Breaking News, here, FIRST!

Okay, that’s a lie. I always prefer to be fashionably late.

I know the Jeff Kaplan interview at GDC is very old news. While I had a lot of thought about it at the time, it was mostly the rehash of the same old stuff already out there, and not until I made it into WOTLK with my Shaman re-roll did I really start to re think – and re think about writing about it. I am doing the same quests he designed. Now that we have settled that I am not FOX or CNN with breaking news, let’s discuss.

Quotes in no particular order.

Jeff Kaplan: “Basically, and I’m speaking to the Blizzard guys in the back: we need to stop writing a fucking book in our game, because nobody wants to read it.”

Then Why are you making me read it? WOTLK – for the first time – players actually HAVE to read quests. You can’t just follow quest helper to the little nodes and points. Most of the quests have some inventory item or strange thing you have to click to advance. I am pulling my hair out reading steps and combing through the text to figure out what the heck I have to do. Please, just get rid of the text altogether. I want a simple quest interface panel that says this.

  • Quest Type: Kill
  • Mob Type: Fluffy Bunnies (10)
  • Extra: Use Clippers on dead bunnies to shear [Bunny Fur] (10)
  • Extra (2): Combine [Bunny Fur] for [Soft Scarf] (1)
  • Return Scarf

Simple, elegant, pointed, worthwhile. Jeff and I see eye to eye on this one. The current 511 characters is really slowing me down. {Blizzard dev thought: Wait, takes you longer to level? Hrrmm.. more sweet sweet sub dollars! From here on in all quests will have a minimum of 3000 words!}

Jeff Kaplan: “What this means, and this is kind of a weird one, but you show up to a quest hub, and your minimap is lit up like a Christmas tree with quest exclamation marks.The weird thing is, if you ask our fans, they love this. This is to them a good quest hub… They go in and vacuum up the quests. But we’ve lost all control to guide them to a really fun experience.”

I miss the Christmas tree. I am only going through this content to get to the good content anyway, so make it as simple and straightforward as possible. Trust me, I already appreciate the fact my 69 Shaman can easily take on 71 elites, negating any effort needed to get a partner or two for those “Group” quests, but please, just vending machine the quests. Hell, have one Quest giver per zone! I received the accomplishment last night for completing 130 quests in the Fjord, would have saved us both a lot of time, effort, and money if it just had one questgiver for all of them. (Written in the form as listed above). {Blizzard dev thought: Good point here. Placing all those quest givers takes our 4 staff 3-5 hours to complete. That is a ~20 hour savings per zone. Shareholders will be pleased}

Jeff Kaplan: “… then I get into this really deep philosophical process like, shouldn’t the gnoll have a paw every time I kill him? Or do I so brutally massacre a gnoll that sorry, this one, no paw. Then I’m like, well shouldn’t he have two paws? And actually gnolls are sort of canine so four paws? I should only have to kill two gnolls and this guy should be off my back and I can go raid with my guild”

This is my Favorite one, as pertaining to the Gnoll’s. Yes, they should always have 2-4 paws. If you want the person to to collect 15 paws, instead of 10 paws so the quest lasts longer (assuming you’d have to kill 15 anyway to get the 10 in the original) then do so. It is just silly. Every elk will have meat. Every boar will have a liver. Every Vulture will have at least one eye. My favorite part about his mini rant on this point is that while this is an obvious silly part of WoW quests their solution wasn’t to fix it – but to build in a progressive system where the first one has a 45% chance to drop, and the chance increases per kill until it reaches 100%. Wouldn’t it have just been easier to program the 100% drop to begin with – and adjust the quests for volumes needed? {Blizzard Dev thought: We have to get to work on the new expansion and staffing dollars are tight. We’ll file fixing this along with the druid cat form range bug (is that fixed yet? anyone know?) and introducing flying mounts into old Azeroth}

Oozed sarcasm aside, admittedly I hate levelling – I am very efficient at it (because I want to get it over with) and use all the mods, features, and guides available to me to rush through. I am an “end game” player, through and through. Unfortunately, I am also an OCD completionist so I HAVE to finish every quest in my quest log. I know that goes against my “rushing”, but trust me, it works part in parcel.

Everything Jeff touched upon just became so obvious as I race to 80 to start to enjoy WoW. The point of this very late write-up after this has already been discussed there and back again is this: I find it highly amusing the Mr. Kaplan can come out and point out all these shortcomings in the WoW quest system and speak of them downfalls so obviously – only because now he can say “Hey, I don’t work there anymore!” and excuse himself from the responsibility. Here is a tip: if you are going to come out and represent a company/title you once worked for, and point out the shortcomings, don’t just stand there and bask in the glory of your “honesty and candor” on the topic – fix it. You could have done it while you worked there, and everyone knows you are the leader of the “New World Order” MMO from Blizzard, so I am sure you have clout with a person or two at Blizz. Jeff mentioned they have 5 quest writers/programmers at Blizzard. Go hire two more, and go back and fix all the shortcomings you introduced under your watch – since you so easily identified them and the easy fixes available, do something about it.

I hate people who complain/rant but do not act – especially those that have the power to do so.

7 comments / Add your comment below

  1. “Then Why are you making me read it? WOTLK – for the first time – players actually HAVE to read quests. You can’t just follow quest helper to the little nodes and points. Most of the quests have some inventory item or strange thing you have to click to advance. I am pulling my hair out reading steps and combing through the text to figure out what the heck I have to do.”

    I’ve experienced the same frustration as you and spoke about it myself in a previous article. The Blizzard quest designers are so concerned about taking quests to the next level that almost every quest now requires some complex interaction with a “quest item” that the NPC gives you.

    In about 80% of the cases, I have to ALT TAB out, go to Wowhead and look up how to do the quest. In some cases people have even made videos on You Tube that show you exactly what to do. There’s an impossible daily quest that the Sons of Hodir give that requires you to harpoon a wyrm and they somehow kill it. I’ve failed every time and then for my trouble fallen to my death incurring a hefty repair bill.

    Enough already! Give me back the old days of killing 10 Foozles. At least I knew how to do those quests without spending 30 unimmersive minutes on the Net figuring how how to do the quest.

    Making quests that are more complex and clever is not the solution to the whole problem of “quests”. Blizzard really needs to stop this trend as it’s spiraling out of control where the average player will need to read a book in order to figure out how to do a simple quest.

    It’s very bad game and unintuitive game design to ask players to have to continually learn new mechanics. Yet it seems that questing is now becoming like raiding where clever designers figure out new ways to stump us. Since we end up “cheating” by going to the Internet for solutions is this really a good move on Blizzard’s part? I hope they realize their folly and correct this for the next expansion.

  2. It’s a perfect case of good thinking, bad implementation. I’m sure they looked at their quest system, and said “hey, this is what everyone does. How do we make the system more engaging?” – and as you said, had the opposite effect. It’s like saying car drivers need to be more engaged while driving so they put the steering wheel on the passenger side.

    Really,if they want to improve questing, they need to create a new quest system from the ground up. Doubtful (stay safe and cozy, afterall) but agreed the current WOTLK quest system went the wrong way.

  3. I’d say “give goals and let the player use existing mechanics to achieve those goals in divergent ways” (a Thief and a Priest would acquire a rare statue in completely different ways, for instance)… but that’s a lot of work. Can’t have that when you’re living on a shoestring budget.

    How many subbers do they have, again?

  4. Oh Tesh, there you go again with your silly sensible fun design talk. Surely you know these guys live off Mr. Noodle(s) to help support those poor shareholders! =)

  5. I agree with the general idea of how silly most Blizzard quests are, and how much they resemble grinding but…
    The Dragon killing Sons of Hodir quest just happenes to be my favorite (and only) daily quest that I do, so I feel bound to defend it.

    First – this is one of several quests that introduce the new vehicle system, which is a brand new feature of the expansion, and therefore, such quests are quite helpful and necessary in my eyes.

    Second – the quest itsef, seems to me, is very fun and dynamic to do, as it really feels like you are fighting to the death with a wyrm, being tossed around in the air above the whole zone and everything.

    I dont find it that difficult to learn as you literally have 4 abilities to read in the first phase and 2 in the second phase. This is just 6 new abilities to read and learn as a new mechanic, which is actually something quite fresh, and I think necessary for a daily quest, in order to not make it that much repetitive and boring.

    The abilities themselves – one is a “grip” so you need to keep this up in order to not fall from the back of the wyrm – seems quite intuitive, realistic and selfexplanatory. Second and third are essentially a strong attack and a weaker one – quite basic abilities, nothing extraordinary. Fourth is an “evasion” ability to help mitigate damage – nothing out of the ordinary here either.
    Second phase has just two abilities, after quite an obvious emote from the drake itself to let you know whats happening – a damaging hit and a +chance to hit ability – so apparently you need to spam the second as much as possible while hitting the first.

    I really dont see how is this difficult for even a kid less than 12 y-of age, especially if he already managed to handle all the class skills till lvl 80 and the 71 talent points…

    In conclusion, my oppinion is that I’d rather have tons of quests like this one, rather than “bring me 10 rat tails” for the 1000th time.

    While criticising Blizzard, it is important to note what they are doing right, and I think this is one of those things.

    I dont like quests where I have to read a wall of text either, but the Hodir one especially, has nothing remotely like it – it has 6 skills, which you are free to experiment with, and quite a bit of dynamics build into it.

    If you expect to not have a learning curve, and just to know what you are supposed to do from the get go – this is grinding my friend, this is what makes a game boring and what kills it in the end.
    After all if someone enjoys just mindlessly killing mobs – he can do it without a quest.

  6. @SsandmanN: I haven’t hit that quest yet, my little reroll project is just around 73 – I am looking forward to giving it a shot. My first Vehicle quest daily was (and forgive me for not remembering the name) the one where you have to grapple hook backs of artifacts. The one that is completely borked and uncompletable without going to the internet, and finding out that out of the 8 bags of relics only ONE is grapple-able, so you have to return it, then wait for it to respawn. A very frustrating experience for the first one (but it sounds like it gets better).

    Don’t even get me started on the purpose and point of Daily Quests though – I think they are a semi insulting mechanic that gets done because people need cash. Would be great if Blizzard would employ their quest designers to continually add quests instead of just plunking them down every expansion. Would be fun to log in and find a new quest option now and again to keep things fresh and exciting. The Daily Quests themselves are at the purest form grinding and subject to the same ills as the non-learning curve quests to begin with. And of note, no one just mindlessly kills mobs anymore for levelling because it isn’t the most efficient way to level – that is why everyone quests. The game is on rails, and it would be nice to use those rails to create new and good fun, instead of repeating old and boring “fun”.

    Important note here is that I am enjoying my first time through Northrend – I already know the second time won’t be as fun unfortunately.

    Thanks for stopping by and contributing!

  7. Just 2 things I want to note:

    I hate that quest with a passion. And I mean HATE!

    And the second grind through Northrend isn’t that bad… nothing like grinding out old world stuff!

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