This was actually a (too long) “comment” to a message written by Ubiq on his blog. The focus is the quest system in World of Warcraft, trying to understand why it succeeded to break the feel of “gind” in a mmorpg and how it became the main activity and gameplay of the whole playerbase when the perception and use of the quest systems in other games had completely different results.
His original article is here. My own is here blow:
On this aspect the game is just a single player game. And it draws from that experience by removing the ‘bad habits’ of the quest systems in the previous mmorpg.
SWG has no quest system. You cannot compare a random generator of spawn points where to go grind your way to a world that is handcrafted from the first pixel till the last. SWG in this case is gameplay built around an “hole”. It makes you believe that you are doing something but in a world randomly generated you feel just like in a box with nothing inside.
WoW has a cohesive world. It’s built exactly like a single player game where every niche of the world has a specific story to tell you, if you want. Removing the ‘bad habits’ (like not knowing where to get the quest, not knowing if it will reward you properly, not knowing how to accomplish it without using spoiler sites, not knowing if that quest is appropriate for your level, not knowing if you’ll be able to finish it alone or in a group and so on…) made the experience of a quest particularly appealing, fun, interesting and gratifying.
One of the general qualities of this game is that it lets you love it, it doesn’t stick its finger in your eye as you attempt something. In DAoC, the game I know better, questing is something you FEAR. Goin on a quest is a BURDEN that you avoid whenever possible exactly because the quests are aimed to be annoying, boringly hard and disappointing.
It’s two years that I write this in my critics and only *now* Mythic is pillaging World of Warcraft of its quest system mechanics because they are blatantly superior.
To summarize my point. DAoC has a quite “flat” world with no depth. The PvE is rather unappealing, but it’s an horrible, badly used quest system to ruin the experience. SWG, instead, is just a box without nothing to tell. There’s no story to tell exactly because it’s shaped as a container, to work as a container. You cannot tell a story when everything can just be everywhere, where elephant-sized mobs wander around happily on mountains with 90% degrees slopes. Where 95% of the whole landmass is just randomly generated content and terrain without a past, a present and a future but just a potential to exist or not and to appear just everywhere.
You CANNOT tell a story, even the most simple one, when everything in your world is in a “potential” status, without something not contingent, with an IDENTITY. SWG negates directly these basic *human* and *world* mechanics. It has nothing to tell because it’s all virtual and again the virtual has no story (no history). By definition.
So from a side (DAoC) we have a storytelling that is *painful* to experience because of an awfully quest system collecting ALL the bad habits of the genre, from the other side (SWG) we have a world that simply has nothing to tell you. It’s “quest system” is a generator of “holes”. And you can only directly experience this absence. Like someone who has a story to tell but who has forgotten what it was about.
The “E” in PvE is about an hadcrafted work. It’s about a book, a movie, a tale you heard from someone. It’s about what you hear, it’s about who tells it to you, what it is about etc… It is about a *strong* identity factor. This cannot happen if the world is in a “potential” status where things can change and be displaced everywhere.
This quest system in World of Warcraft not only works because, again, it’s fun and possible as an experience by removing the bad habits, but it’s also built on top of a world where every nooks and crannies have a story (an identity to discover). The quests actively segment this hadcrafted space and you build your own story and path by intertwining it with the one of the world itself.
The facts that you underline (the segments/quests with a start and a “closure”, along with a “finited” amount of unique segments/quests) cannot exist without a WORLD designed and built to deliver a *strong* identity.