Saturday, September 19, 2009

Questing in General, and Player Offered Quests

Okay, I lied. I said this next one was going to be about armor, and how silly it is a mage can’t wear leather, but I’ve also been thinking about the problem with Warhammer right now, and how people are always looking for the most convenient way to level. There are a few basic elements of Quests in general that I think could use a good looking-at.

One of the most annoying quests for me, personally, has always been ‘go talk to Fred, and then when you get there, he’ll invariably send you back to talk to me again’. Dude, hate to be an ass here, but are you and Fred going through a messy break up or something, and aren’t talking to each other anymore? Go talk to him yourself, I got tigers to slay. While I can understand general ‘breadcrumb’ quests that send you into town number three when you’re all done with town number two, ones that involve NPCs standing twenty feet from one another make no sense. Unless the first NPC was blind, and wanted to follow you around until you dropped him off next to Fred so he could talk to him alone, it’s just lazy quest writing. These quests are to be expected, because they follow one of the default standards set forth by Moses after he came down from Mount Gunbad.

A lot of questing is just the time sink of travel, followed by the time sink of grinding, followed by the time sink of travel again. Why do you think hearthstones have a one hour timer? If it was too convenient to travel around, people would do it, and god forbid that happens. I remember the first time I saw Ruby Red Slippers drop in Karazhan, and thought ‘Wow! An extra hearthstone! That would be awesome for any class that isn’t a mage!’ Then it turned out that using the slippers just activated the hearthstone cooldown, too, and the only benefit to having the slippers was that you could throw away your hearthstone, freeing up one bag slot. Oh but wait, equipping the slippers activates a 30 second timer before you can use them, so technically, they’re worse than a hearthstone.

Here’s an easy proposal that borrows on existing in-game mechanics: have NPCs check their mail! I can already attach 12 items to a single letter in WoW, why not put some tiger tails as an attachment, and just type the NPCs name in the ‘to’ field? The XP could be gained immediately upon hitting send, or there could be a tradeoff… if you bring the tails to Fred directly, he’ll reward you right away, while mailing him the items could take an hour or two for the XP to roll over. There are mailboxes everywhere, and mailing items is a pretty standard fare. Even follow-up quests could be received from the mailbox.

Ixobelle, tales of your valor in slaying the Tiger Tamer of Tatooine have reached my ears, and I have another request to make of you. My village was ravaged by blah blah blah and could you blah blah blah for my blah blah blah?

For quests that have multiple rewards offered, just select the reward ahead of time (at the time of taking the quest), or implement a system where you send the mail back to the NPC including ‘Shoulders of Pwnsauce’ in the body. Hell, if that’s too complicated, add another tab to the mail window titled ‘quests’ and for each outstanding quest, you could have the system itself compose the letter, with drop down menus for your selected reward. Again, taking the time to travel directly to Fred would still allow you to pick up the follow-up, and select your reward the old way, there would also just be another, more convenient option as well.

Another option that’s been brought up is the idea of players offering each other a quest, which is of course a terrifying situation for everyone involved, but ties into my advance trade skilling thing from before, where you have people that are actually using their trade skills in new and creative ways. Once you reach a certain level of Apothecary, you could have a quest available. It would need a ‘quest building’ window to be implemented, and would obviously require some planning and tweaking to iron out the logistics, but here’s the general idea:

I need 10 Felweed per potion of Fancy Felweed Delight that I craft. Once a day, I can offer a quest (Inspect Player > View Available Quests) that will offer gold from my own pocket to whoever brings me trade skill mats. The price per item you offer would need to be researched as to the going price for such items on the AH, plus however much I felt like tacking on for incentive to accept my quest. The benefit for someone doing your quest is the bonus XP that they don’t get by just selling their item on the AH, and perhaps a ‘friendly player’ faction that could provide a title or other reward. Hell, I could offer you those green bracers I got yesterday as a drop as well. RPers could write 80 page novels for each quest offered... go crazy, buddy, whatever floats your boat. The quest taker then decides ‘is it a better deal to give my Felweed to Sally here, or just sell it myself on the AH?’

There are loopholes, but it wouldn’t take rocket scientists to figure them out and squash them. For example: what’s to stop me from giving you 10 Felweed, then making a quest asking for 10 Felweed, and cranking the XP up to 10 billion? First, you don’t set the XP, it’s done internally based on the level of the quest taker. Level 1s get 71 XP, 70s get 5000 (level * 71.42! woo math!). Each person can only complete one or two player given quests per day, and upon someone inspecting you and offering to take your quest, you can accept or deny them. Perhaps you can only give out one quest per day as well, or offer it to as many as you like, but the first to turn it in receives the reward. Upon accepting such a quest, you can see ‘2 of the 4 people who have accepted this quest are currently online’. That keeps it so that if I accept your quest, and log off, it’s not a huge deal. Also, the mailbox can be used to deliver the goods, or two players can be racing to grab the mats and turn it in, creating friendly competetion. There could even be a quest creation hub, where you had to put your ‘reward’ in a safe box, so you couldn’t offer a 500g reward you don’t have. The picture says 'within 24 hours' but maybe that could be further clarified ('this quest will expire in 14h 34m').This ties in to a two way auction house, as well. Say I’m building a Furies Deck (collect cards ace thru 8 for a set), and I only need one more. I can make my quest ‘bring me a (shift click item link to insert it to your quest text) FOUR OF FURIES, and I will reward you with 500g!’ Suddenly, the option to post an item request is a very real option (although an honest to god two way auction house would be best, instead of having to track down a quest giver). Player communication becomes a big deal, as you suddenly see a Four of Furies on the AH, but maybe that quest has been fulfilled ten minutes ago. Bored (or RP) players could start silly or crazy quests involving rare drops or some hard to find item. You could offer the quest to only those in your guild or player list (rejecting any others, or just hiding out in a remote area to offer it). Ten people could plan out an entire quest chain that has them sending people to each other to pick up the next part of a quest. Does this mean they'd ignore the NPC quest givers in favor of other players? OMG we’re playing each other! Social interaction! Run away before the cooties spread!

But still, the underlying problem remains: I give you 10 felweed, make that quest, and you give them right back! Bang 5000 XP. Um, grats. You can only do it once per day, and last time I checked daily quests in WoW or Scenarios in Warhammer are pretty liberal with XP etc, so there’s your daily 5000 ‘I have a friend’ bonus. Big deal. To eliminate the problem with having the ten person quest chain mentioned above all lining up one after the other, just restrict the amount of 'player XP' you can receive in 24 hours. The first two quests will award 5k each, and you're free to pick up and complete as many more as you desire throughout the day (still earning any prizes offered by the player out of their pocket or random unwanted loot drops), but your actual XP is capped from these adventures until tomorrow.

While the typical ‘quest item’ idea is unique, and the normal items looted from quests have absolutely zero value (vendors won’t purchase them), having the item be useful items like herbs or other trade skill-y item makes one stop and think about whether to sell the item on the AH, turn it in to a friendly player, or just vend it. Plus it would be cool to open your mailbox, and find strangers have gone on an errand for you instead of some random NPC, and now you have enough Felweed to craft another Felweed Delight! If the idea became abused, and everyone was just running to the AH to buy the quest reward, then you could choose a specific animal from a drop down and have old fashioned quest items drop off mobs, but you're turning it in to some person, instead of some NPC.

Am I being naïve? Is there some huge flaw to this that I’ve overlooked? The normal quest givers would still be there, and the game would operate as it always has (whichever game it is), but this would be another social interaction to bring people together in way that mutually benefits both parties involved.

originally posted 10/23/08


Cronoo said...

This would be great for Pve...but if something like this were implemented into a game, it would be interesting to see the capabilities of it with Pvp. Like, a bounty system or a way to pay players through this quest system to kill specific players of the opposing faction(or same-faction through some sort of neutral exchange, IE a Horde hiring an Alliance to kill a Horde by way of goblin npc or something. There wouldn't really be a direct communication between the two parties but it seems like it would be possible). This would open up new opportunities for World Pvp, and rewards for doing something that may be fun.

Danas said...

A good player bounty system would be great.

In regards to the preventing people from abusing it, what about having the person who is hosting the quest being required to contribute the xp reward by having it removed from their own xp pool? Maybe even have it cost a little more? If the quest rewards 5k xp, the person hosting it has to pay 7.5k xp. There would have to be a little xp buffer at the level cap, so people don't lose a level the first time they sacrifice some xp to host a quest, but that's not too crazy (maybe like 10-20% into the next level). EQ already has that kind of xp buffer, I believe. That way if people start hosting tons of quests, they're going to start losing levels.

Rich said...

I doubt very much that people would be interested in offering up their own XP to dole out as quest rewards. The implication in the article was that the gold (or green bracer) reward comes from your own stash (as you'd effectively be getting felweed for free otherwise!), but the XP is coming from 'the server'.

maybe in a bounty system, it would be worth it, though...? I could see a situation where people consider it griefing. On Daggerspine in WoW, we had one high warlord for over a year (google Kuroma Daggerspine), and while everyone wanted him to die anyway, having killing him be a quest might be frowned upon in their eyes ;)

Bonedead said...

First, on Warhammer quests to run from this guy to that guy. I made a Chosen and my first 3-4 quests were all run around talk to that guy 10 feet over there. I think I may have even hit Rank 2 from just walking for maybe 30 seconds total. I mean don't get me wrong, I was like aw hells yeah I didn't even fight shit yet, but still. Talk about lame, especially since no one reads quest text anyway.

Sometimes I wonder if I ever did read quest text.

The idea to give out your own xp as reward crossed my mind as well, but iso is probably right that people wouldn't want to.

But, if crafting gave you crafting XP and player reward XP then maybe you could do something like that. This way you may not even need to limit the number of times it can be done because the quest will poof when the crafter is out of reward xp.

I'm sure someone would eventually figure out a way to always profit from this, by either selling the item they want players to find on the AH for a lot, I don't know, something. But all this would do is point out one of the loopholes to fix.

Hatch said...

Hi Ixo,

I just read your farewell post at notaddicted, and found you here via Tobold. Been following your posts there all these years, and I'm glad to see you'll be continuing to provide me with entertainment for when I'm pretending to work.

Also, try not to get banned from WoW again. LK looks like it's going to be good (jumping the shark my ass), and I'd hate to have to gloat to you about it.

...who am I kidding, I'd love that.

Hatch said...

I finally read the content of your post.

You started out by mentioning how quest design shapes the behavior of players, and how everyone in Warhammer is just choosing the most efficient leveling method (scenarios atm) rather than doing what seems most fun to them.

People would use your system the same way. What's the most efficient thing to do? Every day, you and your friend create the same simple quests, and exchange the "free" xp every day. It would be stupid not to take advantage of that.

You could mitigate that by only allowing you to do 1 quest from the same person per day and letting people make unlimited personal quests, but then they'd be forced to escalate. You know that entire guilds would build around a network of who is offering free rewards to whom to maximize this system. Very few would use it for "fun" because they'd be too busy exploiting the system for easy rewards.

I know you dismiss this possibility as inconsequential, but I really think it would be the only way most people would use it. And it would detract from other activities in the game. Just as in warhammer, why quest when scenarios are faster xp? Well, why do normal quests when I can just log in for 10 minutes a day, hand in my pre-arranged quests with my guildies, and then log off and do something else?

It's sad, because I think it's a really cool idea with awesome applications like the crazy quest examples you gave. But uunfortunately, I think it would just amount to yet another grindy thing I have to do to keep up with xLUvz2sPoojx over there.

Rich said...

yeah, i would see people abusing it from friends, but i was saying... only 5000xp total per 24 hours could be doled out from a 'player given' quest. It'd be just another form of a daily quest, but involving player interaction instead of just wrassling nether rays for the 8 millionth time.

Honestly, even if the only interaction is the discussion of 'hold these felweed and gimme a sec to make the quest, then trade em back', it involves more player interaction than a normal daily quest.

RP guilds (or bored individuals) could continue to complete 500 quests in those 24 hours, but for no XP, just the player offered rewards (gold, items)

Cronoo said...

Well, why do normal quests when I can just log in for 10 minutes a day, hand in my pre-arranged quests with my guildies, and then log off and do something else?

If that's all your going to do, what's the point of even playing? If you're just handing in a quest that's already done and getting off, you're really not providing entertainment for yourself and the game becomes a chore and not fun. So, why even bother?
Sure this system could get you a free 5k exp, but really...that's not going to get you very far.

For example. In World of Warcraft it takes 494000exp to get from 60 to 61. So at the rate of 1 quest per day it will take 100 days to level up. Awesome.

In Warhammer, to go from 29 to 30, you'd need 445,020exp. That would take 90 days at the rate of 1 quest per day.

You want to exploit the system? Go'll reach the level cap in a few years.

Unknown said...

The easiest way to counter the abuse would be that the player offering the exp would give them from her own exp.

What I would like to see in WoW would be something I have read of WAR having: player requests in AH or similar. Not just selling things but announcing that 'I need 10 foozles, will pay 20s for each' and then the race would be out.

I think you have hit the nail on the head with this one Ixo: the player quests and activation of player interaction via requests and trades is something that has been neglected so far.

Hatch said...

I like the angle of increasing player interaction. WoW could stand to do a lot more to encourage grouping instead of making it a chore unless you only group with your guild (and thus never meet any new people).

I'll admit that just logging in to do a single daily quest is extreme, and not a good way to level. I went too far with that one, when I should have just left it at "most people will just make a deal with a friend to complete an easy quest every day".

I like the idea, and I do think it would be worthwhile to put it in just so a few creative people could do really cool things with it. Giving everyone one quest's worth of free xp doesn't seem like a big problem.

I just get annoyed when one ridiculously easy activity gives a good enough reward that it makes other fun activities not worth doing. For instance, I find raiding more fun that PvP in WoW, but since TBC there were many times where BGs or arena were by far the best reward for the time/effort investment. So tons of people ended up getting pushed into PvP when they didn't really enjoy it. Same with scenarios in WAR currently. With this system, I'd feel obligated to set up a deal with a friend, and I'm tired of having more obligations in the game due to reward imbalances. I'd rather everything reward roughly evenly, and then I can just choose the more fun activity for me.

But the more I think about it, the more I go "who cares about xp anyway?" and you could just put the system in at max level and suddenly it's not really exploitable because it becomes sort of zero-sum (for everything you gain, someone else loses something).

Anyway, the fun applications of the system would make it worth it. :)

Username74003 said...

I like this idea a lot. I really dont think that an XP bonus would be necessary, especially in WoW. It takes no time to get to max level. It is the max level where you spend most your game time at anyways. I would rather do these than go through another batch of dailies. I would enjoy doing personal quests rather than dailies. Hell, I would rather wipe my ass with a cactus leaf than go through Dailies again.

Melf_Himself said...

Taking this idea a step further, imagine a game where your character actually had a particular thing they really wanted to get done, so much so that they were willing to put their own XP on the line to have others do it (as well as gold etc).

With the right RP / story elements in place (fingers crossed SW:TOR) it would be super awesome.

Otherwise though, I think it amounts to a buy order on the AH, which is great and more games should implement, but has already been done.

Longasc said...

Very cool idea!

I have one more. Make player rewards RANDOM and depending on item quality.

Warrior Longasc asks player X to bring him a sword and a shield.

The reward would be based on WHAT sword he brought the NPC and a random factor.

For example, a starter sword and shield make the NPC give a somewhat disappointed answer and little reward.

But donating Illidan's Glaive gives you a chance to get something really good or valuable.

Anonymous said...

"There are mailboxes everywhere, and mailing items is a pretty standard fare. Even follow-up quests could be received from the mailbox."

Of course then the next player along can pick up the:

"Go get my mail from the mailbox" quest ;-)

Personally I love the idea of the player created quests...

I don't want to go collect tiger tails... maybe I will offer the quest up at 50% of the reward and get someone else to grind them.. then I will hand it in and profit.