[GW2] Just Play, Quests as Hearts

There’s a pretty good thread over at MMORPG.com about The Tao of ArenaNet. It’s a nicely done, if a bit wordy, fan-made response to what the heck ArenaNet is doing. They are doing things different. No more quests is a huge one, yet their essence remains. Walk this way.

Since I am still waiting to play Guild Wars 2 (still, ArenaNet, still), I’ve been playing around my with my old flame, Lord of the Rings Online. It’s a good ol’ vanilla MMO with its own twists like World of Warcraft or Rift (possibly the new Star Wars MMO, which I haven’t played enough to include here). Like a good ol’ MMO, it has quest hubs which branch out to get players exploring the sub-zones. It’s a tried and true formula. Fill a sub-zone with enemies and problems, and then get players a reason to get out there. It’s fun, there’s constant activity, and it’s comfortable.

Except it’s not perfect because in creating this hitlist of monsters and boar specials, quests become selfishly personal. Players then are faced with the dilemma of playing with others in the area at the cost of efficiently crossing of the personal checklist. It’s so sad when I run by a fellow “hero” overwhelmed with orcs, and I am happier at the poor sap’s misfortune because he is making it easier for me to run by to complete my quest. Ah, now I am just rambling along on well-tread ground.

A lot of emphasis, even here, has been placed on events in Guild Wars 2 replacing quests because they are objective. Instead of “killing ten rats” players are tasked with breaking centaur morale, which involves, you know, killing a bunch of centaurs. Except now we can kill a hundred centaurs together! I want that centaur dead; you want that same exact centaur dead. That is going to be one freakin’ dead centaur. Then the event is over. The centaurian morale is broken. The fort is reclaimed. The world has moved on. This is why events are not like quests. They are… well events.

You know that time in ye good ol’ MMO you were about to run by some poor sap overwhelmed by a handful of orcs, and you joined in the fray instead. You and Mr. Sadmaple fighting side by side drawing even more aggro until you stood on top of a mound of dead orc bodies. There was the exchange of a nod, and the moment was over. That’s an event. ArenaNet took that moment, and made it a core to the PvE experience. They still don’t replace quests.

Hearts are what now replace quests, in my humble opinion. Hearts in Guild Wars 2 are the quest hubs of MMO of yore thrown in a blender and painted back over the zone. Hearts are personal like a quest checklist. Players don’t share hearts. Hearts are bound to a sub-zone. Hearts can be filled by doing a bunch of activities. And, for the kicker, hearts are a source of perpetual activities.

First look at the hobbit conclave of Maur Tulhau in Lord of the Rings Online, or your favorite quest hub from your favorite good ol’ MMO. The quests range from killing evil things, killing things for meat, picking flowers, and scraping boar droppings off the ground. Usual stuff for the most part. Now look at the very first Heart for human characters in Guild Wars 2, Help Farmer Diah. The activities range from feeding cows, watering crops, killing worms, and stomping on things that kind of look like cow patties (a.k.a. “worm holes”).

The critical difference between the two activity hubs is players can help out the Guild Wars 2 hub (a.k.a. “the farm”) however they want in order to complete it. For better or worse, the activities bound to a Heart also can change depending on the ongoing events. Completing an event seemed to account for a large part in filling up a Heart, but if a player is sick of escorting some yak to somewhere, there are plenty of other activities. How cool would it have been if I could have decided how to help Maur Tulhau how I wanted and still get that tidy completionist feeling? My character long ago gave up the life of flower picking. How dare you, stunted sir!

And, the best part. Quests as hearts are a together activity. As personal as filling that heart bar is to a player, the activities to do so are not selfish ones. Instead of a checklist of personal chores, Guild Wars 2 Hearts have a way of saying simply “just play.”

As I’ve done in the past occasionally, I’ve asked ArenaNet to see if they wanted to comment on Hearts with regard to this post. Anthony Ordon, Guild Wars 2 Game Designers, came through big time with some of his thoughts:

I’m glad you called out this feature on your blog. We showed hearts in the public demonstrations last year, but we never really explained the system to people who didn’t get a chance to play.

To clarify, heart icons represent renown regions. A renown region is the setting for an ongoing story in which you participate to win over and get rewards from the NPC that lives there. They also provide players with a static, one-time piece of content to play when local events are not running. As an added bonus, we get to sneak in some background story and ambient lore which gives context and meaning to said events. In the Farmer Diah example, you show up to the farm and start helping her get things back in order. It takes some time for you to do this, so you happen to be around for the kickoff of an event where those pesky bandits show up to torch the place. You also have a better idea of what’s going on, because the renown content supports the event content.

A very important distinction between these regions and traditional quest givers is that you do not have to interact with Farmer Diah to participate. We felt that requirement was tired and counterintuitive to the flow of gameplay and. After all, you and Mr. Sadmaple killed quite a few nasty worms making your way over to the good farmer. Why should she be any less grateful if she hadn’t asked you to do it yet?

This same logic was applied to our decision to remove the checklist and replace it with the progress bar. You fill the progress bar by doing anything and everything that contributes to the renown NPCs goals. Farmer Diah’s crops need watering just as much as those bandits need—well, murdering. We’ve already said that our goal for each region is to provide the players with a variety of objectives. But our secret goal is to make sure most of these tasks bleed into and support each other. If you stomp the worm holes, you’re probably going to fight a few worms. If you kill a bandit, you’re probably going to find the stuff they stole and have an opportunity to return it. The end result is gameplay that rewards exploration and cooperation more than your ability to follow instructions.

Speaking of rewards, participating in the renown region to fills the progress bar in the UI. When it’s filled, you’ve earned the respect and appreciation of Farmer Diah. She’ll even send you a letter containing her gratitude (as well as some bonus gold and experience). But it doesn’t quite end there. Now that Farmer Diah thinks so highly of you, you can return to her at any time and gain access to her karma goods. Karma goods replace quest rewards in the sense that you can purchase them from completed renown NPCs. Each NPC has different rewards to offer; a farmer like Diah might share her finest (consumable) vegetables or a (crafting) recipe for her favorite stew. Meanwhile, the seraph commander down the road can probably help you with gear. After you’ve helped him with this problems, that is.

The price for karma goods is paid in karma. Karma is earned by participating in events and helping others with personal story. It is not earned by participating in renown regions (but it is for participating in events that occur in those regions). The gameplay circle of life perpetuates itself with the different types of content, all of it supported by an ever-expanding selection of rewards on top of ever-replenishing method of earning them.

Thanks, Anthony! So much focus has been on events, dungeons, and PvP, but it appears that just as much design, inspiration, and love went in to creating renown activities and rewards. Can’t wait to see how it all plays out!

–Ravious

23 thoughts on “[GW2] Just Play, Quests as Hearts

  1. Longasc

    FILL TEN HEARTS

    … maybe Ethic will consider this modernized name of the blog.

    Thanks for that, I really wondered about the difference between a (daily) quest and a “heart”.

  2. Wyrd One

    Well said. “Fostering a sense of player cooperation”. Yet another item on the list of innovations I think will make GW2 an amazing game.

  3. Professer

    Wherever the current MMO market is at, Arena net is doing something completely different. And they succeed in doing so (or have done so in the past). I have without a doubt that GW2 will bring some much needed change to the genre. Its probably the first major (AAA) step in the right direction.

    I’d like to see more ‘sandpark’ games in the future.

    1. Vorsakan

      I’m giggling so hard, and I’m not even sure why!

      /TipOfTheHat

      Excellent post, and excellent work getting a dev response.

  4. coppertopper

    Sounds amazing. Buying consumable/crafting recipes from a farmer, and gear from a man-at-arms PC – very nice touch.

  5. Mike

    ArenaNet… Now. Release now! I don’t really care if its a buggy mess. Thats okay! Fix the bugs after release! Just release now!

    Everything I read about the game keeps getting bigger and bigger. I look at other games and the “world” they created… but its still a world of static NPCs and text boxes. GW2 will really feel like a living breathing world, putting everything else to shame. Dang it… I’m drooling.

  6. Cuth

    Really great post. I’ve been following Guild Wars 2 for a long time and had no idea how the Hearts worked.

    It actually reminds me a lot of how WAR did Renown. Except to build renown, you had to do quests. Now we just get to do whatever our Heart desires to fill that Heart.

  7. TheTyrianOrder

    Great blog post KTR! I was unaware that NPC’s you had previously helped, then allowed you to purchase special goods from them – via Karma. That’s very interesting indeed! Another reason to go back and experience all the Dynamic Events you missed, when you hit level 80!

  8. ArcherAvatar

    First, “The Tao of ArenaNet” by Meowhead is a great read and eloquently describes ANet’s design philosophies.

    Second, really great post describing the differences between “ye ol’ quest hub” and the methods GW2 will be employing to guide players into activities.

    Third, @Anthony Ordon: well done, well said sir!

    And last but not least, this pretty accurately describes the overall reason why I haven’t seen a login screen for a MMO in quite awhile… just the thought of putting up with the some old antagonistic gameplay and design flaws is enough to turn me off from the idea of playing those games. I would simply rather wait patiently for GW2 to release and provide me with an opportunity to play WITH other players, instead of AGAINST them, as is the case in every current MMO available.

    “Help me GW2… you’re my only hope!”
    /end holocron recording

  9. jocogi

    I had been assuming that you would already have access to the beta Ravious, and had just been under non disclosure for the last few weeks. Aren’t you like Arenanets adopted son?

    I thought I read they would definitely be doing something public before the end of January too! Maybe not now…

  10. BJWyler

    “Instead of “killing ten rats” players are tasked with breaking centaur morale, which involves, you know, killing a bunch of centaurs. Except now we can kill a hundred centaurs together! I want that centaur dead; you want that same exact centaur dead. That is going to be one freakin’ dead centaur. Then the event is over.”

    Except for those times, of course, when I run by because I need to complete something else in game first, because … well you know, those RL duties can put a real crimp on playing time.

    Reading Anthony’s comments, all it really seems to come down to is that they removed the great big green ! quest marker from NPCs heads so you have to run around and hope you are doing the right thing. Say what you want, but there’s something to having those “hand-holding” guides that have been around since the first Wizardry game (“Go kill Werdna and retrieve the amulet!”), especially to the casual player and the completionist.

      1. BJWyler

        I believe you recall correctly. I was speaking more in terms of the more Dynamic Events. There are guides to tell us where an event is happening, but once you get there, how are you supposed to know what to do? If ten players are already stomping worms, they probably don’t need another. Want to put out the fires, then? Oops, too late another 5 already have that settled, etc. And that’s on top of the problems indicated by alirne below.

        1. Ravious Post author

          You are arguing two different things.

          (1) There is a blurb when an event pops up telling you what to do. From the ones I’ve seen any MMO player will have zero problem helping. Sure an event like Tequatl the Sunless will be significantly harder because of all the stuff going on, but an “event noob” could still just start killing zombies and help out big time.

          (2) The DEs scale. If ten players are stomping worms, then those worms are going to upgrade themselves with, e.g., knockbacks, more worms, more damage, health, etc. The whole goal of the DE system is “come join the fun!” Inclusivity, not exclusivity.

          Even with the fires at Farmer Diah’s farm, the event area is big enough that the system can push back. More bandits, more fires. Fires that require 3 buckets of water instead of one, could be a way to make it harder, etc.

    1. Alan

      The thing about Dynamic Events is that if you can’t be bothered to participate in it, then you don’t have to… The event just moves to the next one in the chain, and you can jump in or out of the chain whenever you want. The game is designed to let you play and in doing so you accomplish tasks, rather than accomplishing tasks to play the game.

      It isn’t really that you will ever have something that you need to complete something else in the game first, because gameplay is emergent and ever present. Your current task happens to be whatever is going on in the game world around you. If you find out about something else, and want to go do that instead of whatever happens to be around your character, there is nothing stopping you from doing that.

      I think completionists are going to have a rough time initially because the game isn’t designed to have a checklist of things to complete, because the “list” of things to do is constantly changing, but I think they will grow to accept it.

  11. aliurne

    That sounds nice explained like that, but that is not always the case. Not all events give you so much freedom in what you have to do.

    Some event have only one way to be completed and are very boring. In the one always mentioned, you can always kill some monster in order to advance, so they stay lively. But during gamescom, I was disappointed by some event were you have only one way to complete which was to set 15 traps disposed on the ground. I do not care that it is not given by a big green point, the quest is as much boring and not fun than usual quest in other mmo.

      1. aliurne

        I think it is this one in sparkly fen:(57) Help Cuadinti, Prepare Southwatch Post. Nevertheless considering the comment on guild wars 2 wiki I missed one part of the way to complete it

        What is sure is that for 10 minutes, I get disappointed until I finally abandoned the place to go to one of the main dynamic event.

        1. Ravious

          Cool, thanks. Sure, every area might not be amazing just like every quest hub in your favorite MMO is not amazing. I do think that it is good to bring up things you didn’t like now because ArenaNet still has some time to patch things up.

          1. aliurne

            That’s a good point of view. Thinking again about what bothered me in this quest, I would redo the design of the traps in order to be easier to find unset and hidden when set (because if you see a hidden trap who will get caught ^^)

            1. Steve L

              I think you’re missing one point here though. In a normal game, you have to do a certain number of quests to level, going from quest hub to quest hub, because you only usually have enough quests to level to the next area. There’s no freedom because it’s YOUR quest. The point of a non-quest giver system is that you don’t do the quests you don’t want. Someone else might love that quest the way it is…you found it boring…so don’t do it. It’s there for someone else. It’s a dynamic event.

              There will be events I don’t like and events I do. So I’ll do the ones I like. More freedom for me, and I don’t have a quest log that that quest sits in, or a quest giver with a mark over his head for eternity. Because if I’m not there, that quest doesn’t exist for me. Problem solved.

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