[MUD-Dev] Re: Do Quests need to be Fed-Ex

Chanur Silvarian chanur at guildsite.com
Fri Jan 23 18:32:16 New Zealand Daylight Time 2004


From: "Sean Howard" <squidi at squidi.net>
> From: <chanur at guildsite.com>

>> Why do they ever have to find the grail?  Why can't players ever
>> fail to complete a quest?  Why can't there even be varying
>> degrees of success?  For example in a simple FED-EX if they take
>> the item from NPC-A directly to NPC-B they get a full reward but
>> the longer it takes to get the item to NPC-B the less reward they
>> get.

> Please excuse me if I'm stepping on any toes. I've only been on
> this list a couple days :)

> As near as I can tell, a "game" is something that:

>   A) Provides interesting decisions in a realm which is both
>   voluntary and does not directly impact real life things like
>   your social status, society, your well being, etc.

>   B) Boosts your self esteem.

> Examining the outcome of negative reinforcement on either is not
> favorable, I think. The choice between a good thing and a bad
> thing is not an interesting decision.

You've read a bit more into my post than I was meaning to be there.
It was likely in how I phrased things, I did use the terms good and
bad path but was simply meaning multiple paths.  Good and bad are
quite relative and are not important to the discussion.  It is
important to me that not every quest be completely linear to one
possible outcome, multiple paths to multiple possible outcomes make
the decision making much more interesting.  Most quests in MMOs
today have NO decision making, interesting or otherwise.

> A better, more interesting decision, is to pick from two roughly
> equal things that have different effects. For instance, do I go up
> in pistol or rifle? Interesting decisions have pros AND cons, not
> pros OR cons.  Planescape: Torment is a good RPG where this
> philosophy is dominant.

I never intended to imply that choosing path A over path B or vice
versa would result in only cons.  In my fed-ex example of take this
ring to that NPC, if you pocket the ring for your own use that has
pros... you get the ring.  It has cons, the townsfolk are less
trustful of you the next time.  Conversly, delivering the ring has
the pros of gaining the trust of the townsfolk and possibly some
reward, but it has the con of you losing the ring.  Both paths have
both pros and cons which by your statement is an interesting
decision.

> As for the self esteem thing, negative reinforcement doesn't build
> self esteem. It is great for learning. I know I'll never touch a
> hot stove again, but I can't say that I feel particularly proud
> that I touched it in the first place. Long story short, if your
> game makes you feel bad about yourself, you stop playing.

I must point out that there is already negative reinforcement in
these games, death is a negative reinforcement.  Even in games as
simple as Mario Brothers there is negative reinforcement.  Playing
card games has negative reinforcement (losing).  I believe negative
must be in a game to make "winning" enjoyable. To remove all
negative reinforcement you would have to remove all obstacles to
"winning" which in turn makes for a very hollow victory.  Watching a
movie is a form of entertainment with no negative reinforcement, but
any game has some even if it is small.

Now the question is, how does the negative reinforcement that we are
discussing impact player enjoyment.  I honestly don't know.  I've
not seen a game with this type of system in place.  I believe that I
would enjoy it more, but I have no idea how the playerbase as a
whole would react to it.  I have seen a few games with time limits
on completing a task (DAOC kill or crafting tasks come to mind) but
none that gradiate reward based how quickly you complete the task.

> There are other factors like degrees of success tend to separate
> the power gamers from the casual gamers even more. If player X
> gets $4000 for a quest and player Y gets half that, player X can
> buy twice the new equipment to handle the next quest even better,
> possibly getting four times player Y.

I must take you back to the example that I gave, fed-exing a ring
from NPC-A to NPC-B.  The way that I would set this up is to
determine the amount of travel time necessary between the two using
the slowest form of locomotion (likely walking).  I'd add a bit of
padding to that amount of time for minor mistakes in navigation or
other minor setbacks.  I now have my timeframe for maximum reward.
Add a bit more time for reward-x.  Add a bit more time for
reward-y. Add a bit more time for reward-z.  Add a bit more time
before complete failure resulting in no reward.

Will the power-gamer try to make the run in that amount of time?  Of
course. Will the casual gamer?  Most likely.  So long as the amount
of time needed to make the run is not more than 15-20 minutes I
cannot possibly fathom how this is more advantageous to the
power-gamer.  Casual gamers are generally limited by available time,
not by tactics.

I'm also trying to add interesting choices, do I deliver the ring or
not? Basically there are five possible outcomes to the simple FED-EX
that I described:

  1. Completed with maximum reward
  2. Completed with reward-x
  3. Completed with reward-y
  4. Completed with reward-z
  5. Never completed with the ring as reward

And this is just for a simplest fed-ex.  The mind boggles at the
multiple outcomes you could do with something larger.  Start tying
the choices made in the quests to NPC factions and how they react.
Perhaps even tying them to PC factions or skills that can be
acquired.  The types of things are as diverse as the imagination.

A singular possible outcome (the ring is delivered for maximum
reward) just leaves a lot to be desired.  At least leave a choice to
never complete the darned thing.  Nothing drives me more insane than
quests in my DAOC journal that I don't ever want to complete.  In
fact there is a maximum number that you can have at any one time in
that game with no mechanism to NOT complete them. There should
always be at least those two paths... complete or not... even if the
"not" is allowing the player to deliberately quit out of the
quest/task and forfeit all possible reward.
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