Tuesday, March 23, 2021

22 Non-Combat Quests In A Row Is Too Much

Sometimes game developers need to recognize their strengths and weaknesses. Take storytelling. Square Enix and the Final Fantasy franchise is famous for its stories. Final Fantasy XIV continues the tradition, especially after A Realm Reborn. The Shadowbringers expansion may have spoiled video game stories for me going into the future.

CCP has a different take on storytelling. They throw out a bunch of tools and let the players create tales that wind up in history books. Instead of stories that all players who ever play EVE Online can experience, the developers create series of live events that can last years to tell the story of the universe. The stories players helped shape around wormholes, incursions, and the Triglavian creation of Pochven are probably better than the developers could have crafted alone.

As I've written before, the storytelling in Black Desert Online is serviceable. At its best, the quest design makes the player feel powerful and the story keeps killing 50, 100, or even 200 mobs from feeling like a grind. Instead, at times the story makes me feel like a 1980s action hero mowing through the multitudes toward an objective. But last night, I ran into a quest line that felt like some of the quests in A Realm Reborn that Square Enix recently removed from the game.

In the leveling guide I'm using, the next thing I needed to do was obtain the Chenga Tome, which provides a 30% bonus to combat experience given by quest rewards. The Chenga Tome quest line consists of 22 quests, none of which are combat. Fetch quests, riddles and puzzles. Check. Almost impossible to find items? Check. But I didn't have to kill a single mob.

In FFXIV, Square Enix can get away with maybe five or six quests like that before I start rolling my eyes. After ARR, Square Enix realized they have to mix in some combat and adjusted their story accordingly. In EVE, I've done that many courier quests in a row, but CCP doesn't make me do that to myself. But stringing that many non-combat quests together in BDO? The only reason I did them in one night was to make the next step of the grind go faster. The experience was painful.

I started out noting different types of storytelling as the story influences quest design. In FFXIV, Square Enix has solid storytelling which gives quest designers flexibility. In EVE, CCP doesn't have storytelling at the character level, meaning a player can do whatever they feel like doing at the time. BDO is different. The story is serviceable, leaning towards supporting combat quests better than the other types of quests. Making someone do 22 non-combat quests in a row? Pearl Abyss, please don't do that to your players again.

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