Done any quests recently? Sure you have! And if you’ve got a Mists of Pandaria account, you’ve probably done your fair share of daily quests already…probably more than ever.
But I’m not here to rant about the new daily quest system.
Try to remember the last couple of quests you did. Can you remember what you did in that quest? Oh sure, no problem! I had to collect 12 gems in one quest, kill 8 crocolisks in another one and gather 24 insect wings in yet another quest, easy!
Only it’s not! Do you remember who gave you the quest? Can you tell me exactly WHY you were given that task? Even better: Can you give me your characters motivation for doing that quest?
Yeah, I didn’t think so. You see, nobody actually reads anymore in World of Warcraft. And why should they? The game interface has received so many “improvements” over the last couple of years, that reading any quest and/or lore related text has become completely irrelevant. I’ve talked about this already in the 2 part leveling posting.
While reading questtext used to be absolutely vital to your success, it’s now completely optional as the game interface tells you where to go and what to do. And so, reading becomes just a waste of time and it’s not really important why you do something. It seems like players just care about experience/gold/items/coins/points/tokens/reputation and nothing else. Reading the quest text will just postpone the eventual reward. Blizzard could implement a quest where players have to club baby seals to death with the corpses of their parents and eat their brains at the end. It doesn’t matter…as long as there’s at least something remotely shiney at the end, players will do it, trust me. In fact, there are almost a dozen (including one daily) quests involving poop in World of Warcraft. I guess the quest team hired some fecophiliac during the development of TBC and didn’t fire him yet. Players will gladly collect piles of sh*t for a few bucks.
But what’s the point of this posting: Well, Blizzard has officially stated that these days they design quests specifically with players in mind who don’t read a single word of quest text. So everything a player gets tasked with must be 100% clear without the player knowing what he’s actually doing. As long as there’s an arrow on the minimap and something sparkles when getting there, it’s fine.
This results in the rather unpleasant situation that it’s really hard for Blizzard to tell a story to -all- players. I can still tell the storylines of a lot of the classic leveling areas and even the backstories of the dungeons, which was told through the zones and prequests.
These days we’ve got phasing and cutscenes to tell the players who won’t read what’s going on in the world…and even the cutscenes will be skipped. But even if you’re paying attention, after a while, you just stop caring. I really liked the simpler quests we had before Cataclysm. Todays quest design is so completely over the top and ridiculously bizarre, it’s hard to be taken even remotely serious. When I can’t enjoy the story because it’s just dumb, I stop reading the quest texts. I really tried getting into the atmosphere and lore of Pandaria, believe me. I read every single quest text, lore background, spoke with other NPCs just to read what they had to say, but eventually I just gave up. The quests where I just had to shake my head in disbelief were far too many and outnumbered the interesting ones easily. Besides: Quests these days, especially with the help we get through the interface, are completed so fast, that reading the quest text from top to bottom often takes longer.
Quest text often were a mini challenge themselves. They gave a vague description of the location and task and you had to figure it out yourself, wandering through the zone. As a welcome sideeffect you really knew the layout of all the zones and towns pretty well after a while and were given some story or background lore as well.
Imagine the quest of Captain Sander’s Treasure Map in Westfall. Without any help it could take a long time to figure out the clues and with the low drop rate of the starting item, not everybody got to experience that interesting quest and even fewer people finished it.
How is it today? Almost 100% drop rate on the map and you just follow the arrow on the minimap. Done in 15 minutes instead of 2 hours and without even reading a single word or knowing what the heck this questline was all about. Of course you’ll level faster as you finish quests faster, but there’s just no feeling of accomplishment or reward left.
Probably the best example of this would be the AQ40 quest chain to open the gates. I’m not sure how many of you have done this questline, I myself didn’t finish it…I had half of the draconic books so I only got to see most of it, but back when the questline was new and nothing was datamined or available in thottbot (we didn’t have wowhead back then) or questhelper, figuring out where to go next was pretty difficult.
I also don’t like cutscenes in the game. Yeah, I get it, they’re epic and cool and stuff, but I don’t want to watch a movie, I want to play a game. Cataclysm really went overboard with this. In zones like Uldum (hate it so much…) you were “treated” to a fancy cutscene every couple of minutes. They toned it down a little for MoP, but I still get annoyed every time I see cutscene. It’s like Blizzard saying: “Hey look, this thing we did! It’s so cool you HAVE to watch it! Want to continue questing? NOPE! HERE, LOOK! CUTSCENE! EPIC!”
Believe me, Blizzard…if your story and content is interesting to me, I’ll read it, I’ll look at it and I’ll enjoy it, but don’t force feed me your absurd storylines through cutscenes, just because your average subscriber can’t be bothered to do something he’s not getting any XP for…or to do something he’s not really capable of. Reading is hard and doesn’t give any (ingame) xp.
“You’re being too harsh!” I hear you complain! “The new storylines are good and interesting!” you might tell me. “The new quests are so much fun that…” NO! STOP! NO! JUST STOP! They’re not!
I tried it already in Cataclysm! Leveling a Blood Elf through the really nice starting zone was a blast and then you got to the new Cataclysm zones…and see THAT:
Yep, Johnny Awesome is part of a quest and you get so see him and his super funny friends more than once. I just didn’t care anymore after I saw this…
So, back then reading wasn’t only important, it also offered interesting lore and made the whole process feel more rewarding in the end.
Today, reading is not only completely irrelevant, your chance of getting a serious story out of it is much smaller than it used to be. And even if you do: If there’s a few serious questlines among dozens of “herp derp, look how funny and witty we can be here at blizzard!1 we know pop culture!!²”-quests, they don’t make any impact.
Yes, classic WoW had its silly moments as well, of course. But just remember the storyline that connected Elwynn, Westfall, Redridge and Duskwood. Man, that was one dark and depressing questing experience if you took your time. Most of that is still there in Cataclysm..in theory..but it’s buried beneath countless of nerve wracking CSI and Rambo references and tons of other “Are they serious?” moments. It’s true…Westfall is basically just one huge CSI reference and Redridge is a reenactment of Rambo. Just as awesome as Uldum was with the whole Indiana Jones shtick…
I need a break…my head hurts. Maybe I’ll go die a couple of times in Wizardry, that’ll calm my nerves.