ç The best quest ever? Vote! ç
Quick find code: 341-342-196-65106546
So, the whole controversy and saga with RoP and Seren quest, and the debates over quest releases and update sizes (saw your replies on that thread BTW) got me thinking about quests and just WHY people think certain quests are good, what they consider. From what I've seen, quest reception usually draws from among 12 factors~
For a lot of folks, quests begin and end with the rewards. There's not much drive to play 'em otherwise (I was astounded to learn that more players are eligible for the max cape than the QPC).
For me, and, I would hope, most lorehounds, the biggest factor for any quest is story - without a good story, there's no motivation to adventure, no significance in the lore, no basis for anything else in the quest. Even if the graphics are terrible, the mechanics clunky, or even the continuity messed up, these can be separated (if not necessarily forgiven) in the service of a great story.
Jagex (or at least Runescape) is unique among major game developers as it emphasizes the auteur game designer - individual developers envision and create their own vision from start to finish, at least in terms of quests. While, yes, a whole team of graphic artists, animators**** testers, etc are involved in each new piece of content, there are few other situations outside of indie gaming studios where a single individual can claim real creative ownership over such large chunks of content.
It stands to reason, then, that quest developers, those who create the game's story, should always be the best writers and storytellers at the company - their proficiencies in other areas ought to be secondary.
When the Seren quest first emerged in the Runelabs top 5, I was sort of outraged. It was entirely rewards-driven (the only factor of those 12 that has absolutely no bearing on my personal appreciation of quests), and incorporated multiple concepts that made no sense. As the ideas were refined - no soul altar, no nomad, no Seren returning - I felt more accepting of it, despite my reservations over the fact that the Elf series had already had such an effective send-off. I even looked forward to what a clever developer might do with the concept.
Then I found out it was Mod Ollie, and pretty much did a 180.
I hate what Ollie has been doing to the RS storyline, and am flabbergasted that he's been given such an important quest chain - the young gods and SoJ - as his own personal series. His command of lore is tenuous, his pacing is all wrong, his characterization is flat, and his plotlines read like a TVtropes madlibs. Yet, I must be in the minority here. Two of his quests made it into the popular top ten, and I can't deny that he gets good marks in the settings, content, and properties categories.
But then I see people specifically defending his lore and his writing - even people who consider themselves lorehounds. What's going on?
Let's take a look at Missing Presumed Death, what I consider among the very worst quests in RS. It is the novice entry quest into the 6th Age, and many new quests build on it as a basis. Yet, storywise, it is not the start of an adventure, but its ****** - the direct sequel to RotM, dealing with the two biggest factors from the close of that quest - the Stone of Jas and the Dragonkin.
16-Apr-2015 00:34:25 - Last edited on 16-Apr-2015 00:48:39 by Rondstat
This is an over-invoked literary concept, but its popularity is in its relevance: Chekhov's gun. If you see a rifle in the first act, it must be fired by the third. Every element in a narrative should serve a purpose - it should be integral to telling the story.
How does MPD measure up? The entry of the empyrean citadel, full of GWD generals, mahjarrat, huge figures in the lore. What bearing do they have on the story? What would change if they were removed? Absolutely nothing. Even the Mahjarrat, with their somewhat compelling subplot of breaking with Zamorak, have this element disproven and disregarded by the following Ollie quest in the series. It's fanservice, an onslaught of cameos meant to opiate questers and distract them from a weak story, while cheapening these figures' impact.
I've said this before, but it bears repetition: there's more to lore than a bullet point list of events. WGS and RotM, almost universally beloved. What are they about? Sure, there's a classic adventure, exploring the world, assembling a team, saving the day against a great evil - but that's all just stuff that happens.
These quests are about the adventurer's humanity, their fallibility. The adventurer is far more seasoned and more intelligent than he is in many previous quests, yet he's always a step behind. He is standing against forces too powerful to even comprehend, and he is not strong enough or smart enough to go it alone.
16-Apr-2015 00:47:31 - Last edited on 16-Apr-2015 01:15:20 by Rondstat
It's ultimately a more personal analysis of the adventurer than we see anywhere else. Is he driven to adventure, to help people, only for the promise of success and reward? He just ignored Lucien as a loose end years ago - is the world's current peril how own fault? And is all his posturing and heroism futile in the end? There's an undercurrent of nihilism there, and that, I think, is one of the things that makes this quest series so great.
But look at MPD and DAT. What is the theme here? There are hints at the nature of truth, the way of power to define facts, at the beginning of MPD, but these are incidental, and in the context of the whole quest, likely unintentional. Any hint of overarching motif is even less apparent in DAT. The themes of RotM, and the significance of its figures, are not just disregarded, but openly trivialized in MPD - it amounts to desecration of the old as a corpse.
It is just a string of events. Conscious winks and nods to the players that are meant to entice them with the power of recognition, rather than analysis.
I think it's a symptom of our short attention spans. Nobody reads anymore. I was fortunate enough to be brought up with a love of literature, but I know several people who have literally never read a novel for pleasure. The focus is on instant access, instant gratification, and shallow consumption of media that passes without ever being digested.
16-Apr-2015 01:38:08 - Last edited on 16-Apr-2015 01:38:31 by Rondstat
We know who these people are. The folks who say that Bot* was the worst quest ever. The folks who want every god to be a permanent npc with 100 dialogue options. The folks who judge quests by a tally of appearances and dialogue rather than the story.
For them, another Ollie quest will be great. There's no need for suspense, subtlety, narrative integrity. There's no beauty in Seren's tragic sacrifice, nor sacrilege in trivializing this. There's no worth in a quest that deals with the repercussions of sacrificing all the values that define oneself in the pursuit of vengeance, or the emptiness in such a singly defined life, if the graphics are recycled and there's no discrete division of good and evil.
And maybe they're not wrong. Perhaps I'm a dinosaur. I have the wrong values for this age.
At any rate, it seems that good storytelling is not what is most valued, by Jagex or the playerbase. If it were, they'd transition Ana into heading the Dukes and Ollie to, idk, block * load or summat. I look at the prospective quests - the major developments of the 6th Age, Seren and the new god (most likely V-), and I feel tired with the lore. It's losing its charm, its magic. I've already transitioned to only playing when a new quest comes out. Given the direction things seem to be going, I may not even do that.
I guess it's wrong of me to type all that when the last quest was amazing. Just the main storyline is starting to suck, you know? Man, this is really a page full of word vomit. We need more bottle quests, more 5th age, and less 6th age.
16-Apr-2015 01:54:39 - Last edited on 16-Apr-2015 01:59:17 by Rondstat
Especially the bit on the modern paradigma when it comes to the ingestion of story. To use that analogy, I would say that the group of people you are referring to skips the digestion part and skips to excretion right away. Personally, reading a good book is in the top five of my list of ultimate pleasures and it's disheartening to see that sentiment disappearing. (I'm not even that old - started RuneScape around my ninth birthday and I'm midway-ish between my five- and ten-year-veteran cape)
But that aside, I, too, do not think very highly of MPD. One of my major points of criticisms of the quest was that it regarded, or, if you will, discarded, some very important characters as throwaway dolls. RotM, the culmination of ten years' questing, was amazing in that it featured all the Mahjarrat, the Stone of Jas, influential individuals such as Tiffy and Idria, and - oh Loarnab! - the Dragonkin in one place. And we saw a major *god* in a cutscene! But, most importantly, these all served a purpose. In MPD, I am fairly certain, the Mahjarrat and God Wars Dungeon generals were added simply for the sake of doing so. This is, I think, well illustrated by the fact that Akthanakos and Khazard/Hazeel didn't even have any dialogue - how more purposeless can you get? And what kind of age is this that Mahjarrat aren't unique characters to use anymore? MPD also turned Sliske into a clown character, a troll, as opposed to being sneaky, shadowy, slippery and only turning up to reap his rewards at the last minute.
That said, I certainly don't hate Mod Ollie's work as a whole, since we're on that topic. He worked on Broken Home and the Barbarian Assault rework, for instance, both of which were excellent updates. DaT I also enjoyed overall, and it had some really good stuff - unfortunately, I cannot say I universally enjoyed it, as some of it was equally strongly poor. Which is intriguing, really. Bizarre Boron Fusswell, scryer extraordinaire. Minigames & ninja fixes & achievement ideas!
On the other hand, there's the terrible situation of Nomad. Not only was the reveal about his master's identity an anticlimax on the scale of SitW, absolutely zero percent of his role in the quest was consistent with what Nomad's Requiem had established (well, bar the fact he had stolen souls of course). As Wahisietel's appropriately said, players voted en masse to have Nomad in the quest, but instead they got a similarly dressed and equally named but entirely different character.
On to fanservice, now that IS something quite apparent in DaT. I suppose it has positive and negative sides. On one hand, we got Jerrod (I doubt he would've been included had not Chaos Lupus been spamming about werewolves), and he was phenomenal. On the other, Nomad. And Sliske, since players started depicting him as a Joker-like troll character following his murdering Guthix. Also, Bilrach, who (well this seems familiar) served pretty much no role in the quest. Admittedly, his dialogue was interesting and fit his personality well, but he was definitely superfluous.
Dialogue in MPD and DAT was...well, nothing special. Definitely not very bad, but quite far from, say, the Dorgeshuun series. Speaking of Mod John A, Bot* was, in my opinion, a fairly solid quest. I would say it was rushed (I'm all for bottle quests, but a grandmaster quest series finale should not be a medium update...) and could have been longer, but hey, it tied up all loose ends of the series well (except the Arposandra connection but that's for the Bizarre Boron Fusswell, scryer extraordinaire. Minigames & ninja fixes & achievement ideas!
As for the Seren quests, it's becoming pretty clear now that the intention is to have Seren return. Which, I agree, is outright downplaying the storyline that had been established for her. A fragmented goddess, her personality split, her followers just recovering from a gruesome civil war, and her best friend and love interest (ish), for whom she had sacrificed herself and Prifddinas, killed, is truly unique to RuneScape. Most if not of all that is going down the drain if she's returned - I'd rather the new quest focus on the elves' relationship to Seren, and her own state of mind, rather than trying to put her back together. And, of course, a good light puzzle, on the scale of MEP2. Some players are inexplicably complaining that we should never get a hard puzzle anymore, but when's the last time we had a proper, really hard puzzle taking at least an hour to complete? It's all combat combat combat these days.
I must remark, dialogue is VERY important when it comes to quests. Obviously, an interesting and consistent storyline is prime, but then comes the execution. That is, the quality of dialogue, the usage of characters and the puzzles, tasks and combat. Rewards etc. dabble about at the bottom of the importance ladder. I would also argue that lore isn't very important either, just a bonus (not counting lore that is directly relevant to the story at hand though). Underground Pass, for instance, had little to no new lore, but is still a fairly brilliant quest.
I definitely think quests are trying too hard to capture players' attention with, as you say, flashy gods in action and plot twists and thingies and mabobs everywhere (the polysyndeton works well here!). I guess the lack of bottle quests is to blame? But even so, something akin to Zanik's speech in TCC shall always remain infinitely more memorable than god X blasting Y. Bizarre Boron Fusswell, scryer extraordinaire. Minigames & ninja fixes & achievement ideas!