Not all MMORPG quests are equal. Questing has tended, in many games, to be reduced down to simple tasks like the apocryphal “kill 10 rats” or something similar; requiring five minutes or so with maybe some travel time either side. The questing hub model as popularised by World of Warcraft many years ago intensified the rapidity of individual quests by concentrating the number of quests your character would pick up at once, and by simplifying the collection and handing-in of those quests by gathering all the quest-giving NPCs together in one location.
Two games that I’ve played recently do not strictly follow this more modern take on ‘questing’, however: Dungeons & Dragons Online and Elder Scrolls Online. There are positives to a ‘quest’ actually having some length and substance – it’s less confusing to be focused on one task rather than the usual juggling of half-a-dozen more or less overlapping bite-sized ones. Also the story-telling can be a lot more rich and immersive in a quest that lasts longer.
In Dungeons & Dragons Online there is a close relationship between an instance (i.e. dungeon) and a quest. For much of the game you go to a quest-giver in the relevant hub area and then go to a nearby door or portal to enter the instance. The dungeons do vary in length and many have optional secondary goals. There are also quest chains, nowadays marked with a ‘trio of goblets’ symbol, that provide a longer series of interlinked challenges. Since quests are instanced you are forced to concentrate on one at time usually, a marked contrast from the above-mentioned ‘quest hub’ style of questing.
We’ve recently run the ‘Depths’ quartet of dungeons as an example of this content type. Four separate quests form the chain, available in the Hammersmith’s Inn in the House Deneith quarter, and you can choose to either run them as a sequence one after another or to run them out-of-order as separate adventures. Sequenced quests like this can present a problem if you’re on limited time, the Depths quests all have separate easily accessible entrance portals – not so the earlier Waterworks chain. That series of four quests is broken into two pairs of two instances: a sewer section and a jail section. If you stop without completing a pair then the later half of either is inaccessible without first repeating the sewer bit. This makes sense from a story perspective but not from a modern ‘accessible’ gaming point of view.
In Elder Scrolls Online longer quests are less about chained instances and more about multi-stage tasks in the open world that may end with an instance or special encounter. This varies less from the ‘quest hub’ model, although by default the game only tracks one quest at a given moment on-screen, so you are encouraged to focus on one thing at a time rather than multi-tasking.
Questing recently in the Deshaan region, I’ve resisted the urge to min-max my time in game by constantly juggling multiple quests at once. Instead I give in to the UI’s insistance that I follow the story of my current task. Quests can be quite far ranging, and many have multiple stages or objectives spread about a zone.
ESO quests are story-heavy and usually involve a good number of conversations like the one pictured. Paying attention to details in such chats can be important, the game has its fair share of mysteries to solve and local disputes to mediate. So being more focused makes for a more enjoyable gameplay experience – if I try and juggle several of these quests at once, I’m likely to get in a muddle fast!
There are other things to do as I wonder on a quest, of course, such as dark fissures or anchors. I’m also gathering and crafting on all my characters so stopping to pick flowers or mine ore is a regular thing too.
In both games I’m enjoying the longer, more focused style of questing. I’m finding I’m more engaged by each game in this mode. It helps that in both games I haven’t already done the content that often if at all. But it’s not just the lack of repetition, it’s also the sharper focus on a given task, rather than the more normal overlapping task list I’ve grown used to elsewhere.