Why do we have quests?
Quests tell stories. They can do this well, or poorly. Most do it poorly. So we skip some text and load addons to tell us where to go. Having those, we can skip even more text. Next thing we're missing the truly good stories.
It isn't entirely the fault of the quests. They are little bits of literature, but are not in a literary context. It reminds me of how I have trouble finding the poetry in music because it's not in a poetic context. On the other hand, I'm not much of a fan of poetry anyway, so maybe that's my fault.
Where do I go?
In a game, such as WoW, where level and power are tightly linked, we can't just go wandering off to find something to kill. Well, we can, but trial and error involving lots of death is usually reserved for raiding, rather than getting past level one. Quests are all breadcrumbs and pointers. They say "that over there is something you can be reasonably expected to kill." And so off we go to kill zhevras, wondering where the hooves went.
Before Cataclysm, quests were pretty good at this. Talk to the first exclamation point in the Valley of Honor and keep following those until you're 60, 70, or 80, and you're going to mostly do yellow, maybe some green. It was tuned. Quite an impressive feat, I think.
Cataclysm ruined everything
Cataclysm is my new scapegoat for everything, replacing Lich King, which of course replaced Burning Crusade. Before that I blamed raiders, the Alliance, and EQ.
In cataclysm leveling changed, a lot. It sped up a lot. Too much. This created the problem that quests didn't breadcrumb properly. You might get halfway in and they go all green rather than yellow, like backward bananas, and then where do you go? It also seemed as if the devs really got into the story aspect. Fourth pillar! Screw that, fifth pillar! That's two added pillars to hold up all the story. Or gaming. I'm not really remembering the analogy, but the point is that story became important.
Wow head suggests something short of ten thousand quests in WoW, 9884 to be exact (what's something short of 120 between friends?), and the first page is dominated by non-quest quests: candy buckets and desecrating fires. Hm. Trying to tell us something?
It's hard to write ten thousand interesting stories. Or five thousand. Or even a few hundred. So we end up with very short bits. Fragments. In theory they can be put together to create an overall narrative or at least a sense of place and history. Or, we skim it for what to kill and move on. Part of this is because we're just trying to level up and part of it is because after five hundred quests that add up to "kill twenty foozles", with barely a story to go with it, who cares anymore?
Embrace your hate
It's time for devs to turn to the dark side. Embrace the foozles. Admit it, quests tell us to kill foozles and that's about it, so don't even bother. In fact, don't waste our time with multiple quests or NPCs. Just give us a wide field of foozles and tell us to kill ten thousand of them. All the grinding with none of the wasted writing talent. There could be a hundreth as many quests
But wait, there's more!
With so many fewer quests, each one becomes individually more important. It's like how diamonds are really just really hard to burn coal, but with enough marketing and artificial rarity, we start to think they're pretty. Pretty ugly, imo. If a game only had a hundred quests, and we knew that three-quarters of those would be "go here" and "kill ten thousand foozles", that only leaves twenty-five queshttp://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gifts for real writing. Can a game have twenty five good stories? Or five good stories in five parts each? I think so.
So there it is, separate the grind and the story, purify each, and I think we might even enjoy each one a bit more. After all, I like mindless grinds, and in theory we like good stories, if we had them.
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