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Quests without Rails

ReallyNow10ReallyNow10 Pile It High Town, LAPosts: 2,010Member Common

Is this the answer maybe?  Something to do without feeling controlled and directed.  Like quest hubs that can be done in any order instead of not being visible until you do the preceding one.

WOW did this and it worked (early WOW, however; they kind of got off track or on track with Cataclysm and WOLTK).

Quests without rails... get in line with your plate...here, have a helping of quests...there ya go, eat up....

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Comments

  • SuperXero89SuperXero89 Amory, MSPosts: 2,544Member Uncommon

    All games have rails, even EVE -- sorry folks.

     

    In games, everyone is chasing after the same rabbit so to speak.  The difference is modern themeparks direct players to the best way to do it while sandbox and more freeform themeparks leave it up to the player to figure out for themselves.

  • Gaia_HunterGaia_Hunter BristolPosts: 2,801Member Uncommon

    The quests needs to be presented better and the gameplay/mechanics during questing need to be more interesting.

    Talking to a npc in the middle of nowhere and having him telling you to kill 10 dudes out of 50 wandering with no purpose picking up their noses is no different.

    Currently playing: GW2
    Going cardboard starter kit: Ticket to ride, Pandemic, Carcassonne, Dominion, 7 Wonders

  • WolfenprideWolfenpride San''doria, WIPosts: 3,988Member

    Not sure how you can make a quest without having some form of rails. Every quest has to have some sort of goal or target.

    As a start though, I think you could give players a more of a sense of exploration/discovering by not putting a giant circle on where they need to go to do the quest, but that seems to be the trend of future games.

     

  • SuperXero89SuperXero89 Amory, MSPosts: 2,544Member Uncommon

    Games need to have quests which draw you into the gameworld.  Find a way to mask the simple kill x of y or collection quests.  Both WoW and TSW do a great job of this.

  • maplestonemaplestone Ottawa, ONPosts: 3,099Member

    The Bulk Order Deed system in UO was probably my favourite quest system of any MMO I've played.

  • ReallyNow10ReallyNow10 Pile It High Town, LAPosts: 2,010Member Common
    Originally posted by Wolfenpride

    Not sure how you can make a quest without having some form of rails. Every quest has to have some sort of goal or target.

    As a start though, I think you could give players a more of a sense of exploration/discovering by not putting a giant circle on where they need to go to do the quest, but that seems to be the trend of future games.

     

    Take a zone with 4 or 5 quest hubs in it.  Instead of forcing the player to go from A to B to C to D to E, in that order ONLY, allow the player to hit them in any order, or to even skip them and pick up some in another level-appropriate zone.

    A to B to C to D to E is ONE variation only.

    A or B or C or D or E can be mixed up (what? help me, mathematicians) 5 factorial times in combination? 

    ex. 

    A, C, D, E, B

    A, D, E, B, C

    D, B, C, A, E

    etc.....

    This is what quests "without rails" means.

    So, have more than one level-appropriate zone to level in, and have quest hubs that can be hit, or skipped, in any order.  And the result will be player freedom and exploration.

  • RockhideRockhide Chicagoland, ILPosts: 155Member

    A lot of it is a matter of perception.  Take the quest objective to "kill 10 rats"...

     

    An officer at a noob quest hub might tell you he won't authorize you to leave the camp until he can certify that you're capable of handling a weapon by slaying 10 rats.  After you do so he stamps your papers and tells you to report to so-and-so at the next camp.

     

    Compare this to walking along a road when you notice a sobbing widow on the front steps of her farmhouse.  When you talk to her you learn that she lost her husband in the war and now rats have infested her foodstores.  After you clear out her rats she suggests stopping to see a friend of her husband's in town who was looking for some help.

     

    The quest objective is exactly the same, yet one gives the impression of being a stage in a gated sequence of quests while the other is something that might naturally and independently occur as you travel through the world.

     

    Many classic single-player RPGs in fact have quests similar to the latter case -- though of course they don't have the big '!' over anybody's head.  Finding quests was a consequence of exploring the game world.  In MMOs, modern one's especially, the movement has been to appeal to players who would rather spend their time quickly getting to max level than "wasting" it trying to find quests (GW2 is interesting in that respect for trying to buck that trend with DEs, and TSW also rewards exploration more than some of the recent titles I've played).  The fact is that there are a great many players who DO want their hand held because they feel they don't have the time to bother messing around with something so stupid as exploring a farmhouse off the side of the road.  The "on rails" feeling is one of the consequences of developers trying to appeal to this sizable crowd.

  • ReallyNow10ReallyNow10 Pile It High Town, LAPosts: 2,010Member Common
    Originally posted by Rockhide

    A lot of it is a matter of perception.  Take the quest objective to "kill 10 rats"...

     

    An officer at a noob quest hub might tell you he won't authorize you to leave the camp until he can certify that you're capable of handling a weapon by slaying 10 rats.  After you do so he stamps your papers and tells you to report to so-and-so at the next camp.

     

    Compare this to walking along a road when you notice a sobbing widow on the front steps of her farmhouse.  When you talk to her you learn that she lost her husband in the war and now rats have infested her foodstores.  After you clear out her rats she suggests stopping to see a friend of her husband's in town who was looking for some help.

     

    The quest objective is exactly the same, yet one gives the impression of being a stage in a gated sequence of quests while the other is something that might naturally and independently occur as you travel through the world.

     

    Many classic single-player RPGs in fact have quests similar to the latter case -- though of course they don't have the big '!' over anybody's head.  Finding quests was a consequence of exploring the game world.  In MMOs, modern one's especially, the movement has been to appeal to players who would rather spend their time quickly getting to max level than "wasting" it trying to find quests (GW2 is interesting in that respect for trying to buck that trend with DEs, and TSW also rewards exploration more than some of the recent titles I've played).  The fact is that there are a great many players who DO want their hand held because they feel they don't have the time to bother messing around with something so stupid as exploring a farmhouse off the side of the road.  The "on rails" feeling is one of the consequences of developers trying to appeal to this sizable crowd.

    The on-rails feeling really bakes in with your 2nd, 3rd, 4th alt.  Surely, you can see the exact same progression being more grating on the nerves subsequent times around than if you can mix stuff up.

    Going through scenes, one after another, with no freedom to deviate from that is boring.  Single player games get by with it, because most folks play through those one time.  But if you are playing a MMORPG for 6 or 7 years, you kind of need options.

  • Loke666Loke666 MalmöPosts: 17,949Member Uncommon

    The real issue is not the order you do quests in but that the quest in itself is on rails.

    There is only one way to solve a quest, and you are told exactly what to do and usually in which order.

    Now if quests had mutiple solutionsand you could solve them by being stealthy, smart or violent things would be a lot better.

    And there is a game with very little rail on the quests: GW2. There only the personal story is a questline, and making it something else would make no sense.

  • UsualSuspectUsualSuspect CardiffPosts: 1,243Member

    Original EverQuest had the best quest designs, they'd give you a quest, certain objectives - some of which you didn't even know at the time, you had to find things out - then you'd go around doing them in your own time, not on some scheduled levelling train.

    Take the Red Sash quest for example: http://everquest.allakhazam.com/db/quest.html?quest=592

    In this one you need to have completed the different colored sashs before it, then have to find two additional parts, each one at the bottom of a different dungeon. The dungeons were far apart and even further from the original quest giver, the other side of the continent in fact. Compare that to modern kill X quests and you can see a big difference in approach.

  • ChrisboxChrisbox Monroe, NJPosts: 1,707Member Uncommon

    GW2- Dynamic events are really the only thing I've seen that hasn't been on rails. 

    Played-Everything
    Playing-FFXIV:ARR

  • seridanseridan ThessalonikiPosts: 1,202Member Uncommon
    Originally posted by ReallyNow10

    Quests without rails... get in line with your plate...here, have a helping of quests...there ya go, eat up....

    Quests without rails.... the only way to do this is to allow players to participate in quests without having a piece of text in their quest log. Dynamic Evenets in Guild Wars 2 do exactly that.

    You kill a big named monster? You are rewarded for it without the requirement of having a quest first. Usually you get nothing if that mob needs to be killed for a quest.

    You see someone escorting an npc? You go and help with the escort and you are both rewarded, you don't have to go to the "start position" in order to start the quest from the begining to be rewarded. Usually you have to reach the start and redo the escort, after the current escort is finished.

    You see someone fighting waves of monsters attacking a town/outpost? You enter the fray and help them fight them off. You are rewarded without the need of having the proper quest in your log. Usually you get a quest that says "go to position x and fight the waves" when you reach x the waves start coming, in order to complete the quest you must take it and then move to x and defeat the waves.

    You see someone rescuing an npc from a prison cell and you rescue the others from nearby cells and get rewarded without the need of the proper quest. Usually in order to save someone from a cell or trap or whatever you need to have the proper quest, but he is right in front of you!

    This is exactly what GW2 is doing right, and this is exactly what MMOs had been doing "wrong" all this time. "You are not on the proper quest" is the phrase that comes to mind so very often.

    Block the trolls, don't answer them, so we can remove the garbage from these forums

  • ShariestShariest VarkausPosts: 44Member

    I was just going to say something about GW II fulfilling most of the mentioned :D

  • DarkmothDarkmoth Pittsburgh, PAPosts: 174Member
    Originally posted by Shariest

    I was just going to say something about GW II fulfilling most of the mentioned :D

    At least 3 people in this thread have said this, but I don't see it. "pick up 31 apples as they spawn". "Defend farm against X waves of bandits".  Those both felt very quest-like to me. I remain baffled at how people see this as anything but "kill 10 foozles" except you can kill them in any order you want. Mind you, I don't have a problem with killing 10 foozles, but that's what it is.

    To the OP's point, I think the presumption that questing on rails is inherently bad is simply a matter of context. If the MMO had a military theme, it would be perfectly acceptable for NPCs to offer "missions". It all comes down to the "role" in "role-playing". In GW1 Nightfall, I was a SunSpear trying to win a war. It would have felt entirely inconsistent for me to just wander around and pick flowers while my nation was under attack.

    An earlier poster mentioned how SP games can be fairly linear because you only play them once, and I have to agree. An MMO must be designed with long-term play in mind. Since it seems impossible to generate 4-5 years of *fresh* content, developers have to come up with clever ways to promote reuse of existing content. PvP is a huge mechanic in stretching content, since you can get X number of players to entertain each other endlessly with a fairly minimal investment in content (bascially a map).

    Quests tend to fall short here, not because they are on rails per se, but because they are static. Your 3rd alt is going to be killing the same koala bears your 2nd alt killed, and for the same reasons.

    The revolution I expect to see is not in "dynamic" quests, but in "random" ones. Just like Diablo revolutionized loot-centric play with an infinite loot table, the game that can procedureally generate infinite quests will have a huge leg up in terms of long term playability. Rift took a stab at this with random rifts, but essentially the only thing that varies is their location. GW2's take seems to be more about offering multiple paths through the content, but essentially what varies is the order of execution.

    Ideally, you would do a quest that no one else has ever done, and that you'll never see again.

  • seridanseridan ThessalonikiPosts: 1,202Member Uncommon
    Originally posted by Darkmoth
    Originally posted by Shariest

    I was just going to say something about GW II fulfilling most of the mentioned :D

    At least 3 people in this thread have said this, but I don't see it. "pick up 31 apples as they spawn". "Defend farm against X waves of bandits".  Those both felt very quest-like to me. I remain baffled at how people see this as anything but "kill 10 foozles" except you can kill them in any order you want. Mind you, I don't have a problem with killing 10 foozles, but that's what it is.

    Reread the posts then.

    Did you have to take a "quest" to pick up the 31 apples? No you didn't. Did you know that "event" happens after certain conditions are met first? There is a big chain of events that leads to the apples or the bandits. But unlike other games you don't HAVE to finish the prerequisities in order to help. Events appear and you participate as you see them, no matter what other events you might have done in the past.

    Also the wave of bandits event has a failure option, if the bandits manage to burn the farm then they win. Another event will begin following the farm's destruction, while if the players WIN a different event will result. Different outcomes, different playthroughs, lots of consequences. What I do affects what you will see.

    You can reread my own post, I think I explain the difference well enough.

    Block the trolls, don't answer them, so we can remove the garbage from these forums

  • tokinitokini third hut on the leftPosts: 341Member Common
    Originally posted by seridan
    Originally posted by Darkmoth
    Originally posted by Shariest

    I was just going to say something about GW II fulfilling most of the mentioned :D

    At least 3 people in this thread have said this, but I don't see it. "pick up 31 apples as they spawn". "Defend farm against X waves of bandits".  Those both felt very quest-like to me. I remain baffled at how people see this as anything but "kill 10 foozles" except you can kill them in any order you want. Mind you, I don't have a problem with killing 10 foozles, but that's what it is.

    Reread the posts then.

    Did you have to take a "quest" to pick up the 31 apples? No you didn't. Did you know that "event" happens after certain conditions are met first? There is a big chain of events that leads to the apples or the bandits. But unlike other games you don't HAVE to finish the prerequisities in order to help. Events appear and you participate as you see them, no matter what other events you might have done in the past.

    Also the wave of bandits event has a failure option, if the bandits manage to burn the farm then they win. Another event will begin following the farm's destruction, while if the players WIN a different event will result. Different outcomes, different playthroughs, lots of consequences. What I do affects what you will see.

    You can reread my own post, I think I explain the difference well enough.

    from what i saw in the betas, the players 'winning' ended an event...there were no more branches if the waves of bandits were defeated. does this change in higher levels?   

     

    meaning, if the bandits win, they take over the town, we atatck, etc. i get that. but if we 'win' the first part, what happens beyond waiting for the bandits to attack again? is the next branch a counterattack? or is the next stage 'good, nowthaty wqe are secure,  we can send supplies down the road, defend the wagon' (i know there are sperate escort quests of this type).

     

    i didnt leave the 1-15 zone, so my experience was limited to the eaqrly events.

  • seridanseridan ThessalonikiPosts: 1,202Member Uncommon
    Originally posted by tokini

    from what i saw in the betas, the players 'winning' ended an event...there were no more branches if the waves of bandits were defeated. does this change in higher levels?   

    meaning, if the bandits win, they take over the town, we atatck, etc. i get that. but if we 'win' the first part, what happens beyond waiting for the bandits to attack again? is the next branch a counterattack? or is the next stage 'good, nowthaty wqe are secure,  we can send supplies down the road, defend the wagon' (i know there are sperate escort quests of this type).

    i didnt leave the 1-15 zone, so my experience was limited to the eaqrly events.

    The bandit event is the first event in the game so it doesn't have many branches, in fact first 4 hearts don't have events with lots of branching around them. However the further you move, the better it becomes. There are counterattacks and new defensive plans. The easiest way to understand this is to look at events on a 1-5 scale (if the event has 5 possible steps), most begin on 3, as you win you climb up to 1, as you lose you fall down until you reach 5. There is an absolute maximum and an absolute minimum for all events, the further you go the more complex they become. Sometimes an event in an area will affect an event that's further away. The greatest example is at Kessex Hills which is a huge warzone, centaurs fighting seraphs for dominance over various objectives, mines, outposts. The war is actually moving depending on how well (or bad) the players are doing.

    During the first events you wait for them to come again. Unfortunately most of the time you won't see the failure option because those areas are so over-populated that is hard to "lose", so I guess they didn't add any failure options for that reason. Maybe there are some well hidden failures we fail to see because we are always winning I don't know.

    Block the trolls, don't answer them, so we can remove the garbage from these forums

  • SaintPhilipSaintPhilip Bree, MIPosts: 713Member

    All quests should be dynamic and world dependent and should actually work to flow with the "World" and not be some questionmark headed guy needing 2 widgets retrived.

    I always thought a good idea for quests would be to give NPOCs real needs- I.E. The Shopkeeper will offer a quest to go kill 10 bears and get some bear hides when his supply runs low. As long as nobody is buying bearhides and he has a surplus, he will not offer the quest.

    In game mail- When the "mailbox" is full (or at certain intervals) a "quest" would open up to bring the mail to cenral place (which would then automaticly send it to the players)

    There are a plethora of ways to this nicely IMO but its very early and I am having trouble typing my thoughts as is. =P

  • UsulDaNeriakUsulDaNeriak SindelfingenPosts: 640Member

    Linearity is much more than a linear sequence of questhubs. If you like to get rid of linearity you need to change much more than just dissolve questhubs. Even GW2 and TSW, which try to introduce a non-linear questing(eventing) are still pretty linear games. Less linear than SWTOR, but still linear.

    however getting rid of linear questshubs or replacing quests with dynamic events, is a first step into the right direction.

    played: Everquest I (6 years), EVE (3 years)
    months: EQII, Vanguard, Siedler Online, SWTOR, Guild Wars 2
    weeks: WoW, Shaiya, Darkfall, Florensia, Entropia, Aion, Lotro, Fallen Earth, Uncharted Waters
    days: DDO, RoM, FFXIV, STO, Atlantica, PotBS, Maestia, WAR, AoC, Gods&Heroes, Cultures, RIFT, Forsaken World, Allodds

  • AlcuinAlcuin Broken State, CAPosts: 310Member Uncommon
    Everquest has quests that weren't on rails in the form of bounties.

    Any character of any level could do them.


    Gnoll teeth from black burrow gnolls.

    These would randomly drop off of gnolls in Blackburrow, but would rarely drop on gnolls outside of the burrows as well - even in the newbie area. There was a guy who would take them and players would get experience and faction adjustments for each tooth.


    There was a similar bounty for Crushbone Orc belts and shoulder pads in Kaladim.

    ... And one for fire beetle eyes in Freeport ... And one for Red wine in Neriak.




    Dwarves were generally KOS in the dark elf home city. Through use of an invisibility potion and a lot of red wine, I was able to walk around the city unhindered by most NPC dark elevs...much to the surprise of pretty much everybody I came across. There was a wandering guard that was of a different faction that would get me though, so I was always on edge.

    _____________________________
    "Ad eundum quo nemo ante iit"

  • friednietzfriednietz The Study, NYPosts: 118Member

    I think Runescape had one of the best questing systems in the industry. It had no hubs and for a long time it also had no hand-holding quest log. I consider this to be questing along a trail (or something lol) as oppose to being strapped to a rail. It was fun figuring out how to bake a cake, make a dye, create a disguise and performing a jailbreak as a newbie.  It didn't have walls either. You could try and defeat the boss dragon in RS1 without your dragonfire shield but you'll probably die or barely survive.

    The quests were varied and pretty interesting too. It's really too bad that Runescape is cash grabbingly craptastic nowadays.

    I've never played a game that allowed you to complete a quest in any order before. I think it'd overwhelm people and require too many scripts. That's why I believe that Runescape had a good compromise between varied, scattered and hands-off but linear questing.

  • fervorfervor NJ, NJPosts: 145Member

    The essential problem with MMORPG questing is that most of them are NOT MEANINGFUL.  You do the quest and nothing changes.  It impacts nothing.

    It's the primary difference between single player RPG's and MMORPG's. 

    Many quests in single player games are pretty standard too.  If you look at the ME3 or Skyrim quest log, it reads just like a normal MMORPG quest log.  Kill.  Fetch.  Deliver.

    Even in Skyrim, if a quest giver tells me to go fetch 10 pelts, I get annoyed.

  • ReallyNow10ReallyNow10 Pile It High Town, LAPosts: 2,010Member Common
    Originally posted by Alcuin
    Everquest has quests that weren't on rails in the form of bounties.

    Any character of any level could do them.
    Gnoll teeth from black burrow gnolls.

    These would randomly drop off of gnolls in Blackburrow, but would rarely drop on gnolls outside of the burrows as well - even in the newbie area. There was a guy who would take them and players would get experience and faction adjustments for each tooth.

    There was a similar bounty for Crushbone Orc belts and shoulder pads in Kaladim.

    ... And one for fire beetle eyes in Freeport ... And one for Red wine in Neriak.

    Dwarves were generally KOS in the dark elf home city. Through use of an invisibility potion and a lot of red wine, I was able to walk around the city unhindered by most NPC dark elevs...much to the surprise of pretty much everybody I came across. There was a wandering guard that was of a different faction that would get me though, so I was always on edge.

    Exactly, and this, I think, is the way to do quests.  Turning in pelts, scalps, gnoll teeth, weapons from bandits (maybe the city guard sees this as helping keep crime down).  Stuff like this feels real ("real" within game world terms), makes sense and does not lock you into some prewritten "story" (which always feels false and canned).

    I think the biggest problem with MMORPG design over the last decade is the dev fallacy in thinking that gamers have to be led by the nose, forced to follow a storyline (with spoonfed questing being the primary mode to accomplish this).

  • ReallyNow10ReallyNow10 Pile It High Town, LAPosts: 2,010Member Common
    Originally posted by fervor

    The essential problem with MMORPG questing is that most of them are NOT MEANINGFUL.  You do the quest and nothing changes.  It impacts nothing.

    It's the primary difference between single player RPG's and MMORPG's. 

    Many quests in single player games are pretty standard too.  If you look at the ME3 or Skyrim quest log, it reads just like a normal MMORPG quest log.  Kill.  Fetch.  Deliver.

    Even in Skyrim, if a quest giver tells me to go fetch 10 pelts, I get annoyed.

    A quest should be meaningful, but you do not necessary have to be "the one" who "changes the world."  You can be a compentent and formidable adventurer in your own right without being special on a world level or impacting grand events.  And this is fine.

    But "meaningful" quests can simply be actions that sensibly serve the NPC's in some locale and adjust your faction with them, accordingly.

    (Frankly, I like the idea of turning in bandit weapons as a faction bump with the law enforcement of a local region, as a good example.  You don't even need a formal quest; you just need to kill some bandits, gather their weapons up, then turn them in to the local constabulatory for minor coin reward and slight faction increase.  This keeps it simple and sensible; the local authorities always want the bandit population trimmed down, and the turning in of weapons or sashes or something is evidence of that.)  

    Remember, you don't always have to be "the one" who "saved the princess" or "change the world".

  • eykosurfeykosurf North Shore, HIPosts: 14Member
    Originally posted by ReallyNow10
    Originally posted by Wolfenpride

    Not sure how you can make a quest without having some form of rails. Every quest has to have some sort of goal or target.

    As a start though, I think you could give players a more of a sense of exploration/discovering by not putting a giant circle on where they need to go to do the quest, but that seems to be the trend of future games.

     

    Take a zone with 4 or 5 quest hubs in it.  Instead of forcing the player to go from A to B to C to D to E, in that order ONLY, allow the player to hit them in any order, or to even skip them and pick up some in another level-appropriate zone.

    A to B to C to D to E is ONE variation only.

    A or B or C or D or E can be mixed up (what? help me, mathematicians) 5 factorial times in combination? 

    ex. 

    A, C, D, E, B

    A, D, E, B, C

    D, B, C, A, E

    etc.....

    This is what quests "without rails" means.

    So, have more than one level-appropriate zone to level in, and have quest hubs that can be hit, or skipped, in any order.  And the result will be player freedom and exploration.

     

    If I read this comment correctly, this outline somewhat reflects the mission terminals in Star Wars Galaxies.  The terminals would allocate missions to the player based on their skill and equipment. 

    The issue with this system is that the missions were quite repetative and didn't really do much to extend the lore of the game or area.  Star Wars Galaxies also had embedded themeparks, but those missions were mostly 'on rails' as the OP describes.

    I'd love to see a creative solution to adding player created content to quest lines.  Allowing players to extend the lore without being too gimicky would be compelling.

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