Act 1: The Waitening
February 16, 2012 Leave a comment
I’ve been wondering how close I was to finishing Act 1 in SW:TOR, and from reading this it seems I’m pretty close having hit 31 last night. I’m somewhere mid-Alderaan and have yet to set foot on Tatooine, so level 35-ish sounds about right. The best part about Gabe’s little mini-rant is that he’s surprised. Themeparks for years have been giving us meaningless little dickfer missions that are built-in merely as a means to burn time.
You can look at the reasoning behind these “talk to person” quests in couple of ways. The design optimist will see it as a way to enhance drama and excitement by providing a mechanical exposition to the thrilling climaxes of combat. The anticipation to the action. The jaded bitter-vet will see it as a mechanical tool to whittle a players time to help regulate the power level of a server by a forced time-attrition. The lore-nerd will see it as merely a part of the story, an integral portion of any Hero’s Journey is the journey after all. The power-levelers will wonder what you’re talking about as they grind on mobs.
I think Gabe’s reaction to this instance of slap-in-the-face pointless questing is a direct relation to how well hidden it has been up to this point. Because in some ways, all of the above view points are correct, but great themeparks are able to mask, and cloak that bit of the harsh reality in an egyptian cotton blanket, forcing you to wrap yourself into a human burrito and go to sleep in it. SW:TOR has done an amazing job of that kind of thing so far. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been instructed to just go TALK to an NPC and I get a quest completion. In the case Gabe makes, they just took the blanket away and left him in the cold. It’s a harsh contrast and shifts in extremes can cause shock.
I’ll end with this one last observation. I like that I see modern games using the lore-based reality to sometimes do away with these types of gaming tropes. The City of Heroes franchise was particularly good at it, by letting you call in your missions on a radio/cell phone once a level of familiarity was reached. Star Wars makes use of this more rarely with “Holocalls” and I wish they would use it more. It’s a great tool implementation if the setting allows for it.