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?

About pipjames

Phil James is a husband, father and stand-up comic. He lives in Sheffield, England with his beautiful wife, Fay. When he is not thinking about her, he is thinking about video games. When he is not thinking about games, he is thinking about food. When he is not thinking about food, he is sleeping.

Posted on March 13, 2010, in General and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. I love the concept of having ‘important’ quests – quests that move off of the well trodden path and offer something new to players, or at least something they’re not expecting. I always wanted quests that were a lot more unique and specific to the players completing them, too. Maybe your choice of answers is directly related to other career paths you’ve taken, or NPC’s talk about some specific situation that only happened to you, like the time you were in some cave about to face a giant cyclops who killed you in two hits and you had to come back with reinforcements.

    Of course implementing a system like that is far more complicated then me just spouting off about it. Still, a gamer can dream.

  2. All of the Fallout games (except Brotherhood, which is only Fallout in the loosest sense) were really good about big quests that you take the time to actually participate in. I haven’t played Fallout 3 all that much (I stopped somewhere in the town built on a nuke), but it’s good to know I’ll be seeing the same sort of quests that I’m used to.

    • Fallout 3 is the first one I’ve played. I now have the others ready to be installed and played. The great thing about 3, and I hope the others are the same, is that the quest I mentioned is a side quest. I’ve barely touched the main story and I’ve done so many amazing quests. I hope Bethesda take a leaf out of their own book and make the next Elder Scrolls game like this. I loved Morrowind and Oblivion, but the side quests (except for the one where you enter the painting) didn’t do much for me.

  3. /signed

    The last weeks I’ve played Dragonage a lot. I’ve reached the conclusion that the reason I’ve shelved EQ2 is the lack of Story. There are Quests, sure. But they are meaningless in the sense that they do not get anything done more than give me a reward that I sometimes can use. The Quests that are gripping are few and far apart. For me MMO’s is more about the social thing, not the exploring and story.

    I see I need to get Fallout 3 then. 🙂

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