Quest design – from the sublime to the ridiculous

Most of us say we’d like quests that are a little more complex than just “kill 10 rats” but, as I’ve just discovered in EQ2, there’s a point beyond which too much realism in a quest ends up just being insanely irritating.

Long story short, in order to gain access to a tower full of wise old monks I have to listen to a wise old martial arts teacher tell stories about the wise old monks who came before and founded his order. I have to do this, because one of the monks who guards the tower I want access to is going to quiz me on this Order’s history and if I get it wrong, I have to go back and study.


So far so good. The downside is, Wise Old Martial Arts master tells these stories (there are 4) when he damned well feels like it, on his own wise old schedule. He’ll tell one story, then stop and do some more training, so you have to wait around some more if you want to hear them all. If you decide to cheat (as I eventually did) and look up the text on a website, and still get the questions wrong (I know, what a dumbass), the officious bloody monk at the tower tells you you’re a dumbass and that you need to go study some more with WOMA master.

And then sundown comes, and WOMA master buggers off back to his house, leaving me standing in the training courtyard like a lemon until he deigns to come back out in the morning.


I'm not screaming, really
I'm not screaming, really

Assuming I hadn’t cheated in the first place, if I’d played this as it is meant to be I’d have cooled my heels in this courtyard for however long it takes the old geezer to decide to cycle through all his stories. I sure hope they’re not randomly told, or my heels could be positively frosty before I’ve officially heard them all.

Having to do things at certain times and in a certain order is all well and good. There comes a point, however, where it feels less like being part of a living world and more like waiting in line at the DMV to get your new licence while officious bureaucrats — or monks — laugh up their sleeves at you for being such a chump. (“No, not this counter, where you’ve waited for 45 minutes, but that counter over there. That’s a whole ‘nother line you’ll have to wait in.” … wait 30 mins … “Sorry, can’t see you now, it’s lunchtime”). It’s almost Kafkaesque.