Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Public Quests And Moving Forward

Massively reports that Public Quests will be a big part of Champions Online. I'm glad to see that one of the few innovations of Warhammer Online (and the only real feature of it that grabbed me) will continue. I hope they manage to address some of the main failings of Public Quests in their version.

One of the major failings of the Public Quest system as it was implemented in Warhammer Online was the fact that it was basically a new form of static grind. Sure, it was fun to participate in what were essentially ad hoc raids throughout all level ranges, but all people did was sit in one spot and repeat the activity over and over again until they got what they needed and moved on. This kills immersion (why does the bad guy keep respawning) and while all gameplay systems are repetitive, the fact that it is exactly the same time and time again gets old real quick.

What would I like to see?

I would prefer for Public Quests in Champions Online to have multiple spawn points so that they can be randomized. There are several banks throughout the city; instead of implementing PQs the Warhammer Online way (where the very same bank is under assault by the very same villains in perpetuity), have a random bank get attacked by a random villain. The basic gameplay might be the same, and sure the players will learn quickly that when Marlboro attacks the bank he has a noxious poison attack while Jokey Smurf leaves more traditional explosives around the bank. But it's not the exact same thing each time. The game moves to slightly different maps with slightly different spawn points and slightly different enemies with slightly different abilities. Maybe a villain has multiple tactics that change from one particular robbery attempt to another.

When you defeat the villain, the PQ should NOT respawn. Instead, something else happens in another part of the city. Maybe a building catches on fire and you have to go save the people inside. Maybe various criminals start causing trouble in one of the several parks. Maybe someone is trying to break into some laboratory to get one of many random inventions that MUST NOT FALL INTO THE WRONG HANDS.

There could be rewards for the players who locate, or trigger (some of the PQs might not start until a hero comes nearby) the event. That would cause the game to reward players for a very super-heroic activity: going on patrol. It would enhance the community building aspects of Public Quests. The heroes who go on patrol would need to call for backup, because they would need to tell everyone else where the action is going on.

It would make the game world feel alive, because we won't all end up running to the two or three PQs in the zone, ignoring the rest of content. The entire map becomes important because the PQs can spawn anywhere and people would need to move around the world.

And while MMOs already reward Achievers extremely well, there aren't very many game systems that actually reward Explorers. Make some Public Quests spawn in relatively remote areas, and reward people for going on patrol and finding them. Now, you have a new form of gameplay -- even if the hero who discovers and triggers the PQ doesn't even want to participate in it, they might achieve some reward for REPORTING the crime.

Will we see anything like that? Beats me. Probably not. But I'm hoping. :)


Crimson Starfire said...

Some good ideas there.

I think public quests would work better if there was only one happening at any one time on the current map. It wouldn't be triggered by the players, but instead by the server. The server would essentially keep cycling through them, with small gaps in between. The locations can be randomized if necessary. In order to locate the currently active public quest, you need to follow police cars or maybe tip an informant. The more people that participate in the public quest the faster it completes. They should be solo friendly, but just take a large amount of time.

Jayedub said...

Great ideas. I think that if done right, PQs could be a game mechanic that makes its way into more and more MMOs in the future.

Anonymous said...

Dynamic PQs would be great fun and would add a lot to immersion. I think that's a fabulous idea. The worst problem with static PQs in WAR (besides the aforementioned grinding) is that over time it became really difficult for single players to participate... because often I found there wasn't a group around to do the PQ with me.

A dynamic PQ could scale to the number and level of players present though. The top contributions (normalized for level then with an additional random factor) could earn level-normalized gear. So e.g. if I show up to stop a bank robbery, I might run into a few robbers around my level. If more people show up, the robbers' backup might appear... and if a high level guy drops in, the villain who orchestrated the robbery could show up to challenge the hero.

There are of course problems here, e.g. what if the high-level player goes afk or linkdead, or decides to grief everyone else by spawning villains too tough for everyone else then hiding? If areas are level-appropriate though (i.e. content is arranged geographically by difficulty, as is common in MMOs) then the range of foes in a given dynamic encounter can be area-appropriate. So if a lvl 50 guy comes slumming to a level 10-15 area, the worst thing that'll spawn is lvl 15, say.