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Improving Quest-Based LevelingFollow

#1 Jan 26 2013 at 11:54 PM Rating: Decent
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As someone who's played far too many MMO games for his own good, I've seen lots of great ideas, and even more terrible ones.

While many of us played the Alpha Version this past December, we've probably seen more than our fair share of quests. I personally wasn't all that impressed with what the team's done, although, I do think that it was an improvement compared to its 2010 counterpart. This raises the question; What can Square-Enix do to improve quest-based leveling?

There are two main factors that detract from the overall experience of questing; relevance and running back and forth. The Final Fantasy series has always been known for its narrative; no matter how bad the gameplay gets, people tend to play them through if the story is good enough. If 14 has such rich lore, building compelling quests based around completing heroic deeds should be cake. And while they're at it, have quests send you to new quest hubs naturally, rather than sending you there only after you've completed all the quests at one particular hub.

By no means is this an original idea, I've just been playing lots of WoW since 14's been down, and I really think that Blizzard has improved questing in Mists of Pandaria. At very few points did questing feel tedious, and more often than not, I was interesting in finding out what happened next in the quest line.

Thoughts? Opinions?
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#2 Jan 27 2013 at 12:01 AM Rating: Decent
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Narrative is important, but it's not enough without an overall good skill-based progression to the gameplay (i.e., balance), and well-placed and well-paced rewards for completion of content. In a nutshell, that's true of designing any game. Narrative is essentially a reward for content completion itself, so I agree with what you're saying in general, but narrative is just one part of the big picture for most players.

Good narrative definitely improves quest-based leveling, but so does making the questing properly challenging and rewarding to players for overcoming the challenge.
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#3 Jan 27 2013 at 3:58 AM Rating: Good
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They had a good discussion with Rep response on official forums:

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There's plenty of lore explanations in game. The most notable one was Professor Erik who explains more history as you proceed in the MNK questline. The biggest lore bomb when the Jobs came out was the reveal that the dragon in the Opening Cinematic was actually Midgardsormr.


We will be continuing that tradition in A Realm Reborn. As I'm sure you've seen Fernehalwes post about often, the dev. team will be working hard to include lots of juicy lore along with the quests that players tackle in A Realm Reborn.

In addition, the team will be implementing other aspects to help adventurers get a better feel of the world they inhabit, such as NPCs that offer up info on specific locales.
#4 Jan 27 2013 at 8:34 AM Rating: Decent
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Needs to be a balance. For at least the first class/job that you level for each discipline (War, Magic, Hand, Land), there should be interesting quests that flesh out some of the minor details of Eorzea. Kind of like what FFXI did with their quests (though with EXP rewards and not being so vague in their instructions.)

However, once you get your 7th class or so to 50, I wouldn't want to run out of rich storyline quests and have nothing else to do. That's when the grindy leve ones come into play.

I do think there are room for both.
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#5 Jan 27 2013 at 11:33 AM Rating: Good
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Narrative is important but it will not & should not be as good as the main scenario. It will not because there are not enough writers to keep thousands of sidequest interesting & unique. It should not because it will lessen the impact or emotional charge of the main scenario. Plus when a game overdoes narrative and cutscenes, they tend to get lower review scores for uneven pacing of game flow.

No matter how well written something is, there are always going to be players who spam buttons and ignore the text or cs if possible. Why is this? It's because there is no interactive input by the user. If no choice is required to be made or the choice doesn't matter, some players will spam. Am I asking ARR to be TOR? No, the light and good decision is ok but these are entirely different companies. Make the choices have long term, non reversible/repeatable and some players will dread making choices. Plus dark/light is so one dimensional. Make the choices match the context.

I think we can agree on the biggest dismay with most sidequest in offline and online rpgs. A sidequest consist of performing a task for a world npc. The problem is that these tasks usually consists of a four done to death job descriptions. Hunter, delivery, collector, and escorter. The few times rpgs/games explore other job descriptions are the ones we remember most. Tasks need not be confined to environmental duties neither. It can consist of altering an npcs mental state. Emotional content has substance.

The last thing I want to touch on is mechanics. Every FF had sidequest minigames that exist outside minigame areas like Gold Saucer. I thinks different minigames should be used for certain sidequest in ARR. Say a mechanic needs help fixing a mechanical contraption. Instead of just gathering the parts and watching a cs or text box. He/she might ask how much of a substance should they use. Maybe you might have to adjust parameters on a steam engine. Maybe after you finally help him fix it, he/she takes you for a ride in that contraption. If you adjusted something wrong, you both crash and back to square one. Get it all right and you earn a mount. Apply this concept to other job duties in the world, match the content to the context.

The interface used to handle so many simple minigames are? Dynamic hotkeys.
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#6 Jan 27 2013 at 2:07 PM Rating: Decent
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^These are true things.
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Ok, now we're going to get slash fiction of Wint x Kachi somehere... rule 34 and all...

Never confuse your inference as the listener for an implication of the speaker.

Good games are subjective like good food is subjective. You're not going to seriously tell me that there's not a psychological basis for why pizza is great and lutefisk is revolting. The thing about subjectivity is that, as subjects go, humans actually have a great deal in common.
#7 Jan 27 2013 at 2:27 PM Rating: Good
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RippedApart wrote:
...NPCs that offer up info on specific locales.


Ah, the walking codex. Always a good way to provide information when subtle and varied dialogue -- not to mention cutscenes and exploration -- just can't do the trick.
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#8 Jan 27 2013 at 6:46 PM Rating: Excellent
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My question remains though; why shouldn't your quests tie into the "main-scenario"?

Think about how tedious FF6 or FF7 would have been if you had to stop and help random villagers before you could go back to chasing Sepheroth or something. Adding depth like this could change the genre for the better.
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#9 Jan 27 2013 at 9:48 PM Rating: Decent
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Ideally they should, but that's easier said than done for at least a couple of reasons. One is simply the developmental burden. Creating a sufficient quantity of quests to propel the narrative forward when you have players who will complete it all within a few months is problematic. The other is a matter of narrative quality. Creating a longer compelling narrative isn't easy to do. Just look at all the failed TV shows and such that don't get another season because of the audience attrition. Writing a long story that maintains reader interest isn't necessarily easy.
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Hyrist wrote:
Ok, now we're going to get slash fiction of Wint x Kachi somehere... rule 34 and all...

Never confuse your inference as the listener for an implication of the speaker.

Good games are subjective like good food is subjective. You're not going to seriously tell me that there's not a psychological basis for why pizza is great and lutefisk is revolting. The thing about subjectivity is that, as subjects go, humans actually have a great deal in common.
#10 Jan 28 2013 at 9:24 AM Rating: Good
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It's funny that a television writing scenario has come up since more and more I lean on viewing mmo's like ongoing series. Would it be so financially unfeasible to have say, a small dedicated team of writers or even enlisting the help of freelance writers wholly immersed in the mythos, ala Star Trek or similar fansized talent, to slip in one or two tiny but semi-epic mini missions throughout a year. These stories would hopefully add more depth and dimension to the worlds as the primary dev teams focus on the grander scaled releases. Reward tied to these stories would perhaps be cosmetic or equivalent to the challenge. Nothing equivalent to a major expansion, of course. This small team would be tasked to continue injecting these storylines at a slow but steady clip.

Small quality storylines that can stand on their own yet continue to help flesh out the grayer areas of an evolving world. Pen and paper full circle?
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#11 Jan 28 2013 at 9:44 AM Rating: Good
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Given the tremendous budgets of these games, I don't think a small team of dedicated writers should be out of the question at all. I don't think constant story updates are a problem. But to make the entire process of leveling follow that process would still be unrealistic. Some degree of progression needs to be gameplay-oriented, otherwise your story efforts will suffer.
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Hyrist wrote:
Ok, now we're going to get slash fiction of Wint x Kachi somehere... rule 34 and all...

Never confuse your inference as the listener for an implication of the speaker.

Good games are subjective like good food is subjective. You're not going to seriously tell me that there's not a psychological basis for why pizza is great and lutefisk is revolting. The thing about subjectivity is that, as subjects go, humans actually have a great deal in common.
#12 Jan 28 2013 at 12:38 PM Rating: Excellent
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ShindaUsagi wrote:
It's funny that a television writing scenario has come up since more and more I lean on viewing mmo's like ongoing series. Would it be so financially unfeasible to have say, a small dedicated team of writers or even enlisting the help of freelance writers wholly immersed in the mythos, ala Star Trek or similar fansized talent, to slip in one or two tiny but semi-epic mini missions throughout a year. These stories would hopefully add more depth and dimension to the worlds as the primary dev teams focus on the grander scaled releases. Reward tied to these stories would perhaps be cosmetic or equivalent to the challenge. Nothing equivalent to a major expansion, of course. This small team would be tasked to continue injecting these storylines at a slow but steady clip.

Small quality storylines that can stand on their own yet continue to help flesh out the grayer areas of an evolving world. Pen and paper full circle?


I'd bet if they "crowdsourced" some of the writing for a small adventure, say as part of a contest, they'd come up with some good ideas they could use.
#13 Jan 28 2013 at 1:43 PM Rating: Good
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Oh ****, I'd be all over that in a heartbeat. It's like fanfiction, only it has a chance of becoming official!
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#14 Jan 28 2013 at 7:05 PM Rating: Decent
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TurboTom wrote:
My question remains though; why shouldn't your quests tie into the "main-scenario"?

Think about how tedious FF6 or FF7 would have been if you had to stop and help random villagers before you could go back to chasing Sepheroth or something. Adding depth like this could change the genre for the better.

Some can tie into the main scenario. But to tie all of them in and you run the risk of becoming "tedious". Bioware had eight writers, one for each class. If you were a gameflow junky, too much story/cutscene becomes a hinderance. XIII received a bit of critism on that front.
#15 Jan 28 2013 at 8:28 PM Rating: Excellent
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sandpark wrote:
Some can tie into the main scenario. But to tie all of them in and you run the risk of becoming "tedious". Bioware had eight writers, one for each class. If you were a gameflow junky, too much story/cutscene becomes a hinderance. XIII received a bit of critism on that front.

They did a terrible job at it though. It wasn't the class quests that were repetitive or redundant, it was more of the fact that you had to traverse boring planets like Hoth or Tatooine that were largely uninhabited while doing quests with trivial objectives.

Case in point:
"Master Jedi! I need space rope!"
(Run a million miles in one direction, collect space rope, run back, next task)

This sort of questing is boring and TOR suffered for it, particularly when you got to daily quests. I wouldn't want to see the same fate fall upon 14. They can absolutely pull off this feat; just make quests remotely meaningful to the overall feel of what's going on in the world.
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