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.

9 thoughts on “Quest design – from the sublime to the ridiculous

  1. I came back to that one 3 or 4 times before I actually completed it with someone — and even then only because she needed access for something else! I quickly decided it was getting done only if I happened to hit the courtyard at the right time of day, gamewise as it was too irritating else.

    There’s a similar quest in Splitpaw, but in the latter case you actually get the quest by hanging around listening to the gnoll tell stories — if you don’t know (or happen) to do that, you’ll never know about the quest.

  2. Yeah, that Mara quest was the bane of the adventure pack when it 1st came out. Hordes of players just waiting in that training yard for the Street Fighter kids to get told the stories until the thing said “You’ve learned enough history to take the test” then a mad rush for the test npc with the forum site with all the cheat sheet answers open.

    And so the devs put a time limit on answering the questions to try to make you actually know them and not have time to use the cheat sheet either. Dumb dumb dumb quest.

    You ever do the froglok village? more frakkin’ annoying ones “find the randomly spawned itsy bitsy doll” “wander randomly trying to catch fireflies” and crap like that. Good aa, though, so I’m enough of a masochist to do them over and over. . . .

  3. All the cries from EQ1 players to remove the grind, and so the devs comply and replace it with….nothing.

    OMG learn2contemplate, n00b.

  4. Wow, you’re patient. I wouldn’t have stayed that long. it’d drive me nuts. And a memory quiz too 🙂

    I’m not sure if that’s immersive or just a bit mean really. I’m sure it sounded good on paper.

  5. That quest in Splitpaw used to be terrible! When it first came out, the quest giver would start his story over if anyone hailed him. Of course, everyone was waiting around for 5 minutes and just at the tail end, someone would wander up and hail him, forcing everyone to wait even longer.

    That being said, I actually do kind of like quests that trigger based on being something other than wandering up and hailing the quest giver (such as listening to a story). Once they fixed the quest in Splitpaw so he didn’t reset when people hailed him, I though it was kind of nice.

    As for the Mara quest, it sure isn’t random, and yeah, I don’t like quests that test whether I was paying attention when I read it. But it could be worse. Lineage II had a quest to earn the right to own a pet. You have to run across the entire map several times. And then you get a quiz (questions like “how long is the average life span of a wolf in a zoo?” and “which of the following is the correct description of a wolf” to which the obvious correct answer is “a grown wolf is not as heavy as a fully grown male adult human”). If you fail, well, that’s several hours of your life wasted.

    A few “immersive” quests like the Mara one don’t bother me. But I agree they can be pretty easily become very irritating.

  6. I have nothing important to say about your post, I just wanted to come by and say,



    Now continue on.

  7. Ok, I guess I do have something to add. lol

    At least your not digging micro film out of wolf poo, picking berries out of Deer poo, or collecting bat poo.

    The worst so far, is the one where have to drink this liquid that will cause the earth to move, while your in the outhouse and you have to collect a seed from the end product.

    Blizzard loves Poo for some reason…just be lucky your playing EQ2.

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