August 23, 2012

Guild Wars 2 Beta Impressions: Questing

     Here's a small history lesson. Back during the early days, MMO's were notorious for the grind. The basic concept back then was, to get to a certain character level, you have to kill a truckload of monsters. Then World of Warcraft came and took the MMO world by storm. They have made a way to progress your level without the "grind". What was their solution? Quests. And ever since then, every other MMO that released had a quest system to guide character progression. Because of this, people started to redefine the meaning of grind. Nowadays, quests are now sometimes classified as a grind. The irony here is quite interesting because as ground breaking ideas are created to address the preferences of people, people's preferences then change to consider these ground breaking ideas to be simply ideas. This was another issue that guys at Arena Net were thinking about when they were designing the questing system for Guild Wars 2. Let's see how it plays out.

     From playing the beta, it is quite evident that the developers are pretty much challenging the prevailing notion of questing. The standard quest structure is as follows: 
  1. See NPC with a marker on his head
  2. Talk to NPC to see what quests are available
  3. Select and accept the quests from the NPC
  4. Open map to check where I should go
  5. Go to map location and perform quest
  6. Make trip back to NPC and turn in quest
  7. Claim reward
  8. Look for next quest NPC
     This is the common structure that I see from most MMO's be it World of Warcraft, Lord of the Rings Online and many others. Now, let's see what was questing like from the Guild Wars 2 beta.
  1. Open map and notice tiny hearts
  2. Walk towards the tiny hearts and immediately realize that you now have a quest or task
  3. Do quest or task within the area
  4. Talk to NPC and turn in quest
  5. Claim reward
  6. Walk to next tiny heart
     This may be a simplistic view of how questing works in Guild Wars 2 but it captures the basics. You automatically get quests just by having your physical presence within the point of interest. This ties in quite well with the concept of dynamic events. The idea is to walk towards an area and realize that centaurs are charging a fort. No one has to tell you that the fort is in trouble. You no longer read it from a box, you get to see it actually happen.

     And this does not end here, most of the "quests" have some sort of logical follow-up to the previous task. For example, I was defending a bunch of water pipes from bandits that want to poison the water supply of the town. We ended up failing the quest and the bandits managed to poison the water supply. Suddenly, a follow-up quest appears. We now need to get some samples from the poison ooze that started spawning around the pipes so we can find a way to treat the water. This goes hand in hand with a green mist forming around the pipes.

You don't have to tell me that this does not look good
     It is quite interesting to see these things blend together into one cohesive chain of events. This sense of impact and choice, makes the quests seem more relevant. When you succeed, the world shows it. If you fail, the world shows it too. Suddenly, quests don't seem as mundane.

     Note though that events are only one of the types of quests available and there are still some quests that follow the standard type of questing minus the talking to the NPC to get the low down of what you have to do.

     Rewards are also given in two ways. For the more traditional quests, you are given a set amount of rewards once you complete the task. For events, however, the rewards are given differently. Each person that participated in the quest gets a reward based on their participation level. Depending on how active a player is for that event, that person gets either a Gold, Silver or Bronze participation level. And of course, the rewards will scale depending on your level of participation. I found that this system was quite effective since everyone the area was actually contributing to the event at hand. Maybe they were just itching to blast some heads but I definitely think that this system still encourages participation.

     Questing has taken a complete overhaul in the beta and it seems to work quite well. There are some downsides to this though but I'll be saving that for another post.

Check back tomorrow for the next beta impression where I try to awaken the farmer in you.

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