Thursday, June 5, 2008

Nice feature or groundbreaking change?

Heartless recently did a feature comparison of Age of Conan with Warhammer Online, including a silly percentage of WoWness count. But what was interesting about it is his claim that WAR's public quests offer a new way to play PvE, which is not quite as solo as in WoW, and thus significantly breaks the mould of previous games. Massively has a detailed description of how public quests work, so based on that information, is Heartless right? Are public quests a groundbreaking change to how we will play MMORPGs together, or is it just one nice added feature to standard gameplay?

Massively talks in detail about how to get rewards from public quests, which, let's face it, will be the reason why people participate in them. Apparently there are two kinds of rewards: Finishing a public quest lets every participant roll for loot, with a modifier based on his degree of participation. But parallel to that everything you do in a public quest also earns you influence points, with which you can buy stuff from a NPC vendor.

I couldn't help but notice that far from being revolutionary and new, public quests seem to be WoW battlegrounds applied to PvE. Now I'm not saying that this is a bad idea. In fact I do like the way in which you can join a battleground without having to be invited by other players, and come out with some points to buy stuff with whether you win or lose. If WAR introduces the same principle to parts of PvE, I'm all for it. I just don't think this will revolutionize the way people play with each other. Yes, technically they are doing a quest together. But do you really feel a strong social bond to the people you are in a WoW battleground with? Battleground chat always seems like one or two armchair generals barking orders, and the rest of the players studiously ignoring them. If you don't do what the raid leader says in a raid, you risk to get kicked out or not to be assigned any loot, so you behave and fall in line. In a battleground you do whatever you want, because you can't be excluded from the action or the rewards. And I suspect WAR public quests will be just the same. People will try to gather a maximum of influence, both for a better chance on their loot roll, and for the influence NPC vendor. Being busy with that, they'll play just like they play in a battleground, that is tanks won't tank, healers won't heal, and everybody is trying to do maximum damage.

I'm looking forward to public quests, because they seem to be fun from what I could see in the videos. I just don't think that they will provide MMORPGs with a way out of the soloing isolation the genre has slipped into. Will people really think of public quests as being a place to play together? Or will they just fear that somebody else gathers influence faster and outrolls them on the final loot?

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