[MUD-Dev] Effort to produce a quest

Mike Rozak Mike at mxac.com.au
Thu Nov 24 13:15:11 New Zealand Daylight Time 2005

Damion Schubert wrote:

> Trying to measure your gameplay experience via a vague and
> hard-to-define unit as a 'quest' is pretty much a TWLM (This Way
> Lies Madness) exercise.

One could say that creating a virtual world is a path to madness
too... but I understand your point(s).

> Work backwards.  I prefer to use the 'zone' as a unit of
> measurement, and then say 'a zone needs X hours of content in it'
> (total content is that number times X zones).  Then build one of
> your zones out, and play it with a stopwatch.  The right number of
> quests will become clear.

It seems like you're making the typical MMORPG assumption that zones
are divided into PC level ranges. PCs advance linearly through
levels, so at any given level, they have a choice of N zones they
can be in, which means they have a choice of M quests.

It's kind of like a buffet where you're continually pushed down the
line; there are four food trays directly in front of you. If the
line is moving slowly you can sample all 4, but if it's moving
quickly you must quickly chose 2 before you're pushed on to the next
bay of the buffet. (Forward movement is caused whenever the player
gets XP.)

My world's concepts of space and "levels" are a bit different than
the norm so, unforuntately, I can't use this recipee.

> Having fewer quests also has the benefit of building communities -
> yes, it sucks that everyone does the same quests, but it also
> provides a common base of experience that everyone can relate to.

I understand why creating a small number of quests and making sure
that everyone experiences them is potentially a good idea: (a)
Common base for a community, (b) Cheaper.

However, if every player has the same palette of quests, then as a
player, I know the goals/motivations of all the players I meet. If
the quest arcs lead to the killing of the evil overlord, then I know
that all players are trying to kill the evil overlord.

This has problems: (1) It reduces the illusion of the world and
emphasizes the game/themepark aspect of the experience, (2) It
allows me to read other players' minds (in a way) because I know
their motivations. Plus, to get back to the buffet analogy, a line
that moves too slowly (which means I end up sampling everything), or
a bay where there's only one large food tray (a huge quest) means
that I have no real choice in the food (quests) I select.

Conversely, if there were two arcs, one to kill the evil overlord,
and the other to help the overlord, then I don't exactly know what
the other players' motiviations are. I may share some quests with my
enemies, and some against them. Consequently, player vs player
dynamics are more interesting, even if there is no PvP
combat. (MMORPGs with factions tend to take advantage of this idea.)

Having two or more arcs means that players, at some point, must
chose which arc to be on. The cheap and cheezy solution is to ask
players when they create their character, "Do you want to be good or
evil?" The better way is allow their actions so gradually place them
on the light/dark path (or whatever paths exist). This requires
something like http://www.mxac.com.au/drt/Peacock.htm, which
inevitably means more work.

And, returning to the buffet once again, even if the buffet is timed
to maximize choice, so I can only sample 2 out of 4 dishes per bay
(which is about what WoW does), the choices are still illusory. For
the most part, the only difference between quest A and quest B is
what the monsters look like and whether I'm killing them on open
plains or in a forest. (Note: Adding more sub-games produces more
variety to quests, and makes the choice more meaningful.) At least
with a good/evil track, my choice in quests affects whether I join
the dark side or not, which ultimately affects my relationship to
the world, AND my relationship with other players.

I'm also thinking about using personal NPCs
(http://www.mxac.com.au/drt/PersonalNPCs.htm) to provide some
emotional ties. For personal NPCs to work, they must be (relatively)
unique to each player, which means that players won't have their
personal NPC quests in common; instead, friends would help each
other out on those quests.

... Anyway, that's yet another reason why I can't use your zone
scheduling proposal, which is reasonable for a standard MMORPG, but
not for my approach.

By asking about the effort to produce a quest, I was trying to
figure out how many hours of work it takes to produce 1 hour of
content, given WoW-quality content, and given a VW system that's
already coded (ie: combat is done, monster-races done,
quest-independent items created, quest-independent lanscapes are
done, etc.). This guestimate will help me produce a schedule.

Combining the answers I received so far, it seams like 1 hour of
WoW-like content takes 4-8 hours of work, ASSUMING that eye candy
isn't involved, and ASSUMING the content isn't bypassed by
users. Using WoW's quest model, players only experience about 50% of
the quests, which means 1 hour of content takes 8-16 hours of
work. Higher quality content (WoW's tends to be fairly uninspired)
and more choice (which means players experience a smaller percentage
of the quests), further increases the workload.

Mike Rozak
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