Archive for the ‘Quest Writing’ Category

Design Collaboration in MMO’s

I just read an excellent post on Moorgard’s blog about writing vs. storytelling.  If you haven’t gotten the chance to read it, I highly recommend it since it has some really compelling ideas.  As an English-major looking to head into this industry, I’m always looking for information regarding writing and storytelling in MMO’s, so thanks to Moorgard for writing this and getting me to consider it from this perspective.

Basically what he’s saying is that there is quite a difference between being a good novelist or a poet and being a good quest writer and storyteller for MMO’s.  He makes the point that most MMO players aren’t playing them to be bombarded by a vast amount of literature.  They are there to play the game and generally skip past all of the text when they can.  He then says that this what MMO writers need to do is create a story that can then be portrayed physically in the world rather than having everything simply be explained to  you.  I completely agree, and I realize that no matter how well a quest is written, only a very small percentage of players will actually read the text before going off to complete the objective.  The storyline that the player should be experiencing is where the experience needs to be enhanced.  I can understand how games work that drop you in with no real sense of purpose, but I would much rather feel as though there was some cosmic purpose to my character being in whatever given world he or she is in, which is where storytelling really comes into play.

If you want to have a game play experience that involves a great storyline, this means that you are going to need to have help from every designer working on the project or else you can’t really achieve your goal.  This lead me to my conclusion that there needs to be a more definitive collaboration between the different design teams in order to create a more cohesive game play experience, rather than each team working with what they’ve been given.  I have no doubt that it is there in some form, but I think it could definitely be improved.  This isn’t always the case, but it would seem as though one designer says “Wow, I have a great idea for a quest!” and another designer says “Wow, I have a great idea for a monster!” and another designer that says “Wow, I have a great idea for a landmark!”  At that point they decide how the three can work together, and generally they do so fairly well, but it could have been much more powerful, cohesive, and rewarding for the player if they had started the process together and really fleshed out a plan for all three that would make them feel connected and necessary.

Obviously, I don’t have any first-hand experience and I could be completely wrong here, but I doubt that I am entirely wrong.  If I were, I think we would have much more compelling quests and clear story lines woven into the frame of the game than we do in most MMO’s now.  I think one game that really breaks the mold here is LotRO with their chapter series and their instanced quests which really bring you into the story without forcing literature down your throat.  It makes the player feel important and in the action.  I think instances are a great way to do this.  Instancing is definitely a great way to do this because the world can be altered in the instance without it being permanent as well as giving players the opportunity to feel as though they are experiencing something for the first time that is really important.  That said, I don’t think this is the only effective way to achieve this result.

Again, I have no experience in the industry and I have no idea how the design and brainstorming process works in their creation and evolution, and if I am wrong, then I can at least say this with certainty:  I think it can and should be improved.  This is one of the areas that is truly lacking in MMO’s that console games have the upper edge on, which I don’t think should be the case.  MMO’s have the ability to constantly adapt and morph since they are being developed after their release, so the story of the world and the characters shouldn’t be put on the back-burner just because there are plenty of other things available to keep players occupied.  I think this should be at the head of the experience, constantly driving the player to learn about the world and how they fit in in whatever way they can, whether that means through questing or simply through making the world a deep and rich place in as many ways as possible.

~Kanthalos

Daily Quest #3

Sorry it’s been a while since I wrote up the last quest, but I’ve got a new one for today. Basically it’s a combination of a few elements that I think would be pretty interesting. It’s really not even a quest in the strictest sense of the word, but more of an opportunity for risk vs. reward.

With this talk of gambling both here and on the SUWT podcast, it got me thinking of a way to make this aspect of the game more fun. With that said, I’ll dive into the heart of it.

For the sake of this “opportunity,” I’m going to use the Shimmering Flats raceway in Thousand Needles, something that doesn’t actually involve gambling (though I wish it did.)

Game: World of Warcraft

Quest Location: Shimmering Flats Raceway

Quest Giver Location: Gadgetzan, Tanaris

Quest Dialogue: “Greetings, traveler. I was wondering if you wouldn’t mind doing me a small favor. You see, this here shop hasn’t been paying the bills as well I’d like, so I’ve been using most of our earnings over at the Shimmering Flats Raceway. The returns have been… well, there haven’t been any returns, but I plan to change that with the next race. One of the mechanics told me he’s going to sabotage the other rockets, which means that the CX-250 is a shoe-in to win the race! I’d go and place the bet myself, but the wife’s been on me to fix a leak for too long, and I can’t take it anymore.

Here’s 20 gold to go place the bet. If it wins, I’ll split the return with you, which isn’t bad with 4:1 odds. Come back when the race is over, and we’ll have a drink to our success!”

Quest Reward/How it works: This depends. This situation requires you to make the decision of whether to place the bet or not. Obviously, you can’t be certain whether the mechanic will sabotage the other rockets or not, and if he doesn’t, you the odds of winning aren’t really that great compared to the other rockets.

Here’s where some new game mechanics could be incorporated. If they were to be used, it would add some neat elements to the game, but they wouldn’t necessarily have to be used. Here are several scenarios that could come about from this:

1) You keep the money and never return to the shop-keeper.

2) You keep it and tell the shop-keeper that the rocket he bet on lost the race. There is a chance that he will discover that you lied, and all of the shop-keepers in town find out. If this happens, prices go up and money for selling goods goes down. He might not find out, though, and you could get 15 gold with no consequences.

3) You bet the money and lose. Obviously in this case, you get to go bet on a race but get nothing out of it.

4) You bet the money and win and go back to the quest giver to return his share. In this case you get 40 gold for yourself and you make a shop-keeper happy.

5) You be the money and win, but keep the money for yourself. Similar to the second scenario, you could avoid the shop-keeper and pretend it never happened, or lie and run the risk of negative effects if you get caught.

6)You bet the money and lose. You feel bad for the shop-keeper and decide to give him the gold that he would have won. This will cost you 60g basically, but if you can afford it, then you might consider doing this, as it would increase your favor with people in town and you recieve monetary and other benefits of some kind.

Obviously, the amount of gold here could be changed depending on the amount of gold you should have at that level and other circumstances. This was just a value that I picked randomly. Also, this quest could be simplified to just be a “quest” to go bet on a rocket and see if it wins. It could be taken to all different levels depending on how much effort and detail you want to put into it. I just thoguht this would be a neat way to incorporate both betting as well as an element of choice. Let me know what you think.

~Kanthalos

Daily Quest #2

Well, some of the commenters on my Daily Quest #1 thought I should spice up my quests a little more, so that’s what I’ll try to do with today’s quests. I hope they satisfy. I actually wrote this first one about a year ago for another post I wrote about questing in general. Since I’m sort of re-using this one, I’m also including a second quest. Hopefully you’ll find them to be a bit more exciting.

Game: Any MMO with a fantasy setting.

Questgiver: N/A

Questgiver location: N/A

Quest Destination: N/A

Quest text: “Hero, please help me! The other day while I was out in the forest rummaging for mushrooms a band of goblins took me by surprise. I barely escaped with my skin, but that’s the least of my concerns. I had a ring inside a lockbox that I desperately need back.

I believe the goblins are hiding out in an old tower not too far into the forest. There were some big stones out behind the tower. If you are sneaky enough, you could trap them inside the tower by placing a stone in the front of the doorway. I have this explosive device here that I found a while back, but it’s of no use to me. Perhaps you can use it to burn that tower down and find my ring. I don’t have much to offer you for your services, but I can give you some of my best mushrooms. Will you help me?

Concise Instructions: Find the old tower to the east within the forest. Use the stones out back to trap the goblins inside before tossing the explosive up top to burn it to cinders. Depending on how well the stone protects the door, goblins may escape, and they won’t be happy. Be prepared!

How it works:

you find a dilapidated tower in the middle of the woods has been taken over by some goblins. Occasionally a patrol walks around the tower but eventually go back inside. If the patrol spots you, they would shout to the others and they would all charge you, forcing you to flee or fight. If things go well though, this won’t happen. A pile of hefty stones is laying at the back of the tower, which you can pick up and place in front of the door once the patrol walks back inside. You could then toss an explosive to the top of the tower, burning the goblins alive. If you don’t secure the door well enough they could burst through enraged and attack you dealing twice as much damage with only a quarter of their health, but if you secure it tightly, you can watch them jump from the top of the burning tower falling to their death. Once the tower burns down, you enter to find a lockbox containing the ring. Here’s where a dilemma enters. Either you can return the ring to its owner, keep it for yourself, or simply sell it. You could gain faction for killing the goblins, a nice ring to wear or sell, faction and an xp reward should you return the ring, and you’d get to watch a tower burn to the ground while goblins are falling from the sky! This shouldn’t even be that difficult to code either. LotRO has the ability to pick up, carry, and drop things as does Guild Wars so it’s already in games. Then you would just have to determine whether the stone adequately secured the door or not then they would break out or jump out accordingly. If you had more than one person, you could put multiple stones at the door to secure it better.

Reward: This depends on your choice. Either a ring, money for selling the ring, or a faction and xp reward from the owner.

This seems incredibly fun and interesting to me. You have an interactive quest where the better you perform the required action, the easier and more enjoyable the quest becomes. You also have a choice involved with three options, all of which could be equally appealing.
Here’s the second quest for the day.

Game: World of Warcraft

Questgiver: N/A

Questgiver location: Arathi Highlands

Quest Destination: Arathi Highlands

Quest text: “The dark iron dwarves has taken up residence on an outcropping near the Thandol Span. They are posing a problem to passing travelers, and we need to do something to stop them. Their choice for their camp site was poor, however, and it plays perfectly into our hands. I’m going to need you to destroy that bridge so they can never leave that place again! Your method of destruction is up to you. Should you not have a powerful ranged attack, I have this incendiary bomb that you can use to ignite the bridge. Let’s be rid of those dwarves once and for all! Should you feel the desire, you can destroy them at a distance once the bridge has collapsed.”

How it works: It’s pretty self-explanatory. You use a ranged attack of some sort to blow the bridge up so that they can’t use it to escape. Now my memory of this location is not crystal clear and I’m not currently subscribed to WoW, so I can’t check, but if I remember correctly, this location has no other means of escape but the bridge, which is the way I wanted it. Obviously, the bridge would need to reappear after so long so that the quest could be done again, as well as in the event that a player was out there when the bridge was destroyed. I think it would be pretty fun to blow up a bridge and trap a bunch of no-good dwarves. What do you think?

Obviously, this is going under the assumption that no other quests are tied to this location, which there are. A way to remedy this would be to re-word the quest text and make this the last quest in the chain, which wouldn’t be too tough.

So there are a couple more quests I’ve come up with that hopefully you’ll find to be a bit more interactive and unique. Let me know whether you like them or not.

~Kanthalos

Daily Quest #1

I am constantly considering quests and missions of all sorts, thinking up new and interesting quests that I would love to see implemented into a wide variety of MMO’s. After all, this is ultimately what I want to do as a career, so shouldn’t I be thinking about this stuff? In that vein, I decided that I would come up with a new quest of some sort each day (hopefully) for either a specific game or one that would fit any number of MMO’s out. Obviously, without knowing the inner-workings of these games, some of the details might have to be shifted a bit, but they provide a general idea of what would happen. I also know nothing about the format these would be written in, so bear with me. So for the first day, I’ll create two. Since I’ve been playing Mythos mostly, I figured I’d use it for my quests today.

Game: Mythos

Quest Title: Helping Raskin

Setting: Instanced

Quest Giver: Raskin

Quest Giver Location: Stonehill

Quest Destination: Stonehill Valley

Quest Text: “Greetings <player>! It is truly an honor to meet you. Stories of your valour have reached even my little ears, which is saying something. Adventurers such as yourself do much to ease the fears of the villagers here in Stonehill, and we can never truly thank you for that. However, there is a task I would very much like your assistance with. Though it doesn’t involve slaying any great beasts, it is something that I fear I cannot do myself. You see, I am in need of some wood to fix several holes in my home, but no one in town seems willing to share any with me, so I need to go find some. I know of an old windmill that no longer works that would likely have some wood that I could use. I don’t think it would be missed since the valley is swarming with beasts, anyway. If you could go destroy it and bring back five of the best pieces, I would reward you for your efforts.

Reward: Unknown

How It Works: The windmill spawns in a random location with X hit points. After dealing X damage, the windmill explodes, splintering into a mass of pieces. The pieces worthy of retrieving are labelled as such, and once enough are collected, “‘Helping Raskin’ complete, return for your reward.” flashes briefly across the screen.

Obviously this wouldn’t need to be instanced, it would just need to be set to respawn on a regular basis so it could be completed by more than one person.

Game: Mythos

Quest Giver: Unknown

Quest Giver Location: Stonehill

Quest Destination: Stonehill Valley

Quest Text: “<player>, as I’m sure you know, Stonehill Valley is teeming with monsters of all kinds, but there is one kind that is truly a nuisance: the Lazarus Beetle. They have the power to resurrect their fallen allies, and they must be stopped.

This is not all, however. Their wings have powerful magical properties. If you could bring me 15 of their wings, this would provide me with plenty of material to experiment with as well as craft you a fine cape. This cape can also be imbued with other properties, depending on what you need. If you desire to be stronger, a wolf’s frayed hide would be required. Should you seek great intelligence, the eye of a hollow would serve well. Greater dexterity could be achieved with the use of an imp claw. Bring me the wings and the reagent of your choice, and the cape will be yours.

Reward: 1,500 xp and:
“Lustrous cape of [modifier]” Stats: 8 armor, +5 to all attributes, with a +3 bonus based on the reagent.

How it works: It’s pretty self-explanatory. The creatures could of course be switched, and the drops could be things that they already drop, so they wouldn’t necessarily need to be a unique item used just for this quest, but the general idea is there.

I think the idea that you can alter your quest reward is one that hasn’t really been used enough. Yes, there are currently reward choices, but wouldn’t it be nice if there was a way to alter the stats to suit you better? Obviously they could simply offer more items, but I think this is better because something that you do (acquiring the reagent) has an effect on your reward.

So there are a few quests I thought up. More than anything, this is a way for me to get some of my thoughts out. I just figured they might be worth putting up here. Let me know what you think. I tried to make them pretty simple so they wouldn’t be all that tough to implement. Obviously, the windmill explosion would have to be created, but barrels and crates can explode, so the ability to do this is already there.

~Kanthalos