Fracture

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Do RPG/MMO's intentionally waste our time?

Spent the better part of the past year playing various MMO's RPG's, and open world games and I think as games get larger the ability for people to fill them with meaningful content starts to fall away. I know it has to be difficult to fill every inch of a open world with enough content to make it feel lived in but I think developers have gone the other way with this. While it's nice to have a good story between each town you have to visit in an open world game, I'd rather have more meaningful gameplay elements there instead of poorly thought out and poorly plotted scenes?

I picked up FF14 on the recent Humble bundle and the game looks and plays great. The job system is amazing and even though I get frustrated in the dungeons due to my own limitations as a gamer, I still find those moments interesting. What I don't like is all the padding. You are revealed early on as the next savior of the world and then spend about 75% of the game running errands for people. Like go get me some cheese, I'm scared tell me a story, and set this table for a banquet. I'm guessing the idea is to teach your hero humility but there's a backdrop of the end of the world coming. This happened in mass Effect 3 also. This idea that there's no time and yet every NPC you run into acts like it's business as usual and then sets out to waste your time. From a mechanics standpoint I understand why you have to have 15 quests in between plot points J and K, but do they have to be so insulting?

In FF14 there's a quest chain that is a good example of bad storytelling. You go back to your base at step 1 and are told that the enemy is going to do something extremely bad and the only ones that know how to stop it are elsewhere and you need to track them down and find out how to stop it. Steps 2 and 3 involve you wasting time with some nobody who is lying about who he is and after you do that you get sent to the actual person. That person won't help you until you go run several errands for him which are steps 4-14 and then at the end they reveal it was all a challenge to see if you were ready for the fight ahead. This is after you already bested one of these major monsters and collected over half of the maguffins you need to save the world. One of your helper NPC's even points out how demeaning this all is to you twice and how there's really no time for all these fetch quests as the end of the world is coming!

Now I'm not against multi part quests. Story aside you get a lot of XP along this chain and you run a dungeon that's helpful for the reason that it helps you group more. This just wasn't the way to go about it. During this whole quest chain everyone basically shits on your character. They tell you it's hopeless and fuck with you and in the end tell you they were doing that to see if you were worth it. I can see something like that working in boot camp, but at this point in the game you've well proven yourself, and they stress several times that there's just no time for such nonsense. It's bad writing masking needed padding. Had you heard rumors at step 1 and then spent steps 2 - 14 doing a bit of detective work to find out there was an imminent danger and then going and fighting the danger in step 15 that would have felt like your time wasn't wasted.

I see this a lot in all games. Stuff that's put into a game to pad it's length. Written poorly because whoever was in charge of that section knew it was a throw away section and didn't care. A game in recent memory that did a better job of this sort of thing was Saints Row 3. Rarely did I feel like any of it was padding to waste my time even though the majority of that game is just padding to give you something to do. The writing was good enough that if it ever felt like a waste of time there was some kind of dialog there that made fun of it or at least made the thing feel dumb enough that you wanted to. In WoW the padding quests are either fast and forgettable or funny enough to work as a longer tale, or part of the overall narrative and given the appropriate importance. Other games of recent memory like Witcher 3, FF14, Guild Wars 2, The second "chapter" of MGSV and so on, the quests that are there for padding feel like padding. They feel like they are only there to waste your time, and as gamers we can sense it. It's annoying. It strikes of poor planning and bad writing, and with so many other games out there to play we have other things that aren't so blatant about wasting our time.

If your game needs padding, that's fine. Just do a good job with it. I'd much rather the padding be that I need to help track down a monster and defeat it and not help sally pick out a party dress for an upcoming dance. Especially when (in these games) the end of the world hangs in the balance.

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