Thought of the Day: People vs Text

The slew of new quests in WoW at the moment reminds me of how reliant MMOs still tend to be on quest text to tell their stories. Blizzard is clearly trying to experiment and move away from this a bit (with good use of cut scenes, NPCs who chat while you are leading them around, et al.) but the bulk of the information comes via text boxes.

And it’s usually thought that most people don’t bother reading the text. They just scroll down to see what the rewards are and what they need to do — and increasingly the quest target will be marked on a map anyway so you don’t even need to do that.

My first thought is how great it would be if other important information givers experimented as widely with ways to tell us things we need to know. Interactive bank statement, anyone? How about consumer rights when you sign a loan agreement? Of course, the difference is that in these cases, they might actually prefer you not to read the small print …

And secondly I was thinking that sometimes I really do prefer print. I’m not a fan of videoblogs and prefer text to podcasts because a) I can read them at my speed (which is fast) rather than at the rambling speed of the producer, and b) because I don’t have to dig out my headphones. Communicating via text in games might be slow compared to speech but you don’t lose important information because someone shouted over it. So maybe in games it is as much to do with the size and placement of the text box, and the tendency to info dump, as the fact it happens to use text.

12 thoughts on “Thought of the Day: People vs Text

  1. I must be strange; I read the quest text and ignore the reward – I am going to do the quest anyway, so the reward is a given!

  2. It is refreshing to read that I am not the only one who prefers reading over vblogs or podcasts. I don’t even quite understand why every day more podcasts crop up. I always feel I need to focus very hard to listen to podcasts to enjoy them, and often feel I don’t have the time to dedicate to them.

    As for quest texts, I still tend to be very trigger-happy, quickly clicking Accept before reading the actual quest text and have to force myself to go back to read the quest text more slowly. Old habits die hard.

    I think Blizzard’s storytelling in quests has vastly improved over the years. In the vanilla quests, you were hard pressed to find a cohesive storyline, outside of the long quest chains. I like the zone storylines now. I am however not so sure if I like the new overlying horde story. From noble savage to savage seems to be the trend.

    • I know what you mean about the horde story, it’s not just that I’m not sure about where it’s going so much as the fact there’s nothing I can do about it (IC or OOC) anyhow.

      With podcasts, the other thing I find annoying is that when I hear people discussing stuff, I kind of want to join in and you can’t. With a blog, you can always post a comment and join the conversation.

      • I worried about the Horde path a lot, too. And then I did the questline in Stonetalon. Garrosh set all of my fears to rest – he may not show it often, but he is most definitely still remembering Honor on the battlefield. We may be crazy and violent with our armed enemies, but we have limits too – attacking innocents is not taken lightly.

  3. In vanilla WoW, quests tent to explain to you what you have to do. Which was important because most quests weren’t listed on web pages and there was no add-on to hold your hand.

    With the Cataclysm quests they changed the quest text. It no longer explains to you what to do, the map does that much better. The text explains now why you do that. That’s a huge improvement.

    When you feel like just bashing mobs, then you’re free to do that. No stupid cut scene interrupts your game play. (Most likely while you’re on the phone and your cat knocks over a vase.)

    And when you feel like experiencing a story, you’re free to read the text. And you’re free to read it again if your client doesn’t support/run your native language.

    These days, with about 467854 gryffon points per zone, you can even read the quest while flying.

  4. I am a dedicated quest text reader — I like to see what I’m fighting *for*, and I don’t just mean the rewards. The text provides flavor and context, and, quite often, humor.

    On a related note I mostly like the new ‘communication devices’ that allow you to roll quests over instead of having to return to the quest giver over and over. The one drawback to this system is that when I’m in a group I feel kind of pressured to keep up, and can’t read the text in the depth that I’d like. I just finished the new Deadmines last night (on a level-appropriate character) and the pop-ups by Horatio Laine were distracting, because they sometimes appeared while we were in combat, and because I felt like I didn’t have time to actually read it. I’d come through this great series of quests in Westfall leading up to this, and then I couldn’t even find out what was going on. This is a case where maybe it would be better to get most of those quests before starting.

    Sorry for the Wall of Text!

  5. I also prefer text over podcasts and I blame illiteracy for their proliferation.

    Text has one more pro: it’s easier to police as the evidence is there (I can scroll up, one can send me screenshot), you wrote something or you did not (while it’s debatable if you did or did not say “gay” while laughing) and also there is less space for impulse-saying something you did not really mean. That’s the reason why voice chat is forbidden in the guild.

  6. Deffo prefer text even though the occasional ingame video and voice acting wouldn’t hurt in WoW – as long as it’s not overused. I found this pretty nice in DAO for example, even if this would clearly bee too much for an MMO.

    I do miss inclusive ingame cinematics (FF11 had a nice way of doing these) and ‘boss intros’ (à la domo vs ragnaros) though – they make a noteworthy scene even more epic.

    • I was actually surprised that there are now quests where you get extra voice acting. The horde zone storyline in Stonetalon Mountains ends with Garrosh himself showing up and the whole scene is fully voiced by multiple characters. They are getting there!

  7. Some of the most effective storytelling in WoW has always been textless. The size of Brill’s graveyard compared to the size of Brill. The occasional assaults by Witherbark trolls against Hammerfall. The statues along the bridge into Stormwind. Any number of exercises in Dwarvish excess, the interior of Blackrock Mountain being most expressive.

    One can immediately tell by the architecture and layout of any town what the people it houses care about: Their goals, their society, their priorities.

    Quest text tells more immediate and personal stories, but Blizzard has draped narrative over every aspect of its game.

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