 of a zone looking for a vaguely described quest location, that's totally within your power. But not everyone finds that as fun or interesting!
 
Continously making new content to sate the explorers' desires is hard, and procedural content can only take you so far until the pattern starts to shine through.

It's too bad Blizzard never replicated something similar to what they did in Diablo and create some randomized dungeon instances.

Ideally, the map itself would be different. However, even if the dungeon terrain never changed (but the boss and mob locations varied), this would make dungeon runs a lot more interesting.

I'm not an explorer myself, but it would seem to me that type of randomized content would be appealing to you explorer types.
 
I believe somewhere they had a limit on how much info they could put in to a quest or task log entry, so I have to agree with the others that the system that was originally implemented was flawed and not very helpful.

Plus it is true that when there is a "Christmas Tree" effect on our mini map, most of us just pick up all the quests because sometimes they are related.

Not to mention, that as a new player, you have no idea where the hell you are or where you are going. I mean, what direction can be quite difficult depending on the landscape. They may say north, but if you have to go around a mountian and a couple forests first, then you are screwed.

I remember that there were many quests that I couldn't even ever find and had to just dismiss them. WoW has so many quests you can do anyway. You can skip all you want.

So, to have the option to see a "helper" is not something to be seen as bad. It conforms to their vision of accessability.

Really, it's not D&D anymore. We just want to get on with it and get to the part we really want to see.
 
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