Home About EIS →

The quest for meaning


Quests are a commonly-used device in RPGs, MMO or otherwise. They are used to guide the player through the story and world in small, discrete steps. After playing just a few RPGs it is noticeable that there are a limited number of quest types.  Depending on how the lines are drawn, quests can easily be broken up into 3-7 categories. Looking specifically at the quests in World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King, I was able to easily categorize the quests into 7 distinct types.

1. Kill X number of specified enemies (where X is a number greater than or equal to 1).

2. Kill enemies until X number of specified items drop (where X is a number greater than or equal to 1).

3. Collect a specific item in a region.

4. Deliver an item to someone specific.

5. Talk to someone specific.

6. Escort someone specific to a specified destination.

7. Use a specific ability.

World of Warcraft now has over 8000 quests, with players often completing well over 1000 quests on their way to level 80.  These 7 types of quests are able to describe over 90% of the quests available, so these players will have encountered the same quest tropes hundreds of times.

Given the limited palette, I wanted to think up new quest types to work towards a more expressive style of RPG.  While brainstorming for new quest ideas, I thought I would step back and instead of looking at the quests currently available, I would instead focus on the goal of the quest designer.  I quickly came up with this meta-list which (I think) does a decent job encapsulating quest raison d’être:

1. Teach players how to play the game.

2. Encourage exploration of the game world.

3. Introduce nuggets of story or lore.

4. Move the players to a particular location.

5. Give the players directed reasons to gain XP and items.

Perhaps looking at quests from this new light can lead to new, more expressive types of quests?  It seems that if we alter the goals, it will lead to new quests, but perhaps the current goals are all that is necessary.  What do you all think?

This entry was posted in Deconstructions and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Both comments and trackbacks are currently closed.