[MUD-Dev] Dynamic Quests & Event Chains

Lost edarkness at gmail.com
Sat Nov 19 05:43:05 New Zealand Daylight Time 2005


On 11/17/05, Roger Hicks <pidgepot at hotpop.com> wrote:

> There's been a lot of discussion recently on improving quests to
> avoid the constant boring flow of "fed-ex" and monster slaying. As
> Mike Rozak pointed out, quests will be more enjoyable when the
> player has a meaningful reason to complete the quest. While this
> can be achieved by attaching emotional feeling and sympathetic
> goals to the quest, it also can be achieved by allowing the quest
> to have an effect on the game.

> MMORPG quests today typically don't have any effect on the
> game. When you slay Uber-Villian Bob and his evil ravagers, the
> city doesn't remain safe from them. Instead they respawn after a
> few minutes and continue their assault on the city. MMORPGs have
> avoided quests with lasting change for a good reason. If
> Uber-Villian Bob stayed dead, then the city would remain safe, and
> it would provide a rather boring experience for any future players
> who come along. Allowing permanent change would require that a
> game designer supply entirely new content for each player to play
> the game (an impossible task).

> I believe quests could be improved, however, by allowing them to
> have a temporary effect on the game. By allowing quests to
> temporarily change the state of the game, you can link quests
> together in non-linear fashion to provide an overall more pleasing
> experience. For example:

...

> The goal here is to think of your game (or sub-zones/themes of
> that game) as state machines with a finite number of states. The
> players in the game are the catalyst for shifting the game from
> one state to the next. In each game state, different gameplay
> content is available, including some content that allows the
> players to shift the game into a different state. Now, it's not
> necessary for every quest in the game to have cause a major state
> change. Traditional quests can be interspersed with state changing
> quests to fill in the storyline such as the rescue the orphans
> quest in the example above.  Rescuing the orphans causes no game
> state change, however it does aid the storyline of the event.

> Perhaps a better way to look at it is to think of the world as
> containing a set of bit-flags (Each flag can be on or off). A
> combination of flags leads to a paticular state in the
> game. Another example:

Roger, I think you have a good idea there. In the project I'm
working on now, I'm doing that...or something similar. While, it is
true that "world changing events" (WCEs) are hard to do because the
player after the person who does the quest doesn't get the benefit
of actually experiencing that section of content. However, I think
that the next level or MMO/MUD is to have these events that shape
the landscape of the game itself. Not only that, but to allow
players to shoot for something and see the long-term effects on the
world.

Not every quest needs to be a WCE, only a few, and they should be
hidden from the player to avoid hardcore players monopolizing the
content.  Therefore, in your example a case where one time the
orphanage burns down, but then an ambush happens and slays everyone
there. So it would not be rebuilt, but the "Light" group would have
a series of quests to do the same on the other side. In the
struggle, the landscape of the game has changed as the orphanage
does not get rebuilt and something new is built on the ashes.

The other thing about quests today is that thery're not
dynamic. They don't give the player enough choices to decide their
fate. I understand that this is hard to program in, but could be
worked in with planning in the early stages of a games
development. My friends complain about stale quests all the time and
most of them never read the text of a mission. I always have to ask,
"why?" The simple answer is they're just running the quest
treadmill.  They know that when they do this quest, it won't matter
what they do, the outcome is all the same. So what if we, as
designers, spice it up a bit by giving the NPCs memory? Or allowing
the player to make choices that affect how their character is
perceived by the other NPCs in the game? I thought that Neverwinter
Nights did a good job of this. Though, ultimately the game is
linear, but there were changes here and there depending on what the
player did.

There is no reason for this not to work in an MMO/MUD. Most games
have some sort of reputation system in place. Usually, it's just
simple things to build it up such as completing X quests gives Y
reputation or defeating X enemy gives Y reputation. What if you
spiced it up a bit, by having mission complete goals. If the player
is supposed to deliver the package to NPC A, but along the way
another group hears about it and asks for the package instead. The
player has the choice of giving it up, or turning it down.  Either
choice will affect the reputation of both groups.

What if the player is ambushed and defeated so he loses the package?
Then another quest could be started to go get it back, or they could
visit NPC A and explain the situation. NPC A could offer them a set
of quests that may concern getting the package back, or even offer
some new quests to "improve situation". They still get a mission
complete, but they don't get as much EXP or all of the reward. In
this case, the player choices mean something.  All of this is just a
set of bit flags that are set along the way. Once these flags are
set, they can act as memory.

For example, say the player lost the package and was not able to get
it back. A flag is set stating as such. Later on in the players game
life, another NPC gives the player a chance to redeem himself for
failing that quest. It's a kind of dynamic experience that only
really affects that player, and that makes the experience dynamic so
the experience will vary for people who do that mission, as well as
the future consequences. Maybe by failing that mission, the major
WCE is triggered and set in motion with the player who originally
failed it as the "star" of that episode.

I know this hasn't really been done (at least not in any of the
online games I've played), but perhaps it is time to rethink quests
in general. I apologize in advance for any spelling and grammatical
errors. I've been awake for over 28 hours and my brain has gone to
mush.

-James Garvin
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