Archive for the ‘Everquest’ Category

The Evolution Of Questing

I played Everquest for approximately 5 years starting just after it was released in 1999. In that time I did exactly 3 quests (OK, fine, if you include the “fetch me 6 fire beetle eyes” and the “hand in 20 bone chips for Kunark faction” quests then it’s probably about 5). The 3 quests I did are listed below:

  • Stein of Moggok
  • Enchanter: Iksar Illusion
  • Rogue Epic

3 quests. 5 years. Everquest. Irony central to the max.

Thing is, Everquest wasn’t about questing. It was about grouping, grinding and struggling all the way to the top. When it first came out it there was no such thing as quest journals, large, yellow exclamation marks hanging over NPC’s heads or quest location indicators on maps. Heck, there wasn’t even any such thing as maps (I used to have to keep a folder full of print outs from the EQAtlas website). Undertaking a quest resulted in having to research it on the Internet, print out 15 pages of information, spend 2 hours travelling and then a further 18 hours camping mobs only to accidentally hand in the components to the NPC in the wrong order and lose everything. Ah, the good ol’ days.

The next few batches of MMOs didn’t really do much to improve questing or change the way we look at it. Even second generation games like SWG and EQ2 initially didn’t bother much with questing. However change was just around the corner in the form a pencil-necked geek called Warcraft, World of Warcraft.

WoW was packed with quests and it revolutionised everything. It made EQ2 look half finished in comparison and practically killed it off even though it had only been released two weeks before WoW and had a large, loyal fan base. Everything had changed and now people wanted soloable quest content.

While other games, like EQ2, fought hard to keep up and add new content, WoW grew like a juicy maggot. It changed the MMO experience from being a time consuming group orientated one to a slick and easy solo one. Now people could log in, spend 30 minutes doing a few quests, and log off a happy camper.

The result of all of this is now that every MMO has to come briming with quests or it’s considered ‘empty’ and lacking depth and content even if the core game is good (Age of Conan is a perfect example of this). 5 years ago these games would have thrived but now people just want to quest grind alone and only group occasionally until they hit the level cap.

Seems like questing is a double edged sword. On one hand it’s introduced a more user-friendly style of gameplay with greater allowances for storytelling and immersion. On the other hand it’s removed a lot of the social experiences we used to take for granted. There’s a fine line between enjoying doing quests and just ‘quest grinding’ mindlessly to level up quickly which I feel is where we’re heading now in a lot of MMOs.

Ultimately, I want the best of both worlds. I want to quest but I don’t want it just being another tool for grinding, a metric that people use to determine if a game has ‘depth’ or not. Questing should mean something and be an intricate part of the game and it’s evolution certainly shouldn’t result in the extinction of grouping or sociability. I eagerly await the same revolutionary focus being applied to the group experience that was applied to the solo quest one four years ago.

Humour In MMOs

I don’t know about Ultima Online but Everquest was one of the original MMOs and it certainly had a fair amount of humour in it, often little nods towards obscure geeky references designed to give us a smirk if we noticed. You can find a full list of them here.

Everquest 2 was a lot more serious and I remember reading an interview with a developer a few years ago who talked about how they they felt humour and Easter eggs removed people from the immersive world and made it feel like too much of a ‘game’. The EQ2 team seemed to have lightened up over the years though and now have a few in-game jokes, none more obvious than a legendary scythe called ‘Dawnfear, the Reaper’ (\aITEM -1115320850 1219695296:Dawnfear, the Reaper\/a ) which drops in the Plane of Fear. It even procs an effect called ‘Bos Bovis Carillon’ – carillon being a musical instrument, bovis sounding similar to bovine and bos… well, I have no idea what that means but it sounds German.

World of Warcraft on the other hand is absolutely ripe with humour so obvious you just can’t miss it. In the Draenei starting lands alone there is the opportunity to meet Laando and do a delivery run in under 30 minutes for a chap called Kessel. And if you have no idea what those are about then please go punch yourself in the face.

Blizzard are even so much into their in-game humour that they can manage to pack two, count ‘em, two geek references into a single quest. Chasing A-Me 01 not only references the film of the same name but also Congo. My favourite comedy quest however has to be the one in Honour Hold in Hellfire Peninsula were you help a priest called Barada perform an exorcism. The power of Christ compels you!

The power of the Light compels you!

The power of the Light compels you!

You can find a full listing of WoW Easter eggs here… all 12 pages of them.

So it seems some people dislike the idea of humour and Easter eggs in their MMOs but I’m not one of them. I love the jokes in WoW and personally I think it makes the game seem more personal and vibrant. I can’t see the argument for it breaking immersion and role play because, lets face it, no one bothers to RP in it anway. Now, I’m just waiting to bump into an NPC with a huge chin who goes by the name Druce Dampbell (you can have that one for free, Blizzard, but the next one will cost ya). BOOM.