[MUD-Dev] Dynamic Quests & Event Chains

Lost edarkness at gmail.com
Wed Nov 23 08:15:24 New Zealand Daylight Time 2005

<EdNote: Top-posted, not clear what was actually being replied to or
how, quote deletia>


I've asked the same question about the "treadmill", but being a
classic AD&D player who still plays the game, I think that quests
have a place in MMOGs/MUDs. The thing is, finding a way to make it
more interesting and meaningful is the trick. Especially, if you
avoid a lot of the "grinding" that needs to be done in them. Such as
defeating X ogres, or collecting Y items from enemies. All you have
there is the treadmill disguised.

I'm working on an online game project and we've discussed this
aspect of online games to death. Finding a good balance is
tough. Also, trying to break the mold without sending the players
into some kind of shock is also tough. One thing about this is that
players can also be the limiting factor themselves. In a lot of
cases people are set in their ways and don't want to try something
new. I have people tell me all the time, "MUDs are supposed to be
like this...", "MMOs are supposed to be like that...", etc. I don't
understand how they're "supposed" to be like anything.

Anyway, what we're trying to do is make the quests more interesting
and dynamic. My problem with all of the quests in games is that
they're too linear and don't allow for me to make key decisions
about my character. Even if you're not a RPer, we all want our
characters to turn out to be "something". That's why we play these
games. So going into the project, I knew that we were going to try
something different. It starts with NPC interaction. I wanted to
eliminate the "one button" form of talking to NPCs.  I've always
liked the way it was done in Ultima, where you could type out some
key words in order to get information. With the technology we have
available it would not be hard to give an NPC the ability to ask the
player questions also. This could also determine how a quest was
executed. What if you're walking along and an NPC gives you a call
asking you to meet him on the corner of 38th and Congress? When you
go to meet him, he tells you that he has a job for you and that he
heard you name from another NPC who the player interacted with a
while back.

Or what if your character is at home watching the vid and gets a
knock on the door from an NPC who needed some work done? Or what if
that same knock on the door is the mafia sending a hit-man to take
you out?

Then there are the quests themselves. It's hard to avoid the kill
and collect quests. You're also right about quests having travel
time that inevitably adds more "time" to the quest itself. I've been
thinking about that, also. The problem is there's no way to really
avoid the travel time.  Unless you have it to where players can just
jump from one location to the next. If your game is a world kinda
like City of Heroes/Villains or World of Warcraft, then it loses
some of it's appeal if you never wander around in it. In a lot of
cases, it's the world that has the appeal. I've been thinking hard
about these kinds of quests. Because the other solution to these
quests are what I like to call "flag runners". Basically, it's take
this to NPC A, then talk to NPC B, after that, kill enemy A, and
return to NPC C. The difficulty there is the traveling. Maybe enemy
A requires a group to take out.

I've come to think of quests as dynamic. What if you get a quest to
take out some Baron who has gone bad. You first have to find him,
then formulate a plan to take him out. What if you tell someone else
you're doing it and the Baron gets wind that you're coming? What
would stop him from sending an assassin your way? Or better yet,
what would happen if the Baron makes you an offer to pay more if you
take out the guy who sent you? The player will have a lot of choices
to make. What if the quest was a murder mystery?  Someone was killed
and the player has to figure out who did it. The thing is, how they
conducted the investigation would determine how it all played
out. There are lots of combinations for doing quests, the only real
problem is the programming and time needed to put into them to make
them work properly. That in itself would be a daunting task.
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