Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Fine Art of an Epic Quest Line

There are quests we remember because we laughed.  There are quests we remember because they touched us.  There are quests we remember because they annoyed us.  There are quest we remember because they where fun.  Then there are quests we remember because they where epic.

Over all, most quests we do will be forgotten seconds after we turn it in and in some cases disenchant that beautiful family keepsake, that had been handed down for countless generations and means so much to the quest giver that they felt it was the sincerest form of thanks they could ever offer, right in front of their very eyes. The pain they would feel if only they were not just NPCs. 

Personally I am one of those people that can't do that.  For some stupid reason I feel bad.  I'll take a few steps and then disenchant it out of sight.  Poor quest giver gave me the most important thing in their life and I destroyed it.  At least not in front of them.  But I am still a horrible person because of it.

What brings that feeling about is the quest itself was a good quest line.  It made me feel something enough to know that what I was given mattered and was not just a reward.  To me, that is a good quest line.  I am sure you have all experienced that in one way or another, at least if you read the quests.

There have to be close to 5,000 quests that could have been done in the past and present.  Most of them are basically useless filler.  Some of them however take the fine art of an epic quest line to a whole new level.

What makes a quest stand out to you?

So far, from my experience, I like quests that tell a story, involved some challenge, some gathering, some time, some travel, and basically a little bit of everything.

I've experienced one epic quest line in my time and that was making the scepter of the shifting sands but there where many vanilla quest lines that where fantastic. 

The epic hunter quest line was the perfect example of making something a challenge.  I've heard stories of some hunters even running into a problem or two at level 80 so could you just imagine doing it at level 60 when you where supposed to be doing it?

It taught hunters how to play, at least if they wanted that rocking bow.  It was removed from the game. 

Most good quests where removed from the game.  I went out of my way to get my mage his polymorph pig before cataclysm came out thinking it would be removed.  It was, the quest that is.  It was fun doing it and it was even more fun because I was doing it at level.

The concept of an epic quest line seems to have been removed from the game.  All past quests we would consider epic are gone never to be seen again and no new ones are being added.  Some might say the legendary quest lines are epic but not really.  At least they do not feel that way to me.  Maybe it is because I have not been doing any being they don't make legendary items for hunters.  The one they did, was a drop, not exactly a quest, just luck really.

The new Thrall quest line was, eh, at best.  It was not very exciting, there was nothing epic feeling about it, if anything it came off as more of a I'm doing this because I feel like I have to sort of quest line.  Life would be fine, even if you never did it.

While I am loving the new hyjal quests to open the new area I am loving it for a completely different reason which has nothing to do with story or feel and my feeling for them are not because they are epic at all.  Maybe more on that at a later time to explain why I am loving them.

I'll look back at what I felt was the most epic quest line that I liked and see what it was I liked about it.

The scepter of the shifting sands was, without doubt in my mind, the best quest line ever.  The story was compelling enough.  The quests included some lore, some minor cut scenes, some humor, and there were many quests.  The quests took me all over the world which meant lots of travel, long travel, not nearly instant transport anywhere travel or flying where I needed to go travel, actual travel.  It involved some huge fights in areas that were often never visited or if so, rarely.  It involved going to areas of the maps where it was quite easy to die if you when in alone.  It required me to do so many raids it was crazy.  It required me to gather odd things from odd places for odd people.  It involved fighting mobs that you would only ever see if you where on this quest.  It forced me to go places I never went before.  It even surprised the crap out of other people when suddenly nice quiet places like moonglade became a war zone, so to speak, which was fun in its own. All that, and so much more.

Now for some reasons Blizzard will never give us anything like that any more.

Quest itself:
- Blizzard seems to have adopted the sense that everyone should be able to do everything quickly and seems to shy away from long quests now.

Questing from area to area:
- Along with the previous Blizzard seems to think that the only time a quest should lead you to a different zone is when it is a lead in quest that is sending you there.  Otherwise, all quests are contained within one zone.  Look at the Thrall quest line.  The perfect chance to make us go from place to place and they decided to port us instead of making us travel.

Travel, in general:
- Even if they did do a quest line that made you go all over the world there are way to many ways to cut down on making it from one end of the map to the other now, so travel in and of itself not longer feels as if it take effort and by that makes the quest feel less epic.

Special areas in zones:
- They made an effort to remove all of them in Cataclysm.  Changed some a little, sunk others, totally redesigned the rest into something completely new.  They are gone.

Cut scenes:
- They are just done differently now, it is something you see only.   Admittedly the new style of cut scene can rock as we saw in the veteran of wrathgate quest line.  Too bad that is the only cut scene I think was ever worth seeing more then once.  Most where not even worth watching once.  Also, people around you got effected by your cut scenes.  I thought that was kind of fun.  While doing the shifting sands the gates to AQ closed while some people where trying to get in.  They were stuck waiting for the scene to end so they could get in.

Big battles in non traditional zones:
- You won't be seeing a major battles in moonglade like the one from that quest line ever again.  You will be in a phased area.  Oh well, the wonder and awe that some young druid that was new to the game got to see, and die to, will never be experienced by another new to the game player again.  Accidently being in the wrong place at the wrong time, sometimes can be an amazing thing.  That druid gushed in awe of what he saw and didn't even mind dying to it.  He immediately said, this is amazing, I've never seen anything like that happen, I love this game.  Well, no other young druids will ever love it like that again for sure.  Next time I'll be in a phased area.

Elite zones within zones:
- I remember as a young hunter walking out of forest song in ashenvale and making a wrong turn at albuquerque it seems and right into the loving arms of three dragonkin that wanted to hug me and squeeze me and call me george.  Well, not exactly, but it taught me to watch where the hell I was going.  I think new players need stuff like that in the game.  It was a great little area that forced people to get out into the world some at max level and it seemed a little more... real, for lack of a better word, that sometimes in low areas there are high level mobs.

Cross raid collection:
- Seems Blizzard likes to keep things nice and tight and clean now.  Everything has its place and everything is in its place.  A great thing for keeping your desk in order, a bad thing for a game in my opinion.  I doubt we will see much of that any more unless the raids are tied together to begin with.  Sad, but true.

Insanely pricey quest:
- Some might say the embers now and saronites before where pricey but they were easily attainable, even to a casual player.  Not to mention, making money now is easier, that is why everyone considers having 10,000 gold being broke now.

Oddball rewards:
- A cooking recipe from a quest line like the shifting sands?  It has no place being there but it is and it is awesome.  It makes people that might want the recipe get involved in the quest just to get it.  That makes people more involved in the game, even on levels they might not have wanted to previously, and that is good for the game.

Insane dragons and lonely gnomes:
- Okay, so we still have them but they just don't seem to have the feel they did there.  They seem as if they are trying to hard now to make funny people.

In the end, they might be able to make an epic quest line in and of itself again but unless they change the way they decided to do things now a quest of that epic feel can never be made again.  With travel being so easy, phased areas, easy linear questing, no risk in low level zones, flying and containment to single zones we will never see something with that feel to it again.

That does not mean there is no hope left.  There are still ways to make an epic quest line with the new way of doing things but does Blizzard have it in them to make one any more is the question.

Even the most epic of quest lines in the game at the moment all end with, woohoo, I got a new shiney, and not a, damn that was great, feeling any more.

The quest itself, and completing it, should be the reward.  True epic quests will end with a feeling like you have just finished a great adventure and not just a new staff or something else.

Think about some of the most enjoyable quests you have ever done and you will see, most of them you do not even recall what the reward was.  Doing the quest was its own reward.  That, is an epic quest line.

Blizzard once knew the fine art of an epic quest line.  I would like to see them delve back into the past and drag some of those designers back.  They are what made this game addictive, at least for me.


  1. Elite zones within zones: Not quite "within zone" but I have heard countless stories of poor new Forsaken players gleefully wandering around Tirisfal Glades and strolling through the Bulwark into the old Western Plaguelands, and getting MURDERED by diseased bears and spiders. I kind of miss that danger.

    I would say that WoW has moved into a more self-contained quest system, without the long lengthy chains, which is both good and bad. I do fondly remember reading about the epic Lost Diplomat chain, and heck, even the long mystery-themed chain as you learned about Stalvan Mistmantle was exciting. Then again, the new Worgen starting zone is arguably one questline, and it is definitely epic and dramatic in its own way.

  2. Have you tried the horde side lowbie quests? The undead starter quests are to me an epic experience, they were incredibly fun. I recommend doing the whole 3 zones, tirisfal - silverpine - hinterlands.

    And make absolutely sure you stay by the budding psychiatrists in Hilsbrad. There is no quest, just stand there and listen to dialogue :)

  3. @Anon, I've only leveled a goblin in the starting zone since the change. I still have not tried the new lowbie quests for horde.

    @Rades, Wandering to a wrong area happens a lot less now being the call board always tells people where to go. If I where starting today however, that would be me. I would still want to explore, even more so places I am not supposed to be yet.

    Those where some great quest lines for sure. I both loved and hated the lost diplomat quest but that was part of its charm in my opinion.

  4. One thing WoW missed was epic quests introduced in Everquest. I can slay 10 rats and pick 6 flowers just about anywhere regardless of MMO; instead give me a challenge with really sweet reward instead!