Rewarding exploration

| Sunday, September 13, 2009
Or: Why Vanilla quests have totally random starting points.

Want a quest for Utgarde Keep? Run into the instance. Bam, 2/3 quests right there. The last one you get by going along the quest chains at the Horde (Alliance seems to have no equivalent) starting town in the zone.

Nexus? The chains all start about 200 yards from the entrance and take you in a circle around the instance.

Aha, here's a hard one! Halls of Lightning: K3. Weird place, right? Yep. But it's in the same zone and never even leaves it. It's still the same rule of instance quests starting in the zone of the instance. You might have to search a few chains, but it's not going to be far away. There's not much to explore.

Then there's vanilla. Want a quest for WC? Actually, it's in the Barrens. SFK? Silverpine. This isn't proving my point very well.

Want a quest for RFK? It starts in Thunder Bluff. RFD? Undercity.

Sunken Temple? Oh now you just opened a can of worms. Let's see, those start at...
Class trainers
Tanaris. Or is it Ratchet?
Stonard (easy one!)
Hinterlands, in the middle of a troll temple area.
Also Tanaris. And then feralas. Then Tenaris to Zul'Furrak. Back to Hinterlands to a troll temple. Not the same troll temple, a troll city actually. And then back to Tanaris.
Oh, and the extra boss there is from two separate troll temples in Hinterlands, neither of which have been mentioned yet and which you won't be told explicitly to go to by a quest, instead you must read a grey-quality ancient tablet which says how to make the hammer to summon the boss.

Still, it should be admitted that all of the quests in some way related to trolls. Troll artifacts, troll temples, troll quest givers. There's almost a logic to it.

Then there's Scholomance. Did you know that there are two additional bosses that almost no one knows about? That is in addition to the other boss that no one knows about because no one does the dungeon two chains. They're right there, you've probably seen them: Vectus and Marduk Blackpool. They're neutral and don't do much but talk unless you know how to attack them. It's part of a quest.

Where does said quest start? Talk to a goblin. In the Burning Steppes. To explain where that is: nowhere near the Plaguelands. But talk to her and next thing you're on your way to Winterspring to harvest pure cold for some device. Oh, then you inadvertently... I won't spoil it, but let's just say goblins don't care too much who they work for, as long as they get their money.

Quests like these encourage exploration. They make you see that there are links to instances beyond the immediate surroundings. They show you that there is a world here, not just a few disconnected regions. Conspiracies and enemies look so much bigger from the other side of the world. The quests aren't necessary; they're not attunements and the rewards aren't top of the line for any gear level other than bad. Instead they are a reward for the explorer.

Or is it?
Is this vanilla rewarding exploration or is it punishing, very severely, lack of exploration? I'm all for some benefits to explorers, but for the average player WoW should not be a choice between spending days exploring every last corner, a third-party website, or losing out on a lot of lore and potential rewards. Sometimes you'll see a quest like "go talk to X" and it works well for a small reward since these sort of quest aren't actually needed, often you can start the chain at the second person, so the first is just a bonus.


Stabs said...

Game design philosophy has changed hugely from 2004 when most of this was implemented.

I think the idea was it was ok to not all have the quest. Sunken Temple groups were often split about whether to do the downstairs bit - less loot but the fulfilment of 2 quests from Marlon.

BRD was an extreme example of this. It was actually pretty rare to have everyone at the same point on quests as there were so many.

I think the content was intended to last longer than it actually did.

Tobold mentioned that in 2005 it took about 500 hours to get to max level on average. That's a year for a 10 hours per week player.

I think they wanted it to last even longer than that.

The longer it takes to level the more side trips and distractions you'll find. So what if a RFD quest is from Undercity? In the 2 months you were in your 30s you would have gone to Undercity several times.

Corey Hunt said...

I have been doing a lot of the old quests lately. There is some really good story there. I was in such a hurry to get to 80 while I was leveling that I would only skim the quests and abandon the ones that were too far. I missed a bunch of content.

I got Loremaster of Kalimdor the other day and moved right on to the Eastern Kingdoms. This time I am taking the time to read the quests and do the chains in order. I am doing all of the dungeon quests, and I am enjoying it very much.

I was in BRD yesterday all by myself just exploring and working my way to the Emperor's room. That instance is huge! I must have made that corpse run 50 times while I was at that level trying to get a group to finish it. Taking the time to do quests in there is very rewarding and interesting.

I really noticed the difference with quest zones in Outland and Northrend and I am a fan of how they are organized, but there is something to say for the epic chains that have me going over both continents to get some line done. Like Linken. Or interesting lore points like finding out that Bronzebeards heir is also the Dark Iron heir.

I don't know what my point is, other than sometimes I like the running around. Makes it feel more important somehow.

Shintar said...

I like that you describe this as "rewarding exploration", while most people would probably call it "making you run all over the place just to artificially extend playtime".

I have quite mixed feelings about the whole thing myself. I like how quests are more clustered nowadays as it's very efficient, but on the other hand quests that led you all over the world made everything feel more connected and real. It doesn't really make sense that every quest giver is *only* concerned with their immediate surroundings really. It makes the world feel more alive if you get the sense that even the NPCs have travelled, have histories and so on.

Klepsacovic said...

@Stabs: WoW was made by old EQ players, from a time when you'd get 100 people and two people got loot. They were more used to the idea of helping others or just going along for the fun of it. Now we're more focused on what tangible virtual rewards we can get. And of course leveling is so fast that people outlevel the long chains, so we don't get lead to instances as much.

@Corey Hunt: People are prone to rationalization, so when something costs more, such as time to complete a quest, we add value to it to justify the extra time. There is also the realism factor, that as a species we're used to things taking time, so when they are instant, they feel as if they cannot be real while those things which take time feel real.

@Shintar: I was mostly referring to the randomness of the quest locations rather than the actual distance. Maybe the quest givers are a subtle commentary on the way people are more connected to the world, but also seem to care less. Or it's just a much more convenient way to design and play quests.

gnomeaggedon said...

As I am currently going through the new improved leveling experience, the dislocation of the quest from the instances is painful...

That said, I prefer the epicness of them...

The week pre-instance spent gathering the components/completing the chains.

A REASON to run the instance again apart from epic loot...

I would almost be happy if doing the WoLK instances every day meant an evolution of the story line

Word Verification: "banging" on about the Old world

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