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The horror of MMO questing

A few screenshots of questing in MMOs.
A few screenshots of questing in MMOs.

After several years of killing animals, running errands, and picking up junk, I’ve decided that I hate MMO quests. I want to burn them with fire and bury them in my backyard so that neighborhood dogs can pee and have sex on top of them.

A kill quest in WoW.

I hate completing quests. It’s mind-numbingly tedious and it’s akin to waiting in a long line for a roller coaster. You wait 2-2 ½ hours for your awesome while you slowly saunter back and forth while looking at the same people. All the while you’re confined to a small space that requires you to double back on yourself repeatedly. You’ll make idle conversation and attempt to find the silver lining of getting on the roller coaster sometime in the near feature, but it doesn’t make the time go by any faster.

MMOs are notorious for bad quest design and after years of their existence they’re really no different. They follow a horrid formula and most people, sane people, can’t stand the thought of questing. To me, questing is the biggest grind there is and it is usually the first thing to drive me to switch MMOs. I really don’t care about what Joe Farmer wants me to do. I just want his money and the experience he gives for his task. I don’t actually want the experience of doing is menial chore; I just want that little bar to fill up. Call me shallow, but I didn’t start playing a game so I could babysit a letter, kill defenseless virtual bunnies, or pick up idols in the midst of aggro mobs that no one wants me to kill.

What’s that you say? “If I don’t like them, what do I do instead?” I’m glad you asked. I love public quests. I love them hard and would marry them if I could. Warhammer Online public quests are awesome, but no one does them. They’re not PvP and WAR’s a fine PvP game. The RvR lakes are kind of like public quests and murdering orcs is pro in a lake. It’s so nice to just run up, join a group without all the talking, and start killing people. I get experience, I have fun, and I don’t need some random NPC telling me that I’m doing the right thing. I get to play my character in a fun way and that’s really all I want.

Since RIFT’s arrival to the MMO scene, the public quest system is more prominent than ever. RIFT uses dynamic rifts opening to force people together in order to shut them. It’s a neat idea and Trion improved the system by removing the contribution system and returning rift experience to its beta level. Before these changes, no one ever did rifts. Now, players will even be able to queue for rifting via a Looking For Group system. Quests are probably better for experience but they are oh-so-boring. Even in a current and new game, quests are the low point of any adventure. If I had my way, rifts would constantly be opening for me to shut if even I have to do it by myself. Rift chasing is a million times better than questing even if it follows a similarly repetitive activity.

Even a game with rich lore can get quests wrong. Lord of the Rings Online, of course, has an awesome story. However, when that story is shoved inside the same, old MMO quests it loses some of its luster. So how should quests be designed to make them more interesting? Voice acting is a step in the right direction. Cutting out a lot of the filler would also help. There’s no need to make a player do too many quests unrelated to the overall story of the game. There’s no need to make a player read paragraph after paragraph of, dare I say, subpar writing just to learn about a cow killer nearby. This isn’t an aversion to reading on a massive scale and it’s definitely not for me personally. I’ve yet to find an MMO with a gripping story and exceptional writing. Without that, reading every single quest becomes monotonous and quite vexing. Listening to the story unfold would help. Being personally engaged in the story would help more. Only time will tell if MMOs catch up with other forms of storytelling. Until then, it’s right click, accept with a blind devotion.

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