Quest Not For Thyself

I was about to start this by saying “Despite the fact that I hate FarmVille…” but that wouldn’t be correct.  I didn’t hate it, I just found it boring.  So, instead, let’s begin… Despite being bored by FarmVille, one thing I do think that game got right is in rewarding you not just for doing, but for helping others.  You could argue that all MMORPGs do that in their end game, because you can’t solo end game group and raid content, so you have to help other people.  But most of the game isn’t like that, especially World of Warcraft.

Let’s take, for example, the ubiquitous “kill ten rats” quest.  You find an NPC and he says, “I hate rats. Kill ten of them and I will reward you.”  But what if the NPC said, “I hate rats. Help someone else kill ten of them and I will reward you.”  It’s a subtle difference, but it means you can’t run off a kill ten rats by yourself and finish, you have to find someone else, group with them, and kill rats together.  Obviously this quest works best if you find someone who has the same quest (or you share it with them) so that you both are helping someone else kill ten rats.  Or better yet, you get five people together and you go whack ten rats as a large group and everyone finishes the quest.

What if the game was filled with a majority of quests requiring the presence of at least one other player (so, you could still two-box or play as a duo with your significant other) in order to do them?

Take it a step further, and while most current games are filled with solo content and the occasional group required one, what if the game was mostly grouped quests with the occasional “do this one alone” quest that popped you off into an instance by yourself?

Would such a game interest you?  I know it would interest me…

Yeah, yeah, I know “forced grouping sucks!”  But so does solo kill stealing antisocialness.


  1. Yes.

    That’s all there is to say on that one, really. (So this doesn’t count.) Many of us “old-timers” bemoan the fact that we help other players so much less now than we used to, for whatever reason, and that this impacts our enjoyment (even for confirmed mostly-soloers like myself).

  2. Forcing people to “help” eachother would rather remove the altruistic aspect of it. It’s not helping if it’s something you’re doing for your own good.

    1. Well, counting on the altruism of others is often a losing proposition. And if you really want to get into it, nothing is altruistic, because people help others, at the very least, to feel good. There is nothing wrong with helping others and getting something out of it.

  3. A few of us had a chat about this topic last week. I was explaining how Farmville not only encourages you to help others, but it practically makes it hard not to help others.

    We mentioned how it feels like helping others is punished in MMOs these days in an attempt to block the almighty power-levelers. I want to see MMOs turn that around and make the focus on helping others as a form of advancement. Our discussions did not get to a solution, but games like Farmville do point the way.

    Designing an MMO from the ground up to reward and encourage helping others should be possible. I used to get a lot of joy from buffing and healing random strangers as I ran around. Now you get yelled at because you are “stealing” XP.

  4. DDO solved that to some extent by making sure that everybody gets their own loot. When you’re not competing for a finite resource like loot or xp, folks are far more likely to be willing to work with others.

  5. FarmVille is going to wind up being one of those games like EVE Online, where the whole of the game is distasteful to me, but it is filled with design decisions that I think are great.

  6. Brian “Psychochild” Green has a great article on how current MMO design punishes grouping. I detest forced grouping, but I’m all for tools that make grouping easier and don’t punish it. That way, if I wind up wanting to group on a whim, I’m not fighting the system (checking to see who has what quest, arguing over loot, that sort of thing). That’s part of why I don’t like the trinity of combat roles and class-based design; they get in the way of people playing together.

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