I’m calling bullshit.
…SWTOR showed that the fourth pillar wasn’t just an overused catchphrase…
No, no it hasn’t. SW:tOR has done nothing even close to that. Not for MMOs. What SW:tOR HAS done is show that they can make multiple single player games, that fluff each other up with the detritus content of a shared mud-puddle and paint on a veneer of completely unnecessary and mostly ignored multiplayer. Syp’s overall point may have some (some) merit, but a lot of his more salient points are questionable. Highlighting EQ2’s “interactive” dialog system is laughable. Want to know how it works? Keep clicking the top response to get the quest and the “right” outcome. Moving beyond the specifics of his post, I see the thrust of the entire post as misplaced. It starts with the base assumption that questing is the modus operandi of the genre, and the primary form of player interaction of the world, when the truth is far from it. The very fact that I read a post about the refinement level of this horrible paradigm hurts the core of my very essence.
Death to all quest-givers
If there was one thing I could erase from the history of virtual world and MMO history, it would be the dungeon finder. However, if there were TWO things I could erase, the second would be the concept of quest hubs. For so many reasons, they don’t make sense. Hell, even the terminology baffles the mind. A quest is grand endeavor, something set upon by an entity/organization to achieve some end result. Knights quest for the Holy Grail. Philosophy quests after meaning and understanding. You can quest for the salvation of a people. Link can quest to save his princess (or a flute/mask/whatever). You can’t quest the pests out of NPC-351’s farmlands. You especially can’t walk up a village and have 5-10 people all trying to give you a quest. At least have the decency to call them “tasks”.
Additionally, the level of disbelief we’ve been conditioned to have at just seeing a “hub” is beyond me. Why do we believe and even accept that walking up to a central location of gathering will suddenly have a lot of problems that hasn’t bee solved by others, or even parceled out to the other people around us. If you want story to make sense, it has to make sense in the world it is in. When I walk up to get a “quest” from an NPC, why do we never hear, “Thanks for asking, but the guy you just saw walking away already took care of it for me.”? Hell, why is the object I’m looking for always there when I get a task from something.
Getting “story” to matter
Trying to get a story to matter in an MMO is like trying to teach a two-year old to grasp the concept of time. You may get some of the little details across, but on the whole, there won’t be a lasting effect. Until games become dynamic enough to allow for player actions to have impactful (that means lasting) results on the world and the environment (that’s the “E” in PvE btw), AND have the environment react back to the players, stories will be the candy coating to hide the bitter pill of grind. The only stories that really matter in an MMO are the ones we make as players. The only stories that last are the ones I made on my own with other people.
I don’t appreciate facade, especially when I’m told the facade is the reality.