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. :)