There is a lot of discussion when a new MMO pops in on whether its advancements to our beloved genre are iterant evolutionary steps or something revolutionary. World of Warcraft was often seen as the perfect evolutionary game coming off of the Everquest-type MMO. I think there was one revolutionary step that World of Warcraft had that is often overlooked: quests.
Lots of RPGs and MMOs had quests, but World of Warcraft took the concept and ran with it. It changed the MMO landscape forever. No longer were people supposed to go grind and putz around in the zone made for their level. They now had a keen purpose. The quest-based MMO design demarcated a term called grind. If a player had to go out and kill ten rats to gain a level it was grind. If an NPC rewarded a player with quest text and a quest reward for killing ten rats, it was not. Could the MMO genre imagine a PvE-MMO with purpose that was not saturated with quests in every zone?
I think I can safely say that you won’t see a single exclamation mark floating above a character’s head in Guild Wars 2. We actually don’t have a traditional RPG/MMO quest system. Instead what we’ve got are Events. Think of them as group-orientated activities. This is one of the many things that will encourage the player to explore the world – you can wander through and never quite know what you’re going to see. You might come across a fortress that’s being attacked by centaurs, or it might be that the centaurs attacked half an hour before you got there and they hold it now. You might start walking along a road you’ve walked a hundred times and suddenly there’s a caravan travelling along that road that you may not have seen, and you can go help that caravan out.
Could this be a revolutionary step to PvE MMO gameplay such as the one World of Warcraft brought us? It’s purpose without focus. Instead of figuring out who is on what quest, a player just looks for Event activity.
The similarity to Public Quests is not lost on me. Yet, it seemed that Public Quests never really broke the shackles away from a World of Warcraft-like quest system. The Public Quests were static, repetitive, and did not affect the world. Allied NPCs in Public Quests were usually disappointing garnishment that really did not help players. With Guild Wars 2, Events will be discoveries where the Event’s story is told organically through NPCs and changes in the world. They have even been hinted to be scalable to a degree. (The completist in me does worry that I might not get to experience them all.)
If the Event system comes about as depicted, it will be a new hallmark in PvE gaming. Players will be expected to sign on and just play. If the Event system is well designed players find themselves in a zone crossing story depicting the centaur menace or a dragon’s siege. A player would not waste time with grouping and planning out a course to efficiently tackle quests. They could just flow.
like Kane, from Kung-Fu