Sunday, July 22, 2012

Is Free To Play Killing Daily Quests?

I find Electronic Arts' highly public lack of faith in SWTOR's business model disturbing.  That said, the CEO may not be wrong when he suggests that the rise of non-subscription payment models is hurting some of the mechanics that MMO's were previously able to use to retain subscribers. 

One of these is the daily quest.  If you set aside the unnecessary loading screens courtesy of the personal starship system, SWTOR has a perfectly functional daily quest system.  In fact, these quests offer large quantities of credits that can be used to unlock the pricey-sounding Legacy perks.  These sorts of incentives are precisely the sort of thing I used to work towards in other MMO's, but in SWTOR I have yet to run a single daily quest.  

World of Warcraft added daily quests in the content patches of the Burning Crusade expansion, starting in mid-2007.  Previous reputation grinds had allowed players to choose the rate at which they advanced, while daily quests remove player choice by dictating how much progress is allowed each day.  The game may offer you other things to work on  - Blizzard plans to offer approximately 48 daily quests across half a dozen factions each and every day in WoW's new expansion along with expanded non-daily options - but you will advance no further towards any given objective until tomorrow.

Back in 2008, I was doing daily quests despite mostly the same objections.  At the time, having access to multiple MMO's was generally going to cost you multiple monthly fees.  Today's non-subscription payment models make it that much easier to simply switch to another game after collecting whatever low-hanging daily fruit I'm working on.  I've started many daily quest chains - WoW's get more intricate with each patch - but continuing to repeat the content is less attractive when I could be doing something completely new in a different game. 

I'm not convinced that Blizzard's brute force approach - earmarking over a quarter of the quests in the upcoming expansion as dailies to offer greater variety in the random pool - will solve this problem. 

(Aside: I don't mean to over-emphasize one aspect of the daily quest, as there is quite a bit more - good and bad - that daily quests accomplish.  There are social advantages to encouraging players to sign on daily, though these can become disadvantages if the incentives tell players not to help their guildmates until after finishing their personal daily quest quota.  There are also potentially strategic choices to be made in what to go after first if the limit on quests - which WoW will no longer have - is low enough to be meaningful.  Finally, extending the real world days required to finish the grind has obvious implications for games that charge a monthly fee, which was almost all MMO's back in '07.) 

8 comments:

Bhagpuss said...

My immediate response to your title was "God, I hope so". I really loathe the traditional form of daily quest, where you're incentivized to log in every day, "run" the same quests you ran the day before, accrue some status/faction/credit towards some future purchase and then log out.

On the other hand, I'm playing and thoroughly enjoying The Secret World, where the majority of all missions are repeatable, either daily or every 48 hours (as far as I've got) and there I really like the mechanic.

The difference is in the word "majority". When most quests can be repeated, be that hourly, daily, weekly, whatever, the artificiality of repeating any given one of them is effectively neutralized. Blizzard's approach, to me, sounds like a move in the right direction, although 25% isn't enough, I think, to trigger the effect I'd be looking for.

Personally I'd prefer to go back to the days of getting almost all your experience and rewards from killing stuff without needing a quest.

Azuriel said...

@Bhagpuss: I'm sure there are plenty of Korean MMOs that feature exactly that. Or perhaps Diablo 3.

Since killing things is (often) the principal means of completing quests anyway, I have no idea how someone would prefer not doing both.

Re: Post: I agree completely. Moving towards some form of level cap will always be more interesting than dailies, as each level typically signifies the gain of abilities (which can radically change gameplay) whereas the daily quest only rewards small stat increases via gear. The latter may have been good enough when a lateral move to another MMO was expensive, but now there are literally 1,000s of hours of entertainment out there for free.

Stabs said...

I can't help thinking that the suit saying we cocked up free to play is better is probably someone who argued internally all along that SWTOR ought to be F2P and this is his way of saying "I was right!"

As for daily quests I don't see them as incompatible with F2P at all. I'm quite happy to log in, pick the low-hanging fruit, log out on a game I feel long-term invested in although not particularly active. When I get a resurgence of enthusiam it's very likely because of a daily quest like mechanism (eg setting skill training queues in Eve or EQ2).

Psychologists refer to this behaviour as consistency, basically it would be stupid to log into EQ2 once a week for a year just updating skill training therefore after a year I log into EQ2 and play some because I'm not stupid and playing it proves that. (Sunk Cost Fallacy basically). When I spend my time I'm much more likely to spend it in a game that has encouraged me to spend time already because otherwise that earlier time was wasted.

gamingsf said...

Dailies seem to me to be very much a part of free to play MMOs though - since they tend to be smaller games or more content light than big budget AAA games.

Runes of Magic for instance always had dailies that you had to grind as you were leveling two classes separately and there wasn't double the normal number of quests to balance this.

More recently I've played Eden Eternal and that has dailies in every zone as well. So you get used to them being there almost from level 1.

Perhaps it's just the traditional model of dailies as 'non-raiding' PVE endgame that is defunct now?

I've always done dailies as part of general questing but never as an actual activity on their own. Rolling new alt characters was always more interesting to me.

Tesh said...

I'm a fan of STO's repeatable content (nearly everything), if we're just talking about repeating stuff, purely because it's not necessary to repeat anything... but it's fun sometimes. It's like rereading a favorite book, just picking it up in the middle somewhere.

What I don't like is *needing* to repeat things to qualify for the next interesting bit of the game. If F2P kills both that grind and the addiction vectors it generates, I'm all for it.

kaozz said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
kaozz said...

I'd honestly rather the chance to grind or go through a series of quests at my leisure simply because I often forget to log in these days, I get backlogged and forget where I was. I have to be pretty hooked on a game to stick with dailies these days.

Like Bhagpuss said, I miss the ol' days of grinding out faction. But I think he means the good ol' days like EverQuest, not some Eastern mindless grind fest. It's an old school mentality.

Edit- I'm bad at punctuation and capitalization, heh.

NetherLands said...

Would be great if Dailies died.

I have no problem with Repeatable Quests or turn-ins, but if I feel like killing a hundred bearfolk I do not want the game to tell me 'sorry but Faction X only likes it when you kill 5 a day, come back tomorrow to kill another 5'

It's lazy gated design, that also tends to foul up the economy (as Troll Racials explained).