As I have returned to World of Warcraft, I have become taken by the daily quest. To many, this is an old mechanic, but when I quit the game these were just called “repeatable quests” because you could do the exact same quest over and over again. But the daily quest mechanic has evolved and now, for example, the fishing guy in Stormwind actually has several quests which rotate. You get to do one per day, and the one available changes from day to day.
Imagine if we took that design a step further. What if, instead of entering a town and finding the same five quests every player finds every day, you were to just find five quests? If you entered town on Monday, the baker, the weapon smith, the bartender, the fisherman and the captain of the guard would have quests. But if you came in on Tuesday, the baker and the captain of the guard would have the same quests, but now the other three available quests would be the potion master, the stable boy and the inn keeper. And by “quests” I mean “tasks” because that’s what they are anyway. The majority of quests in a game aren’t the type they expect you to hold on to and work on for months, weeks, or even just days. They expect you to take the quest and then finish it within a single play session, maybe two.
And not just quests for single players. Quests for duos and groups, even daily raid content. Call it a midway point between current quest design and Rift’s “abandon quests to fight random events” design. I think it is worth further thought.
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.