Coop-questing update consistency

I’ve play quite a lot of my MMORPG sessions cooperatively, either questing as a duo or a trio. It’s the way I’ve experienced all of my long history with World of Warcraft, and significant chunks of my playtime in Star Wars the Old Republic and Elder Scrolls Online to name only the MMOs I have played recently. What I’ve noticed in all such games is that the coop experience is rarely, if ever, a consistent one. I guess such questing content is mostly aimed at and balanced for the solo player, so testing it for small group play is likely not a priority. This is evidenced by the many bugs that I’ve encountered in various games. A quest might not update for all the members of the group, or a needed item might not drop for everyone either.

Shared objectives are generally my preference

A more subtle but widespread issue is simply the lack of consistency in how updates are handled within the same game. This isn’t so much about bugs, but varied approaches to how quests work for grouped players and how easily that can lead to confusion or missed updates while questing together. The lack of consistency can not only confuse, it can also sour the grouped questing experience since you might sometimes find grouping makes the overall questing activity easier, while other times it makes it significantly more laborious.

How many giblets does a Condor have?

MMOs newer and older seem to suffer from this same issue. In World of Warcraft’s latest expansion the questing experience is generally mostly bug-free (bar some early phasing issues), but consistency of quest updates is not so great. Why for instance should we all have to click an in-world object that triggers an obvious animation? Sometimes this type of interaction counts for all players, sometimes it is individual. Conversely it makes a kind of sense that picking up objects or dropped items (e.g. enemy weapons) might be an individual requirement as our character is handing those items in at the end of the quest.

I feel that actions like freeing a caged NPC should always count for the party in any MMO

We’ve had a similar experience of inconsistencies while levelling on our Imperial trio, old issues still do occur even now. This MMO does a sterling job (in the original content) to providing coop gameplay during the cut scenes, but in the open world there are the usual inconsistencies or bugs with objective updates.

I suspect that it’s at least partially down to overworked teams that have to churn out large amounts of quest-content under time-pressure. But wouldn’t consistent design standards help teams to keep track how a given quest should operate whether completed solo or as a group. Maybe it’d be boring if all quests objectives of a certain type behaved the same way? Personally I think it’d be nice to have some consistency for those who like to play coop.

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2 Responses to Coop-questing update consistency

  1. Shintar says:

    I sometimes suspect that this kind of thing just isn’t in the devs’ design docs. I agree that it should be though!

  2. Bhagpuss says:

    I think there should be consistency of result but not of method. Whatever the trigger, everyone in the group should get the update (assuming they are physically present – I don’t like those ones where you still get the update when you’re in another part of the zone, or even another zone entirely). It would be very dull indeed, though, if the mechanics for every quest were the same. I like the variety of drops that auto-update, drops you have to examine or use, icons agains t the quest journal you have to click, proximity updates, update-on-kill, objects in the world you have to interact with and so on and so on. Sometimes working out how you’re supposed to get the quest to update is more entertaining than the quest itself!

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