Cycling quests

 
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KaVir



Joined: 11 May 2005
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Location: Munich

PostPosted: Wed Jan 18, 2006 10:14 am    Post subject: Cycling quests Reply with quote

Elanthis on mudmagic posted a proposal for a quest system utilising throw-away content, whereby each quest would have a number of versions (relative to the size of the playerbase). For example the first X player might have to kill the shaman boss, the next Y players might have to kill the lieutenant boss, and then eventually some player would have to kill the king boss. Once the king was dead, a member of staff would redesign the quest to use new mobs.

The advantage of this approach is that players can feel as if they're really having an impact upon the world. When Bubba chats 'I killed the goblin king!' you don't get responses like 'Yeah, we all did'. Instead you'd get players saying things like 'I killed one of his shamen' or 'I defeated one of his lieutenants', or even 'I slew the bugbear warlord who used to live there before the goblins moved in'.

The drawback is that you have to use throw-away content, and as the number of quests grows you're going to have to dedicate more and more staff time towards going back over old quests. I really don't like creating content that'll only be used for a limited time, because I have nothing to show for it in the long run.

Thus I considered the idea of cycling quests. Each quest could have its own state machine, and depending on certain conditions could switch between states. You could still go through the goblin shaman -> lieutenant -> king sequence, but after that the change would be automated. Leave the corpses where you found them and the quest might turn into a zombie or ghoul oriented quest within a few muds days. Take the king's crown back to the nearest town and the zone might be changed to a settlement of the appropriate race (depending on the primary race of the town you took the crown back to). Keep the crown yourself and the quest zone might fill with ghosts, or new mobs might move in (bugbears, trolls, kobolds, etc).

Non-combat parts of each quest state (such as puzzles) would require more work, but you could apply a little fuzzyness to them to make them a little different each time. You could also randomise the names and attributes of mobs, so that (for example) when the aforementioned quest eventually cycles back to 'goblin mode' the king wouldn't be quite the same as before.

IMO the quests shouldn't change state very often - otherwise people won't look at it as the "goblin quest", but rather as the "goblin/ghost/elf/troll quest". Off the top of my head, I'd say a 3 month lifespan would be the sort of thing to aim for, although it's obviously going to vary depending on how popular the quest is. You could also include a chance for automatic state changes every so often (eg the goblin king gets assassinated by a bugbear chief, who then moves in) - not only would this help refresh a zone which had presumably become stale for the majority of the playerbase, but it would also give players the feeling that the world was really changing around them rather than being fixed.

Obviously this approach would require a lot more work. You could keep the general area layouts for each state, and even reuse many of the descriptions, but you're still probably talking several times as much work for each such quest zone.

The question is, is it really worth it? Is the 'coolness' factor worth the extra effort? Or would it better simply to have the goblin cave, bugbear cave and kobold cave as three separate locations, allowing players to choose which they want to visit at any one time?
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Alister



Joined: 13 May 2005
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Location: Alberta, Canada

PostPosted: Wed Jan 18, 2006 9:31 pm    Post subject: Re: Cycling quests Reply with quote

KaVir wrote:

The question is, is it really worth it? Is the 'coolness' factor worth the extra effort?


for me, definitely. I like to hope you are overestimating the extra effort that needs to go into such a thing. The way I like to look at how this could be done effectively is: within each race, have different types of mobs for that race (farmer, warrior, leader, etc…). When you design a zone, you don’t say which specific mob goes where but, rather, which type of mob goes where. Then, depending on what race is needed for the quest state of your zone, fill in the proper mobs. So, yeah, it might take lots more planning to get a zone up and playable (but that can be done incrementally), but I think the extra mundane, builder-work that would have to go into it is negligible if you have some sort of database of generic NPCs to pull from.

As is, you lose lots in terms of the detail that might be seen in a zone, but you gain a ton in terms of the dynamics your world might have. For me, this means lots.

KaVir wrote:

IMO the quests shouldn't change state very often - otherwise people won't look at it as the "goblin quest", but rather as the "goblin/ghost/elf/troll quest".


I’d guess they would probably start thinking of it in terms of the “deadwood forest quest” or something about the zone rather than its inhabitants. And even if they do start thinking of it in terms you suggest, I don’t see what the big problem in that is.

Currently, I am on a World of Warcraft kick. I hate the majority of the game (although I cannot stop playing), but they have done a couple things that I think are really cool, and one that happens to fit in nicely with the topic of how these sorts of quests should transist, and how oftem. For instance, they have this new quest that I’ll call the “war effort”. From what I understand of it, there’s this new, horribly evil force in the world that the horde and alliance will soon have to combat. It’s going to be bloody, and many will die. To “unlock” the quest on a server, the entire server has to work as a group and do something of epic proportions: you have to gather millions of resources and make things like food and bandages to support the war effort. On my server, it has been going on for about 2 weeks now and we are only 20% done our preparation for the quest. But when it’s done it will (presumably) change the world in earth-shattering ways. It's really quite exciting knowing that, yeah, lots of work has to be put into it, but at the end of it I'm going to get a big change.

I think something like this would work well for the sort of thing you are suggesting. So, a zone might shift state, but it’s going to require something epic be done. For instance, maybe after 10,000 goblins are killed the zone eventually transists into a zombie haven. In the zombie haven, maybe after the lich king is killed (which might take a dozen or more people a few days of work), something else happens. So on so forth. The main point is that if the trigger event is something epic, the zone won’t be shifting state every couple days. And it'll give players something exciting to work towards.
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Vopisk



Joined: 22 Aug 2005
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 18, 2006 11:59 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think that this idea holds merit and is worth a further look.

From a builder standpoint first and foremost. What you would be talking about here is actually less overall work. It may not seem that way, but I will attempt to explain. All the builder now has to do is build areas, or maybe it would be better to call them "environments"(I might trademark that!). So rather than having to go through, build the entire area, then populate it, add appropriate items, etc... They can really focus their attention to making something that is "good looking" at least for those who bother to read the room descriptions.

Or maybe the extra effort on the builders' part would at least result in well-planned areas (nothing as a player bothers me more than an area I can't map because someone had their head up their, you know where, when laying out their zone, unless of course it's a maze and supposed to be intentionally screwy).

Anyway, I digress. In most MUDs, mobs are only there to be killed, so I don't think it really matters that they would be clunky and randomly popped off a list, the difference is between the paragraph room description and "You see 5 hellcat(s) here." Quite obvious.

I know that you, at least, Kavir, have dynamic descriptions, if this applies to mobs, then I see no reason why shuffling them would result in any less quality caliber.

For example, I build a shanty town and flag it to be a "MOB_AREA". This automatically links the area to the quest generation engine and we're good to go, I set the default to be bandits.

Now, I have my well-developed, beautifully written area, and it's all ready for the game to have it's dirty little way with it. When the area is loaded into memory, or into the game for the first time, the quest generation engine loads the appropriate mobs from a list and the area is ready for players.

We could add extra levels of detail here and say that since it is a town, we could have a higher percentage chance of finding women and children than if it were say a "lair", "dungeon" or "fort". Of course, all of the mobs still have to be built, but now that you have built one, that mob is now good throughout the rest of the game, it can be plugged into any other "bandit" areas without conflict because all of the characters in that list are supposed to be there (no more real worry about whether or not a mob is appropriate for a given area, cause we've already been through this ahead of time).

Also I think a crucial and admittedly awesome feature would be to have territories change hands, so perhaps a player kills off all of the bandits, or perhaps a horde of trolls wandered by and decided they'd like to make the place their home, whatever happened, there's now a whole different set of inhabitants.

Note: This would also allow a type of "automatic" history to be written for any given place. i.e.

1894 - King Kruul III of the Orc Tribe Hallbarf conquered the settlement of Gurdz. His reign lasted nearly fifty years before his son, King Orthal I, came to power.
1942 - King Orthal I ascends to the throne, but his hunger for power leads to his swift demise as an army of goblin warriors quickly invades and slaughters the weakened armies.
1946 - Gurdz is held in the oppressive clutches of an army of goblin warriors.
1953 - The settlement of Gurdz was liberated by a brave band of adventurers headed by Player X, Player Q and Player G, statues of the heros were erected in the village square.

Obviously, I'm making this up in my head as I go along, but it would not be hard to "mad-lib" a sort of history or even just have an admin check which cities had changed hands, and to whom and make up some goofy little one-liners based upon the past inhabitants, etc...

I'm pretty sure this counts as rambling by this point, so I'll just say again that I think that this idea definitely warrants some merit and should be looked into, as it could bring an entirely new sense of dynamism to games that for so long have been simply static.

My two cents, something to chew on,

Vopisk
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Silverthorn



Joined: 01 Jun 2005
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PostPosted: Thu Jan 19, 2006 3:17 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Back when I was a wizard on NannyMUD, I created a quest that had an NPC (Dragon Warrior) that would gain levels (up to 20), thus become harder after each reset.

The object to the quest was to present the corpse of the Dragon Warrior (DW) to a special 'ruler' that lived in the city. After each DW death, a special marker was given to the player. Once the player had enough markers, then they would be given a special weapon or armor (random) that was extremely rare in the game. The player's name would also be added to the game's newspaper entry under a sort of 'best of the best' to defeating the DW as well.

One of the kickers that made the quest so unique, was not only the DW that could gain levels, was that each form created of the DW had to be killed with a different type of material weapon (i.e. wood, glass, stone, etc) for each attempt. This also required a few extra classes to be available as the DW has a bad habit to steal the players weapon, compare it to the one it was using -- if better wield it, then use it against the player. To make the quest more unique, if you were to say quit or have someone else (like in a group/party) kill the DW, the warrior would reset back to level 1 and all the markers on the original killer be removed as well.

To date, I heard the quest is worth like 400 Quest points (the max of the game) and takes around 12 to 14 online playing hours to defeat all the different forms plus have enough equipment to handle each form. Sort of interesting to know... since I haven't been an active coder on Nanny for nearly 4 years.
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Vopisk



Joined: 22 Aug 2005
Posts: 99
Location: Golden Valley, Arizona, USA

PostPosted: Thu Jan 19, 2006 3:44 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Silverthorn wrote:
Back when I was a wizard on NannyMUD, I created a quest that had an NPC (Dragon Warrior) that would gain levels (up to 20), thus become harder after each reset.

The object to the quest was to present the corpse of the Dragon Warrior (DW) to a special 'ruler' that lived in the city. After each DW death, a special marker was given to the player. Once the player had enough markers, then they would be given a special weapon or armor (random) that was extremely rare in the game. The player's name would also be added to the game's newspaper entry under a sort of 'best of the best' to defeating the DW as well.

One of the kickers that made the quest so unique, was not only the DW that could gain levels, was that each form created of the DW had to be killed with a different type of material weapon (i.e. wood, glass, stone, etc) for each attempt. This also required a few extra classes to be available as the DW has a bad habit to steal the players weapon, compare it to the one it was using -- if better wield it, then use it against the player. To make the quest more unique, if you were to say quit or have someone else (like in a group/party) kill the DW, the warrior would reset back to level 1 and all the markers on the original killer be removed as well.

To date, I heard the quest is worth like 400 Quest points (the max of the game) and takes around 12 to 14 online playing hours to defeat all the different forms plus have enough equipment to handle each form. Sort of interesting to know... since I haven't been an active coder on Nanny for nearly 4 years.


While I think that this is definitely a step in the right direction, I find a problem with the fact that it is (at least in my opinion) a single-player only sort of thing.

In the system I described above, after the goblin army invades, you could even pop some displaced humans into surrounding settlements and have them offer parties of brave adventurers money, items, whathaveyou in return for ridding the settlement of the goblin menace! It would be easy enough to monitor exactly who was in the party that slayed "the goblin emperor" or something like that and give them all a little status token/trophy of sorts that says: "Freed the settlement of Gurdz from the Goblin Menace!" (Players love that sort of thing).

Monsters getting progressively harder would be an interesting thing to ponder on though. In your system I'm curious, was the player whisked away to some room without exits or only a one-way door to fight the dragon, loading it uniquely for each player that decided to take it on? Or would some hapless newbie with hardly the strength to encounter the lvl 1 dragon happen upon the lvl 20?

More food for thought, I tend to think that any change to the same old boring gameplay is good. It keeps the players from easily becoming bored and wandering off to find other homes elsewhere.

My two cents, something to chew on,

Vopisk
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Gromble



Joined: 08 Oct 2005
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PostPosted: Thu Jan 19, 2006 5:03 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I don't think cycling quests resolves the underlying problem of players becoming bored over time. This can only be resolved by periodically adding new content.

Cycling simply limits the currently available content to a subset of the overall existing content based on elapsed time or some other such stimulus. This could actually have a negative affect, as a player may no longer be able to control the progression of their character at their own pace. Imagine having to wait a few months for a specific quest to come along that's based off of timing stimulus.

Cycling may give the appearance of a dynamic world in the short term, but once a player has exhausted all the content you're back to being unable to avoid their inevitable boredom in the long term.

That said, I think the idea of progressive quests is a good one as most MUDs tend to implement areas and quest content as disjoint and independent from the rest of the world. I prefer more coupling between content that then contributes to threads within an overall background story. Guild Wars does this reasonably well, though again, boredom sets in once you've exhausted the existing content and so you wait for the next expansion.


Last edited by Gromble on Thu Jan 19, 2006 7:59 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Silverthorn



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PostPosted: Thu Jan 19, 2006 5:07 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Vopisk wrote:
In the system I described above, after the goblin army invades, you could even pop some displaced humans into surrounding settlements and have them offer parties of brave adventurers money, items, whathaveyou in return for ridding the settlement of the goblin menace! It would be easy enough to monitor exactly who was in the party that slayed "the goblin emperor" or something like that and give them all a little status token/trophy of sorts that says: "Freed the settlement of Gurdz from the Goblin Menace!" (Players love that sort of thing).


One thing NannyMUD did (as well as what I am trying to develop now) was to create a sort of guild-related battle. At random times of the day (depending on the number of guild members on and their levels), the guild would spawn off a sort of invasion. The guild members would have to defend their guild and its many inhabitants or risk facing having shops closed, loss of money having to rebuild what was burned or certain guild-related skills not available.

I like Nanny's invasion system, but I wanted to take it one step further. I am in the process of designing a sort of supply and demand merchant system that adjusts rates of finished goods in the game (ie. material for weapons/armors and abundance of food and drink items) depending on the amount of supplies found in storage shops.

If the invasion wars were to break out, I thought of having the prices to adjust as well (sort of like real-life for disasters wating to happen) to the amount of food or alco drink is available. I also planned on having shops change to the point of refusing to sell to players or even worse buying/selling goods at a higher markup than normal... punishment for not being able to protect their village, etc. (A portion of this is already available in a special reputation property that is already in the game).

Vopisk wrote:

Monsters getting progressively harder would be an interesting thing to ponder on though. In your system I'm curious, was the player whisked away to some room without exits or only a one-way door to fight the dragon, loading it uniquely for each player that decided to take it on? Or would some hapless newbie with hardly the strength to encounter the lvl 1 dragon happen upon the lvl 20?


The player (or group) has to pass a special puzzle (stat based) to enter the realm of the Dragon Warrior. Once that is accomplished, they pretty much just have to navigate through the non-teleportable/non-gate realm to the lair of the monster.
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Vopisk



Joined: 22 Aug 2005
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Location: Golden Valley, Arizona, USA

PostPosted: Thu Jan 19, 2006 11:37 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Silverthorn wrote:
One thing NannyMUD did (as well as what I am trying to develop now) was to create a sort of guild-related battle. At random times of the day (depending on the number of guild members on and their levels), the guild would spawn off a sort of invasion. The guild members would have to defend their guild and its many inhabitants or risk facing having shops closed, loss of money having to rebuild what was burned or certain guild-related skills not available.

I like Nanny's invasion system, but I wanted to take it one step further. I am in the process of designing a sort of supply and demand merchant system that adjusts rates of finished goods in the game (ie. material for weapons/armors and abundance of food and drink items) depending on the amount of supplies found in storage shops.

If the invasion wars were to break out, I thought of having the prices to adjust as well (sort of like real-life for disasters wating to happen) to the amount of food or alco drink is available. I also planned on having shops change to the point of refusing to sell to players or even worse buying/selling goods at a higher markup than normal... punishment for not being able to protect their village, etc. (A portion of this is already available in a special reputation property that is already in the game).


I like this idea. I've seen MUDs and MMOGs all claim to have "clan" or "guild" related battles, but unless you're playing on a server with thousands of players online at any given time, these generally result in becoming little more than sparring contests between the respective clan or guild's "champions". However, in a system like this the entire guild or clan or kingdom or whatever would have to band together to fend off the invaders otherwise their character would suffer the consequences across the board, not just those who die and lose the experience.

I also like the idea of altering the invasion based upon the amount and level of guild members online, so that there is never a hopelessly large battle confronting a small number of novices that just happen to be online at the wrong time. Perhaps even during the duration of the "invasion" the system could update itself at X intervals to take into account members logging on or off (we don't want the players getting on messenger and summoning up help or switching to alternate characters). But if we simply modify the battle based on changes in the one side, we keep the balance.

I imagine that the system basically finds the average level of those online and then creates X number of mobs based upon a mob:pc ratio?

To take the idea a little further (as it relates to supply and demand and price changes). Perhaps not only could items raise in value temporarily in the aftermath of an invasion (as a result of all the broken gear and consumed potions), but perhaps, if the invasion is not succesfully repelled within a given amount of time a siege will commence and all (or most) influx of material will be halted until the siege can be broken.

Just a thought, maybe not even a good one, but a thought nonetheless.

My two cents, something to chew on,

Vopisk
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KaVir



Joined: 11 May 2005
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PostPosted: Fri Jan 20, 2006 10:22 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Gromble wrote:
Cycling simply limits the currently available content to a subset of the overall existing content based on elapsed time or some other such stimulus. This could actually have a negative affect, as a player may no longer be able to control the progression of their character at their own pace. Imagine having to wait a few months for a specific quest to come along that's based off of timing stimulus.


That's actually very similar to the problem I've had with my Wilderness encounters, whereby some mobs only appear at night and others only during the day. I originally thought this would add a nice touch to the game world, as well as encourage people to move around rather than always hunt in the same location, but its mostly just resulted in complaints from people who want to fight specific mobs. I'd really like to have season-specific mobs as well, but I fear this will cause an even bigger problem - at least full cycle of day and night only lasts six RL hours; a season lasts over three RL weeks!

As cool as I think a cycling zone would be, I can already imagine the sort of complaining that's likely to occur. It'd be fine the first time through (as players wouldn't know what they were missing), but once the first set of mobs have been cleared out there's going to be no end to the complaints about not being able to get goblin shortbows, etc.

Perhaps one way around this would be to have numerous instances of each cycling zone. For example there might be half a dozen goblin caves - wipe one out and turn it into something else, but the rest would remain. One might become a bugbear lair, another might turn into a human village, and so on. For a quest zone this probably wouldn't work out too well, but as a standard zone it might.

The drawback is that too many of the same type of zone would give the impression that you'd just cut&paste duplicate content.

Another alternative would be to only support one zone of each state at any one time, and spawn new ones as needed. For example the goblin cave might turn into a bugbear cave, and also trigger the fact that a new goblin cave needs to be created elsewhere - players travelling back to their old haunt would find bugbears instead of goblins, and would then have to try and find the new goblin cave (which might not appear for a few mud days). Clear out the second cave and it would turn into something else (but not another bugbear cave) and a new goblin cave would be created.

The drawback with this approach is that you'd soon end up with one cave in each state, which wouldn't really be much different from having separate zones in the first place and just swapping their positions from time to time.

Perhaps much of the complaining could be avoided by having each zone's mobs also exist in other locations. For example if a player wants to find a goblin shortbow, they could find it in other locations outside of the goblin cave. The unique reward aspect of the quest could then be something common to all states, with perhaps only some cosmetic differences (eg the goblin's crown and bugbear's hat might give the exact same bonuses).
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KaVir



Joined: 11 May 2005
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PostPosted: Fri Jan 20, 2006 11:18 am    Post subject: Re: Cycling quests Reply with quote

Alister wrote:
Currently, I am on a World of Warcraft kick. I hate the majority of the game (although I cannot stop playing), but they have done a couple things that I think are really cool, and one that happens to fit in nicely with the topic of how these sorts of quests should transist, and how oftem. For instance, they have this new quest that I’ll call the “war effort”. From what I understand of it, there’s this new, horribly evil force in the world that the horde and alliance will soon have to combat. It’s going to be bloody, and many will die. To “unlock” the quest on a server, the entire server has to work as a group and do something of epic proportions: you have to gather millions of resources and make things like food and bandages to support the war effort.


I've been thinking about ideas for special events and such which would include the entire mud, but up until now I'd really been thinking more along the lines of working against each other, either individually (deathmatch) or in teams (capture the flag, etc).

However I really rather like the idea of something which requires the entire mud to work together on the same side. Perhaps there could still be rewards for the top individuals, but having a prize that helps everyone would be a really nice touch I think.

One possibility might be to combine this with the unlocking of new classes. For example, perhaps an ancient race of dragons have been trapped on their home world, and wish to escape - to this end, they have offered some great rewards in return for their freedom. To achieve this would require several stages of gameplay:

Stage 1: Gather sufficient energy to form a bridge to the opposing world.

Stage 2: Fight your way through the beings who have trapped the dragons.

Stage 3: Break the magical seals which hold the dragons in place.

The first stage would require the players to make investments of time and resources. The second stage would require fighting skill and player coordination. The third stage would require the completion of different puzzles of varying complexity.

Completion of the quest could give a mud-wide boost to all players who had helped in the effort, perhaps with a little extra for those who did the most in any particular stage. In addition, a new 'dragon' class would be unlocked for player use.
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