I had a little spare time to play the other day so I branched out from my daily Heroic Steamvault run to try something new. But what to do? I left so much partially done when I stopped playing after the January floods that I’m often at a loss to know where to start.
I inevitably have these thoughts “what to do?” when I’m standing in the heart of Stormwind when I’m contemplating logging off for the night. It seems as though everyone in the city is busy: chatting, negotiating or otherwise playing with A Purpose.
I want one of those.
My quest log is full of half complete quests from Twilight Highlands at the moment. I had some thought a few months back to finish my achievement there (I’m going through Achievement withdrawal at the moment and the space underneath “Cass’s Recent Achievements” isn’t an HTML error – it’s a reminder that nothing I’ve done is recent enough to qualify for the widget!).
But I’m not keen to reread all the quests in my log to try and recall where I am in the Twilight Highlands story. About all I remember of the zone is that there are a bunch of Dwarves who drink a lot and keep losing their family members in the middle of a war zone.
It’s hard to have sympathy for stupidity.
Suddenly the giant yellow exclamation mark on the Hero’s Call Board in the middle of the Stormwind Trade District has appeal.
Blizzard posted up Hero’s Call Boards in each major city at the start of Cataclysm – well the last patch of Wrath - to lead players to new questing zones as they leveled up through the Cataclysm zones. They also seem to use the board to hand out quests that introduce new patch content.
It’s kind of the place to go for quests that don’t really logically start anywhere or from anyone in particular. And, I suppose, it’s hard to argue with the convenience of having the board right there. Clearly visible from the mailbox and auction house whenever you log in or out.
I picked up all the quests off the board. I wasn’t sure what was “new” and what should have been done levels ago. I just decided to do them and enjoy myself.
It didn’t take me long to remember that the first quest in a quest chain doesn’t really clue me in to what the rest of the chain is going to be about. They all start off simple enough – go talk to that bloke a couple streets over – and 20 minutes later you’re chasing a panther on the other side of the world for its left eye.
Quests tend to have short, cute, simple or funny names – and because they’re all short, simple and often cute and funny I have a hard time remembering quest names entirely.
What my brain is really trying to do is:
- read through the title and quest text
- logically connect the start of the story with a major event that I know is part of the game (eg. an Alliance ship sinking off the coast and down in Vashj’ir)
- mentally jot down the “real” destination – not the first hand in but the general area or zone where most of the questing is going to be done
- figure out what to do for the first quest and where to go to hand it in
I think this is why people skim read quest text. It’s too hard to get immersed in the story when you’re trying to pick the simple facts out of a wall of text. Perhaps they need to give us more information in the Quest Log. This is what I’d like to see:
Level – Quest ———————- Zone —————- Chain —- Chain Zone ———– Type
 Marcus hates trolls! Stormwind 1 of 6 Stranglethorn Vale Patch 4.2
 My brother the dwarf Twilight Highlands 3 of 4 Twilight Highlands Cataclysm
 Put out the fires! Outlands 1 of 1 Outlands Holiday
Oh yeah, and a space for me to jot down notes so I can remember what the hell I was doing when I begin my next game session.
Because I was overwhelmed and confused by my mishmash of quests I instead grouped them by looking at my map:
…I have to fly to there to do that one … but I could just stop off on the way because there’s a ? on my map over the harbor… I don’t want to get distracted … but I’d have to stop there eventually anyway…
Anyway that’s how I ended up talking to Bwemba, a troll, at the Stormwind Harbor. Not because the quest that led me to her sounded the most interesting (I could care less about Trolls and they way they talk annoys me greatly*), but because it was time saving to visit her first.
Having picked up her follow up quest (telling me to head to Stranglethorn Vale) I filed that away and looked back through my quest log to find the next closest hand in – by proximity.
I had already forgotten what group of trolls Bwemba represented (Darkspear… or Zandalar?) and which group she was worried about in Stranglethorn Vale (still not sure but I think it’s Gurubashi which should be easy to remember cause I’ve been ganked around that evil PVP arena many times) and well and truly forgotten what the original quest I had put aside in order to stop by the Harbor to talk to Bwemba.
Questing isn’t difficult to do. But it is difficult to follow.
At any given time you can have 5 to 25 different small stories to follow. And you only get the story in small pieces spaced out over perhaps an hour or maybe even days – if you’re juggling many, many stories.
The best way to follow the story is to have one, just one, quest in your quest log and follow it faithfully. This will probably cause you to fly all over the world and back many, many times just to talk to the right people. And you’ll be given next to no money or experience for your troubles.
With multiple quests going the glowing yellow question marks on your map are, for the most part, distractions.
Guild chat? Trade or General chat? Distraction. Background chatter. Heaven forbid you have real people in your real life trying to chat to you too. You’ve got no hope!
It’s really a miracle that anyone can follow a quest plot at all. Give me a book and a quiet room any day.
I flew out to Stranglethorn Vale with my attention sharply focused on just following this one Troll quest chain. I freaked out in the skies of northern STV – I was being followed across the sky! I soon realised that, having stepped into the right zone, my quest giver was going to follow me side by side throughout the entire chain. In spirit form nonetheless.
This is how to quest. I’m not sure exactly how killing a mad panther (also impersonating another panther using his evil mojo spirit form!?) and adopting its now orphaned cub helps sort out the Zandalar or the Darkspear Troll clans. But gosh it was fun. And it wasn’t tedious at all.
I didn’t have to fly out of my way to do any quest hand ins. Each quest just flowed on from the quest before. And it was damn handy having Bwemba alongside me to quickly finish up one quest and roll it into the next.
Not once did I have to read back over my quest log to ascertain my objective. Not once did I get lost or fly to the wrong place only to find that I was missing a quest item.
It just flowed. The chain even contains something of an Escort Quest (your companion is one of Nesingwary’s buddies) – and your escort can keep up with you even while you are mounted and he is on foot! He even lets you lead the way!
Originally I did feel somewhat slighted that I, as a Human Priest, had to bring along Bwemba, a Troll Priest, to fix up the ill soldiers at Fort Livingstone. Couldn’t I have done that? I’m as good as any Troll Priest damn it – even if Holy isn’t my preference!
And I could have used a few heals from Bwemba while I was defending the Rebel Camp. Three minutes is a long time to be out of mana! But otherwise I was glad to have company in STV. Even from an NPC.
Say what you will about World of Warcraft but over the last six years I think they’ve come a long way in quest design. There’s no comparison between this chain – strung together it’s at least 19 quests but feels like 3 or 4 – and the original Green Hills of Stranglethorn from classic WoW.
*I couldn’t agree more with Commander Sharp (the guard who introduces you to Bwemba in Stormwind Harbor) when he says:
(a) Why don’t these trolls just deal with their problems on their own?
(b) These trolls have just shown up demanding our help.
(c) I can barely understand what these trolls are trying to say.