Global Chat: Are MMO side quests worth it?

Apparently I am a pot-stirrer. On my side blog, Bio Break, I like to throw out conversation starters every now and then, and one such recent post concerned side quests. Namely, I mused about getting rid of them altogether in MMORPGs. This generated a lot of interesting conversation around the subject among other bloggers.

In An Age said that side quests are vital for pacing: “Pacing, meanwhile, is all about enhancing the main story. How do you enhance a story? By fleshing it out. Giving context to its development. Allowing breathing room in which to digest the latest narrative bombshell. Bringing the world in which the story exists to life.”

“I’m a fan of side quests if they’re done well overall. I don’t expect every single one to be breathtaking storytelling,” said Gaming SF. And Bhagpuss goes the other way: “I have to wonder whether, rather than putting side quests on ice, it isn’t the main quest itself that should be deep-sixed. If side quests add breadth and depth to the world, don’t main quests try to put that world in a box and close the lid?”

Ravalation: LOTRO scavenger hunt review

“The travelling thoroughly tested my knowledge of virtual Middle-earth and was a lot of fun. Contrary to most, I don’t like to speed things up by using guides; I’d rather take it slow and experience the things as they were intended. This meant that I had to look around and search for things, and, as a result, inevitably spent time taking in LOTRO’s beautiful landscapes — which is never a bad thing.”

Ashen Foundry: Player conflict in Ashes of Creation’s virtual world

“PvE and PvP don’t exist as distinct, separated systems in Ashes of Creation; they are instead equal components of the grander world system. PvE and PvP action alike will determine the course of a node’s development (or destruction). PvE efforts can be undermined by the actions of other players through both direct PvP (interplayer combat) or undermining efforts (completing conflicting PvE objectives). Success by players building up one node by block progress by players attempting to build up another. Caravans are not subject to attack just by players, but by NPCs, as well.”

Z is for Zeirah: When the guild doesn’t fit

“I’ve learnt a big lesson in the last five weeks about what’s it’s like if you’re just in a guild that doesn’t suit. In the past month I’ve gone from a mental space where I loved healing and logging on to heal with my guildies to hating my my Druid, hating myself and hating my healing  in a really short space of time.  And the most ridiculous part is that I pretty much did all that to myself without much outside input.”


Aywren Sojourner: Living the Red Mage dream

“It soon became very clear that I’d never see that awesome Red Mage in artifact armor in FFXI. Eventually, I gave up on the game, and swore off MMOs for a long time. It wasn’t until games became a lot more solo and casual friendly that I came back to the genre.”

Taugrim: Thoughts on Legion and Stormblood

“I’ve had my fun with WoW for now, for I try to reach a decent rating for each expansion I play and have my fun, see the new art, marvel at how well the engine holds up, and then take a break until the next thing catches my eye. I don’t think anyone truly quits. And as the dust from Legion was clearing, a storm cloud gathered on the horizon. FFXIV beckoned me once again.”

Endgame Viable: Responding to FFXIV criticisms

“There are people who are turned off just by the Final Fantasy setting. There’s not much I can say to that. All I can say is that FFXIV is the very first and to date only Final Fantasy game I’ve ever played, so it’s all new to me. I guess I’m lucky that way. It’s hokey, cartoonish, idealistic high fantasy that bears no resemblance to any reality I’ve ever experienced.”

Every day there are tons of terrific, insightful, and unusual articles posted across the MMO gaming blogosphere — and every day, Justin reads as many as he can. Global Chat is a sampling of noteworthy essays, rants, and guides from the past few weeks of MMO discourse.
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13 Comments on "Global Chat: Are MMO side quests worth it?"

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Loyal Patron

I love side quests when they are really interesting, and I think it’s one of ESO strenghts.

The side quests often are short stories of their own, strongly tied to the lore of the area you pick it in. Of course, objectives are not always that enticing, but the story around it often is. And the extra bit of travel you often have to do only adds to the experience as it helps notice places and characters you would have completely missed.

The number of screenshots I’ve taken because some side quest made me go off the beaten track…


Depends on the game / reward, but you already knew that.

Danny Smith

If they are interesting. You didn’t get shit from it bar a ring that was good for a few levels in the longrun but everyone remembers vanilla WoW’s ‘Legend of Stalvan’.

Bryan Correll

everyone remembers vanilla WoW’s ‘Legend of Stalvan’.

Everyone remembers? Must be an Alliance thing.

Kickstarter Donor

I like that you used a Wildstar screenshot for this. It’s probably the most egregious offender, being that almost every sidequest’s text is something along the lines of, “Hey, while you’re there…”
That being said, sidequests, if you enjoy story based questing at all, can be done well. I’m just starting up FFXIV again, and there’s a little sidechain from Uldah into the Silver Bizarre, where you learn about Kikipu and her little band of villagers trying to hold off the syndicate who want to steal their land so they can build Mcmansions. You help the village rebuild and run the bandits off in a little “Single Samurai” story line. All the while, in the back of your mind, you’re fully aware that Kikipu is the sole reason there aren’t any more houses to buy and you want to chase her off her land as well. Why Kikipu, why!?! See the article from yesterday, lol:


While a different genre, one of the reasons I love every single player Elder Scrolls game is the absurd amount of sidequests. In Elder Scrolls games much of that world building that in most games is done through plain exposition becomes instead quests, through which you learn about the world and is able to at the same time change it. Sidequests are more numerous than usual to the point it’s possible to finish the main quest in but a few hours, but finishing all sidequests would take many dozens of hours.

So, yeah, I think sidequests are very worth it, at least if properly done to expand the world and immerse the player in it.

Alex Malone

I dislike questing in computer games in general, games just aren’t a good medium for telling stories. If you want a tight story, you have to restrict player actions to ensure that the player’s actions fit with the story. I’d much rather have more freedom in game so I can create my own story.

With sidequests in MMOs, yeh, screw that, get rid of them. The story is always horrible, the quest objectives you have to carry out are boring and side quests necessitate a lot of running around…..the worst type of gameplay.

I’m an advocate of completely disconnecting quests / stories from progression. I don’t think we should ever get experience for completing quests. The actions we perform during the quests (killing, exploring, learning lore) should give us all the experience we need. That way, players can then choose how to progress – stick with the stories and have the guided tour, or go off on your own and make your own adventure.

That way, there would be no need to write and build tons of shitty sidequests. Writers could focus on the main quests only which may even result in improved quality (I literally don’t enjoy any quests / stories in games except my own personal story). Players can then choose what they want to do, so someone like me can go off and explore and grind mobs, whilst others can follow the quests and have a themepark experience with neither group being disadvantaged.

Kickstarter Donor

I don’t know man, some of my best MMO memories are from side quest adventures/misadventures.

Loyal Patron

So much this.

Melissa McDonald

Totally worth it, in my experience your main quest takes you into the same region or zone as the side quests, so to me they are all part of the experience.

Kickstarter Donor

I am a fan of a well constructed side quest. It has to be enough to be interesting, but not so intense that it is exhausting or distracting from the main story quest line. Sometimes you may not want to go forward with the story line at a particular moment in time, but you still want to be in the game environment, exploring and doing stuff. This is where the side quest comes in. I agree 100% with @carmen_rooke below that the kill ten rats type of side quests should be eliminated. Oh, and the “escort” the dumb NPC that works hard to get you killed…those can be done away with as well. Side quests can also help to build confidence when you are entering a new area or experimenting with a new level of achievement.


Lawds yes. When I feel I can get to the objective better by putting the NPC in a sack and throwing them over my shoulder, your escort quest is bad, and you should feel bad.

City of Heroes for the longest time had escort NPC’s who would disappear when you took the elevator. Oh it was infuriating.


I like side quests that are well done. “Go Kill Ten rats.” quests need to die.

That said, they can be made amusing. Project Gorgon has two that I know of that make fun of Kill Ten Rats. The Mushroom guy who F-Bomb’s you when you ask him WHY you need to kill x number of foozles. Later, there is an elf who wants you to go kill x foozles which you can do and she will ask you to do it again but you also get an option to question her about it, and delve into the psyche of her character and her need for revenge on foozles. In the end you can actually make a decision to not kill foozles at all, forcing her to come to grips with her grief.

THOSE are way more interesting side quests.

As for main quests, forcing everyone to follow the narrative is staid. I may not want to play a character who saves the world. Maybe I want to play a cursed fighter who is trying to find a way to redeem herself from an action she did ten years ago. Maybe I want to play a mage who seeks immortality. Maybe I want to play a street samurai who lost a sibling to a major corporation but now keeps seeing them everywhere they go.

GW2 tried to do this but its poorly done and doesnt’ really deviate from a few set choices.

Have an overarching narrative for the world but write a lot of storylines for people to play through. Ones that can take a character from cradle to the grave.

I don’t know. Maybe that is too hard.