Note: This article originally appeared on MMOGames.com.
A few months ago I wrote an article tackling the state of questing in the modern MMO. I looked at the format of quests in their literary origin, noting that the types of epic adventures found in books like Homer’sThe Odyssey or J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings were nowhere to be found in the modern MMORPG. Instead we find ourselves foisted with quick, brainless, and bite-sized tasks dubiously charading under the moniker of questing. These shallow experiences have been the object of much derision by players and critics alike, to the point where “kill-ten-rats” has become a bonafide meme to the well initiated. I want to believe that we can do better. I do believe that we can do better.
By the end of the article, I reached the conclusion that we won’t be able to move past this accessibility-focused form of questing to something that can truly engage and challenge players until the experience grind is divorced from questing entirely. So long as quests are the way everyone is meant to level up, it has to follow that everyone will be able to do them with relatively little pain. To put it simply, the relationship between questing and progression needs to be flipped around: we should level up so that we can quest, not quest so that we can level up. After that, quests can move to a place in a game’s meta where they become their own form of challenge content similar to the role dungeons and raids currently play.
At the time I wrote that our best hope for quests to become interesting again was with the elusive PvE-focused sandbox, jokingly adding “if only someone would actually make one”. Well, it turns out that someone actually was making that game, and now I’ve found it: Saga of Lucimia. Eager to know more, I got in touch with the Executive Producer of Saga of Lucimia Tim Anderson to talk about how the game will handle quests and more. Read on for Part 1 of that interview.
One of the big features that sets Saga of Lucimia‘s questing apart in my mind is that there will be zero solo quests in game; everything is group focused. What was it that made you decide to go in this direction?
There’s nothing else out there that caters to what we want. That’s the simplest answer. Since the rise of the single-player, single-serving games designed for the instant gratification generation of players, none of us has had fun playing MMORPGs. Not for around the past decade or so.
From mini-maps with glowing trails and points of interest on them that removed the need to explore and immerse yourself in the world, to the addition of automatic dungeon group finders that removed the need to build friendships and relationships with other people to succeed, to full-fledged solo-your-way-to-the-cap-and-only-group-for-daily-badge-grinds, and 15 minute “hard mode” dungeons that allow players a first-place medal for merely existing, it’s all been a downward spiral to fulfill the needs of the entitlement generation.
We’re not that generation. We’re an older group of gamers who cut our teeth on the early generations of MMORPGs where community and teamwork mattered and relationships meant something, and we miss those days. We aren’t the only ones. The recent rumbles and press surrounding various legacy servers in other games is proof that there’s an active chunk of players out there who miss the way things used to be, and are eager for something that gives them a chance to go back to that style of gaming.
So we said to hell with it. There’s already enough single player games on the market. Let’s build a game that we can enjoy, and along the way we started generating a following. It’s all sort of built up from there.
In my article How MMO Quests Get it All Wrong, one of the biggest takeaways was that questing would have to be divorced from the leveling process before they could return to being an interesting and engaging form of content again. In your interview here on MMOGames last week, you said that quests don’t give experience – that “they’re done for lore and gear and are 100% optional”. What do you expect leveling to look like? What types of content will players be going through when they aren’t focused on progressing a quest?
Immersion and roleplaying, first and foremost. It’s a huge element of our game. The primary major influence for us was Dungeons & Dragons, a game that is entirely based on taking on the persona of your avatar and roleplaying that character alongside other people. Building relationships, becoming known and famous (or infamous), is all part of a community-based game.
With a classless system where there are no actual player character levels, you’ll instead be working on building up your variety of skills…and there are hundreds to choose from, both within Mastery groupings and supplemental skills. Masteries have levels, as do individual skills, so much of a player’s growth over time is going to be done skilling up their character, similar to how it was done in Ultima Online, or Elder Scrolls Online for the current generation of games.
Since there isn’t any single player content in our game, a large part of what players will be doing is getting to know their fellow Lucimians. Finding out who they want to build alliances with, friendships with, partnerships with. Swapping war stories in the tavern.
From there, heading out in small groups of three to four players into the areas just outside of towns and outposts for micro-sessions of gameplay; killing lions, tigers and bears or harvesting crafting mats, or hunting down small groups of bandits, and working on little things that can be done in small increments of time.
Crafting is another component of the game where players will be able to spend time if they aren’t actively pursuing a campaign with a group or guild.
In that same article, I used RuneScape as an example of an MMORPG with a solid questing system. One of the biggest fundamental differences between that game’s questing and a modern MMORPG’s has been succinctly described by saying that in most MMORPGs, you quest so you can level up, but in RuneScape, you level up so you can quest. How do you expect that relationship to play out in Saga of Lucimia? Do you expect players to be progressing through a quest, find out they don’t have the requisite skills to progress, and have to go out and level their skills before they can come back?
Absolutely there will be times when you may come up against a content lock of some type, whether it be related to the fact you forgot to bring a mechanical thief along with you, your scholar doesn’t have the required skill points to read the runes necessary to open the door on the 3rd level of the dungeon, or you forgot a crafter, or said crafter doesn’t have the skills necessary to rebuild the bridge to get across the river.
This is especially true of the primary storyline that takes players through Volume I. It’s being designed to encompass ALL aspects of the game, and will require players working together at multiple levels to complete. There’s times when you may be able to run around in a city and gather lore updates on your own, as well as small group content, full-group content, and raid content…and sprinkled in throughout all levels of that is required factions, languages, crafting, and other areas where you’ll need to rely on others to complete the tasks at hand.
And we’re not even talking about the flagged content that requires getting keyed before you have access to zones and dungeons. Or server-locked content that requires the entire server community working together to unlock areas of the world or move the world forward in certain ways of the storyline.
There’s a lot of the world content in cities, outdoor zones, and dungeons that is designed around the small group and single group. Questlines and beyond. But behind everything is one single rule: player interdependency is mandatory. You cannot, nor will you ever be, singlehandedly capable of taking on the challenges of our game.
I’m going to pull a quote from your last interview with us: “no single-serving, rinse-and-repeat questlines here. It’s all about The Epic Journey That Cannot Be Done Without Friends And Allies.” One of the failings of modern MMORPGs I’ve bemoaned in the past is how our gaming definition of the word “quest” bears no resemblance to what you’d expect from the word in literature, but that doesn’t seem to be the case at all with your project. It’s my understanding that Saga of Lucimia‘s world and campaign are based on a series of novels you yourself wrote; how much of an influence would you say this has been on the way you’re designing the structure of your quests and campaigns?
A huge influence.
The Fellowship of the Ring deciding to take the One Ring to Mordor is one of the many examples I can’t get enough of, along with Zeus going up against the Titans. These were EPIC adventures! And yes, there were heroes on those adventures, men and women whose strength, courage, and legendary status is beyond compare, but they all share a common theme: they were tasks too great to be completed by any one person, regardless of how legendary that person was on their own.
When you look at the Fellowship, they spent roughly two whole months in Rivendell during Frodo’s recovery. Much of that time was spent planning, gathering the necessary components for the journey, selecting the adventurers who were to go on said journey, crafting weapons and arming the party, and coming up with a strategy.
They didn’t just willy-nilly decide to jump on horses and ride to Mordor. They were planning an epic, life-changing quest through a dangerous world where even legendary figures like Gandalf and Aragorn and Elrond strode with care.
That’s the type of world we’re creating. Not a single player theme park paradise where you can run around and do anything you want without any consequence or challenge or need to talk to another person.
Roughly how many separate quest-lines or campaigns are you planning to have in Saga of Lucimia‘s initial volume? How will they be interrelated?
The exact number is unknown at this time. It won’t be anything close to what you see in modern games where they boast things like “more than 700 new quests to explore!”
The bulk of our game is a sandbox environment. We provide you with the world backdrop, some basic lore, and from there you can create and experience the world as you see fit. Quests are optional, and are done for the purposes of helping guide you towards learning more about the world and your place in it.
We’re working on the primary questline, which we hope will provide 18 – 24 months of gameplay for the average gamer who is playing 15 – 20 hours a week. Another 18 – 24 months of questlines are being written and designed around individual zones, individual cities, and individual dungeons.
These are not hundreds of fetch and kill quests meant to be consumed at a breakneck pace; instead, these are dozens of hand-crafted, painstakingly created, immersive, deep, and challenging quests that are meant to bond players together, and bring you closer to your avatar. The team mandate is that “no quest can be of lesser challenge and immersion than the Shawl and Ring quests in the Velious expansion of EverQuest.”
But players can also create their own content. Like the group of five long-time friends who just want to get their adventuring party together, find a few new allies, and head west looking for adventure and excitement in the form of dungeons, ruins, and lost, hidden canyons. For them, the quest is all about heading west and seeing what they find along the way.
Others will want to become merchants who lead up the merchant caravans that will move city to city, hauling goods to and from local markets. Still others will become animal tamers whose skills are needed to find and tame pack mules and mounts. Crafters, entertainers, adventurers, scholars…they all have roles to play, and an infinite amount of content to explore.
When you’ve spoken about players progressing through campaigns in the past, the time-line has always been in scales of “weeks and months”. What is it about the design of these campaigns that will keep players occupied for so long?
The world, and the way we’re designing it.
Things like being unable to swim across a river due to weight restrictions. Try swimming in plate mail and you’ll sink like a rock. Which means you have to use bridges, fords, or ferries. And rely on pack mules and wagons to haul your gear for you. They can’t swim either. You won’t be simply running across a zone by clinging to the zone walls with a speed buff on or running with an invisibility spell going. If you go off the path, it’s a dangerous decision.
No mini maps and no glowing trails leading you from point A to point B. You get the world map, and that’s it. You’ll have to learn zones by exploring them. Learn landmarks. Follow signs and tips laid down in dialogue from NPCs. Navigate by the stars. Level up your sense-heading. Buy a compass.
Campaigns are all about long-term adventure. When you head out from the city or outpost on an adventure, it’s an ADVENTURE. Think the epic weapon quests in EverQuest, getting keyed for Ssra, flagging up through Planes of Power expansion, or getting your Mythical weapons in EverQuest II. These are the types of campaigns players will be embarking on during their time in our world.
In between campaigns are the micro-sessions of gameplay where you meet up with a few players in the local area and work on little thing, roleplay a bit, craft, share tales around the fire, and the like.
Things like no recall buttons back to town. Once you are a few game sessions away from a city, your survival depends on your group. You can’t just poof back to the city at the end of a game session; you have to plan ahead for the safety of the group as a whole, and leverage the Camps & Caravans system.
Saga of Lucimia has been said to feature quests that will offer unique rewards that will only exist once on the server. After the first group progresses through that kind of quest, what will happen to other groups that may have been working towards the same objective? Or will those types of quests only be obtainable by one group at a time?
Some quests may only be obtainable by one group at a time. Such as finding The Wandering Hermit and being the first group to accept his quest to find the Cave of Sorrows and put to rest the spirit within. One-time quest, one-time reward, he who finds the quest giver first…gets the quest.
Others will be server-wide events that require the community working together as a whole to complete, such as overturning a plague, or fighting off a horde of Fire Giants.
Community events will have community rewards, and group quests their own.