Moo Tang Clan: Alternative to quest texts

Monday, December 1, 2008

Alternative to quest texts

A comment on Kill Ten Rats caught my eye:

But I think there’s more to the problem of quest text than just that people are too lazy to read it and too stupid to understand it. Yes, that’s the basic problem for a lot of people, but quest text seems to me to also be a very awkward game mechanic.

What other ways could it be done? Back in EQ (or was it UO?) you'd interact with the NPC via typed dialog - you'd type something, he'd reply, you'd hope you used the correct keywords, and on it goes.

So here's an idea, inspired by the flavour responses that WoW NPCs have when you just click on them (a sequence of greetings deteriorating into annoyance) ... click the NPC and he mentions he wants help, click again to find out more, and so on. Mix it up a little bit so players don't just spamclick - have the NPC ask a question at some point, to which the player could /agree or /disagree or some other /emote as appropriate. The responses would probably be via text, not voice effects, simply because of the massive volume of content required.

The NPC might react differently depending on if you are mounted or not, right in front of them or not, and so on. Not mysterioius-different, but flavour-different. Some might insist you sit down before they talk, rather than flapping away


Crimson Starfire said...

You might be on to something there. Questing driven by 'limited emotional response'. Your interaction with the NPC would determine the requirements and the outcome of the quest. It's not necessary a new concept, but it hasn't really been done in an MMO before. The hardcore RP guys would love it ;)

Garumoo said...

I agree, not an entirely new concept. What we've learned in MMO land though is that novelty isn't the be all and end all ... implementation, execution, and "polish" really matter a lot too.

Done well this would be something players rave about - consider the chicken quest in Westfall for example. Overdone and it would be something players would rant about.

I wonder what an acceptable ratio might be? If all quests started their explain/acceptance dialog with clicking, but only 1% required special attention then players would probably be totally lulled into boredom by the simple non-interactive 99%, and then go into nerd-rage when the usual click-spamming doesn't just give them the quest already dammit.

If 100% required careful attention it would quickly exhaust the range of possible interactions, leading to non-novel repetition of interaction patterns (similar to how "kill 10 foozles" is a tediously overdone quest design pattern).

But if only 10% required some special interactive emote mixed in, then that would be bearable. Maybe 20% would be better - one in five quests require attention and interaction. Given than a great many "quests" are barely that, but are instead "now take this back to whatsisname" (ie. a moronic follow-on quest which only exists in it's own right because multi-step quests can't easily be implemented in the standard "accept/objective/hand-in" quest mechanic framework) .. <gasp-for-air> .. then only the interesting quests need interesting interaction.