I just did one Shared Topic few days ago and now there’s another interesting one right away next week. Awesome. This time, Naithin of Fun in Games asks the following:
Pretend for a moment that WoW hasn’t yet been released. Or perhaps it is, but you’ve never heard of the whole SWG NGE debacle, and thus have no fear about dramatically changing how everything works post-release.
You have the original (or BC, or Wrath, or Current, your pick) design docs to start from, but you’re free to change absolutely everything if you so choose.
With all this power, what would you change? What would make WoW the dream game for you?
A tricky question indeed, especially given that I’m mostly satisfied with how WoW works and plays out. If I had to choose, then I have only two things to add to the current design.
Living NPCs in a living world.
We all know how NPCs work right now. Most of them are still standing in places they started 6 years ago, unless that place no longer exists of course. Only a handful of NPCs ever walk around or do things, and they’re mostly guards, non-interactive citizens or random vendors nobody really needs.
What if every NPC was scripted? Imagine dwarfs in Ironforge leaving their posts and going to a nearby inn for a drink? Vendors and trainers moving around their shops and just doing stuff. Or closing shops for the night – you can still find them nearby, sleeping in their beds and could still interact with them and learn/buy whatever you need (since it’s a game after all, and limiting this to work hours every day would be stupid, especially given that people play in the evenings as well), they just wouldn’t be standing around in one place for all eternity. Imagine if all NPCs would be like the flying trainer in Dalaran – you know, the usually bored Hira Snowdawn, who sometimes flies around the landing pad on her dragonhawk. I always liked that about her.
Also, how about being able to interact with every NPC? After all, they’ve been living in that bloody place forever, surely they would have something to say to a hero like you, wouldn’t they? Or maybe they’d be just scared that a weird looking alien or a walking ex-Scourge wants to talk to them and would run away. There’s a hint of that right now – in some places like Dalaran or Isle of Quel’danas NPCs react to you being exalted with their faction, but while it’s a nice touch to make the player feel noticed by the world, it’s really quite rare and not really enough.
Scripting all NPCs would really make Azeroth feel more alive.
Quest choices and consequences.
There’s a very cool quest in the Mount Hyjal, called A Bird in Hand. You and Thisalee Crow have to capture and interrogate the harpy matron. And the interrogation is nothing like the infamous quest in the Borean Tundra that so many people disliked.
You have a choice of how to ask the harpy and what to do with her afterwards. This is an awesome thing, but what if this choice affected the later quests given by Thisalee? Not to the point of making them completely unavailaible if you make the wrong choice, but just having a slightly different quest texts would be enough. Having the choice in the quest itself is already awesome, now how about making that quest matter?
That’s not to say I’d like to see some kind of a morality system like in Fallout or Fable, though that’s also not a bad idea in itself. I just want NPCs to react to my character’s actions. If I kill and torture that captured harpy, surely it should have some kind of an effect on the druids that are camping the nearby place. Would they give me bad looks then and talk like all they want is to make me go away from their place as fast as it’s possible?
How about having different quest turn-in points? It’s even currently in game for the Forged Documents quest for Inscription – you can talk to different NPCs and take their gold. While the quest itself and things that NPCs say when turning it in are awesome, I still kind of feel bad each time I’m doing it. There should be also a “good” way to finish it, like the fishing daily in which you can either fish for yourself or take other fishermen’s catches. Or, maybe the “good” way is just to not forge documents. Oh well.
Anyway, why not have this technology applied to normal questing as well? It shouldn’t mess with quest rewards, only introduce splitting of the storylines for one or two quests. Even if the quests were essentially the same – like having either “kill 10 elementals” or “use this item on 10 elementals when they’re low on health” as a solution to an elemental problem around the quest hub – it would provide a way to make the questing process less boring and more unique. Even if in the end it wouldn’t matter if you got 5 gold from one NPC or the other, and both would follow up with the same quest.
Paired with scripted NPCs and their ability to react to player’s actions, it would make for a world that feels far more alive than it currently is.
Unfortunately, I’m fully aware how many quests and NPCs this game has and how much work would it take to implement the things I’m asking for. I believe it would be totally worth it though – making Azeroth feel like a living place should be just as important as making new raids and endgame stuff.
I’m doing the leveling thing again on Vaeria – to see the Horde side of things, and to visit Vashj’ir. What I’ve noticed recently is that there is now more variety in the quests. While most of them can be still categorized into the general types of Kill Ten Rats, Go There and Bring Me A Shrubbery (Or Twenty) – the developers at Blizzard somehow managed to make some of them cool and interesting. Some, because obviously there is a lot of generic “there are these creatures there that annoy me greatly, go kill 12 of them” quests, but I guess not every quest can be new and exciting.
I desire a thing, bring me it!
We all know that type of quest – kill creatures and bring X things from their corpses. Or loot Y of the things from the ground. Or go and click on Z things lying on the ground. Of course, all these quests are still very present in Cataclysm, but some are trying to escape the standard a bit. A minor example would be getting food for the dwarves in Twilight Highlands – the food items are not generic crates this time, but look like normal food lying around instead – and different types of food. It’s a small detail, but it definitely counts for a good impression.
A much better example would be rescuing the gryphons. When I got that quest I thought I’d have to fly around and use a provided item on 8 gryphons. Wrong! Some of the birds are trapped and you have to kill a trapper and destroy the trap itself. Others are wounded and you need to heal them (bandages work if your class can’t heal). And the rest of them is indeed flying around waiting for you to come and use your item on them.
It’s really a shame that this kind of thing isn’t more common, because that’s what I call a quest in an RPG done 100% right – if it would be introduced to most of the quests, that would provide the illusion of choice some people think the game lacks.
Kill that big one!
There was a lot of “boss fights” all over the place in the previous expansions. All tanks from Burning Crusade should remember killing Dimensius for [Dabiri’s Enigma], or getting the key to Shattered Halls and forging it in a Fel Reaver’s corpse; and the newer players should be familiar with killing Admiral Westwind for example. A culmination of a storyline – a boss fight.
Before Cataclysm, all of these quests would require a full group, tank and a healer included, to complete. While this isn’t completely bad in itself – we’re playing a MMO after all – I think it’s a little strange that I can’t see the ending of the storyline if I don’t get 4 other players involved. I can go through all the previous quests alone and then for some reason I can’t finish it. It’s just stupid.
Enter Cataclysm. The only group quest I’ve found so far when I was leveling Vrethir, and now Vaeria (all 80-85 quests cleared between the two of them) was the Twilight Highlands’ arena – the Crucible of Carnage. All other quests which definitely would be group quests before, are now possible to complete by yourself. The best example of this is probably killing Iso’rath at the Maw of Madness.
Iso’rath’s brain that you have to dispose of has 1.5 million hit points. Even at a level 85 or 84 that’s still a lot to burn down by yourself – it’s about the same amount that your average dungeon boss has on normal difficulty. The point is that you’re not alone – you’ve got a helping party of four NPC shamans to aid you. They will heal you (even by casting Earth Shield on you) and help to dps down the boss.
This is much better for me, who wants to see the stories behind this game. In TBC and Wrath I would either just do the quests myself anyway (prot warriors > 3-man group quests), or leave them in my quest log if they were 5-man ones and impossible to solo. Or if I couldn’t get a group for them I’d abandon them and go somewhere else. That’s not how a storyline should work.
You want me to do WHAT?
And finally there are the random quests that are completely different. I was making a song with a dwarf, inventing a submarine bio-fuel by mixing different types of animal oil together to get the right proportions of ingredients… That fuel quest is an example of a completely awesome questline by the way – the goblin says the current submarine fuel is quite dangerous to the local wildlife, and we should be more environmentally conscious – so he sends you to kill some more specimens of the three local types of wildlife to get oil, and then make the fuel itself. From only two types of wildlife oil. I’m simply amazed.
There’s also a very simple RTS minigame in Uldum, where you have to click where your units need to go and issue commands via the vehicle command buttons. There’s a clone of Joust (another thing to read the Wowhead comments and laugh at all the RAGE) and shooting things from a cannon.
And, of course, Peaceblooms vs Ghouls. I honestly didn’t expect that you could force the WoW engine to do that. After all, it’s a completely different type of game, and unlike the addon-based Peggle or Bejeweled, it works completely ingame.
On the other hand, I found one typical escort quest – you know, you get a NPC and they start RUNNING, not stopping at all unless they’re directly attacked. Fortunately for us it’s a daily quest, so we won’t ever forget how painful type of quests the escort ones were.
So how it fits all together?
There was a paragraph here on generic things, but it started to become just as long as the rest of the post, and it’s going to be a separate post now. Soon.