Tags: bad hawley, choice, game design, quests
Picture the scene:
A suspiciously static person has asked you to go and beat up a local gang leader/evil necromancer/large humanoid squid-thing (delete as appropriate). Upon investigation, you find that aforementioned (delete as appropriate) happens to be not only tougher than your average mob, but has a number of mobs that will join in the fight alongside their fearless leader.
You know you can take the (delete as appropriate) by yourself; it would be a hard and close fight, but the added minions mean you’re in dire need of help, or you need to come back in a good few levels. Or you’ll be just so much chutney before respawn.
It’s a common enough scene, and common enough that it must be on page 2 of My First Big Book of MMO Quest Creation (page 1 having the “What is a quest”, and “What you will need” sections).
What to do, what to do?
Well, being the solitary sort, I’ll generally just wait a few levels, then go back if I can be bothered and utilise my superior combat stats to butcher everyone involved. Not much challenge, not much reward, but job done, if eventually.
But every so often, whilst I’m sizing up the target and wondering if I can take it down, someone of sufficiently high level will descend upon (delete as appropriate) like fire from heaven and burn them up.
So far, so what? Well, I’m looking at a recently cleared area. All mobs ded, dedder, deddest.
Now comes the question. Should I wait for all the mobs to repop before resuming my murderous intent, or should I take advantage of the situation by dispatching them as they repop, one by one?
I suppose part of the issue is the definition of the term: Exploit. I’m not sure I really want to go into the deep, dark and twisty maze that would be part and parcel of trying to come up with an acceptable MMO definition of what is or is not an Exploit, so if you don’t mind, let’s just think of Exploit in it’s nasty, cheaty form.
I tend to take advantage. I tend to go in, drop the mobs as they repop, and use the opportunity afforded by the actions of other players to allow me to complete a quest which I might not have been able to otherwise.
Yet even as I do it, there is a little part of me that wonders if I’m using the way the game world works to my advantage in a bad way, as opposed to a cunning way. Yes, named quest mobs need to respawn. If they didn’t, any given MMO game world would be bare of all flora and fauna other than player characters within a couple of days. And I think I’m being slightly generous in that estimation. To the order of a couple of days.
And whilst I’m not taking advantage of a bug or flaw in the coding, I will freely admit that I am “gaming” the game. I’m using the knowledge and experience that I’ve gained in many MMOs, that tells me that quest mobs will respawn soon, and on a timer. And that means that mobs will repop in the order that they died, and one by one.
And this makes me feel sad inside, during those long, cold, dark evenings when it’s bucketing it down outside and I’m sat pondering the mysteries of the universe. It’s one of those vaguely nagging things, where I wonder if I’m actually cheating myself far more than the game.
I’m pretty sure quest designers don’t go home crying because I sneaked their quest out from under them. Ultimately, the person who loses most in this is me; I’m losing the opportunity to assemble a group of like-minded peers; I’m losing the challenge of overcoming the quest in the manner that it was intended to be overcome; I’m succeeding purely because of a random action by a random passer-by.
There’s very little that’s “solid” when it comes to getting something out of an MMO, because let’s face it, most of what comes out of a virtual world is… virtual. There’s no prize for “winning”, after all.
There is a sense of achievement. Well, I get one. It’s a warm and fuzzy feeling I get in my tummy that makes me feel happy and content, and every so often I get that when gaming. It’s lovely.
Yet there’s another part of me that realises that I’ll treat quests with a bit more respect when they start treating *me* with a bit more respect. All too often I feel like the white mouse in a scientific experiment; press the buttons in the right order, and I get some food, maybe a cigarette, and possibly some shampoo in my eyes.
In most games, I’m just going through the motions where quests are concerned. I’m only interested in the bullet-pointed objectives, and I just want to get them done and dusted in as quick a time as possible so I can collect my bag of xp and trez, to then move on to the next one.
I just happen to have hyena-grade levels of cunning when it comes to taking advantage of a situation in a game. I try and rein it in when playing board games with friends, but even then I still find it really hard to avoid ruthlessly exploiting any sort of opportunity presented to me. It’s not cheating, not even close to it.
So if pootling around an MMO world, when opportunity knocks, not only will opportunity find the door opened; opportunity will be positively mugged for all of opportunity’s opportunistic goodness.