I am not one to badmouth the MMO quest system. It really was one of those features that put World of Warcraft on the map, and I’ve enjoyed it ever since. I greatly enjoy both the stories and feeling of accomplishment at ticking off tasks (and getting rewards and XP bumps is not half bad either). But here is a question that I’ve been pondering lately: is it high time that we kill side quests once and for all?
While I can certainly defend main story quests — such as zone/planet-wide chains or a personal story arc that goes through most of the game — side missions lack positive qualities that make them desirable. Let’s call them for what they really are: busy work. Side quests are small tasks that offer no real story, no significant reward, and only serve to pad out your quest log and allow dev teams to be able to boast ridiculously high quest tallies for patches and expansions (“200 new quests! Of which only 15 are memorable in any way!”).
I don’t hate side quests, but they certainly do serve as distractions. Too many of these tasks can help me to forget the big stories that I’m presumably following. I’d much rather go through a single story start to end without having my attention yanked elsewhere, which is why I try to do all other quests in a region first and then devote a day or two to just going through the larger story.
Let’s think about it. If your favorite MMO one day yanked all of its side quests, leaving only factional, zone, dungeon, and overarching story arcs intact, would it really suffer for it? Would you bemoan their loss? Players are forever asking to be able to just play through the main storylines without all of these diversions down rabbit trails, so why not give it to them? Just increase XP for the main quests and work on providing other forms of much more meaningful content that can serve as a focus for players’ time.
Devs may not like that; they may see side quests as needed material to battle the ravenous player horde that devours content far faster than can be made. Side quests might be seen as a necessary evil, a sticky patch that slows the sprinting population from reaching the finish line too soon.
But really, it’s an old and outdated design that needs to die. Side quests aren’t content that we enjoy, need, or demand, and even what minimal resources used to create them would be better spent elsewhere. Agree? Disagree? Let me know!