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This is a great article IMO. It tells of what type of ideas are missing from MMO's now, and should be included again to get away from the mindless grinding drudgery of today's modern MMO's. Hope you enjoy the read...
Masters of the Quest
Check your reality at the door, this is Dreamland, and you’re in their world now. They are the Quest Masters of EverQuest, and like the mythical Norns, these three weave the history of Norrath-past, present, and future.
The Quest Masters-QMs for short-are responsible for spinning the stories of this hugely popular massively multiplayer online roleplaying game (MMORPG). They hold in their hands the cosmos in which Norrath exists, shaping it, changing it, and enriching its history and background to make it an evolving-and involving-world for players. Their stories are then brought to life through dynamic quests run by the Quest Masters, with assistance from Game Masters.
Adventures can take place anywhere, and anything can happen. Mark Halash, one of the three original QMs, says, “if we decide that Cazic-Thule has become displeased with his followers and slays them all, we can recommend a change to the Temple of Cazic-Thule zone to have a bunch of zombies in it. The change to Kithicor Wood is an example of this kind of change.”
Mark, Amanda Flock and Lydia Pope are the Quest Masters. Mark and Lydia both worked as Lead Game Masters before the team was assembled. Amanda, the “baby” of the group as she refers to herself, worked as a Game Master as well.
In May of 2000, Jeff Butler, the Producer for EverQuest Live and the forthcoming Shadows of Luclin Expansion, tapped all three to join the fledgling team. “The Quest Masters were chosen for their talent at writing original dynamic storylines, online roleplaying ability, and organizational skills.”
The team has run many historical quests for numerous ongoing
storylines. One such storyline, called “The Child of Hate” progressed for over a year. The team gave us a look behind the scenes of an event from this storyline last year:
“We have four plot lines running now,” says Amanda Flock as she awaits the arrival of the other actors who will help enact this newest installment of the story. The server is E’ci (pronounced Ee-see). Amanda is in the character of the Emissary D’Velu, a sharp-tongued and imperious dark elven matriarch.
“Trying to base quests around players is difficult,” she says. “Predicting their actions while, at the same time, keeping the story moving forward is hard.” Players have important roles in the dynamic quests, despite this unpredictability, and can often find themselves as pivotal elements in the history of Norrath. “We try to get the players involved as much as possible. The actors call out to the players for assistance during the quests to bring them into it.”
There are two forms of quests in EverQuest. The first is referred to as the “static quest.” This is a hard-coded quest that remains in the game for an indefinite period, and runs independent of human game master control. Players can often give a friendly hail to a Non-Player Character (NPC) that will trigger an introductory response, usually hinting at some problem the NPC has, or a task he or she needs help completing. It is up to the player to take key words from the NPC’s revelations and recast them in questions or replies, which will unlock the full story.
Static quests are the province of the Development Team, and are usually permanent fixtures in the game, which can be accessed by as many players as are able to trigger the correct responses from the NPC and successfully complete the mission. Several of these types of quests were added just recently, each being geared toward a specific class. They are not easy by any means, but the rewards for successfully finishing them are well worth the effort.
The other form of quest in the game is the dynamic quest. These events are the sovereignty of the Quest Masters, and can often lead to massive changes in the game world. They are performed in the game just once, and then become recorded history. They require the assistance of the Game Masters and volunteers, as well as a specialized team known as the Quest Troupe to enact.
“We don’t announce the dynamic quests ahead of time,” says Mark Halash. “We want them to be a surprise, but also don’t want two thousand people showing up in one zone for the event. Even though the new network code is really robust, that’s just too much for one zone to handle.”
All of the actors have assembled for today’s installment in the Child of Hate plot line, and it begins in the dark elf forest of Nektulos. A small group has formed around the Emissary D’Velu, played by Amanda. She asks if any Teir’Dal (the name of the dark elven race) are willing and worthy to assist their Master Innoruuk, the god of Hate. Several players come forward and Emissary D’Velu considers each one. This part of the story is designed to involve lower level players, who often feel they are left out of these big events. Amanda checks their classes and levels to find those most suited to the task, and looks for someone who is playing his or her role well. A young male named Amarizzt is picked to assist.
Some players are more interested in disrupting the action during a dynamic quest than participating. Unfortunately for one High Elf cleric on this particular day, brashly attacking a high-ranking emissary outside of the Dark Elven hometown by himself proves not to be a prudent move. Amanda roleplays the attack, however, and the Emissary quickly vanquishes her attacker. The player does not lose valuable experience points, but does learn to be more discriminating when picking his battles in the future!
The story unfolds dramatically, as Emissary D’Velu faces off against Lanys T’Vyl, the one-time Chosen of Innoruuk. “We’re getting away from scripts, letting the actors role-play it out,” says Mark.
Instead of a word-for-word script to follow, the actors are provided with a loose outline, broken into numbered sections to help keep everyone synchronized. It is working well today as Amanda fires off sharp accusations in the voice of Emissary D’Velu at Lanys T’Vyl, who retorts with indignant fury. “Using scripts lead to the feeling that we were just acting out a ’school pageant’ for some players. This way of doing it is less mechanical and allows for more player interaction.”
“Our desire is to tell the story of Norrath, and to advance the history of our game world in general,” says Jeff Butler. “Dynamic events created by the team can also include risks beyond that found in the normal game, giving us the opportunity to introduce artifacts and unique treasures.” At the conclusion of today’s quest, Amarizzt, the Teir’Dal roleplayer who assisted the Emissary, is rewarded for his loyalty with a magical cloak.
“The Quest Masters have nearly complete freedom with the stories,” says Jeff Butler. “I continue to make an effort to shape the unfolding storyline, and put forth as many original ideas as possible. It’s the Quest Masters themselves, and their predecessors, who really make it all come to life.”
(Note: this text was taken from the official EverQuest website and is no longer available for viewing. It is reprinted here for posterity.)
So, if you really think about it, Sony itself started the downward slide of MMO's, NOT Blizzard. Although just like in every other aspect, Blizzard found a way to amplify those downfalls ten fold to increase it's profit, disregarding the negative effects it had on the genre in the process. MMO's have been moving away from this dynamic and innovative/immersive idea set for quests like what we see today...which are meaningless tasks just to keep you paying your monthly sub to get to some end goal (Although I know EQ had plenty of those as well, but they weren't all that existed), which isn't what MMO's were meant for. MMO's were suppose to be about the journey, NOT the destination. Console games were designed for that.
It doesn't feel like a world anymore, it doesn't have any real purpose other than to get to the next shiney reward and show how much better you are than the next player. MMORPG's use to be living, breathing fantasy books you participated in, be it solo or with other players in a grand adventure. You made friends with other players and learned together, not ridicule them for not having the right gear, or making mistakes. What happened? And when can we eventually see this interactive style rise from the ashes again and reclaim the genre for what it was meant for, and for what made it a separate genre from console gaming?...which is now a blurred line IMO, as MMO's fade into extinction.
Might as well play FB app games, they require the same attention and skill...no thinking involved, mindless fun (I suppose). But alas, I probably waste breath, because there will always be those that fail to look past the mere profit aspects to the bigger picture...which to me, is that as much as players don't want to hear it..most are sheep with blinders on. They will follow the herd to the next "big thing" no matter what they hear about it, positive OR negative, they will still pay despite frustration over missing features that were promised, massive bugs, lacking content with any meaning, etc. I feel if most players got together and did something about it collectively, dev's would have no choice but to listen. And that something can be as simple as doing nothing...meaning stop playing them and voice your opinions on forums such as this one, as others have done before, but it has to be done in significant numbers or else it's all in vain. Start hitting them in the wallet...
If players do nothing but complain, but still pay to play and do nothing but fight one another on forums and in-game about their disatisfaction it will only continue because hell, the investor's/dev's are still getting paid, so why listen and do anything about customer satisfaction right?