The Future of Quests

33 messages in this thread from mud-dev2 in 2008-11

  1.   cruise <cruise@ca...net> 11-03 15:00
  2.   Marc Bowden <ryumo@um...edu> 11-04 14:13
  3.   cruise <cruise@ca...net> 11-06 15:44
  4.   Nabil Maynard <nabil@cr...com> 11-05 20:47
  5.   Ricky C <ricky28269@gm...com> 11-05 20:49
  6.   Christopher Lloyd <llocr@bt...com> 11-06 12:08
  7.   cruise <cruise@ca...net> 11-06 15:57
  8.   John Buehler <johnbue@ms...com> 11-08 01:26
  9.   Eric Lee (GAMES) <elee@mi...com> 11-10 21:02
  10.   John Buehler <johnbue@ms...com> 11-11 16:54
  11.   Eric Lee (GAMES) <elee@mi...com> 11-19 18:22
  12.   Mike Sellers <mike@on...com> 11-11 17:03
  13.   Michael Hartman <mlist@th...com> 11-18 20:31
  14.   missing
  15.   missing
  16.   Threshold <mlist@th...com> 01-01 22:56
  17.   Zach Collins (Siege) <siegemail@gm...com> 01-05 02:04
  18.   missing
  19.   Threshold <mlist@th...com> 01-01 23:01
  20.   Amanda Walker <amanda@al...com> 01-05 03:21
  21.   missing
  22.   Threshold <mlist@th...com> 01-03 22:28 The historical significance of MUDs
  23.   missing
  24.   Damion Schubert <dschubert@gm...com> 01-08 07:41
  25.   Damion Schubert <dschubert@gm...com> 01-08 07:51
  26.   Mike Rozak <Mike@mx...au> 01-08 22:37 Players are shallow [was: The Future of Quests]
  27.   Mike Sellers <mike@on...com> 01-08 22:45
  28.   Damion Schubert <dschubert@gm...com> 01-08 07:31
  29.   Mike Sellers <mike@on...com> 01-08 22:39
  30.   John Buehler <johnbue@ms...com> 11-04 17:57
  31.   Robert Flesch <robertflesch@ya...com> 11-05 20:44
  32.   Paolo Piselli <ppiselli@ya...com> 11-05 21:24
  33.   cruise <cruise@ca...net> 11-07 16:38
  34.   cruise <cruise@ca...net> 11-17 16:03
  35.   John Buehler <johnbue@ms...com> 11-18 23:12
  36.   Tom Hudson <hudson@al...edu> 11-19 01:44
  37.   Aurel <aurel.gets.mail@gm...com> 11-05 21:34
  38.   Lachek Butalek <lachek@gm...com> 11-07 20:40
It's too quiet round here, so:

The number and quality of quests in large scale POW projects has been 
sreadily increasing as each new product attempts to improve over its 
predecessor. It's fair to say this is one of the major time sinks for 
such projects. Additionally, players are becoming jaded with the static 
quest system and an unchanging world.

It is obvious this cannot keep on going - the manpower required would be 
ridiculous. Something must change...but what? Here are some possibilities:

a) Nothing - Quest writing stagnates, and current popularity of POWs 
collapses.
b) Sandboxes - EVE, and to an extent Warhammer's PvP let player's 
generate their own quests out of the world they're given.
c) Procedural - An automatic generation of quests. This is what I'm 
working on currently.
d) Community - CoH is taking the first towards this, by opening up what 
are effectively the developers mission creation tools to the players.

Please discuss, comment and criticise, in which ever order you prefer :P

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Marc Bowden <ryumo@um...edu>

2008-11-04 14:13:22
Quoting cruise <cruise@ca...net>:

>
> The number and quality of quests in large scale POW projects has been
> sreadily increasing as each new product attempts to improve over its
> predecessor. It's fair to say this is one of the major time sinks for
> such projects. Additionally, players are becoming jaded with the static
> quest system and an unchanging world.
>
> It is obvious this cannot keep on going [...]
   I'd be interested in your positive defence of this assertion.



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cruise <cruise@ca...net>

2008-11-06 15:44:21
Marc Bowden wrote:
> Quoting cruise <cruise@ca...net>:
> 
>> The number and quality of quests in large scale POW projects has been
>> sreadily increasing as each new product attempts to improve over its
>> predecessor. It's fair to say this is one of the major time sinks for
>> such projects. Additionally, players are becoming jaded with the static
>> quest system and an unchanging world.
>>
>> It is obvious this cannot keep on going [...]
> 
>    I'd be interested in your positive defence of this assertion.
I think several of the other replies to this thread have done that for 
me, but as a small datapoint, a quick google turned up the following 
article: 
http://www.ocregister.com/news/blizzard-game-games-1796404-warcraft-company 
which lists employment figures and growth for Blizzard as of last year. 
That's a lot of manpower, and how many other companies can afford to 
compete with that?

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Nabil Maynard <nabil@cr...com>

2008-11-05 20:47:07
On Nov 3, 2008, at 7:00 AM, cruise wrote:

> It's too quiet round here, so:
>
> The number and quality of quests in large scale POW projects has been
> steadily increasing as each new product attempts to improve over its
> predecessor. It's fair to say this is one of the major time sinks for
> such projects. Additionally, players are becoming jaded with the  
> static
> quest system and an unchanging world.
>
> It is obvious this cannot keep on going - the manpower required  
> would be
> ridiculous. Something must change...but what? Here are some  
> possibilities:
>
> a) Nothing - Quest writing stagnates, and current popularity of POWs
> collapses.
> b) Sandboxes - EVE, and to an extent Warhammer's PvP let player's
> generate their own quests out of the world they're given.
> c) Procedural - An automatic generation of quests. This is what I'm
> working on currently.
> d) Community - CoH is taking the first towards this, by opening up  
> what
> are effectively the developers mission creation tools to the players.
>
> Please discuss, comment and criticize, in which ever order you  
> prefer :P
Even on this list, I don't think POW has quite enough traction to be 
used without a parenthetical reminder as to what the acronym means...

I think we're going to see more and more progress towards a  combination
of procedural and community driven questing.  The quality  of the
initial quests provided by the developer still needs to be  there, but
given both CoH and Vendetta Online's shift towards  empowering their
users to create new quests, I think what will SUSTAIN  an online world
is community driven content.  (If you hadn't heard  about Vendetta's
move, the info about the new "Player Contribution  Corps" can be found
here: http://www.vendetta-online.com/x/pcc.)  Other examples include
what Metaplace is doing (Hi Raph), which goes  several steps further by
empowering user ownership of the content  created.

There are several reasons why it's a good idea: economically, one of 
the biggest financial hurdles to maintaining a large virtual world is 
content creation.  By empowering users to create their own content,  you
not only foster a sense of ownership and pride (effectively 
nationalism), but provide a sandbox and training ground for potential 
employees.

Nabil

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On Nov 3, 2008, at 7:00 AM, cruise wrote:

> It's too quiet round here, so:
>
> The number and quality of quests in large scale POW projects has been
> steadily increasing as each new product attempts to improve over its
> predecessor. It's fair to say this is one of the major time sinks for
> such projects. Additionally, players are becoming jaded with the  
> static
> quest system and an unchanging world.
>
> It is obvious this cannot keep on going - the manpower required  
> would be
> ridiculous. Something must change...but what? Here are some  
> possibilities:
>
> a) Nothing - Quest writing stagnates, and current popularity of POWs
> collapses.
> b) Sandboxes - EVE, and to an extent Warhammer's PvP let player's
> generate their own quests out of the world they're given.
> c) Procedural - An automatic generation of quests. This is what I'm
> working on currently.
> d) Community - CoH is taking the first towards this, by opening up  
> what
> are effectively the developers mission creation tools to the players.
>
> Please discuss, comment and criticize, in which ever order you  
> prefer :P
Well, seeing as nobody else wants to talk, I think I'll speak up.

I spent several years in a game called RuneScape, I'm sure most of you
have at least heard of it if not played it. Now, I am not a quest sort
of guy. I played RS several years back, back in the "RS Classic" days,
and it was an amazing game. It was an all-new experience to me, and I
have fond memories still of all the interactions and fun. I enjoyed drop
parties, fighting NPCs with friends, exploring the world (however small
it may be), training skills, crafting new stuff, trading... All the
different things that there are to do.

But unfortunately it got old over time. And I attribute this to the
quests. RS has been too focused on quests, ever since it took off in
popularity. Every week, a new quest, and it has just gone on too long.
Sure, quests are decent fun, but it feels like an endless cycle - you
beat one, and another couple are already there. There's no feeling of
accomplishment, everyone does the same stuff.

Now I know not everyone agrees with me - I may not even be a majority.
But I like the game itself, not the quest mini-stories within it.

I don't think this falls under the Nothing category, because I don't see
RuneScape slowing its quest production in the future. But for some
people, it's just not fun after a while. And it's natural to lose
interest in a game after some long period of time (years, in my case),
but I feel that if there was just more there, I might even still be
playing.

I like both sandboxes and community, but I'm not sure procedural has
enough possibility. From what I've heard of World of Warcraft, many of
their quests are "Kill X number of [random creature]" - I don't know
this from experience, and I would love if someone could disprove me and
give examples, but this just doesn't sound fun to me. The whole point of
having skills/stats is to inform me that I need to kill creatures; I
don't need some in-game NPC telling me the same thing, and giving me a
worthless reward for it.

cruise, can you discuss some of the breakthroughs you're making in the
procedural department? I mean, I think that procedural quest creation
can be a good thing if it is varied enough and can introduce new things
to the players (like 'Nothing' quests do), but how long can it keep
players interested before it flops?

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Christopher Lloyd <llocr@bt...com>

2008-11-06 12:08:59
--- On Wed, 5/11/08, Ricky C <ricky28269@gm...com> wrote:
> 
> I like both sandboxes and community, but I'm not sure
> procedural has enough possibility. From what I've heard 
> of World of Warcraft, many of their quests are "Kill X 
> number of [random creature]" - I don't know this from 
> experience, and I would love if someone could disprove me
> and give examples, but this just doesn't sound fun to me.
> The whole point of having skills/stats is to inform me
> that I need to kill creatures; I don't need some in-game
> NPC telling me the same thing, and giving me a
> worthless reward for it.
I'm reminded of the system used in the Morrowind game (Why that game was never made multiplayer, I don't know, as it could have been a fantastic success, but anyway...).

In that game, killing NPCs gave you... Nothing. There was no experience point system, and killing random monsters really didn't do much for you. Instead, the game engine had a system that would randomly increase your skill level after frequent uses of that particular skill. This was open to much abuse of course (Want to improve your jumping skill? Jump everywhere! Want to improve your defensive skill? Stand next a rat and let it hit you for an hour!), but it did make the questing side of things quite different.

In Morrowind, there was no incentive at all to go monster-bashing. In fact, it because something of an annoyance later in the game when trying to navigate around the vast game world. At the most, killing a random NPC might get you an uncommon commodity that would be used in making potions. Killing particular scripted opponents (almost always humanoid) would allow you to loot their corpses and take their armour and weapons. 

Most of the quests in the game were the standard Fed-Ex type ("Fetch me the widget from this cave"), which was the primary driver in the game. The game itself was a long series of mini-quests, designed to get the player to travel around the game world and experience as much of it as possible. The fact that along the way, various NPCs would be trying to stave the PC's skull in was, really, only an inconvenience.

When I used to play Acahea, I remember one player complaining to me that that "the game world doesn't feel empty any more". I know what she meant - The game world hadn't expanded linearly with the size of the player base, and the outlying wilderness locations which once had been generally deserted, were now just as crowded as the cities and towns, as players moved on from quest to quest and killing ground to killing ground.

It's already been mentioned that allowing player content is one way of expanding the game world easily (and cheaply).

One suggestion is to develop a semi-dynamic NPC population. Lets say you have a mine system full of dwarves. Eventually, some evil PCs manage to bash their way through them all and finally kill the King Dwarf (who should be pretty buff and surrounded by bodyguards). After that, no more dwarves respawn, and the normal loot from the dwarves becomes rarer and perhaps more valuable.

The mines are left untended, but the goblins move in. Goblin NPCs are different to dwarf NPC - more numerous, perhaps, with different weaknesses. Extra tunnels are added to the mines to explore. Eventually one day some players will clear out the mines, killing the Goblin Chieftain and ending the goblin rule. The loot from the Chieftain is unique and valuable, making killing that uber-boss far more interesting (and rewarding) than any old NPC. 

The mines fall into ruin once more, and the spiders start to arrive...

This system takes some planning by the game designers, but allows the designers to advertise for player input ("This month, we're looking for ten new scripts for goblins. Email the admin with your submissions").

C.


-- 

Christopher Lloyd

Email: crl199@al...uk
Tel:   +47 90 98 90 37 (Norway)
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Ricky C wrote:
> cruise, can you discuss some of the breakthroughs you're making in the
> procedural department? I mean, I think that procedural quest creation
> can be a good thing if it is varied enough and can introduce new things
> to the players (like 'Nothing' quests do), but how long can it keep
> players interested before it flops?
It sounds somewhat similar to the system described by Robert Flesch, 
except it can define it's own goals too.

I started with the problem mentioned by John Buehler in his reply:
 >My primary problem with questing in games is that there is no purpose 
to it.
 >Backstory supposedly explains to us why my character is supposed to kill
 >another five whatevers but as we all know that doesn't change anything.
 >Another five whatevers will be killed by the next character.

The question for quests always comes back to why? Why is the player 
doing this? The question before that is, "Why is the NPC asking them to 
do this?"

My NPC's can decide on what they need, then plan out from the actions 
available to them the best of way of achieving it over a long period of 
time. They're becoming better at evaluating how much a particular action 
or item means to them, which in turns allows them to barter, reward or 
be rewarded by each other for actions and objects.
This can range from an NPC asking you to fetch them a sword to the 
King's brother asking you to assassinate his sibling. Or asking any 
other NPC.

This means a) quests are automatically generated by the daily thoughts 
and feelings of NPCs and b) quests have a reason for them and will have 
an effect on the game.

Currently chaos theory is rearing its ugly head, and the combinatorial 
nature of the system is proving a little difficuly to tame, as I'm sure 
you can imagine, but I'm convinced it is tractable.


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John Buehler <johnbue@ms...com>

2008-11-08 01:26:48
Cruise writes:

> I started with the problem mentioned by John Buehler in his reply:
>  >My primary problem with questing in games is that there is no purpose
> to it.
>  >Backstory supposedly explains to us why my character is supposed to
> kill
>  >another five whatevers but as we all know that doesn't change
> anything.
>  >Another five whatevers will be killed by the next character.
> 
> The question for quests always comes back to why? Why is the player
> doing this? The question before that is, "Why is the NPC asking them to
> do this?"
I'm not sure that any advanced programming is needed on that front.  I get
the impression that these NPCs are asking PCs to do a variety of tasks that
can be knocked out in an hour or a day.  That's classic quest stuff.
Consider instead that what players really need is to be cut loose.  Players
need big tasks that they can work on with other players.  The multiplayer
aspect of questing just hasn't been developed.

To return to EVE Online as a source of examples, the tasks that players have
before them are ones that some motivated player came up with.  In my case,
our corporate CEO has us in 0.0 space as an industrial corporation.  To
exploit that, we have to set up structures in space, figure out the
logistics of transport, develop the appropriate skills and acquire the
necessary equipment to maintain our presence there.

Take that same magnitude of task and have NPCs hand them out.  NPCs are just
the voice of the developers, so clearly the developers are handing them out.
Now make sure that the developers have an overarching story that the players
are supposed to follow.

Once upon a time I used the example of Babylon 5 for this general notion.
That is a storyline that produces some large scale activities that players
could be told is available for them to tackle.  A player organization signs
up to build a battleship.  Solo players sign up for exploration missions.
Small teams establish and tune automated mining outposts.  When war breaks
out, qualified pilots get to hop into the available ships and go blow stuff
up (or get blown up).  Other players man guns in the big ships.

The important points here are that

1. The players are given large tasks to accomplish that they then break down
themselves into smaller work units.
2. The overall game has a storyline that the developers are following.

The hour-to-hour and day-to-day tasks should be obvious to the players and
they should be able to know what to do.  The week-to-week and month-to-month
tasks are the ones that the NPCs should be getting the PCs to deal with.
EVE Online does this today, except that the big stuff is handed out by
players.  Replace the players with NPCs (the voice of the developers) and
you're off and running - without the need for difficult programming in NPC
intelligence.

JB

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Eric Lee (GAMES) <elee@mi...com>

2008-11-10 21:02:03
Cruise wrote:
My NPC's can decide on what they need, then plan out from the actions
available to them the best of way of achieving it over a long period of
time. They're becoming better at evaluating how much a particular action
or item means to them, which in turns allows them to barter, reward or
be rewarded by each other for actions and objects.
This can range from an NPC asking you to fetch them a sword to the
King's brother asking you to assassinate his sibling. Or asking any
other NPC.
I'd be delighted to see a system that can actually deliver on that promise in a robust and scalable way.  It's badly needed, that's for sure!  The standard quest systems of today run up against some fundamental limitations.  I guess I'm preaching to the choir here but I'll restate the problems in my own words.

The problem is that the quest goal has to be something that's measurable in the game system; visit X location, move this object from here to there, find N objects, kill N monsters . . . that's pretty much it.  There's no emotional component in the core quest goals, so they get boring pretty quickly if they're left in their raw state.  (Well, they get boring for socializers and explorers, anyway.  I guess killers and achievers don't mind so much, which explains how we've managed to limp along for 30 years this way.)

Of course, you can dress up those measurable quest goals in emotional clothing in order to hide its true nature - instead of "kill 1 prince and return to me", its "my evil brother is trying to usurp my throne so I want you to quietly assassinate him."  The problem is that creating high-quality emotional content has (so far) not been possible to automate; it has to be created by hand.  The problem with automated content creation is that our software programs are good at repeating pre-configured patterns but they're terrible at synthesizing truly new concepts out of random facts.  You may have a king in your game, and the king may view his brother as an obstacle, but the only way the king can ask you to assassinate his brother is if the game designers have explicitly built in the concept of "assassination" as an option.  This is one of the fundamentally hard problems of AI; one where we're always 10 years away from solving it and have been for the last 40.

If you don't build in enough options, you eventually get repeating patterns in the details of the storylines and then the system is exposed as a fake.  People are incredibly sensitive to the reality or artificiality of emotional content.  One lesson we can learn from movies is that often it's better to skip the emotional content altogether than to include it and do it badly.  There's an "uncanny valley" effect at work here so it has to be done by people skilled at the job.

The fact that emotional content can only be created by hand means it's really expensive, which means we have to ration it, which creates many of the other hard design problem we have in MMOs.  We have to have a (mostly) static world, each player has to do the same quests as every other player, etc.

So yeah, I think the first person to solve the quest problem will be a hero (well, at least to those of us to care about such things) but I also think there's going to be lots of attempts that die in the "uncanny valley" before we get there.

Eric
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John Buehler <johnbue@ms...com>

2008-11-11 16:54:52
Eric Lee writes:

> The problem is that the quest goal has to be something that's
> measurable in the game system; visit X location, move this object from
> here to there, find N objects, kill N monsters . . . that's pretty much
> it.  There's no emotional component in the core quest goals, so they
> get boring pretty quickly if they're left in their raw state.  (Well,
> they get boring for socializers and explorers, anyway.  I guess killers
> and achievers don't mind so much, which explains how we've managed to
> limp along for 30 years this way.)
> 
> Of course, you can dress up those measurable quest goals in emotional
> clothing in order to hide its true nature - instead of "kill 1 prince
> and return to me", its "my evil brother is trying to usurp my throne so
> I want you to quietly assassinate him."  The problem is that creating
> high-quality emotional content has (so far) not been possible to
> automate; it has to be created by hand.
That's because the assumption there is that the hand that is creating the
content is the developer's.  In contrast, player-run games leave the
creation of content to the natural interactions of players.  In a sandbox,
players set their own goals, and that means that they are more emotionally
involved than in any hand-crafted content created by the developers.  It is
THEIR goal, not the developer's.  Because of that, the need for an
artificial reward such as experience points is reduced.  The player's reward
is achieving the goal that they set.

I'm advocating a hybrid of the developer-crafted game and the player-run
game.

The developers implement the various actions possible in the game world and
design the game storyline at the highest level.  Then they communicate
large-scale tasks to the player community that advance the game storyline.
Large-scale tasks are ones that take at least a week for 100 players to
complete.  If you can't imagine tasks on that scale, take a look at EVE
Online.  There are always large tasks to complete, and they always break
down into things that can be done in a single session of game play.

> So yeah, I think the first person to solve the quest problem will be a
hero
> (well, at least to those of us to care about such things) but I also think
> there's going to be lots of attempts that die in the "uncanny valley"
before
> we get there.
Sandbox games have 'solved' the quest problem.  In my opinion they only lack
the high level storyline to make them truly engaging.  The uncanny valley
problem rears its head when the developer tries to micro-manage the player
experience - an attitude inherited from single-player games.  Multi-player
games are primarily about player-to-player interaction.  Unfortunately,
we're still focusing on the single-player experience - player-to-content
interaction.

JB

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Eric Lee (GAMES) <elee@mi...com>

2008-11-19 18:22:00
John Buehler writes:
If you can't imagine tasks on that scale, take a look at EVE
Online.  There are always large tasks to complete, and they always break
down into things that can be done in a single session of game play.
EVE Online is an interesting example.  I know it's a successful game and there are lots of players who are fantastically devoted to it, but I think there are also a lot of players who weren't really able to "break into" the core player-driven stories.  I've dabbled in EVE off and on for quite awhile and my personal perception (which may be completely skewed) is that it's a *great* game if you got in on the ground floor, or if you have large amounts of time to work your way up to a place of importance in a corp.  I know there are stories that have been played out in EVE that beat any PvE quest storyline ever written.  But for everyone else it seems like they're just a very small cog in a very large wheel.  It can be very difficult to work your way into a position where you personally participate in those stories of conflict, betrayal, and heroism.  EVE Online feels to me like it has a classic pyramid structure where the guys at the top do all the interesting things while the guys at the bottom crank out the resources for the guys at the top to use.  In other words, too much like real life.

That perception is based solely on my limited personal experience in the game, so it's likely that I'm just a loser, or I had the misfortune to join lame corps.  But I do think that in general, player-driven sandbox-style games have a core challenge to overcome; if left to evolve naturally they can tend to be self-limiting.  That is, they tend to collect a core group of players who are deeply involved in the on-going storyline, and those players are fantastically loyal, but after awhile it becomes difficult for new players to break into that group.  Because there's nothing to do other than the player-driven story, new players get bored and leave, and the game population stops growing.  I believe you can see that pattern in a lot of MUSH-type games.

So how do you design a player-driven game to avoid that problem?  EVE Online hasn't stopped growing yet so I guess they're doing something right (even though it hasn't worked for me yet).  What is it that they do to include new players and let them feel like they have an important role to play in the game?

Eric
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Eric Lee wrote: 
> > Cruise wrote:
> >
> My NPC's can decide on what they need, then plan out from the 
> actions available to them the best of way of achieving it 
> over a long period of time. They're becoming better at 
> evaluating how much a particular action or item means to 
> them, which in turns allows them to barter, reward or be 
> rewarded by each other for actions and objects.
> This can range from an NPC asking you to fetch them a sword 
> to the King's brother asking you to assassinate his sibling. 
> Or asking any other NPC.
> >
> 
> I'd be delighted to see a system that can actually deliver on 
> that promise in a robust and scalable way.  It's badly 
> needed, that's for sure!  
I don't know Cruise's technology, but we have been working on a solution
that sounds similar: autonomous agents with their own personalities,
motivations, goals, emotions, relationships, etc.  They learn over time, so
they evolve relationships with each other and with players.  (This also
leads to a unique and robust reputation technology that we've productized
separately.)

I agree with you that this is sorely needed, but you might be surprised to
learn that's hardly a majority view.  A lot of players -- and more to the
point, a lot of MMOG developers/publishers -- like the certainty afforded by
quest-trees (the balance, the quantifiable nature of the gameplay), even
with the increasing cost of content creation, and with the unending grind
this produces.  I believe this view is changing, but not overnight.  

> The problem is that the quest goal has to be something that's 
> measurable in the game system; visit X location, move this 
> object from here to there, find N objects, kill N monsters . 
> . . that's pretty much it.  There's no emotional component in 
> the core quest goals, so they get boring pretty quickly if 
> they're left in their raw state. 
The issue here is that such quests are meaningless.  Quests that occur in a
static world where the NPCs don't care quickly become sterile and ultimately
boring.  To overcome this, the players have to have relationships with each
other, with the NPCs, and with the world that become meaningful to them.  In
part this requires that the players' accomplishments have real impact on the
world -- thus not just a sandbox, but a sandbox that changes over time.  And
in part it requires that the players care about the NPCs -- they have to
have bona fide relationships with the NPCs, which in turn requires that the
NPCs have enough emotionality (among other things) for the players to care
about them.  

Not surprisingly, emotion and resulting sociability are at the core of our
NPC-AI technology. :)

> ... The problem is that creating high-quality 
> emotional content has (so far) not been possible to automate; 
> it has to be created by hand.  ... You may 
> have a king in your game, and the king may view his brother 
> as an obstacle, but the only way the king can ask you to 
> assassinate his brother is if the game designers have 
> explicitly built in the concept of "assassination" as an 
> option.  This is one of the fundamentally hard problems of 
> AI; one where we're always 10 years away from solving it and 
> have been for the last 40.
I know the history going back to the overly optimistic pronouncements of the
1960s, but it's not 10 years away. :)  We've been actively working on this
problem for the past six years (on our own, with DARPA, and with other game
developers) and have made a lot of headway.  Enough?  We'll see.  

> ...One lesson we can learn from movies is that often 
> it's better to skip the emotional content altogether than to 
> include it and do it badly.  There's an "uncanny valley" 
> effect at work here so it has to be done by people skilled at the job.
Actually I think the lesson from the movies is the opposite: nothing trumps
emotion.  Emotion can make a bad story credible, and a good story memorable.
Emotion that's faked or forced doesn't work, that's true.  It's also true
that our industry -- mostly young, white, unmarried guys with little life
experience (my typical rant) -- has spent decades almost uniformly running
in terror from anything that smacked of emotional content.  So while a lot
is made of the "uncanny valley" (which Mori applied to figures and
animation, btw, not emotional action), it's a whole lot easier to cross that
valley than you might think.  Take a look at the work of Ken Perlin in
animating emotions with simple characters if you haven't already.
Communicating sincere, evocative emotion doesn't require incredible
graphics, but it does require a depth of meaning, a depth of character and
purpose, that the "vending machine" NPCs and static storylines we have today
simply cannot muster.  

> So yeah, I think the first person to solve the quest problem 
> will be a hero (well, at least to those of us to care about 
> such things) but I also think there's going to be lots of 
> attempts that die in the "uncanny valley" before we get there.
The former would be nice, and I have no doubt of the latter point.  We've
made a lot of headway already though.

Mike Sellers
Online Alchemy

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Michael Hartman <mlist@th...com>

2008-11-18 20:31:47
I am specifically not quoting anyone because I don't want anyone to feel 
picked on. The term "uncanny valley" is being thrown around in this 
discussion in a very incorrect and improper way. I think it is important 
that we stop misusing this term so badly on the list.

The uncanny valley is a very specific and interesting phenomenon that 
initially applied to robotics and has been narrowly extrapolated to 
animation:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uncanny_valley

"The uncanny valley is a hypothesis that when robots and other 
facsimiles of humans look and act almost like actual humans, it causes a 
response of revulsion among human observers."

There really is no connection between this hypothesis and the creation 
of meaningful quests. The problems with quests have nothing to do with 
NPCs almost looking or appearing to be real live humans and falling just 
short.


-- 
Michael Hartman, J.D. (http://www.frogdice.com)
President & CEO, Frogdice, Inc.
University of Georgia School of Law, 1995-1998
Georgetown University School of Foreign Service, 1990-1994
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Threshold <mlist@th...com>

2009-01-01 22:56:01
Morris Cox wrote:
> How about "quest facades"? Some might like the term "poser quests".
Hahahaha. "Poseur Quests" is good. Too bad WAR has already cornered the 
market on the "PQ" moniker.

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Zach Collins (Siege) <siegemail@gm...com>

2009-01-05 02:04:16
On Thu, Jan 1, 2009 at 5:56 PM, Threshold <mlist@th...com> wrote:
> Morris Cox wrote:
>> How about "quest facades"? Some might like the term "poser quests".
>>
>
> Hahahaha. "Poseur Quests" is good. Too bad WAR has already cornered the
> market on the "PQ" moniker.
(and here I insert a reference to Progress Quest)

-- 
Zach Collins (Siege)
"If code can be speech, then software can be art."
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Threshold <mlist@th...com>

2009-01-01 23:01:05
Replies: Amanda Walker
Zach Collins (Siege) wrote:
> I'm perfectly fine with extending the context of the Uncanny Valley to
> include any attempt to simulate humanity which comes close but falls
> short, and thus stimulates a negative response
That isn't what the Uncanny Valley is all about. The robots in the 
example do not "fall short" or fail. The robots in the theory are 
actually a success. They are closer to human looking than their 
predecessors. The point of the UV is that when a robot is mostly fake, 
we focus on the parts that are real looking. When a robot is mostly 
real, we are drawn to the flaws. And there is a deepseated, 
psychological revulsion to it because it looks horribly wrong to us.

The argument is that this is the same reason deformed people are 
shocking. We are genetically programmed to have a certain degree of 
revulsion for such deformity so we do not perpetuate those genetic flaws.

Crappy, procedural quests are disliked because they are just bad. They 
are obvious fakery on the part of the developer, and the player is a bit 
insulted and disappointed by it. These crappy quests are not tapping 
into any deep, genetic programming or anything of that sort.

The comparison is absolutely invalid and totally inapplicable. It is not 
"extending" the concept to use the term for quests, it is absolutely 
destroying the concept.

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Amanda Walker <amanda@al...com>

2009-01-05 03:21:38
On Jan 1, 2009, at 6:01 PM, Threshold wrote:
> That isn't what the Uncanny Valley is all about. The robots in the
> example do not "fall short" or fail. The robots in the theory are
> actually a success. They are closer to human looking than their
> predecessors. The point of the UV is that when a robot is mostly fake,
> we focus on the parts that are real looking. When a robot is mostly
> real, we are drawn to the flaws. And there is a deepseated,
> psychological revulsion to it because it looks horribly wrong to us.
Yes--it's when our gestalt perception shifts from "a humanoid robot or  
animated character" (cute) to "animated corpse" (repulsive).  It's why  
the animation in Final Fantasy, Polar Express, and Beowulf fell over  
with such a hard thud.

--Amanda

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Threshold <mlist@th...com>

2009-01-03 22:28:04
I would not normally bring a personal issue here, but I think there is 
the possibility it may have a long term effect on many other muds.

Threshold RPG's wikipedia entry has recently undergone a lot of 
vandalism from a bad intentioned, disgruntled ex-player. Unfortunately, 
this person (who goes by the name Mendaliv on Wikipedia) is a hard core 
Wikipedia user, so he is well versed in their archaic, acronym heavy 
rules and has a lot of "friends" (cronies?) to help him with his campaign.

After getting an admin friend to ban pretty much every person that had 
been productively working on the entry, he recommended it for deletion. 
That's a pretty sleazy tactic, since now almost none of the people that 
would be likely to respond in favor of KEEPing it are even allowed to 
comment. If the only issue here was the deletion of Threshold's entry, I 
wouldn't be posting here. We have had customers of ours put various 
entries up related to our worlds and later found out they were deleted. 
That's how Wikipedia works and we don't concern ourselves with it.

What disturbs me more than our entry being deleted is the all out 
general attack being made on MUDs in general. If you read the discussion 
of the deletion request for Threshold, you will find countless 
statements that various MUD sites are not noteworthy, not good enough to 
be a source of information, and just not important enough. Yes, MUDs as 
a hobby are nowhere near as major as they were 10 years ago, but MUDs 
are a major part of internet and online gaming history. The discussion 
is here:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Articles_for_deletion/Threshold_(online_game)

In the discussion, numerous Wikipedia members seem to completely discard 
MUDs as having any historical relevance, and old MUD related sites (TMC, 
TMS, etc.) are repeatedly deemed meaningless and of no journalistic or 
informative value. When I read this, I was shocked. Some of these sites 
were made when the WWW was brand new. Sure, they never did (and still 
don't) have the polish of giant sites like Massively, Gamespot, 1up, or 
IGN, but there was a time when these sites (and MUDs in general) were 
extremely vital, major hubs of information for online gaming and for the 
internet in general.

Regardless of how popular MUDs are now, there is no doubt they are an 
important part of internet and gaming history. It is absurd to simply 
discard them as irrelevant and not noteworthy.

I'm not sure if there is anything we can do about it, but if anyone 
reading this feels it is worth the time, sharing your own information 
and feedback on that Wikipedia discussion might be helpful. If there are 
people reading this who are familiar with Wikipedia policies, all the 
better.

Thanks for reading, and once again I am sorry for bringing such a 
Threshold-specific issue to these forums. I feel this is a threat to the 
historical significance of MUDs in general, and that affects all of us.

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Damion Schubert <dschubert@gm...com>

2009-01-08 07:41:49
On Tue, Nov 25, 2008 at 10:33 AM, Lachek Butalek <lachek@gm...com> wrote:

> To put it differently, compare these three quests:
>
> * The king of the land charges you to slay four hundred goblins and
> return to him to receive a +2 sword.
> * The king of the land charges you, the valiant hero, to stop the
> invading goblin army. In return, he promises you a great bounty.
> * The king of the land charges you, the valiant hero, to stop the
> invading goblin army, for the third time. In return, he promises you a
> great bounty, for the third time.
> ...



> But the third quest, however superbly generated, will trigger the
> "uncanny" effect. It *seems* to be part of an integral, seamless
> narrative, but to the player it is obviously impossible that the same
> goblin army would attack three times in a week, and that the king should
> happen to possess a whole armoury full of heritage weaponry to hand out.
We have an interesting case study on this.  Until recently, WoW players who
raided were forced to grind for cash by killing foozles for foozle drops, in
order
to pay for potions, repairs and enchant materials.  (In WoW, you can only
complete quests once, and most 80 players would be out of quests).  This
was considered by pretty much everyone to be no fun at all.

Blizzard then added the concept of daily quests which were (perhaps
unsurprisingly), quests that players could complete once a day, for a cash
amount not terribly far from what you could get if you were good at
grinding.
The popularity of the daily quests were widely varied from quest to quest,
and were based on whether or not the activity the quest bore repetition
well.
Yes, some of them were despised.  Did this have anything to do with any
'Uncanny Valley' arising because repeatedly rescuing the princess didn't
make any sense?  No, it was solely because the fun of performing the
activity did not survive frequent repetition.  Blizzard has vastly expanded
the daily quest concept since then, to general approval of the players.

--d
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Damion Schubert <dschubert@gm...com>

2009-01-08 07:51:14
On Tue, Nov 11, 2008 at 11:03 AM, Mike Sellers <mike@on...com>wrote:

> And
> in part it requires that the players care about the NPCs -- they have to
> have bona fide relationships with the NPCs, which in turn requires that the
> NPCs have enough emotionality (among other things) for the players to care
> about them.
The trick for the MMO/MUD designer is that the player is that the player can
only track so many NPC relationships at one time.  Overwhelm the player
with quests, whether hand-crafted or randomly generated, and at a certain
point that player will become simply swamped with stories and relationships
that he's supposed to track.  Your odds of getting the player to actually
care
at this point are extremely low.

As way of example, one of my pet peeves are long quest lines that MMOs give
at level 20 that don't conclude until level 35, but when they do, close with
an
awesome, unexpected twist!  Sorry, but along the way, I may have done
100-200
other quests, and have long forgotten stages 1, 2 and 3, and I didn't even
realize
stage 4 was part of this questline.  So while I'm sure that stage 7 was a
masterpiece
worthy of the bard himself, I have to rush to Stratics just to figure out
what the
hell is going on.  And I'm one of those people that actually *reads* my
quests.

--d


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Mike Rozak <Mike@mx...au>

2009-01-08 22:37:51
Damion Scubert wrote:
> The trick for the MMO/MUD designer is that the player is that the player 
> can
> only track so many NPC relationships at one time.  Overwhelm the player
> with quests, whether hand-crafted or randomly generated, and at a certain
> point that player will become simply swamped with stories and 
> relationships
> that he's supposed to track.  Your odds of getting the player to actually
> care
> at this point are extremely low.
Yup.

Diku-MMORPGs have turned into quantity over quality. Low-fees over quality 
also. Basically, they're McMMORPGs.

The sad thing is that everyone is trying to create a McMMORPG with a menu of 
Big Macs, Quarter pounders, and fries.

... which ties into what Cruise wrote:

> People naturally prefer easy and shallow over complex and rewarding.
> Unfortunately, things are worth what you pay for them, and so the easier
> something is to get, the less satisfying it will be.
> This is a problem for anyone trying to produce a "popular" game, and hence
> we see the trend towards the grind and vending machine NPCs as the
> predominant gameplay element.
Peoples' intelligences are contradictory. When people put their mind to 
something, even the stupidest person can be amazingly intelligent (once in 
awhile). When people don't care about something, their intelligence is on 
autopilot, and not much better than traditional MMORPG-mob AI.

In other words: If you find the right game for the right player, the player 
will actually want complex and rewarding... Lots of people eat at McDonalds. 
They know its crap, but it's there. Most of them, will seek out quality food 
at least occasionally, but they partake in quality food more rarely because 
of (a) convenience and (b) price. Don't forget that only around half of all 
restaurants are fast food crap.

Conversely, 90% of MMORPGs (at the moment) are trying to be McMMORPGs.


I feel sorry for all the game developers working under high muckity mucks 
who want to create a McMMORPG. Their futures are destined to be filled with 
subtle variations on Big Macs (with or without pickles, with or without 
cheese, with or without PvP, etc.), and producing games for customers they 
don't respect. 

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Mike Sellers <mike@on...com>

2009-01-08 22:45:34
Damion wrote: 
> Mike Sellers wrote:
> > And in part it requires that the players care about the NPCs -- 
> > they have to have bona fide relationships with the NPCs, which in 
> > turn requires that the NPCs have enough emotionality (among other
> > things) for the players to care about them.
> >
> 
> The trick for the MMO/MUD designer is that the player is that 
> the player can only track so many NPC relationships at one 
> time.  Overwhelm the player with quests, whether hand-crafted 
> or randomly generated, and at a certain point that player 
> will become simply swamped with stories and relationships 
> that he's supposed to track.  Your odds of getting the player 
> to actually care at this point are extremely low.
This is essentially the difference between plot-driven and character-driven
narrative (and also assumes designer-driven rather than player-driven
activity, which I see as more of a dynamic balance that changes over time).
If you stack up a jostling crowd of NPCs or a big stack of unrelated quests
(per your example that I cut here), the player won't care enough about any
of them to keep coming back.  Some players will want to touch lightly a lot
of different NPCs, some will want to dive deep with just a few (just as with
real relationships between people).  If you force the user into a
pre-defined arc that doesn't end for 15 levels or make them track too many
relationships, this falls apart.  At a high level, the key is keeping the
player in control of their relationships -- how many, how deep, how invasive
or time-consuming for them -- whether you're talking about NPCs or
particular tasks.

Mike Sellers



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Damion Schubert <dschubert@gm...com>

2009-01-08 07:31:31
On Wed, Nov 5, 2008 at 2:49 PM, Ricky C <ricky28269@gm...com> wrote:

>
> I like both sandboxes and community, but I'm not sure procedural has
> enough possibility. From what I've heard of World of Warcraft, many of
> their quests are "Kill X number of [random creature]" - I don't know
> this from experience, and I would love if someone could disprove me and
> give examples, but this just doesn't sound fun to me. The whole point of
> having skills/stats is to inform me that I need to kill creatures; I
> don't need some in-game NPC telling me the same thing, and giving me a
> worthless reward for it.
I'm seeing a lot of disheartening misunderstanding of what good quests do
for a game.  The quote above is only one example.

Quests work, and work well, because they are directed activity.  They give
a sense of accomplishment that players long for.  They are content drivers.
Most MMOs are combat simulators, and quests give you a reason to fight.

World of Warcraft succeeded largely because their quests, at ship, were
excellently paced, and did a remarkable job of leading the player through
the world.  In a good zone, if you complete all the quests, you'll find you
have explored 85-90% of the map, meaning explorers like the quests too.
Quests can lead the player to beautiful vistas, teach the player unexpected
mechanics, and challenge the players to meet challenges in unexpected
ways.

More importantly, quests break players out of patterns - in games
with poorly paced quests, players will find the creatures that give the
greatest
exp/skill gain and grind endlessly.  With a well-balanced quest game, that
player will stop killing rats after he kills 10 of them, then go kill boars
until he has 12 foozles, then go kill 20 demons.  Which is to say, well-
paced quests can make your world feel bigger, and are one effective
mechanism to prevent players from boring themselves to death.

There seems to be a lot of outrage on this list that, if I do a quest, you
can do it later, and then its not special.  This is outrage that seems
almost
exclusively limited to game designers, in my experience.  Most players see
quests as social experiences that can be shared, even asynchronously.
Quests can be taught and hints given.  Players can take pride in difficult
quests, knowing that other players know how hard they are.  Quests
can be optimized and strategized.  THESE ARE ALL GOOD THINGS.

Quests also provide a predictable user experience to the new player.  This
is unbelievably important - players who are new to a game experience need
fairly quick validation - early goals and a quick sense of success.  Quests
allow the designer to have some control over the pace and cadence of the
game experience.  If you depend on your player grinding on rats, hoping
he'll stumble into a good guild or corps, you are effectively trusting
your customers to serendipity.

Are there WoW players who only quest?  Sure.  They're the ones who
play more casually, who don't have the time and energy to raid, to PvP,
or to do dungeon runs, and who only play an hour or two a week.  This
more casual audience is happy to simply be given objectives and meet
them.  This more casual audience is likely to be at a complete loss in
a game that demands this player to go and find his own fun, and is
unlikely to be welcomed in a hardcore guild anyway, as unskilled players
are a drain on leadership energy.

As for the hardcore, quests are not the be-all and end-all of their
game experience, they are not what games like WoW and WAR are
all about.  Hardcore WoW players focus on raiding, arenas and
battlegrounds. WAR players are more concerned with scenarios and
public quests (an entirely different animal that merits its own thread,
IMHO).  Questing in these games provide learning opportunities,
pattern breaking, direction and ambition when you can't play the
elder game you want to: there aren't enough  opponents, or your
guild isn't online, or your team sucks.  Questing is not the core of
these games - but it is the backbone.



--d
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Mike Sellers <mike@on...com>

2009-01-08 22:39:24
Damion wrote:  
> Quests work, and work well, because they are directed 
> activity.  They give a sense of accomplishment that players 
> long for.  They are content drivers.
> Most MMOs are combat simulators, and quests give you a reason 
> to fight.
Hey Damion.

Excellent distillation of what MMOs and quests are and have thus far been.
This form has been highly successful, but is also narrow and is due for a
refit -- at least for some developers and players.  

Directed activity is great, and works well for a lot of players, but works
very poorly for many others.  And most MMOs have almost no self-directed
play, much less socially directed play.  

Similarly, the "combat simulator" nature of MMOs works well within certain
gameplay and demographic parameters, and fails completely outside of those.
Not to say it's bad or unsuccessful (hardly!) but just that it's one
particular point of view, and I think MMOs can (while including combat
simulation) grow significantly beyond this.  

> World of Warcraft succeeded largely because their quests, at 
> ship, were excellently paced, and did a remarkable job of 
> leading the player through the world.  In a good zone, if you 
> complete all the quests, you'll find you have explored 85-90% 
> of the map, meaning explorers like the quests too.
> Quests can lead the player to beautiful vistas, teach the 
> player unexpected mechanics, and challenge the players to 
> meet challenges in unexpected ways.
All true.  But if at some point these quests didn't stop being an aid to
understanding, exploration, and novelty, there would be no discussion of
them being "grindy."  After a certain point, a certain number of repetitions
or close variations on a theme, quests as directed activity have become like
the tortuous exposition in poor fiction: it's the stuff you grind through to
get to what you hope will be the "good parts" of the story, or that you give
up on part way through.  

I'm not saying that quests or other forms of canned tasks are bad and should
be avoided; they're just a limited form that, for many, are unsatisfying
(how many?  Well, some number larger than all the people who played The Sims
and then churned out of an MMO in the first month, say).  Whether that crowd
is important will vary from game to game and depends on the filters you
apply. You remember I'm sure when Bing was cruising the halls at EA saying
that The Sims might sell 250K units, tops...

Mike Sellers

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John Buehler <johnbue@ms...com>

2008-11-04 17:57:07
Cruise writes:

> The number and quality of quests in large scale POW projects has been
> sreadily increasing as each new product attempts to improve over its
> predecessor. It's fair to say this is one of the major time sinks for
> such projects. Additionally, players are becoming jaded with the static
> quest system and an unchanging world.
> 
> It is obvious this cannot keep on going - the manpower required would
> be
> ridiculous. Something must change...but what? Here are some
> possibilities:
> 
> a) Nothing - Quest writing stagnates, and current popularity of POWs
> collapses.
> b) Sandboxes - EVE, and to an extent Warhammer's PvP let player's
> generate their own quests out of the world they're given.
> c) Procedural - An automatic generation of quests. This is what I'm
> working on currently.
> d) Community - CoH is taking the first towards this, by opening up what
> are effectively the developers mission creation tools to the players.
My primary problem with questing in games is that there is no purpose to it.
Backstory supposedly explains to us why my character is supposed to kill
another five whatevers but as we all know that doesn't change anything.
Another five whatevers will be killed by the next character.

Sandbox games such as EVE Online do give players a purpose, and multiple
players can work together to pursue that purpose.  EVE Online tends to find
players pursuing empire-building.  But those empires often fall to dust when
the Napoleonic player force behind them decides that their time needs to be
spent in places other than gaming.

I'd like to see a publisher change backstory into frontstory so that the
players get feedback on the quests that they run because the world changes.
This is the way EVE Online has worked for me.  In order to build an Empire,
many things need to be accomplished.  Player owned structures need to be
deployed, configured and fueled.  Systems need to be mined and explored.
Above all, the area needs to be secured.  Now take each of those tasks and
break it down into its component parts.  Certain ships are involved, so
certain skills and financial resources are required.  Diplomatic ties with
neighboring empires need to be established.  New members need to be
recruited for the empire who have desired skills.

It keeps going on and on like that; there are always things that need to be
done.

But that's a PvP player-directed sandbox.

Now apply that technique to a PvE developer-directed game.

I've taken the idea to the point of replacing the classical island world
with a strip world.  The players start at one end of the strip and are given
a reason to reach the other end.  All the players are struggling from one
end to the other at the same time in the same space.  Everyone experiences
new content at the same time (maps only cover the strip to the most
recently-reached area).

Quests boil down to being whatever it is that the players need to do in
order to continue advancing along the strip.  Developers only have to build
as much of the world as the players can reach.  The developers can be
working on new systems all the time and introduce them as they introduce new
terrain.  It's the ever changing game.

Such games are not replayed, so quests are not revisited.  No documentation,
no speed-questing, etc.  The games also group all characters, young and old,
at the leading edge of the game.  Player goals are primarily communal
instead of personal, eliminating the need for quests to be tailored to an
individual's experience.  So the need for class- and level-specific quests
can be dropped.  As can classes and levels themselves.  Players use their
characters to pursue the goals that they want to pursue and focus on
achievements for the group.  Achieving something for the group should have
some kind of individual recognition associated with it.  Player skill should
be involved in solving problems - as is needed in pursuing many EVE Online
goals.

I've gotta get going, so I'll leave it there.  Drop backstory questing and
turn quests into tasks that advance the game.  Doing that in an island world
would be a bear, as would a game that has classes and levels (what a mess).
So I envision a strip world without classes or levels.

JB

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Robert Flesch <robertflesch@ya...com>

2008-11-05 20:44:39
cruise <cruise@ca...net> wrote:

> It's too quiet round here, so:
> 
> The number and quality of quests in large scale POW projects has
> beensreadily increasing as each new product attempts to improve over
> itspredecessor. It's fair to say this is one of the major time sinks
> forsuch projects. Additionally, players are becoming jaded with the
> staticquest system and an unchanging world.
> 
> It is obvious this cannot keep on going - the manpower required
> would beridiculous. Something must change...but what? Here are some
> possibilities:
> 
> a) Nothing - Quest writing stagnates, and current
> popularity of POWscollapses.b) Sandboxes - EVE, and to an extent
> Warhammer's PvP let player'sgenerate their own quests out of the world
> they're given.c) Procedural - An automatic generation of quests. This is
> what I'mworking on currently.d) Community - CoH is taking the first towards
> this, by opening up whatare effectively the developers mission creation
> tools to the players.
> 
> Please discuss, comment and criticise, in which ever order you
> prefer :P 
I was recently talking to a professor at Ga Tech(Mark Riedl) who was
working on ways of generating "situation tree's" (my word). He was using
it for army training simulations, but I thought the concept could apply
very nicely to any situation where you needed a large number of quests.

Basically this system requires you to define some general goals, but
then generates a large number of ways to get to that goal. If find my
tending to like hybrid systems that balance between lots of random
quests that tend to have random loot (which I personally don't like,
since you can be on the same quest as someone else, or if you are, you
get different rewards), And fixed quests with fixed loot.. This system
is more of a fixed quest that has infinite (many) ways to reaching the
goal.

I was looking at it for helping us design a negotiation training
simulation.

bob flesch
http://prototerra.com - President
404 964 4279 Cell
Skype: robertflesch
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Paolo Piselli <ppiselli@ya...com>

2008-11-05 21:24:33
From: John Buehler <johnbue@ms...com>

> My primary problem with questing in games is that there is no purpose to it.
> Backstory supposedly explains to us why my character is supposed to kill
> another five whatevers but as we all know that doesn't change anything.
> Another five whatevers will be killed by the next character.
Playing through Fable 2 I am still surprised that MMOs have not implemented effects as simple as client-specific cosmetic changes to a zone (someone please correct me if this already exists).  Something along the lines of texture interpolation for buildings and foliage between shabby and nice, sunshine coefficients, level of optimism in adjectives used in NPC dialog, etc.  If after a few hours of questing in the zone the player sees that the mood of the whole place has improved, the player can feel that they have significantly affected the  zone (even if its only from their client's perspective) without impacting the narrative experiences of other players.  Heck, maybe its not permanent but on a slow decay so that the player has motivation to revisit after a month to do some repeatables and "clean up shop".  Consider it an ambient UI element that signals to the player their relative activity level in that zone.

-Paolo




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cruise <cruise@ca...net>

2008-11-07 16:38:30
Paolo Piselli wrote:
  > Playing through Fable 2 I am still surprised that MMOs have not 
implemented effects as simple as client-specific cosmetic changes to a 
zone (someone please correct me if this already exists).

The top-level PvP zone does this depending on which faction controls 
various pointsm but it's very temporary, so it doesn't have quite the 
same effect.

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So far, the replies have been in general agreement with the original 
hypothesis, and the general preferred solutions seem to be:

While a code-based solution would be nice, it's unlikely to be good 
enough, or even possible. Getting the players to do it, however, works, 
is easier, and can be preferra ble anyway.

Does that seem a fair summation?

If so, next question: How do you support player made quests in your 
game, and how do you encourage players to use it?

EVE Online seems to be the poster child for this kind of thing - the 
player run corps are effectively PC factions handing out quests to 
members. I don't imagine for a minute that such involvement is easy or 
automatic to create, so what supporting framework needs to be there fir 
the players? Does anyone have any experience with this?

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John Buehler <johnbue@ms...com>

2008-11-18 23:12:05
Cruise writes:

> How do you support player made quests in your
> game, and how do you encourage players to use it?
This behavior is emergent, not implemented.  Just give the players the tools
and some problems to solve.  Present problems of every shape and form, from
those that a single player can resolve in a couple minutes up to those that
a thousand players can resolve in a year.  The big problems break down to a
collection of small problems.  There is even a choice of problems to deal
with.  If the problems that you present are interesting enough, your players
will happily pursue solutions.  And the players who share the same agenda
will work together if the problem is difficult enough.  Inversely, if
players enjoy working together, they'll tackle problems they can work on
together.

Implicit is the need to avoid game systems that are implemented on rails.
Players must have a sense of using their own creativity or of learning of
others' creativity in solving problems.  Otherwise, they aren't solving any
problems.  They're just walking the rails.

For example, if the developers are initiating attacks on the players using
various NPCs, then the players may have a number of options available to
them.  They could create some engineering work to discourage the attacks.
They might try diplomacy.  They might assemble enough force to drive them
off.  There may be still other options such as ignoring the attacks because
they're falling off in frequency.  Scouting may be in order.

The attacks are happening at a certain location, with certain players
nearby, with certain resources nearby, with certain NPCs in certain
strength.  Different groups of players will want to tackle the problem in
different ways.  As circumstances change, the players may well lean in other
directions.

Meanwhile, there's the bigger problem of how to get across the small sea so
that the game itself can advance.  Several groups have already taken off to
see if they can go around.  One joker decided to swim across buck naked,
"Just because".  His body should wash up any day now.

On a more immediate note is the problem of the player characters who have
damaged gear.  There is no town and there is no NPC with a forge to fix
stuff.  It's a problem that they have to negotiate with other players or
take action themselves.  And because the whole player base is moving
forward, setting up a town may not be too practical.

Etcetera.

Changing problems that can be addressed by the players using the available
tools.

In summary, the environment should be dynamic, the players should have
flexible tools, the problems should come in a wide range of sizes, and the
players should look to each other as resources, not NPCs.

JB

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Tom Hudson <hudson@al...edu>

2008-11-19 01:44:00
When I was playing Eve, the most important things for the Corp (outside
standard chat-channels-and-guildhall equivalents) were
 - teamspeak / vent
 - a killboard & forums
Voice comms supported high-intensity operations in a way that chat wasn't
fast enough for (yes, Eve combat can be very twitchy), and the killboard +
forums gave us asynchronous comms and status tracking. Fine grained control
of many separate hangars in guildhalls, and ease of transferring assets
between players, also supported the cooperation that goes on in a guild.

So, this is all very standard guildy stuff. Also useful were the ability to
set standings with other corps or alliances of corps, and to open up
arbitrary chat channels with limited membership in game (so we could set up
e.g. a regional defense intel channel between a bunch of loosely-allied
alliances).

We were definitely atypical, though, since we were a "Roleplaying" corp,
which in Eve-speak means we bought into the backstory and 'allied' ourselves
with one of the NPC factions, picking fights with RP corps nominally allied
to enemy NPC factions. RP corps tend to be one or two orders of magnitude
smaller than the big groups that forge their own stories out in 0.0

(This, to me, echoes some of the support structures in A Tale in the Desert,
which did more in some ways for enabling groups to set goals and track
progress.)

Tom
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Aurel <aurel.gets.mail@gm...com>

2008-11-05 21:34:22
> But that's a PvP player-directed sandbox.
>
> Now apply that technique to a PvE developer-directed game.
PvE and player directed content aren't mutually exclusive. In addition to
giving players the power to create content you can also create game
mechanics that don't allow, or at least don't reward, violence against other
players. Think outside the box. Consider a game like Cities XL, an upcoming
city building game that promises an online multiplayer component. There are
no quests per se, but I'm sure that if the game mechanics allow it certain
city builders will be asking their neighbors to provide them with resources
they need to do what they want in the game in exchange for their own
resources.

A more medieval analogy: suppose you have a castle building MMO. Once a
month the largest castle is immortalized in a hall of fame and a giant
earthquake levels the land. I'm sure you'll get people grouping together and
giving one another 'quests' to do to gather building materials. Hey lookit,
now you've got quests that don't break the flow of the game, are player
generated, and actually make something happen in the world.

There's no inherent problem with quests except that they're an antiquated
concept. They break the flow of the game to the point that they become
mini-games - tedious, non-immersive minigames. Do you go to work every day
and consider it a quest? Maybe if you make a living as a LARP GM. I'd love
to see standalone quests die and something more subtle and integrated take
their place. A few developers with enough marketing genius behind them can
take 20 year old concepts, add flashy graphics, and generate income.
Everyone else has to think outside the box a little bit.
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Lachek Butalek <lachek@gm...com>

2008-11-07 20:40:37
cruise wrote:
> It's too quiet round here, so:
> 
> The number and quality of quests in large scale POW projects has been 
> sreadily increasing as each new product attempts to improve over its 
> predecessor. It's fair to say this is one of the major time sinks for 
> such projects. Additionally, players are becoming jaded with the static 
> quest system and an unchanging world.
> 
> It is obvious this cannot keep on going - the manpower required would be 
> ridiculous. Something must change...but what? Here are some possibilities:
> 
> a) Nothing - Quest writing stagnates, and current popularity of POWs 
> collapses.
> b) Sandboxes - EVE, and to an extent Warhammer's PvP let player's 
> generate their own quests out of the world they're given.
> c) Procedural - An automatic generation of quests. This is what I'm 
> working on currently.
> d) Community - CoH is taking the first towards this, by opening up what 
> are effectively the developers mission creation tools to the players.
> 
> Please discuss, comment and criticise, in which ever order you prefer :P
The predominant nature of quests (and quest rewards) in modern POWs 
imply by their very nature that the player/character does not own the world:

* the quest giver / quest taker relationship is as employer / employee, and
* the quest giving NPC typically represent one of the POWs major factions.

The result is a POW where at any given time, a player will be working 
for one of the world's hardcoded, unchanging entities. The player is 
essentially a wage slave on a hamster wheel. Is s/he doing a fun, 
exciting and fulfilling job? Sure - but it's still a job. A job which 
serves no purpose other than to fill one's pockets with virtual gold. 
Thus, the primary goal of the game becomes to compare and compete with 
other employees: the overriding reason to play becomes the acquisition 
of the Employee of the Month plaque, rather than the pursuit of 
completing one's goals within the context of the fictional world. Hardly 
a heroic endeavour.

There are many, many people who enjoy this competitive nature. These 
people are not interested in exploration, or story-telling, or 
construction, or immersion, or simulation - the game is a game, and the 
measure of success is simply whether one performs better than everyone 
else. There is no reason to design a quest system differently if that 
describes your target audience.

A sandbox game like Eve Online is radically different. In Eve, there is 
a very distinct boundary between the geographical areas where one of the 
four unchanging factions hold dominion and where consortiums of players 
rule. Gameplay elements and functions are built for the sole purpose of 
supporting player ownership of the world. Such an environment breeds 
player investment and attachment to the world. It is possible, on an 
individual and communal level, to make a major impact on the world. If 
you do act in the capacity of an employee, it is typically in service to 
a greater cause which you care deeply about, rather than as a way of 
improving your personal wealth and capabilities for bragging rights.

Quests are largely unimportant in sandbox games. They can serve a 
purpose as tutorials, or design purposes like infusing currency or rare 
items (blueprints/recipes) into the economy, but they ought not to be 
central to gameplay, as that detracts from the core competencies of the 
sandbox environment.

On the other hand, the complete absence of quests can be detrimental, 
too. Having a smörgåsbord of quests to choose from can be a fun way to 
quickly get immersed in a type of gameplay you don't typically engage 
in. Many of the tasks players do in sandbox games can be repetitive and 
time-consuming, like resource gathering or logistics; running a quest or 
two can serve to break up the monotony.

Is there a middle ground? I think so, and I hope that's where POWs will 
eventually be going:

1. at launch, the POW will have some major NPC factions and associated 
quest givers, but they are relatively weak and on shaky ground
2. as players congeal and establish their power bases, they supersede 
the NPC factions, who become largely unimportant
3. "quests", as most people know them, are now established via 
procedural and/or user-created generation

Example of procedural generation:

In a PvP battle, an NPC farmer was killed by the area effect of a mage's 
fireball. The NPC's widow becomes a quest giver, and will offer any 
passers-by undying gratitude if they would avenge her husband (or, 
perhaps, bring her family some food, depending on her disposition).

When a quest-taker has slain the mage, the widow ceases to be a quest 
giver and the quest becomes invalid. The reward might be a title ("the 
Avenger"), Glory points, some small trinket, or what have you.

What's even better is if the completion of a quest leads to the 
generation of a different quest, and so on.

Example of user-generated quests:

Rather than simply tasking a player with the harvesting of a resource, 
the transportation of a good, or the destruction of an enemy 
installation, a player with authority in a user-run faction could use a 
game function to make this task an in-game Quest. They may open it only 
to a subset of PCs (faction ops, for example) or make it public as they 
wish. They might allow only one person to attempt it at a time 
(transportation of a good), or award rewards to anyone who completes it 
(harvesting of a resource). The reward will be put in escrow by the 
system and delivered to the player when completed.

AFAIK, Eve Online has implemented a system similar to this with the 
Contract system.

User-generated quests are only functional if the task carried out by the 
quester has an impact in the world. Quests like "Kill Five Snotpigs" 
cannot be done this way if Snotpigs respawn on a timer, as the quest 
giver would have no reason to want them dead. On the other hand, "Bring 
me five Snotpig snouts" will work fine, so long as Snotpig snouts serve 
a purpose to the quest giver.

In a POW which is primarily a sandbox, and where quests are generated 
procedurally and by (mostly high-ranking) fellow players, the world will 
actually appear to be owned by their most active inhabitants rather than 
monolithic, never-changing forces beyond the players' control, and 
agendas other than simply "competition" can be served competently.

Whether those are markets large enough to bother with, I have absolutely 
no authority to speculate on.

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33 messages in this thread from mud-dev2 in 2008-11