Sunday, August 30, 2009

Remnants of an Age Past

What shall be named The Mistake, I started playing It again. I was trying to save myself like a Kama Sutra monk, waiting for the Aion release (double entendre definitely intended). The last flirtation involved gallivanting through Northrend, an unexpectedly fun experience (pre-Tournament Icecrown is my favorite zone in all of WoW).

But this time I am trekking through Azeroth, all the old content, and I have come to a realization. I must call it a revelation, lest I get so frustrated at the bait 'n switch that I end my adventure here and now. I have finally understood that "killing with purpose" motto pronounced several times by the WoW designers. It's like the missing link between EverQuest and Aion. Newer quests are not as crude as 1.x WoW quests as to reveal this dark secret. I feel like I've discovered Ida.

Prior to WoW, mobs were simply grinded for experience points. You or your party found a camp somewhere and just killed mobs for hours. WoW quests are a layer of story on top of this grinding. The quest gives you a "purpose" to go an kill 100 boars, but you are still camping somewhere and killing mobs for hours. This is prevalent throughout much of 1.x WoW:
  • Recipe quests which ask you for several animal parts which would require you slaughter an entire field many times over.
  • Enemy stronghold quests which make you kill an entire cave of humanoids only to get a follow up quest to go back into the same cave and kill the leader (after all the mobs have respawned).
The idea of grinding mobs doesn't really go away; now there is bonus experience for doing the "purpose" layer.

I'm putting purpose in quotes because Blizzard seems to think that players just killed willy-nilly without rhyme nor reason prior to the Deliverance. Those xp camps had purpose: get experience points. And as I've said before, I enter some twisted, meditative state when I'm just farming mobs for an extending period of time. I also like xp parties, something I'm looking forward to in Aion.

Since the Enlightenment, Blizzard has seemed to have forgotten how things were and are addressing the outcry of monotony originating from the mistake of calling these story purposes "quests". We have bombing runs, vehicle combat, and other mini-games focusing not on "killing with a purpose" but on "fun".

Maybe we can change how bonus experience is distributed.

In FFXI, when you killed mobs within a time window of each other, you received bonus experience. It wasn't something to sneeze at; you could get upwards of 50% extra experience. What if we changed the quest experience system to something resembling the bonus experience system? Instead of stocking up on "Kill 20 Monkeys" quests, let's reserve the title of Quest for actual quests. When players start killing mobs in a certain area, give them a heads up as to how to acquire the bonus experience. Ask them to kill 10 mobs in 5 minutes; or 50 Rats total. Once they complete the objective, give them the bonus experience.

Of course this is assuming we have the standard, target-hotbar MMORPG combat system. A few months ago, I had envisioned a high-intensity combat system--somewhat of a throwback to Action RPGs. Characters have large amounts of AOE attacks, designed to cut through hordes of enemies quickly. Think of Diablo II. But instead of giving experience points just for killing mobs, we make the players run Gauntlets. Think of Gauntlets like instanced dungeons, with start and end locations and checkpoints along the way. Players receive bonus experience when they reach checkpoints and ultimately the end.

Simple. Fun. Flashy. Not monotonous like "Kill 30 Vultures". There is even the potential to record times of parties as they race to the end: have a leader board for the Achievers.

This originally was part of a grand territory control system, but as a middle layer game, what do you think?


Anonymous said...

Your gauntlets sound very very like the Guild Leves that the FFXIV designers are planning on putting in.

motstandet said...

Perhaps I don't have all the information, but it looks like Leves just grant access to certain areas or resources.

If we apply Gauntlets to WoW, anyone at anytime can zone into an instance. Then at every boss kill, players get some bonus experience.

Brian 'Psychochild' Green said...

Sounds a bit like the LotRO deed system, but that's mostly just for killing a lot of enemies. Having some variation like "Kill X in Y time" would be interesting.

One thing that you have overlooked in the original WoW quest design is that it gave people direction. In previous EQ/DIKU type games, you had to ask or explore around to find the good hunting spots. In WoW, you clicked on the NPCs with the bright yellow ! over their heads and they gave you directions to the "good hunting spot" for the moment. I think this is one of the main reasons why WoW was considered so solable, because you had a direction to go instead of the optimal path being to follow other people.

Tesh said...

Tangent: How about "quests" that have goals *other* than just killing stuff in optimal rotations and/or locations? Say, getting somewhere quickly, where the key is evasion or killing only when necessary (or kiting a biggie to a herd of little 'uns so they fight and you can sneak past). There are a LOT more things that *could* be done in these MMO things.