I heart hearts

| Monday, September 17, 2012
Are hearts just quests?  Yes.  On the other hand, no.

Quests and hearts tend to do similar things: tell you want to kill, fiddle with, or retrieve from a designated area.  In this regard, quests and hearts are the same.  However hearts have advantages in terms of presentation.

First off, hearts are active the moment you're able to participate.  If I am shooting wasps it means that I'm shooting wasps for the heart.  Contrast that with a quest where you might kill a dozen bears on your way in, only to be told to go kill a dozen bears.  I'd not mind that if they actually wanted two dozen, which is really just a matter of presentation: count number of bears killed before quest, add that number to the total required, thereby creating the illusion that the player got credit for them.  However they don't do that.  The overall effect of the hearts in this regard is to reduce the sense that I am killing mobs pointlessly.  Neither system deals with post-quest/heart slaughter.

Second, hearts are simultaneous and comprehensive.  I'm helping Farmer John with his farm, which includes everything from killing wasps to digging up large and aggressive grubs.  Maybe all I did was kill wasps, but if I killed a ton of wasps, that's helpful, even if I ignored the grubs and leaky pipes.  This even helps with the problem that a dozen other people are already there killing wasps.  Since we're rendering a sort of general help, rather than heroically saving a very tiny part of the world, it makes sense that more than one person would be involved.  Furthermore, having many people helps average things out, so I can imagine that despite my obsession with shooting wasps, someone did eventually get around to fixing the pipes.  Quests can use the trick of stacking, having a few quests that relate to the same area, but this doesn't give the flexibility of wasp-killing vs. pipe-patching.  When the quests come from multiple NPCs, particularly NPCs who aren't standing right next to each other and presumably overhearing what the other ones told me to do, then it can feel artificial, excessively planned that everyone just so happens to want me to kill a dozen bears, harvest a dozen bear asses, and kill a dozen angry stalks of grass which feed on bear corpses.

Hearts don't fill my bags with terrible vendor trash 'rewards'.  Instead, the heart-giver is a karma vendor who might sell me something neat.  Or at worst, helps me empty my bags of whatever trash I got off the wasps.


Anonymous said...

You say some words about post-quest/heart slaughter. That is very true !

When an event make me complete an heart, or when i have completed an heart and found it very fun, yes I can continue to do the activites - and sometimes do - but it would have been very cool to be able to have a *small* reward from it and a small message from the vendor. I am always ready to help Asura children learn the basics of Eternal Alchimy or to be transformed in feline to kill wild animals in bushes.

Azuriel said...

And all you lose with the Heart system is any coherent narrative!

I am curious about the people who say all the mobs near Hearts contribute to the Heart. Past level 30ish, there are plenty of trash mobs around hearts that contribute nothing. Nevermind how the borders of Hearts become pretty muddled later on as well. "I've killed a dozen Ice Wurms, so why isn't the meter filling? Wait, where did the meter go?" Sometimes they will say to kill a certain mob, and the mob is right there, but the invisible Heart boundaries go along the road and not in a circle around the Heart.

Then you got the Events which fill Hearts you did not even know were there. It feels good sometimes... until you realize that maybe the Heart was fun, or perhaps this NPC actually said something worth reading. Oh well.

Klepsacovic said...

I have my story which is plenty coherent. I'm not even sure the narrative is any more or less coherent. Surely throwing a thousand miniature stories at me in the form of quest text isn't particularly coherent either. I can put together stories, but I can do that with hearts too, seeing who the foes are and where. I'm looking forward to learning more about the story of the war with the Charr and the renegades.

I don't see where I suggested that all mobs near the heart contribute to it. As for the borders, I do wish they'd just draw a border, but at least the heart will toggle off. I'm not sure the "I killed a dozen of them over here, why no credit?" issue is any better or worse in outcome, since I've been annoyed plenty by quests with "kill a dozen panthers" and off I go, and then after a dozen kills realize that lurking panthers are apparently not panthers.

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