Tuesday, November 4, 2008

On nostalgia

In a though provoking post, Wilhelm points out how much information access and user expectations have changed in online games since the days of MUDs. Information that used to be considered "spoilers" is now often found right on a officially hosted web site. In some cases, you can even access it in game. Even the most obtuse modern MMO gives you much more detailed information on what your abilities do than launch EQ ever did.

Wilhelm's post got a few "back in the day" and "these damn WoW kiddies have ruined MMOs" style responses waxing nostalgic about the dark days of launch EQ. I can't say I share much of that nostalgia. Tifa and the others do have a point. There is a certain sense of discovery that can't be found by using THOTBOTT, Questhelper, or the like to chart your every move in an MMO. However, I personally go for quest designs that strike a balance between intriguing mystery and clear logic. Launch EQ had that balance nowhere near right for my tastes. I honestly blame the rise of Alakazim and MMO spoiler sites in general on the absolutely piss poor quest design in launch Everquest.

Often you wouldn't be told what zone to be looking for a quest item in, much less where in a given zone. A lot of the quests were bugged out on top of that. Even if you did weather through one of the poorly designed clunky quests, usually you got much less XP and coin out of it than killing rats in the newbie yard for ten minutes would have netted you. In luanch era EQ, after doing maybe a half dozen quests the old fashioned way I pretty much stopped questing at all. Even when I later stumbled on Alakazim, the main thing that really struck me was what a complete and utter waste of time most of the quests were in Everquest. Other MMOs of the era were often no better. Save for the handful of quests that gave out magic items, quests in launch DAoC were usually much less rewarding than simply grinding camps.

Smelling the flowers is one thing. Flavor like books to read or NPCs that lecture me on the ins and outs of growing turnips are awesome, I really go for that stuff. I have read every book I could find in PoK, for example. However quest design as amateurish as an average MUD in a game I'm paying to play is not awesome. It's insulting. I'm honestly glad that WoW raised the bar in respect to quest design. You sure won't catch me getting all weepy over the hours I wasted figuring out that a mob I needed to farm in EQ wasn't even on the same continent as the quest giver.

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