The recent changes to Burthorpe and Taverley have got me thinking. Not so much about the changes to the tutorial, but something specific that has accompanied the update, the rewritten versions of three quests. It’s something that hasn’t happened before – the complete updating of a quest that already was in-game (Well, to be exact it already happened in a way with the removal of Romeo and Juliet). It shows Jagex is willing to try things they weren’t ready to do a few years ago. While it’s unlikely that there will be a major rewrite to any quests (As much I’d love for this to happen to Salt in the Wound), it is only one aspect in an array of changes that could happen to quests.
One of these aspects is voice acting. So far, there’s only one fully voice-acted quest, One Piercing Note. It was received quite well and it looks like Jagex wants to continue on this path, judging from the new competition, but there are still some things to consider. The first would be character names. Obviously, there is no way to include our account names. So far, Jagex has solved this by using general terms such as “adventurer” or simply omitting our name altogether. This works more or less, although it might sound strange at times, especially with NPCs who we’ve known for a long time. Another option would be to give our character a name that is unrelated to the account name and either fixed or narrowed down to a few choices, similar to the Fremmenik or Vampyric name you can choose. This could be implemented in conjunction with an explanation of our character’s history. On the other hand, every character so far has addressed us by our display name, thus thousands of dialogue lines would have to be changed, which doesn’t make this a feasible solution. On top of that, players might be upset about being limited to a certain name. Due to that, it’s unlikely that this will be implemented, but it may possibly be used in a future Fremmenik or Myreque quest.
Apart from that, Jagex will have to decide whether to make all quests voice-acted eventually, which would obviously add a lot of work but also could enrich quests and make the whole voice-acting feel more consistent. On the other hand, most people read quite a bit faster than the voice actors speak, so you could argue that such work would be wasted on less detailed quests where players would be likely to skip through the majority of the dialogue.
Another change might happen with choice-based quests. There is quite an interesting history on those. Two older quests where your personal choice had a direct impact on the outcome were Temple of Ikov and Hazeel Cult. In the former, it was the player’s part to decide whether they would help Lucien get the Staff of Armadyl, or keep him from it. However, Jagex overrode that decision with the Armadyl Communiqué and made sure that Lucien got the staff anyway. For quite a long time, it looked like it would work the same with Hazeel Cult. You had the choice whether to revive Hazeel, however, no matter what your decision was, Zemouregal’s notes would read that Hazeel was resurrected. Surprisingly enough, Hazeel featured in Ritual of the Mahjarrat – but only if you actually chose to resurrect him. When players pointed out the discrepancy in Zemouregal’s notes, Jagex changed the text to confirm that Hazeel hadn’t been resurrected if you didn’t choose to help the cult. Whether the notes were an oversight from the start or Jagex changed their mind at some point remains unknown.
With more recent quests, the focus seems to have shifted to choices that may have an impact on the quest itself, but no more than that. Examples for this would be the Void series where you would get an individual platebody depending on your choices during the quest or Firemaker’s Curse where your decision would have several Firemakers alive or dead – but both of these have no impact on other quests and most likely never will. The decision of whether to have real choice-based quests is difficult. Quest developers have said they shy away from them as they add a lot of complexity, often for little gain. This is true for all MMOs, where not all storylines are clearly laid out, and in a way especially for RuneScape as it puts a lot of value on all players being able to access all content and items instead of being restricted by classes or similar. On the other hand, choice-based quest have a lot of merit as well. Being able to shape the world around you with your own decision adds a lot of depth to storylines and would bring RuneScape a step closer to being a real role-playing game where you can flesh out your character according to your own wishes.
One part of the game where this could become very important is the gods. While the Edicts of Guthix still have some value, there have been increasing indications that we will have more influence by gods in future quests. Until now, we have just helped or fought against any god, depending on which position the quest has put us. A way to choose which god you want to help and to put some meaning into the labels of Saradominist or Zarosian that some players have put on themselves could make a lot of difference.
Jagex has already proven that they’re willing to write some of the most amazing quests in the MMORPG world and they’re not afraid to try new features. I can’t wait to see what quests 2012 may bring!