A Discourse On Questing – Part 2 – In Search Of Punctuation

As we all know, questing is an integral part of any toon’s life.  It is the vast majority of what you do, in order for your character to gain power (Lvl up).  The first time you log on to any new character, you are parked right next to a starting questgiver, and the standard yellow “!” patiently waiting above his head.  Upon taking his quest (which is usually a “Go and talk to xxx” type of quest), the exclamation point changes to a silver “?”.  Then another, usually nearby, person lights up with a yellow “?” above his head.  Talking to him, usually results in that yellow question mark change to a yellow “!”.

For the completely new person, this is a complete cycle, one of several hundred (thousand?) that they will do over the course of their toon, because that is the basic mechanic of leveling.  Over and over again, the toon will constantly change the punctuation over various NPC’s, until they have dinged for the last time (at least in this expansion).

But WoW, in its nature, is vast and expansive.  It calls at you to explore it, and gain experience, so you can fight bigger and badder creatures.  But, if a new human somehow miraculously makes it into darkshire as a lvl 5 toon, the NPC’s there will stare at him blankly, with silver “!”‘s over their heads.  Talking to these new NPC’s with their un-obtainable punctuation marks, will result in a basic greeting.  It’s as if these people are completely mental.

And that is it.  The toon has hit a stumbling block.  He cannot progress any further, unless he finds some more punctuation in another place.  It is no secret that 70% of all trial accounts do not go past the trial.  It was WoW.com’s Daniel Whitcomb who wrote that there is a dichotomy between what is advertised (look at the LK box, and tell me that isn’t epic), and what you get on a trial – kill ten wolves and bring me their bellehs!.   But, that, my friends, is a discussion for another time.

The basic mechanic of the quest system goes something like this:

1.  Find a questgiver

2.  Read the quest text

3A.  Perform a specific task

or

3B.  Go to a specific person

4.  Turn in quest to unlock more quests

Most of us veteran WoW players would think that 3A, or 3B would be the most difficult thing to do.  Surely if you played a toon through Westfall, on alliance side, with the infamous “Goretusk Livers” you know what I mean.  The droprate on that item is completely atrocious, and between the three toons that I have put through there, I estimate the drop rate to be in the 10% area.  Not to mention, some of these quests have  you going to kill elites and such, that are much more powerful than you (hogger, anyone?).

But I would argue differently, especially for new players.  The most difficult task is finding that ever elusive punctuation mark that is the right lvl and the right difficulty for your toon.

My sister, who now is leveling her 4th toon to lvl to 80, is currently working on a lil-bitty mage.  Little Asyllii had a lot of trouble through the mid forties and on through until she hit outlands.  You see, my sister absolutely abhors collection quests.  If it says “pickup 10 (insert various animal parts), and bring them back” she hits the “decline quest” button.  There is no enjoyment whatsoever for her in collecting eyes, livers, organs, bones, tentacles, or one of the many, many different and imaginative pieces and parts of animals that blizzard has programmed on a less-than-spectacular droprate.  So she skipped over those quests.

And at lvl 40, she found herself in a funk.  Every other quest she had to do was either WAY too high for her, requiring a higher lvl toon help her out, or WAY too low (and often the collection quests she left behind).  She was, in almost every sense of the word, stuck.  Could not progress without going back and doing what she completely disliked, or (worse, in my eyes) grind out a couple of levels mindlessly killing mobs.   Of course, she could have done a dungeon or two (and that is what she ended up doing), but in the context of questing, she was dead in the water.

Let’s take another example:  Feralas.  Early in my questing for Loremaster of Kalimdor, I received the typical “OMGWTFBBQ, They need your help halfway across the dammed world, in Feralas.  Hurry, Paladin, they won’t last long!” quest.  I privately wondered if walking there wouldn’t save me the trouble of questing there, maybe the NPC baddies would win this once, and wipe out the zone…   But alas, a 6 minute flight from Astraanar to Feathermoon Stronghold proved me wrong.  But, you know, after 20 quests, I was also dead in the water.  I had completed Feathermoon, and had no quests telling me where to go.  I wondered what I would do as a newbie, about lvl 45, not knowing where to go, all alone in the big bad world.   Of course, I wasn’t alone.  I had an addon that told me there was two significant quest hubs, both of which I would have never run into during the normal course of my other questing.

Both of these examples are probably outliers in the statistical world.  I know that my questing through human lands always was WAY smoother than the questing in Nelf lands.   I always had the quest to go here, deliver this, and always did them.  But, it is easy to see how a new person could miss a quest or two (or simply not want to complete it) and move on too soon, and have no quests.  With NPC’s being thick headed dunders, it is easy to see how those puntuation marks can become few and far between, woefully abandoning the familliar yellow color, for the wizened, unobtainable silver.

You see, the big thing that WoW is missing is the internal compass.  Something that, if a toon gets off the beaten path, can urge them back to where they need to be.  Sure, you can try asking /1 or /trade, but lets be completely honest – those that answer chat channels are more than likely to lead you further in to the maw of madness, than out of it.  What WoW questing needs is…  Gossip.

Yes, gossip.  It is a staple of just about every RPG ever produced, including D&D (I always had fun quips for my innkeepers to spout off if my players didn’t know what to do next).  It is a not-so-subtle way of redirecting a toon’s focus.  “I hear that old blanchy, the faithful steed, is in bad need of care.  Apparently the Saldean Farm has been run over.  I’m going to have to find a new supplier of bread-meal.  Westfall is a much more dangerous place than Outlands right now!”

But this wouldn’t have to be just an internal compass.  It could be a source of new, and interesting quests that are not completed or started through the activation of punctuation marks.  No, I am not talking about those one or two off quests that drop an item randomly in a zone, and start a quest to go talk to the big poobah of the local quest hub, only to reveal more punctuation.

No, I’m talking about something much more elusive.  Perhaps every time a rare is spawned nearby, whispers of a dark and powerful Worgen start passing through the camp.  If you have ever been in Darkshire when good ole stitches comes rambling through, you get a sense of what I mean here.  If you have never experienced this, I urge you to sit around darkshire for a bit.  It happens quite often.

Or, this gossip can push you into exciting and oft-unexplored areas of the map.  Has anyone seen Uldum in Tanaris?  Epic piece of artwork that is often passed up.  Is there a treasure chest nearby?  I don’t know, but good ole johnny says there is, when he was playing with the bramble monsters next to it.  And even more interesting, it was pulsing green.

The goal here is to make questing more interactive, as well as producing an internal compass to help out other characters.  Because sometimes, when questing, it can be really easy to slip into the rut of just searching for those ever elusive punctuation marks.

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Comments
5 Responses to “A Discourse On Questing – Part 2 – In Search Of Punctuation”
  1. Sougent says:

    I got my paladin to lvl 80 primarily through questing, other than the beginning dungeons like Deadmines, Shadowfang and Blackfathom, I didn’t do them, I just quested until there were no more yellow exclamation points to be found. Invariably, there would be 1 quest that sent me to a different area that was the next quest hub that I needed to be in. That I can recall, I never had a problem finding quests, which tends toward a lack of sympathy for those who can’t find out where they quest at a certain level. I did all the boring pieces parts quests, and agree with the sentiment that Blizzard ought to do away with them but I see the reasoning behind them, they are forcing you to grind killing NPC’s for XP to get you to that next level, if you skip them you’re skipping a chunk of XP that you likely need to get the next quest area. Not to mention the random quest drops from NPC’s that will take you off on adventures.

    There were some areas I ended up skipping entirely, I kinda switched from Eastern Kingdoms to Kalimdor around lvl 40-50 so missed entire regions in EK and picked up in the middle in Kalimdor. Each region is fairly self contained in regards to quests, I had no problem finding most of the quests once I found the flight point for the area.

    I guess this is just a long winded way of saying that the quest system has a pattern that if you follow, will lead you along nicely, it’s when you start skipping quests is where you start getting into trouble. Do them all religiously and you’ll ding lvl 80 with entire regions of the world unexplored and hundreds of quests left to do. I know I do if I’m ever going to get loremaster (where I missed 40 quests in Eastern Kingdoms, I have no clue)

    • Firespirit says:

      Sougent:

      My first “Wall” came from STV – inbetween the nessingwary quests and the quests down in BB, I had, surprisingly few quests to complete. I was 2 levels away from getting the next area, Tanaris. I had completed most, if not all, quests up to that point. What happens then?

      The answer was, I ground out the levels. It was a terrible time.

      But, hang tight with me, this is only part two in the series, I promise it will all tie in together 🙂

  2. taiday20 says:

    HEY! After 3 80’s I think I can skip some of those grindy quests! LOL I didn’t want to do the lvl 40-50 areas because I hated them, TYVM you evil brother, using me as a bad example there… My mage happens to be lvl 65 now and still waiting on you to play with me!

    On the other hand, this is a very creative blog post I have to say, so good job 🙂 Now to only get people to read mine…..

  3. Sougent says:

    Lol, I never hit that wall because I skipped entirely STV, didn’t do any of the quests there until after I hit 80.

    Oh, I explored it, hit Booty Bay and rode the boat to Ratchet for the FP, but other than that I totally ignored it.

    I did Alterac, Arathi, Badlands, Hinterlands then a few near Chillwind in the plaguelands, then did Dustwallow, Tanaris, Ungoro and Silithus before moving to Outlands.

    Silithus was most fustrating, half the quests are related to the bloody raid instance, I think I probably picked up a few off quests in some of the other lower level areas like Feralas to get me up to 60 and on to Outlands.

    I tended to push into areas a bit advanced for my level, so I was aware of areas that the typical person might not be, plus I love Ironforge so I pushed north from there rather than take what might be the typical path in the southern Easter Kingdoms, going to Loch Modan, Wetlands, and parts north.

    Roughly, I did Elwynn, Westfall, Lakeshire, Darkshore, some Dun Morough, Loch Modan, Wetlands, Arathi, Hillsbrad, Alterac, Hinterlands, Dustwallow, Tanaris, Ungoro, Silithus, some Feralas and other assorted, then was 60 and hit Outlands, hit 70 in Shadowmoon Valley and went to Northrend, hit 80 in Zul’Drak.

    I did, however, “cheat” in Northrend and got a quest add-on to speed things up. I also skipped quite a few dungeon related quests since I wasn’t doing them, going solo most of the time and not having the dungeon finder like they do now.

    I do get the fustration with the grind quests, I kinda stalled on leveling my other characters after doing the same quests for the 3rd or 4th time, it’s just tedious to me now. Hoping that dungeon leveling will be more interesting.

    Looking forward to the followup post.

  4. imhoughtep says:

    My latest bit of fun, as you know, is 4-boxing a group of shaman. If you think collecting 10 livers is bad, try staring at the screen and knowing you need 40 of the stupid things. I, too, drop most of those quests.

    I like the idea of ‘color text’ type of interaction. More game immersion, and the feel that things actually change in the world from time to time. Having just finished Gnomer with the team, I laughed to myself everytime I rode up to the entrance. Gnomes have been spewing forth from that entrance for 5 years. How many more of the little suckers are still in there?

    Sadly, the answer is “a lot”, and they respawn at a frenetic pace. I think the gnomes are part rabbit. Hmmm…..

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