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Jeff Kaplan Lists Problems With World Of Warcraft


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Posted 30 March 2009 - 01:14 AM

Speaking at the 2009 Game Developer's Conference, Blizzard Entertainment's Jeffrey Kaplan discussed some of the problems he sees with quest design within the company's popular MMO, World of Warcraft. The developer offered a variety of examples showcasing mistakes he thinks designers make when creating content for players.

From Shacknews:

1. "The Christmas Tree Effect"
"What this means, and this is kind of a weird one, but you show up to a quest hub, and your minimap is lit up like a Christmas tree with quest exclamation marks.
The weird thing is, if you ask our fans, they love this. This is to them a good quest hub... They go in and vacuum up the quests. But we've lost all control to guide them to a really fun experience."

Kaplan noted that this leads to users not reading the quests, not bothering to remember which quest giver gave what, and forgetting the order in which to do the quests.

"It's much better to have a slow, guided experience," he said. "I think if you go to [Lich King zones] Borean Tundra or Howling Fjord, you'll always have a ton of quests to do, but you'll never have more than 6 or 7 quests in your quest log."

Kaplan amusingly revealed that some WoW quest designers try to get around the problem by stacking quests onto a single NPC. He showed one NPC that was stuffed with eight quests.

"It should just say 'Do Elwin Forest' at that point," he said, laughing. "'Come back to me at 60.'"

2. Too Long, Didn't Read
Kaplan explained the age-old internet phrase, relating it to WoW quests that are simply too wordy.

"World of Warcraft quest designers are limited to 511 characters," he said. "That's all that will fit into the data entry. And all you programmers know why it's not 512."

Some quest designers ask for more space, Kaplan said, saying, "Why are there only 511 characters? We gotta have more, let's blow that out."

But Kaplan would prefer to see WoW quests go in the other direction.

"I actually wish that the number was smaller. I think it's great to limit people in how much pure text they can force on the player. Because honestly... if you ever want a case study, just watch kids play it, and they're just mashing the button. They don't want to read anything."
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