Friday, October 31, 2008

The cheats I can’t resist take away the fun from questing

Tobold’s, the grand old master of MMO blogging, made an interesting post last week about goals and activities in the game. He puts into words what I’ve felt but haven’t quite been able vocalise - why I find raiding and taking part in group activities so much more fun than questing and grinding for achievements.

It’s all about predictability. If you’re doing quest at the appropriate level they won’t be hard, unless you’re completely new to your class and haven’t got a clue what to do.
As Tobold’s writes:

The sad truth is that the fight of a solo player against monsters in a MMORPG involves little or no skill. The outcome of such a fight is to a large extent determined by your level and gear, and to a very small extent to your ability to play your class well. There are many monsters you can easily kill by just mashing buttons randomly or in always the same sequence.

And as if the solo playing wasn’t predictable enough as it is, we make it even worse by using tools which helps us. They’re all allowed, so maybe “cheating” is the wrong word, but you know what I mean. I’ve been doing it for a long time myself. It didn’t take long after I’d taken my first clueless steps into Azeroth before I heard about Thottbot, giving the information you needed to make quests smoother and quicker. And then I started to follow James levelling guides. I deserted them entering Outlands, where quests weren’t spread all over the place. But I kept going to Wowhead and other databases to get coordinates and ideas how to execute quests whenever in doubt.

Nowadays levelling my alt, I’ve got the addon Lightheaded activated whenever I plan to go questing. If I’m in doubt where to go I click on the given coordinates and oops the TomTom addon will provide me with an arrow so I know where to head and even inform me exactly how far away it is. Off I go, mashing my buttons randomly, knowing that the basilisks, pigs or talbuks will go down no matter what errors I make….
Knowing myself
Of course this is all voluntary. I choose to use those tools. I could as well refrain from them and let the world come to me. I could read nothing but the quest texts and then wonder around trying to figure out where to find the right mob and exactly what to do. Some quests would be easily made anyway. Like if you pick up the quest outside the mine at Honor Hold and the questgiver tells you to go into the mine and kill stuff you find there. You don’t need any addon or webpage to get the picture. But some quests would definitely become harder and more time consuming if I did it the vanillia way.

But I know myself. I’ll take whatever help I can find to get the quests done as quickly and easily as possible. And I’m sure I’ll keep doing this in Northrend, even though I know that I hereby deprive myself from the fun in discovering things by myself. And I’m not alone in this. This, according to Tobold is how most players act. If we can do a quest a smooth and safe way we do it.
It doesn't matter that virtual death doesn't hurt, and only costs us a bit of time to reverse, we still are doing our best to achieve our goals without taking much risk.
An unpleasant thought comes into my head reading this: my behaviour seems to be as predictable as the one of rats in animal experiments. I’ll be running with the ratrace crowd in Northrend, not thinking a second for myself, in the rush to 80.
Unpredictability in raids
I honestly see the upcoming levelling of Larísa most of all as an annoying obstacle that lies between me and the new raid instances at level 80. Maybe it’s got to do with the fact that questing as such lacks the magical ingredient that Tobald points out. The ingredient that raiding has.

It doesn’t matter how many addons you have, how many videos you see or how many strategies you read. Every single raid you go to is unique. It will always be a little bit different due to the setup and above all the interaction between the players. There’s no way you can’t cheat that and turn the raid into a mechanic mindless smashing of buttons (well maybe if you’ve had it on farm for a very long time, but definitely not to begin with).

The unpredictability. That’s one of the things that keep me hooked to raiding. And the lack of it is what makes me look at questing as a necessary evil I’d rather get done with quickly, than something that could be entertaining on its own.


David said...

I think addons like Lightheaded are perfectly fine. Personally, I feel this is especially true for heavy alt-ers who are going through content the 8th or 9th time through. Old quest content is all over the place in terms of distribution, and it's good to have something to manage them as you go through the content. I would also argue though that using these tools on the first time through to 60-70 on a character would be contrary to the immersion and exploration aspects of the game. If Johnny Noobsocks wants to use gameguides and leveling addons on his first time through WoW, well, his loss, and his perogative.

But if I'm in feralas and I need to do the quests for the 10th time to get 10 hoojoos and 5 heejees, just tell me where they are.

These leads into the second part, leveling 70 to 80. To me, leveling is like any other kind of character progression, which is the driving impetus for me to play. Getting better and stronger, (and now achievements have a niche too).

You kill a raid boss and get a sweet new drop, but in reality your character's overall effectiveness and 'power'rarely increases by more than 1-2% by that drop. That might be your only drop for the week, so you have progressed your character by 1% in a week.

Leveling is waaaaay easier than raiding, but in a week of leveling you could see your character increase in power by 10-20%, plus get some new skills and talent points on the way. I think this increased rate of progression is what keeps leveling stimulating, and what keeps me coming back to leveling new characters again and again. Of course endgame dungeoning is fun too, and I think for me the social aspect of it more than makes up for the reduced rates of progression.

Anonymous said...

I started with co-ord mods... then moved on to the full guides...

Lately in returning to do early quests, I have decided against using mods and guides..

I think I have spent 6-8 hours now and accomplished a similar amount of quests... there is something to be said for the mods.

Am I am enjoying myself.. sort of... momentarily... but after a while of running in circles 1 or 1 x,y's away from the quest item... I get tired of it.

I want to cheat... give me the time to read the quest text, rather than waste it in the wrong zone.

Gevlon said...

I use carbonite quest for the same purpose.

However you can put unpredictability into questing: AoE! Pull more than 1 at a time. If you win, you gain much faster quest completion. If you lose, you can corpserun. So there is gain and risk.

There are also 5 man instances between 70 and 80, where there is risk always (unless everyone in the team is known to you)

Anonymous said...

There are a lot of people who are so used to easy-to-find quests and looking up information on wowhead that anything slightly more complex leaves them stuck.

How many times did/do you see questions in general chat, in Darkshire, asking where Sven's farm is? That would be "Sven Yorgen", when "Yorgen's farm" is quite clearly shown on the map? :)

Unknown said...

Wow I need to try that Lightheaded addon you speak of. I don't have map cords addon so I just tab out and check out wowhead. So this addon is win for me.

My first run thru the game I didn't use any addons and barely used sites(mostly because I didn't knew they exist!)I enjoyed it but I think I would have shaved off hours and hours of trying to figure out where is this chicken robot at! So now wowhead is almost a part of questing if I get stuck.

I have been reading the quest to know the backstory of some long ass chains like Hero of the Maghar chain, awesome quest line btwy.

For Wrath no doubt I'll be using guides, addons and sites to help me out. I'll read the quest log though =)

krizzlybear said...

I'm a carboniter like Gev. But I noticed that when levelling alts that are tank or healing-classed, I always find myself pugging out dungeons at my level for the following reasons:

- I get awesome gear, and become more powerful at my role.
- as an alt, I have so much rested XP that doing dungeons can be very lucrative for gaining XP.
- I like being in a group.
- I get more comfortable with the class mechanics.

On my main, he's an AoE/control freak. With the scourge event, I pull about 7-9 of those undead at once, and get about 3-4 runes per pull. Shadows are even solable if you get lucky frostbite procs and manage your cooldowns.

As a result, the mage ends up being my solo leveller, but he ignores quests in lieu of "creative grinding."

Fish said...

I'm using questhelper AND james' guide. I probably dont need them as I've gone through most of the content REPEATEDLY (30 alts will do that to ya). I don't think it makes it less fun for me because the class is the variety.

All the mobs are the same, it is the character that is different. My frost mage AOE grinds differently than my prot pally. My Warlock DPS's differently than an arms warrior. Even doing the same basic tasks, my enjoyment is in the variety of ways to accomplish them.

And yes, huntards just run around mashing buttons, but thats what they do all the time, I don't see any leveling extras changing that. . .

Anonymous said...

@David: I think you're right. It's a pity it's so hard to NOT stumble across those addons when you level your first toon. If you know they exist, how could you resist them, even for such a noble cause as "immersion"?

@Gnomeaggedon: actually that's how I use the mods mostly. To orient myself. I rarely read about tactics - it usually is pretty evident.

@Gevlon: that's true. I do pull several mobs with my rogue, having nice tricks like vanish in my pocket. But since I've never had a frost mage, I've always been careful not to pull more than one with my mage. Maybe some gambling would enhance the gaming experience.

@Kanye: that's true. At the same time - isn't it nice that people don't find out EVERYTHING by themselves? I like some activity in general, even if it's about such a trivial thing as asking for some advice about quests.

@Herc: I think Lightheaded is very convenient. I hate alt-tabbing out of the game. But I really hope I'll become a bit better at doing as you do - reading the quest info properly so I don't miss out the nice lore and storylines.

@Krizzlybear: oh how I envy all of those aoe-levelling tricks you have as a frostie... Hm... I wonder if I'll try it out in the expansio at least for a level or so... It's a shame I'm such a lazy coward, sticking to the things I KNOW are easy.

@Fish: you're absolutely right about that the experience of the same quest is very different depending on what class you have. That's really charming. Oh how I wish I had gaming time enough to try out more classes. 30 alts...!!!! That's... a lot!
I've only got one alt I play, my rogue, but she really gives me some variation, even though I regret a bit I'm doing it so easy for myself, using all this help.

SolidState said...

> It’s all about predictability

I think I would use the word "challenge". Killing mobs in solo play is not a challenge. Once a raid instance is on farm, is stops being a challenge.

But for those first few (sometimes lots of :)) times when the instance/raid is a challenge, it becomes truly fun.

Mind you I personally do find questing fun, not of course with the 3rd or 4th alt but first time through I'm one of those people who actually read the quest text. Blizzard does a great job in creating interesting small stories to read. Plus it helps they have a great sense of humor - where else are you going to get sent on a quest called "Bring me a Shrubbery"? :D (monty python ftw! :))

Anonymous said...

I use QuestHelper for all of my alts and my friends all call me a cheater. I think it's a matter of opinion, but everyone should play the game in the manner that provides them the most enjoyment. For me, that means not searching for an hour to locate the mobs with the .01% drop rate of the item that I need to complete a quest. However, I do feel like a cheater when I still have to refer to Thottbot after QH has put up a little marker that screams, "Ahem... over here, douchebag!"