More important than the quest for certainty is the quest for clarity.

The Ancient One bemoans various features of the Warhammer Online quest log that he finds frustrating. To be honest I barely use the quest log or quest tracker, mainly due to the excellent integration of quest tracking with the world map, and thus PvE questing these days seems to be mainly a case of:

a) Open the map.

b) Look for arrow representing oneself on said map.

c) Find a big red highlighted area on the map that is near to said self.

d) Orientate arrow towards the Red Blob Zone.

e) Move towards the Red Blob Zone, occasionally closing the map to avoid crap animals in the world that are only there to bite on your arse as you run to a destination, then reopening the map to check that your heading hasn’t deviated too much as you ran around trees going “AHHHHHHH!” whilst trying to run away from said crap animals, or because you had to run around a small bump in the landscape that a low-slung supercar could negotiate, but apparently your character can’t.

f) Upon arriving at the Red Blob Zone, hover your mouse cursor over the Red Blob Zone to find out which motile bags of XP to slaughter/ask for autographs/steal underpants from, and make a mental note of how many of these are required.

g) Ignore the quest entirely and kill everything in the area (even if you’re meant to be collecting autographs) until the quest log goes ‘bing’, signifying that you have completed your task.

h) If your bags are not full then goto a. Otherwise, take yourself back to town, empty your bags of rubbish on the nearest merchant and take your blood stained autograph album back to the relevant quest NPC, then goto a.

However, one thing which does indeed make the quest log cumbersome and annoying is that you can only have a set number of quests at any one time. This is a seemingly archaic and arbitrary design, and all that it does is force people to go into the quest log and micro-manage, at which point many of the Ancient One’s concerns become obvious. Why do MMOs have this forced limitation on the number of quests? Is it purely a storage issue? If it is, then there’s no real arguing with that, but if it’s some deliberate design element of these games then it needs to stop. If I want to have a hundred quests in my log, some of which are out of date and too low a level, and it is within your power to allow me to do so, then let me. All I need from you, as a game, is to provide a few very simple search criteria; they could even be a permanent set of tabs on the quest log, which would allow me to sort by level and by area. That’s it. I can then decide that I want to quest in the Forest of Death and Blood, open my quest log, click on the tab for that area, click on the tab for quests at my level, and see what there is to do. If in the meantime a friend has asked me to help them with quests in the Dungeon of Twisty Passages All Alike, then I can grab any quests from the NPCs in the area there, open my quest log, find that I already had another bunch of quests for the area, and crack on with them. My friend doesn’t have to try to share quests with me, with me telling them to hang on because I haven’t got room in my quest log; then umming and arring for half an hour over which quests I want to drop because I’m in the middle of all of them; my friend getting ever more twitchy about getting on and doing something other than play Shopping List Simulator 2000; and me then randomly clicking quests and dropping them, only to realise at a later date that I dropped the quest to kill one thousand NPCs for their autograph when I was nine hundred and fifty six autographs into it.

With such excellent integration of quest information with the world map, the function of the quest tracker UI element should also have been reconsidered in WAR, because all it does at the moment is repeat what is now available in a more intuitive manner on the world map. What they needed to have done was change the tracker’s behaviour to be more dynamic, a spur of the moment informational device that displays only the objectives of quests that you’re currently in the process of completing. For example, when you enter the Red Blob Zone the tracker would load-up the quest objectives associated with it, and when you leave the Red Blob Zone it removes the objectives. At the moment it’s just a static display of whatever objectives happened to get loaded into it first, which you then have to go into the quest log to micro-manage in a rather awkward fashion if the objective you want to track isn’t there and the tracker is full. When you didn’t have the integration of quest information with the world map (say, in a vanilla install of World of Warcraft), the quest tracker was an important informational device, relaying not only how many more people you had to slaughter for their autographs, but also which area the quest was in and the fact that you had the quest in the first place. I don’t believe that that functionality is required any more, and essentially the new quest tracker would be an intermediate stage between the text alert window – the thing that briefly pops up “3/10 Autographs” in the middle of your screen after you just killed a famous NPC – and the quest text on the world map. It would allow you to see at a glance what objectives you had left to complete in the current quest area, making life easier if you happened to be on several quests in said area and keeping track of all the things you had to kill was becoming difficult.

All-in-all none of the issues with the quest log are annoying enough to cause prolonged consternation, but as with many things in WAR, several excellent new features have been added without any seeming consideration of their impact on existing game elements, and whether these elements could be redesigned to work more harmoniously with the new features, or removed altogether because they have now been made redundant. One wonders whether the Next Great MMO might benefit from a little of its beta time being used for focus groups on the usability of the UI and various game play elements; perhaps it is ultimately cheaper and easier to leave these things to be fixed by the AddOn community post launch, and subsequently copy and incorporate the best ideas in later patches of your game and pretend they were yours in the first place, Blizzard.

Sorry about the straight-laced post, I do these sometimes.

I’d say “sue me”, but knowing the Internet, someone probably would.

3 thoughts on “More important than the quest for certainty is the quest for clarity.

  1. *vlad*

    Your post makes far too much sense (and it was funny, too. Strait-laced? I must have a wierd sense of humour).

  2. Melmoth

    Your post makes far too much sense

    Hmm, needed more cybernetic greyhounds in tutus playing the harmonica, perhaps? I’ll work on that for the next post.

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