Guild Wars community is considered to be pretty hardcore(opinions vary ) – we read and re-read every single post made by ArenaNet on their blog and on the Guild Wars 2 website to discuss and then dissect it to bits until we have a pretty good grasp of all the mentioned concepts. But a lot of people are new to Guild Wars 2 and have a hard time understanding some of the concepts being (re)introduced in Guild Wars 2. An often asked question for example is: how can there be no quests in an MMORPG? Are dynamic events another name used in place of quests for marketing purposes? Are they similar to dynamic rifts? After resisting the temptation for a while I have finally decided to try to explain a few of the differences between Guild Wars 2 dynamic events system and the traditional MMORPG quests. The explanation should help in clearing up the confusion about how similar/different they are from the public quest system of Warhammer Online or the dynamic rifts of the Rift MMORPG.
1. No queue for quest spawns
It is common for me to wait my turn to access a quest object or wait for a quest mini-boss to spawn so that I can tag it and finish my quest. The more people who are on the same quest, the more time I and people behind me are going to have to wait. This goes against the kind of the game we are playing – massively multi-player. Instead of rewarding us for finding ourselves in a big group of players playing in the same area it punishes us and forces us to fight for the resource against our fellow players. We start wishing we were alone so that we can have the mini-boss all to ourselves. We hate the player who has spammable AoE skill because she can tag mobs so easily.
In the dynamic event system on the other hand, you just have to be present in the area to participate. It doesn’t matter who else is there, but wait…it does matter, because now it is better if there are other players around us as the event scales up with number of players who are participating, making it much more fun and everybody who participates gets rewarded equally in the end(no mob tagging or kills steals).
Guild Wars 2 dynamic event system doesn’t make me wait in a queue for my turn, lets me want to play with other players, rewards me irrespective of who else is playing with me, and gives me more challenging and fun content to do.
2. Rewards are automatic
As soon as a dynamic event you have participated in has finished, you will be rewarded for it with gold and karma(in-game currencies). You do not have to trace your way back to the NPC who had given you the quest to pick up your reward. You just keep playing, keep doing the events that you are interested in, and you get rewarded automatically when the events succeed without interrupting your play with a boring trip back to an NPC quest hub. Imagine how many pointless trips you save over a period of 100 hours of gameplay! All that time you can spend having fun instead.
3. No linear quest flow
With the quest system, you have a specific quest chain that you need to follow. When you go to a quest hub for the first time, 1-3 NPCs may have one(or more) quest each for you. When you are done with these quests, each of the NPCs may give the next quest on their quest chain. You have to follow this order, there is often no way to do them out of the order or skip a few quests from the middle of the quest chains. Many times, you need to finish one or more quest chains to be able to accept quests at the next hub. It is common for players to take help of wikis, guides and add-ons to help them keep track of what quests they need to complete to get to the next hub.
With the dynamic event system, there is no rigid order that you need to follow. You see an event in front of you? Go participate in it, there will be absolutely no pre-requisites for it. Or don’t participate, and move on, find some other event that might be more to your liking. Any thing in the entire zone is completely open to you, you can do them in any order and skip any of them that you don’t like. Freedom! You can also skip zones as long as you can handle the level of the monsters you are fighting.
4. No wall of text
I will be honest – I have never hated the wall of text used in the traditional quest system, in fact I love it provided that it is well written. I like reading books and I like knowing the lore behind the virtual world that I am adventuring in. What better medium than text to give a life to such a world? Many people believe that it’s time for our video games to tell the story through voice acting and visual cinematic and I understand where they are coming from. Guild Wars 2 tells the story through in-game cinematic, voice-overs, and dynamic events: The new Tyria is a rich world and the stories are befittingly told through this new compelling medium. One can see how this could be much more engaging than walking up to an NPC, right-clicking, and staring at the screen looking for the “kill X of Y” version of the current quest. That said, if written well, I do like reading about the people, creatures, artefacts etc. of the world in-depth and at my own pace. Hopefully Guild Wars 2 will have a lot of books that we can collect like we can in Skyrim or has CODEX entries added as in Mass Effect/SW:TOR/etc.
5. Multiple-stage events are less predictable
I like quest chains because they take the story forward better than a bunch of unrelated quests all asking for a similar menial task to be carried out. But you can pick unrelated bunch of quests at one time at an outpost, go out in the wild and complete all of them in one go, then return the quests and reap the rewards. With quest chains on the other hand you need to pick one up, go out, complete it, come back and return it, pick the second one and repeat the whole process. How about having best of both worlds? Multiple-stage event chains not only try to tell you a story related to a specific area but they keep you in the action for the whole time. You feel immersed in the proceedings and are on the edge wondering what’s going to happen next. All the players will also be at the same stage of the event chain which heightens the feeling of participating as a group in a meaningful conflict. Quest chains always progress in the same way – pick up the quest, finish it, pick up the next one and so on. Event chains are unpredictable to a certain extent – first event of the chain might be successfully completed by the participating players, which will lead to one of two possible events and if the participants fail at this event, once again you might be lead into one of two different possible events. Event chains in the starting areas are simple i.e. small in their scope but there are also event chains that sweep across an entire zone when your character progresses into higher level areas. Read about Meta Events on ArenaNet’s weblog to see how these event chains are much, MUCH larger in scope to anything we’ve seen in Warhammer Online or Rift – it’s like comparing the blazing sun to the flickr of the candle.
More interestingly, while some changes that happen to the world in response to our success or failure at such events are temporary(things reset after say half an hour), many are permanent(things don’t reset until players take steps to fix them). These changes that we see in the world differ based on which step of the event chain players have failed at. I could login and enter a zone, see the whole area swamped with the slimy undead and wonder out aloud “I logout for couple of hours and…”, shake my and head and get to work
The quests have to be designed to be completed by one player at a time, so it is hard to design an encounter with five or ten different things happening at the same time. Even the mini “bosses” required for some quests have to be solo-able. It is possible to make solo encounters extremely challenging but MMORPGs rarely do that, whereas the scope of the encounter has to be limited for solo play. The beauty of dynamic events is that they can simply scale up and present bigger and interesting challenges (like a lot more bandits attacking the caravan from all different sides or a whole town getting set on fire) when there are more players around the area. At the same time it can scale down in difficulty and scope when there are only 1-2 players around. The model adapts extremely well for player groups of all sizes compared to the encounters with a rigid design meant mainly for solo play.
7. No sharing of quests
Do you know what happens when you first get into the Scarlet Monastery dungeon in World of Warcraft? You get spammed with requests to share every single quest that you have for the dungeon. One or two players who have bothered to quest around the zone and visited the relevant NPCs to collect the quest are now supposed to share it with those who didn’t bother. But wait…more than half of those have pre-requisite quests, so they can’t be shared. Couple of them are class specific. One player missed them because she was AFK when the sharing happened. One player has already done the quest, so no sharing, no reward. Confusion much? (This was fixed to an extent by adding all the NPCs who have quests for a dungeon inside of a dungeon and most pre-requisites removed.) The problem still exists in the open world: you can’t just group up with a friend and hope to quest with them as a group. You will spend a frustrating amount of time trying to get your stages in each quest chain synced up with each other. Is this a multi-player game?
If you and your friend are in the area where the event is happening, you are already sharing the “quest”. Whether it is a friend(who may or may not be in your party) or a stranger, as long as you are in the area, you are sharing the event. No hitting buttons to share, no pre-requisites to finish, no waiting till a player runs back to an NPC to get the quest. You get together and you play. That’s multi-player!
8. 10 spiders dead, 40 still remain, but the quest is “done”?
The objective of most quests is to carry out a task like killing 10 of a certain type of mob or collecting 10 of a type of object. So you go to the quest area, you clear out the spider infestation by killing 10 of them but there are like 40 more around you. You don’t care though; your quest is done and you are already on your way back to the NPC to collect your reward. This is OK for an open world based multi-player game. What’s not OK is for there to be 10 spiders only(to make “clear spider infestation” sound meaningful) because if you kill them all for your quest, that leaves no spiders to be killed by other players who need them for their quest. Is there no middle ground? Few of the possible solutions are instancing, phasing and dynamic events.
With instancing, each player enters their own copy of the area, kills 10 of 10 existing spiders, gets out of the instance and collects the reward. Quest text makes sense now but the game ceases to be a massively multi-player open world as one or more players are being grouped up and thrown into separate instances, insulating them from the rest of the world/players. With phasing the world around you can change after you finish your quest and you can see other players around you, you don’t get bottled up into your own instance. But you and the players who have not done that quest yet see the same part of the world differently. This creates a lot of confusion and prevents friends from grouping up with each other and playing together if they have finished different sets of quests. (For reference, Guild Wars is heavily instanced, SW:TOR/Guild Wars 2 use instancing for personal stories and WoW makes use of a little bit of phasing.)
With Guild Wars 2 dynamic events, if there are 50 players around you, you see them all(unlike in instancing). All of you see the world in exactly the same way around you(unlike in phasing). And when the event is over, the world changes to reflect what you have just done, giving meaning to such tasks as “clear out ALL the bandits in the area.” Not only are all the bandits truly gone, the area may change in other ways to reflect the fact, like the arrival of creatures who were earlier afraid of the bandits. Another example: growing of moss because the fish that kept it clean are now dead. Needless to say that for open world MMOs, GW2 DE > Phasing > Instancing > World Doesn’t Change.
9. Exploration/Discovery vs. Check-list
Traditional quest system encourages you to focus on a check-list of tasks that you need to do. You login to the game in order to tick things off of the check-list. “I need to finish 4 quests in this hub, then go do those 3 quests, I don’t even know where these 2 quests are, maybe I will skip them because I also need to finish these other 5 quests.” Todo list is what it is. You can take a break and explore the wilderness a bit or hang around in the ruins of the temple but the fact keeps bearing heavy on your mind that there 14 quests “pending” and you are “wasting” your time by exploring. Playing any part of the game without quests is strongly discouraged by giving gear/XP rewards far better than doing any other activity. Even doing a dungeon without its associated quests is less than 50% as rewarding. And then they put a limit on how many quests you can have in your log! There are add-ons that tell you the quest hub(s) you are missing which you need to get into the next zone!
Guild Wars 2 encourages you to focus on exploration and discovery. You may never know what new adventure you might stumble upon when you login after work today! Explore the land, explore underwater, explore with a friend, explore alone. See where the fate takes you today, see what you will discover. There is no penalty for bumping into a cool event without visiting a specific NPC first. If you are really good at exploration, you might discover a new event hidden in the deepest corners of the world where nobody has gone before! Yep, bump into a live event, not an NPC with an exclamation point over their head
10. Repeatable events
This is so straight-forward to understand. You can’t do a quest again if you have done it once already. Not if you feel like it, not if you want to do it with your friend(and want rewarded for it). There are a few repeatable daily/weekly quests but the majority of the quests are not repeatable. Dynamic Events on the other hand can be done as many or as few times as you wish, with friends or alone.
What do you think? Do you prefer the dynamic event system of Guild Wars 2 or the quest system of other MMORPGs or a mix of the two? What are your reasons? Let me know!