EQNext’s Rallying Calls – A Reason to rally?

Personally I’d like to know […] what type of spin SOE intend to put on traditional questing. Frankly, I don’t think anyone can do much better than ArenaNet in this department. ~ Syl

One of the great achievements of Guild Wars 2 will always be the introduction of more dynamic, or shall we say more complex and genuine public events than ever before in MMO history. Some have tried to downplay this achievement for various reasons, but as far as I am concerned ArenaNet have completely altered the state of traditional MMO questing and set a very high bar for AAA-MMORPGs to come in the exploration department.

The fact that fetch & delivery have all but gone in this game, with travel and exploration actually focused on the environment with random events triggered all around you whether you be there or not, have spoiled me completely for older games such as LOTRO where the fedex-grind is still alive and well (ftr: I like LOTRO but questing is tedious). Fans of traditional questing have argued that a mixture of public events and traditional questing would’ve created a better outcome for GW2 – I’m not sure I concur. Guess I’m just too loaded with kill-ten-rats-angst to delve further into this subject.

Now, just to remember briefly why GW2’s dynamic events are mostly amazing:

  • Randomly popping up, free-for-all, location-bound scenarios with individual loot; it’s true that they’re actually on a timer but the average player such as myself doesn’t really track this and probably won’t for a while to come (unless you’re after specifics).
  • Multi-stage events with various outcome; the wiki calls this the “cascading effect” which basically means some events will trigger more events (sometimes) and with various outcome depending on if/how the group succeeded.
  • Multiple targets / solution finding; most quests allow for different playstyles in order to be solved – be it slaying monsters, gathering items or setting roofs on fire. Unlike for Wildstar, paths exist in GW2 without being a determining and lasting choice.

 

TERA didn't get the memo!

TERA didn’t get the memo!

Still, events in GW2 aren’t perfect. There’s certainly room to improve, especially where mechanics and impact are concerned:

  • Repetition & lasting impact; many events reset too swiftly with the environment going back to base one. Sometimes you see structures re-assemble right after your quest marker popped up. While MMO worlds must restore much of their status quo for obvious reasons (and we all hate phasing), there could be longer and more lasting public events overall, shaping the face of the land and story.
  • Scaling; this never really worked well in GW2. Encounters become a trivial zerg in larger groups, difficulty doesn’t scale as dynamically as it should. That said, this is a very tricky task to master as group size often changes constantly.

 
EQNext’s Rallying Calls

During the big Las Vegas reveal, SOE introduced their “holy grails” for EQNext, one of which are Rallying Calls (RC). Yet another word for public events, there seems to be a lot of added depth and complexity to RCs which may greatly improve the dynamic events we know so well from GW2 – in theory, anyway. I am all for permanent change in MMOs, public events and collective server efforts; what WoW veteran doesn’t think back fondly on the Gates of Ahn’Qiraj? In this context, I admit the promises of SOE sound exciting –

….Long-term, multi-chapter public scenarios (3 months or more) which continuously change and shape the environment? Multiple problem solving? Different / random order of events on different servers? – I like it!

We can do with a lot more randomness, secrets and continuous change in this genre. It’s the spice that adds excitement and authenticity to our virtual worlds which all too often boil down to a static and broken record, no matter their pretty paint. Now, if SOE are going to pay as much attention to things like environmental / weather and sound effects as they do for events and permanent change, this upcoming title might truly evolve questing and exploration to the point of new-found MMO immersion.

This is where I say a prayer there shan’t be added “traditional quests” in this game (“…please don’t let there be a quest log, please don’t let there be a quest log!”) – or are there any traditionalists out there longing to see the fedex routine return to EQNext? If so, I’m all ears!

14 comments

  1. I just don’t get what the deal is with the whole “Kill Ten Rats” / “FedEx” thing. Excising that from MMO gameplay would be like taking the recipes out of a Spenser novel or remixing The Who to leave out John Entwhistle’s basslines. They’re not the focus but they aren’t just filler. Without them it’s all just high notes and snappy one-liners.

    Not that there’s any real danger of KTR/FedEx quests going away. God knows I’ve played enough GW2 and the implementation there is fine but it’s just questing by another name. When they added the first version of dailies last year the first thing I did every evening was go to Plains of Ashford and knock them out on the “dynamic” events that trigger predictably all the time. When they changed to the new system I varied that simply by hitting the relevant starter area that happens also to have the Kill 40 or 5 events daily as well.

    Every map in GW2 has a highly predictable set of events, some of which can be triggered virtually at will and others which run on a perpetual loop. Wayfarers Foothills has been my go-to for most of this year because the events there arrive as regularly and reliably as buses. Actually more reliably.

    Dynamic events at least make an effort to hide their questly nature. Hearts, which I tend to avoid even when leveling up, are just quests, period. How does having a heart instead of a ? make the Heart guy anything other than the NPC who gives you the quest? The only difference is that he gives you the quest whether you want to take it or not. Far from giving you more freedom it takes some away!

    As for having a Quest Journal, of course you have one in GW2. It’s inflexible and limited compared to those in other MMOs, granted. It only holds a handful of quests based on your immediate location and whatever global event ANet happen to be pushing this fortnight. You can’t move it or switch it off, it just sits there in the top right corner of the screen. It’s a pretty poor implementation of a quest journal, that’s for sure, but a Quest Journal is what it is.

    All of this struggle to get away from or conceal the mechanisms that underpin MMO gameplay remind me of nothing so much as the techniques used by experimental novelists – cut-ups, stream-of-consciousness, eccentric or missing punctuation, packing all your pages loose and unnumbered in random order in a box. There’s a very good reason those techniques remain experimental and why B S Johnson doesn’t have J K Rowling’s sales figures: people like things to come in the right order and be comprehensible.

    The other aspect, from my perspective at least, is that I like reading more than fighting. The preponderance of text was one of the prime reasons I took to MMOs in the first place. I like reading quest text, provided it’s well-written. It’s not a chore, it’s a pleasure. FFXIV is currently giving me enormous entertainment because of how mellifluously and amusingly the quests are written. I’m also leveling a Guardian in EQ2 , doing scores of quests I’ve done countless times before, and I’m re-reading them and chuckling just like I would if I was re-reading Three Men in a Boat.

    I’m not for one moment saying devs shouldn’t use a mix of these techniques, but I want to do KTR and FedEx quests. I enjoy them. They are distinct part of what I come to MMOs to get. I don’t want them removed and replaced. I’m not done with them yet and nor am I likely to be any time soon. Ditto reading quest text.

    1. I find 90% of all quest text obsolete. longer exposition is just a poor way of explaining things – let me experience them, let me see them and discover them myself. this isn’t 2000 anymore where the average MMO gamer has zero mechanics experience. that’s what’s so baffling about the hideous ‘intro’ in FFXIV; I must’ve clicked away 80-or-so speech bubbles that bored me to death within the first 5 minutes of the beta. of course it didn’t end there. when I got to the quest where I pick up 6 quest items lying right in front of me and SPARKLING, I was looking for the next bridge to throw off my Lalafell. :D

      I think we’re on a completely different page when it comes to the psychology of mechanics, too. to me it matters a great deal how (obtrusively) questlogs are implemented or how questing is handled in general. you can keep calling it questing but the execution thereof is crucial. what makes the events in GW2 superior is that at the very least, they allow for a playstyle variety the old fedex grind simply doesn’t. one example:

      “….first thing I did every evening was go to Plains of Ashford and knock them out on the “dynamic” events that trigger predictably all the time”

      The above is what you did. I would never do that during the leveling game of GW2. I still don’t do it although I know there’s websites where I can find timers if I really want to. I have zero interest in farming events. I can play the game like the errant explorer while others go and “grind” the same events over and over. depending on our playstyle, we will have completely different perceptions of GW2. and that’s okay in my book – what I dislike is MMOs making me the slave of one playstyle alone.

      1. Well-written prose is well-written prose whether it’s in a novel, a game or a blog. Not only would I contend that the quest text in FFXIV is well-written, I spent some considerable time on the beta forums making that point with appropriate examples and textual analysis.

        When I started Inventory Full I had two specific areas I wanted to use it as a forum to examine, neither of which, in the end, I had the self-discipline to pursue, choosing instead to turn it into a random grab-bag of whatever popped into my head on any given day. That’s because I am very lazy and will always take the path of least resistance. The two areas I planned on examining in detail were inventory space and quest text.

        I still have a fantasy of running a blog dedicated entirely to reviewing and critiquing MMO quests in the manner of movie or book reviews. I feel its a form that’s long been undervalued and under-examined. Maybe one day I’ll have the time to do it.

        The idea that written text in MMOs is obsolete, were it to be true, would be incredibly depressing. It is, however, about as likely to be true as the much-hyped “death of the book”. There is no yet-discovered means of relaying information, whether simple or complex, more efficiently than the written word either in or out of games. It would, I suppose, depend on your reading speed, but there can be few if any examples of either voiced quests (cf EQ2) or cut-scenes (cf The Secret World) that don’t take far, far longer to say what they have to say than it takes to read the text that accompanies them. How long does it take to listen to a lecture and how long to read the transcript? Which do you understand more clearly and remember for longer? In my case, always the text, which is why I stopped going to lectures half-way through my first term at University and studied the texts in the Library instead.

        Of course, for people who either don’t enjoy reading, or who do but don’t feel the text of MMO quests is worth reading, these arguments will cut no ice. For me, though, MMOs are part of a reading continuum more than they are part of, say, a moving picture continuum. I’d like them to move further in that direction, not further away.

      2. I think that’s the difference – I don’t play MMOs for the text more than the visuals. just like my background is in ‘video’games and not MUDs, it’s the environment in games, the look/sounds and interactivity which make the worlds immersive to me. I DO appreciate well-written prose, after all my favorite console genre is JRPGs and they are all about linear, story-driven gameplay. however, MMOs to me are a different matter entirely because they’re cooperative games, they’re about interacting with other players rather than text or NPCs (“some” of that I like). if the world is to tell a story, I want it told via action and interaction rather than exposition.

  2. Well, there is a trend forming. FFXIV ARR have public quests mixed with traditional quest. After I played ARR for some time, IMHO a mixture of public events and traditional questing deon’t bive us a better outcome. WildStar will be based on public quests. EQN just come to prove that public quest trend is true.

    IMHO, if EQN really have an inteligent AI, they can make public quests that are better than GW2. Everything need evolve or it will die. MMO too need evolve.

    1. They are evolving – that’s the good news. :)
      I think a mixture of both ‘could’ be a good thing, although it really wouldn’t hurt to spice up things in the traditional KTR-department. EQN is certainly exciting thanks to Storybricks and its intelligent AI, so for that one I am all ears. getting the best of both worlds is fine with me, hehe…

      1. “They are evolving – that’s the good news. :)”

        The bad new is that there are a lot of people that do’nt want things evolve…

        IMHO, the consequence of stagnation we can see at WoW: losing 0.5 to 1 million subs each quarter. I fear people refuse to understand the consequence of stagnation.

        When you put at the answer above “this isn’t 2000 anymore where the average MMO gamer has zero mechanics experience”, I think you get close to what is really happening. Sadly it is worse. This isn’t 2000 anymore where the average gamer has zero experience with games that create (the illusion of) interactive worlds. Just look at the game series that come last decade, The Elder Scrolls series is a good example, more and more one player console games have worlds that change based on player actions.

        MMO need to adapt to it.

    2. I agree they need to go with the times, at least if we’re talking big budget. however, I’m not sure WoW is losing subscribers over this; WoW is evolving quite a lot of late, too. stuff like 3-mans with flexible setup or the introduction of the Timeless Isle tell as much. Blizzard aren’t stupid….never underestimate their capabilities in this area. if they think a change is going to benefit them, they will do it no matter how drastic. I think the reason why WoW is slowly losing subscribers has a lot more to do with today’s market, F2P opportunities and WoW’s overall lifecycle.

  3. Have you read much about the Timeless Isle in the next WoW patch? Blizzard is promising a more free-form solo experience, with very few quests and more dynamic events. I personally can’t stand dynamic events because I never feel like I can affect the outcome (game-breaker), but the idea of being able to self-direct my gameplay is very appealing.

    The impression (assumption?) I get is that there will be certain things you can do or find “daily”, with certain rarer things happening every now and then, and underlying all of that a currency which every mob on the island drops, which to me suggests a deliberate attempt to remove the hard limit to what you’re allowed to do in a day. I mean I love the Isle of Thunder but so often after I turn in the last daily I find myself wishing for more to do.

    1. Yeah I’ve read about it; to me it’s a clear sign that Blizzard are trying to keep up with the times and that WoW is here to stay for a while to come yet. Imo it sounds great but I’m a fan of collective play. I don’t mind so much that my individual contribution to a kill isn’t always tangible.

  4. Hm. I have some mixed feelings about this. I like the way Guild Wars 2 had it but I also don’t mind the traditional questing all that much either. I guess the only reason I still enjoy traditional questing is because there are some with really good writing on it. Bhagpuss gave a good example with Final Fantasy XIV. I loved the quests text in there. It is not only good in itself but it also brings me a lot of nostalgia for the good old Final Fantasy games I used to play. The part that killed it for me though was the backwards tagging mechanics with mobs. It is just not fun to have to compete with a dozen people trying to complete the same quest when there are 8 mobs or less for it. That broke my heart so much about Final Fantasy XIV that I haven’t been able to play again since the first closed beta.

    Now that I think about it I don’t see why we can’t have a model like Guild Wars 2 (where we choose how we want to level and how to tackle the challenges in the world) and some pretty good text with it. I mean, we can talk with the NPCs that have a heart over them but often found their text wasn’t all that interesting to me, to the point I stopped bothering talking with them beyond “Lemme see what kind of wares you are selling for karma! Kthxbai!”

    1. The fact that FFXIV doesn’t seem to know the concept of shared kills or nodes is another thing I really disliked in the beta, too. what you describe further down may very well be the type of hybrid we’ll see in EQN; they’ve announced Rallying Calls but they also have Storybricks onboard, which is all about emergent AI and creative quests. So who knows….we might truly see a successful marriage of the two.

  5. sometimes i feel like gw2, sometimes i feel like swtor. is having a little of both too much to ask? class story AND public/dynamic events. one of my favorite things about pre-cata wow was the class specific quests – broken or unfinished as they were.
    one thing i did not like on the whole, was the cataclysm in wow. some change is good, but a total wipe of the places and things i have fond memories of is not good.
    so chances are, i will never enjoy eqnext to any significant extent. matter of fact, the thought of trying to keep up with the living story in gw2 was enough to make me quit the game(at least for now).

    1. ” is having a little of both too much to ask?”

      Maybe not :) see my reply to Rakuno’s comment. it actually sounds like EQN may have both.

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