PQs? I do not haz them.

Remember Warhammer Online’s Public Quests?

If you don’t, they were — and still are — areas where players can/must cooperate in order to get through several stages of a local event, at the end of which if they’re lucky they get some treasure, xp and Influence. It’s like a normal quest — kill 10 rats, then kill 10 large rats, then kill King Rat — only bigger, and anyone who happens to be in the area can take part. There’s some complicated scoring — which didn’t always work well depending on your class, but I don’t know what things are like now — and finally a leaderboard and the top however-many get funky loot.

Although it wasn’t always perfectly implemented in WAR, the idea was innovative because it allowed anyone in a given area to take part in a regularly-repeating event. It being an MMO, repeated participation was encouraged through loot chests and the gaining of Influence, which rewarded you with really good loot if you filled up enough of the influence bar for that area.

Coupled with WAR’s open group concept, where any group can be opened up and strangers can actively join rather than having to passively wait to be invited, it meant that you always had something going on and something you could join.

In theory, anyway. Population issues were what they were, and in my opinion there were perhaps too many PQs, because in the end — at least back when I was playing, which was admittedly 18 months ago — most PQs ended up being rather deserted. And they weren’t scenarios, and that’s where most people were, all day every day. But that’s another kettle of fish.

What I’m interested in with respect to these PQs is that they allowed players to find ongoing activities and fun rather than waiting around for said activities and fun to be organised. Now, I’ve agitated on behalf of the solo player many many times, but that doesn’t mean I hate the concept of groups and it doesn’t mean I’m always averse to playing with other people — especially when a game makes it easy for me to jump in and then jump back out.

Problem is, games have gone from expecting grouping to pretty much making it a handicap if you group before the game is good and ready for you to. They’re both extreme and they both suck. Back in the EQ day, there was so much stuff you couldn’t do if you couldn’t get a group together; these days, if you do want to group you have to put up with getting less xp, taking longer to complete quests, and generally getting less bang for your questing buck than if you were by yourself.

I’ve noticed this very recently in EQ2, where I’ve started very tentatively trying to box my two accounts at the same time — not for gaining of phat leetness, but mostly because even I apparently have a limit to how many times I’m prepared to repeat newbie content. I thought it would save me some time and save me from having to do all this stuff a million times when I’m getting a little tired of it. Well, that bit works; the downside is, at my low levels everyone ends up going more slowly than if I just ran these characters through real quick, one at a time. And they get less xp, too, which means they’re also advancing more slowly. (I know, advancement isn’t everything, but we do like efficiency. When a game makes it less efficient to behave a certain way, people are going to stop behaving that way. QED.)

I’m not the only one to have noticed this. Some chap was looking for a group in low-level zone chat the other day, and at least three people spoke up to tell him there was no point to grouping up at that level/location and that he’d do a lot better just forging ahead on his own.

Grouping certainly has other advantages, namely the fact that you get to experience content with other people, but we’re all pretty venal when we play: we want other people and we want grouping to provide some tangible benefit. And those aren’t rocket science in an MMO: more loot, more xp, more of both. Duh.

As a solo player I can get around this for the most part. I forge ahead, I don’t really care about the loot, and in most cases I’m just levelling my characters enough so that they won’t get killed when they go harvesting to feed my crafting habit. All the same, it seems wasteful to me to be in a game where grouping is initially discouraged and later is about the only thing you’re expected to do (raiding). For group players, being told they have to wait till {insert game-appropriate level} in order to group must be really frustrating. (Well okay, they don’t have to, but let’s not be disingenuous: games are designed specifically to encourage certain behaviours… and they can also end up channeling behaviours in ways they hadn’t anticipated. That’s why designers get the big bucks, right? (Yes yes, joke.))

What I would like for the next few MMOs to do is to provide some genuine benefit to grouping, in game-number terms and not just in instances and dungeons. If a bunch of friends want to play together all the time — or even occasionally– it shouldn’t be made more difficult for them to do so. They shouldn’t earn less xp when grouped; City of Heroes/Villains already knows this, and increases xp as more people join. Like I said, this isn’t rocket science — Asheron’s Call was doing this a decade ago. They shouldn’t have to wait till everyone is on exactly the same quest step in order to be able to do stuff together; that’s one of the huge downsides of quest-driven gaming and quest-driven gaming is the current MMO MO, if you’ll pardon the acronym mouthful. They most certainly shouldn’t have to harvest 10 foozle-poops for every single group member — if each mob kill counts for everyone, how come each clicky-interaction doesn’t do the same? It’s possible — some quests in EQ2 actually update clicky-actions for everyone… but most don’t.

And there should maybe be a middle ground between “I’m just questing” and “I’m doing a dungeon quest-crawl” — which is where those PQs come in. They’re static content like everything else, but they’re sort of in between normal questing and dungeon crawling. For someone like me, who has a finite (read: very small) amount of head-space for stuff like dungeons, PQs are perfect. While I’m there I can contribute as much as I’m able; if I have to go AFK I can just pull out for a while (and if I’m ethical I’ll go far enough away that I’m not leeching and/or leave the group); when I get tired of it, I can just move on. Perfect.

Coupled with open grouping, the PQ idea is brilliant for jumping in and doing stuff with people, be they friends or random strangers. Yes, they’re limited in many ways, but the basic idea promotes active participation: I can join when I like and I can leave when I like; and it promotes at least some degree of social interaction, since I’m doing this stuff with other people. MMOs can’t force us to be social, but they sure as hell can make it either easier or harder. In a perfect world, these games would give us the tools to enable us to be social when we want to be and then just let us get on with it.

These days, sadly, it seems to be enough to provide an LFG box with lots of criteria.

I do not haz PQ, but I wish I did.

8 responses to “PQs? I do not haz them.

  1. Great system, but it was implemented like a mini-game. Gamers will always advance using the path of least resistance. Mini-games become irrelavent. PvP mixed with the the mind-numbing linear questing areas became that path.

    More emphasis on PvP gear through the PQs and less questing would have helped. But one huge flaw with the game were levels. Regardless of how great the game is, the endgame is going to be the big show. You are just going to run out of players at the lower levels sooner or later.

    Not only was that evident in WAR, but it was proven in Champions Online.

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  2. I think “grouping” is not the core of the problem, but quests and even more so quest chains. If they are the motor for grouping they often cause people to focus on their clearly defined quest goal. Fleet Actions in STO are a bit similar, I like them a lot.

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    • I agree. I think DDO does a great job of addressing this. Although, I feel too confined in DDO. But taking instances and creating different levels of difficulty so they can be done solo or in a group is a great idea. Of course, the rewards should fit the task. If you solo on easy, the rewards should be tailored to that. I enjoy that I can at least go where big groups go, even if the adventures are modified slightly.

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  3. The PQ’s in WAR are now a mixed bag. The redesigned Tier 1 is strong with all of the “Endless Free Trial” accounts populating the zone, and the Land of the Dead zone (levels 25-40) is decent as well. Otherwise PQ’s are a vast emptiness of wasted content, and the questing content is even more so.

    That said, the grouping system in WAR is very solo friendly, and the PQ system still has a lot of room to grow.

    The zenith of this in WAR, in my opinion, was the Hunter’s Vale live event.

    It had one instanced dungeon where the entrance was in the RvR lakes, and offered decent rewards, and if you cleared it under a set time, even better rewards. A very fun run.

    In addition it had a PQ in the RvR lakes that was a hoot, and lead to lots of random fighting from small scale battles, to ganks, to zerging or being zerged.

    Finally, the event would periodically spawn a White Stag with a massive amount of hit points that would run through the RvR lakes and could be killed by both realms. You could actually kill it by yourself if you had enough time to chase it for 15 minutes, and was another fantastic combination of PVE/PvP content.

    Cheers!

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