The Quest for Quests I Care About
Something amazing happened. During an evening in playing games I accepted a quest. The basic premise was a simple one involving a missing sibling, it was enough to grab me and make me pay attention to what was being said. Further down the line I found the boy’s home, but he had been kidnapped so off I went into the lion’s den to face his abductors. Going in alone, I was actually apprehensive and even a little afraid. Nobody attacked me, but there was an overpowering air of menace. I ended up brokering a deal with the leader of the kidnappers and the nearby town where the boy was from and peace was restored. The quest was one of the best I’ve ever undertaken. I was gripped, I was entertained, I was playing Fallout 3.
Some of you may know the quest I mean. The boy isn’t truly kidnapped, he’s being held by vampires, or at least humans who have become blood drinkers. You can take different routes to wildly different conclusions for this task. You could go in guns blazing and drag the boy out, or play at being a diplomat.
My reward for taking the pacifist’s route led me to striking a bargain with the vampire gang and they agreed to protect the nearby town in exchange for blood. I also was taught the skill of gaining health from guzzling bloodpacks.
The whole thing made me wish for something similar in the mmos I play. It struck me that I very rarely pay attention to the quest text these days. There are just too many pages of text for me to care about them; killing 10 rats is the same as killing 10 fearsome beasties at level cap. I know I have to shoulder some of the blame by fast forwarding and pressing accept, but I’m not alone.
Why not have fewer quests? Quests that take longer to perform and have better plots. Sure, there is no shortage of lengthy quest chains and ones with hefty doses of lore, but these tend to get lost in the mix as they also include stages involving “kill 10…” at which point I’ll just switch off
I occasionally go back to play a bit of LoTRO. I really like the system they have. The important quests are clearly marked as part of the ongoing story, and between these there are the “fluff” missions to do during the grind. The story quests aren’t necessarily better than the others, but they are dripping with lore and worth paying attention to.
I may be a fool with a fool’s dream, but I’d love to see an mmo run with this and freely admit that there is a trash quest category. Quests that only exist to level you up or get you some cash and rep. On top of these would be the important quests, the great quests. Maybe in a monthly update there could be a new questline added, with full voice acting, a meaty story and absolutely no harvesting of 10 pirate earrings or monkey kidneys. Imagine how exciting it would be to pick up a quest and know that this is the one the designers spent the most time on and poured all their best ideas into. And the reward for completing your task? Not cash. Not rep. Not even a purple item. Something really new for your character like the ability to drink blood, a psychic power, hell, even just have npcs cheering me and some ticker tape following me for a week would be nice.
Thanks to Bethesda for giving me one of the greatest game experiences of my life, but also curse them for making me see that the quests I’ve been grinding away at all these years are lacking in something. The word quest suggests something epic. After a quest, there should be changes, nothing should ever be the same again. In mmos I realise that the world has to stay constant up to a point, but is it too much to ask for a meaningful change for our characters?