The Daily Grind: What’s the best method for delivering MMO quests?

The Daily Grind: What’s the best method for delivering MMO quests?

I have long held that among the many (many) things World of Warcraft codified in the big book of MMORPG “rules” is the quest system, which certainly seemed like a step up at the time, given how messy MMO questing was back in the early days of MMOs. The question marks, the pop-up quest text, the static quest givers, the go here do this routines, even the hubs. But then I remember that all throughout my time playing World of Warcraft, I used mods heavily to “fix” the quest system and deal with its many annoyances.

Where I actually find the most enjoyment doing the equivalent of quests is Guild Wars 2. Turns out I much prefer the organic nature of that game’s content delivery than something more old-school.

What would you say is the best method for delivering MMO quests?

Every morning, the Massively Overpowered writers team up with mascot Mo to ask MMORPG players pointed questions about the massively multiplayer online roleplaying genre. Grab a mug of your preferred beverage and take a stab at answering the question posed in today’s Daily Grind!

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Kero Kero

If we have to have quests, yea. I like GW2 implementation a lot. They felt rewarding mostly and managed to make the story feel immersive and engaging.

Keep in mind, i dont normally care about quests or story at all.

Chosenxeno .

ESO was the best questing experience I have had in the Genre. I haven’t played a MMORPG in 2 years but I played all the Major stuff. ESO just never felt repetitive. I liked that even the most random NPC quest giver Quest felt satisfying.


a dynamic and adaptive quest structure for maximum player agency and convienience demands a semi-procedural approach.

(i ll skip the ontology of quests with a brief excourse: quests have many aspects, as narrative vehicle, learning curve etc)

the most critical issue of contemporary MMO quest design is the volume, not so much the repetitive tasks (as with only a few those would feel less repitive). the narrative (and player engagement, see down below) is drowned in 3-4 digit amount of a limited variance of tasks (kill, collect, fetch, escort, minigames etc). ofc players demand an epic odysee to pantheon, but not an infinite road to hell.

another major issue in MMO quest structure is the loss of individuality, as every player experiences the same content. players (as every customer) want to feel special or at least an individual part of a great(er good/bad), not just another dummy on the assembly line into endgame (although there may be sometimes some peace in it): the pantheon is crowded with Highlords, Archmages and Champions (of Azeroth), which all went tru the same Skinner Box. (sry, but this is my personal feeling about MMO design and esp. quest structure in general, but i want to be at least the cat and not the mouse)

the final major issue is the variance of player skill and also demand. while some will feel overwhelmed, others will be bored, while some want dialogue others need action, which all will further decrease player engagement until the majority just wants to get it over with and join endgame.
also to highlight the endgame effect:
with MMOs introduction to gaming culture, the endgame shism emerged. in the pre-MMO era the narrative concluded in a final climax, an endboss and left many (of us) wishing for more. as MMOs needed much more infrastructure, a continous progression after level cap was the state-of-the-art solution, MMOs r designed to progress (subscriptions) infinitly by adding parellel progression systems (and collectibles etc) and challenges. which then were perceived as the real game, the BIS, the mythic tiers etc.:
players ascendency to pantheon was devalued, felt more like Kindergarten tier than a true heros ode.

less is often more. quality over quantity, not a to-do list, but a personal adventure, a trip tru a gamified reflection on society (games r art).
as individual prefs differ, a Catch-All approach may only appeal if it respects every player(s agency), as the mass and target groups r mere statistical (and abstract) volumes than individual personalities.
adaptive semiprocedural structure attracts via a personalized experience, more player agency is achieved via an (identification and) adaption of individual players preferences.
future quest design has to adapt dynamically, as players prefs (like every taste) change sometimes rapidly, so an open quest structure demands constant analysis of choices, skill and consecutive adjustments, not simply scripts on crossroads.
to specifically mention is the factor of scaling as a hidden difficulty adjustment, as learning curves r (as prefs) individual.

zone goals, personal narratives and path variety: one combination of many possible approaches, but only a few had the courage (its not a budget issue) to use procedural generation (eg Remnants) for a more individual experience.
emergent gameplay was an abused excuse to distract from the missing Sandbox elements, while Survival reigned supreme on the MMO throne. established franchises tent to be conservative, even in their very careful innovations, while Minecraft, Battle Royal and Kenshi etc made quantum leaps for gaming culture.

its no longer an issue of technology, as AI is capable of analytical adjustments in narration (AI dungeon), environment (phasing, Remnant From The Ashes) challenge (scaling) etc, so: overall gameplay adjustment to actual player preferences.

its much more a perception issue in the industry and its established franchises itself thats limits players expectations and gaming culture:
instead of a quantum leap tiny sidesteps to distract from the real issues. (i wont mention now, cuz text volume)

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I liked the Contacts system in CoX, which felt totally appropriate for the setting. The way you’d help out a policeman, who would then tell you he knows a journalist who needs some help, and so on, like that. Great stuff.


Can’t remember if they did this is ESO, but I was recently playing Oblivion and asked a guy about local rumors, and got quests that way. I liked it a lot more than having someone just giving me a quest.


Skyrim does that too. AFAIK you can also get quests by eavesdropping NPCs even when you didn’t directly interact with them.

While it’s just a way to bring regular quests to the attention of the player — if you know they are there (or stumble into them while exploring) you can do those quests without talking to the NPC — it’s still a nice touch.


Frankly, the delivery method isn’t the issue. Whether its found naturally in the world or an exclamation point over some weirdo’s head, going around and collecting 10 bear asses is still stupid.

Rolan Storm

TL;DR – MMORPGs need to be worlds, being ultimate hero is wrong.

To make an interesting story with twists, timing and any surprise for experienced player takes a lot. So we rarely see it MMORPG. Even in games like ESO, SWTOR and TSW quests still tied to character progress.

Other MMORPGs just deliver their story cut into brief chunks – if they even care to. Killing ten of that and gathering dozen of this is more symbolic placeholder for influence on the world than anything else. It’s not a story per se, not an adventure – a progress system. And while quest there is ultimately is to reinvent the hero – it is not very suitable for a MMORPG. So we have something that trying to serve both roles: tell us dramatic and immersing story while pushing us forward. It is not working in favor of story more often than not.

My guess all who commented are right. We need all of them. Terminal-like mercenary quests (SWG had small stories to every terminal quest – you just don’t have to read them to complete it). Area/condition quests that can be found if there is a problem to be solved and/or something happened/about to happen and can be prevented. Even gathering quests can be implemented – just make it lucrative with area market shifts. And, of course, epic quests to find and pursue. Convoluted, long and complicated adventures to do something ultimate. To make an influence, an impact on the on hero and/or the world that will last and stay there.

With one exception.

I see only one system that cam make it work – NPC need their own agenda, “life”. Some AI, some reactions – not just being there as decorations for us. And here is the exception: throw away ‘Chosen One’ quests. Make us friends of hers, make us companions, teachers even – but world have to have its own life. Not to serve us to be unique snowflakes… which make a whole a lot of the same snow.

If we want our characters are to be unique – make it through effort. SWG players like me always turn to as an example was unique. People were dancing in cantina all day – and still were playing important role in game (the guy I mention was fixer of sorts). It was no in game design, but game made room for it. That’s what we need – system to be alive enough to stimulate players creativity. And cooperation. Not enforce, rather make it entertaining (and lucrative sometimes).

Also a good example of global world quest event in Asheron’s Call with demon returning. There was a whole article here about that (I was in game I did not understand much and missed whole thing – so most thing I knew as rumors). But this is good example how things are done right when it comes to ultimate story.

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I think a mixture of ESO and GW2 would be a really great way to present random quests and events. For a themepark game at least. Wildstar had a good way of presenting quests as well, but it could overwhelm people at times.


I remain a fan of original SWG’s “quest” system.

I don’t like story in my games, I find virtually all stories to be overly generic and boring and hardly ever tied to the actual actions i have to undertake as part of the quest. Reading about some poor, generic NPC’s troubles and then heading out and slaughtering some mobs doesn’t work for me.

So, I loved SWG’s terminal quests. No pointless story to waste my time with, I can just pick a quest from a refreshable list from any quest terminal and then head out and do it. Pure gameplay. The fact that the quests also scaled according to group size was even better.

Mike Mike

I found out that ESO has the best quests system out of any mmo ever. This is the only game I can quest anymore. Every other seems outdates.
I didn’t like GW2 quest system b/c it isn’t that good at telling the story.