Quite a bait and switch in the title, I’ll admit, but I like the joke. Also, RIP C&C.
Moving on from that…
In my earlier post today, I mentioned that we’ve had the tantalizing tidbit that world quests in Nazjatar in 8.2 would be “different” without any elaboration as to what would change.
Rather than speculate what could be done, and take us down 4-5 paths of maybes, I want to flesh out an idea I have personally that I think would be fun. If it turns out to be right, a few disclaimers: I did not see anything during my tour at Blizzard that tipped me off, I don’t have a source, and I would be open for a commission on the idea – it’s only fair :).
So let’s talk about what I think would be interesting for world quests in 8.2!
Bring The War To The (New) Shores
One of the things that has largely been missed in Battle for Azeroth so far is a real, tangible sense of war. Largely, this is because outside of War Mode (which tends to be more of a pile-on, really), there is nothing in the current content that encourages conflict or the feeling of conflict. Incursions are a great addition that do this by adding world quests with additional rewards in a confined space that encourages war mode on players to take to them, while the PvE players still get the vibe of faction conflict. They are great!
However, they don’t overcome the fundamental theme problem of 8.0 – for a “war” expansion, we are very separated and the opportunities for conflict are few and far between. We still have our very separate continents and only incursions and the rotating War Effort emissary offer us any strong incentive to venture over to the other team’s field. This is something of a problem!
Enter patch 8.2, a fresh playing field with new content that combines both factions into a single zone – Nazjatar. Both factions have a camp and a tenuous foothold against the Naga when we start the 8.2 content (from what was said in the What’s Next panel, at least) and the faction camps are dangerously close together, staring right at each other across a small river/water body/chasm/whatever separating feature is there. This is cool, so now we have a potential for conflict.
However, there is one issue – if Nazjatar is our 8.0 version of Broken Shore, then there will be less of an incentive to spend a lot of time there, and emissaries will rotate between the 8.0 factions and our new Nazjatar faction (maybe Mechagon too? That one is unclear). So, we can reasonably expect that players will, in all likelihood, take the lowest friction path to rewards – logging in and doing Nazjatar story content for the progression and rewards that will offer, doing whatever emissaries are available for those rewards, and perhaps choosing to do more world quests for a given faction to increase their reputation with the faction in question.
What if there was another way to get world quest rewards, though? What if world quests were dynamic and short-lived, popping up and appearing on a scale of minutes rather than hours? What if these world quests were not static objectives, but rather timed, dynamic objectives, with a three-way battle taking place to ensure victory?
That could be interesting, and dare I use the word, fun.
Let’s talk more about these ideas one by one, then tie them together.
World Quest Rewards – Emissary Plus
My main proposal is that Nazjatar should have an additional emissary reward all its own, available daily. Do your other emissaries, yes, and have a static, standard emissary for Nazjatar, yes, but add this in too. We’ve seen, via What’s Next at Blizzcon 2018, that there will be rewards for content in Nazjatar – pets, likely mounts, and other things – I’d speculate our first true gear catchup tokens will be in there too. If you were to offer an additional, daily Nazjatar-specific type of emissary, you could reward a decent amount of currency to purchase the rewards from the zone, along with perhaps an additional means to acquire the rep we’ll all inevitably need for flying.
However, this falls over in one key way for me – so far, it just sounds like doing more world quests. On a day where Nazjatar is the normal emissary, you might be expected to do 8 or so world quests in the zone, which, while doable, might get bland pretty quick and lead to burnout. This is a problem, but how can we fix it? Well…
Dynamic Quests for Daily Rewards
My proposal here is that the world quests you would do for this additional, daily emissary…aren’t world quests. Well, not in the sense that we know them today. My idea is to, at least partially, rip off the FATE system from Final Fantasy XIV, by making these special world quests spawn in on regular timers, but with short availability. The idea is not to have a simple gathering quest available for 8 hours that requires you to pick a few coral up and then receive a reward – but rather, the Naga are attacking this encampment RIGHT NOW, and we have 15 MINUTES to repel them! Go get them! These could be the main Horde and Alliance bases, they could be other points of control around the zone, they could be the raid entrance or even just a random plot of land. They don’t all have to be combat quests either, you could have Azerite spawn in a fixed location and loot as much as possible in 15-20 minutes, or say the Naga are transporting supplies and you want to ambush them to stop them, in which case the quest is a fixed path and your goal is to complete it with no Naga alive by the time they reach the endpoint.
This would offer more alive and dynamic gameplay that fits the themes of the expansion and the patch – the Naga are going all out to end us, and we need to stop them before they get us. You would only need to complete a small number of these for the daily reward discussed above – let’s just say 4 for consistencies sake, and multiple dynamic quests can and should be up at once, but not too many. Cap them at like, 3 tops, and you should have a fairly large amount of player interaction at each without it turning into a race to reach the quest before everyone else smacks the NPCs to death or loots all the items. These should be happening constantly and always available – when one reaches its end, another should immediately appear to replace it.
Reward-wise, these can offer small rewards – I’d say a smidge of rep, like 5-10, and a bit of currency too, but not too much. The goal is to encourage players to do a few for the daily reward, rather than farming them all day, but the rewards don’t drop off, so you could theoretically spend all day running around Nazjatar responding to immediate threats if that is what you want to do.
So that captures a good sense of the conflict with the Naga – they’re making moves on the zone and trying to push us out, while we respond with force to further advance towards Azshara’s Eternal Palace. Great! However, how do we tie the faction conflict into all of this? Glad you asked, rhetorical reader!
Zone Control – Act Against the Naga and the Enemy Faction, Receive Additional Rewards
The last component I would add to this idea is the following – the faction conflict needs to also be centered in this new content. It is the first zone we have shared cross-faction without a clear owner all expansion, so the opportunities are there for us to make the conflict more interesting. How would I propose doing that?
Using the outline above, with Dynamic Quests and an additional emissary reward for completing them, you can add on one additional piece – a faction completion metric. Players who contribute to a dynamic quest through the gameplay objective on offer are given a contribution rating weighted on the value of their contribution – just being there isn’t enough. If I do 185,000 damage to the quest boss, then that counts for more than the player who did 120,000 damage to the same target. This would need to be weighed to ensure that server imbalance doesn’t play too much of a role – on my home server, the weight the last time I saw it was something like 12:1 with Alliance in a clear lead, so it might be easy for my server to hold for the Alliance. You could even weight and average a per-player contribution to get a final total control value for each quest. I’d actually say it should be a three-way metric, with the two factions and the Naga fighting for dominance.
Why have a control metric for the Naga? Well, it would allow recognition of slow periods to reset the board. Late night play would see fewer dynamic quests completed, allowing the Naga to regain control of the zone and allowing the cycle to repeat the next day, with the factions logging in throughout the day to see a competitive playing field, rather than the Alliance or Horde having 100% control of the zone at all times of day. For flavor’s sake, it feels correct and consistent – the Naga also have a stake in controlling the zone, so they should be able to take it and hold it just as the player factions are able to.
You could also add zone control points to other activities – completing the standard world quest emissary might offer control points for your faction, which would allow the factions to trade a bit more over the emissary cycle, as late-completers could tip the balance. Maybe completing a raid wing could also offer control points for your faction. Maybe even some Ahn’Qiraj style-contribution quests with crafted items, gathered materials, and other resources.
But all of this so far seems pointless in the design paradigm of WoW – why would I care about controlling the zone? Well, what if holding the zone offered a rep bonus to world quests completed? What if receiving a certain number of control points in a day/week would allow you a repeatable quest for some Nazjatar currency and a bit of bonus rep? What if controlling the zone gave you the ability to fly in the zone – even if you don’t have BfA Pathfinder Part 2? The possibilities for rewards are pretty huge – my core idea is that controlling the zone should offer a rep buff, a travel buff (you control the zone and so you can move confidently as the danger of your opponents is reduced), and a reward buff (we control the flow of resources here, so you gain more currency/Azerite/gold etc).
This way, the control mechanic is fair (designed with weights for contribution that cannot be easily gamed by number of players), it’s flavorful (all of us are fighting to hold this land, so we should feel like that is happening in our gameplay), and it is rewarding (better access to the zone, more rewards from the zone, meaningful gameplay interactions happening with more regularity).
So to summarize, this is what I would propose if I was on the WoW team, in order to make world quests in Nazjatar in 8.2 more meaningful:
-Dynamic Quests that keep players interacting in the zone
-Rewards for doing a few dynamic quests a day, in order to offer players a strong incentive to play other than just playing
-Zone Control as a mechanic, to offer the flavor of an invasion while also further incentivizing the content on offer
To be clear, I don’t think this is what Blizzard will do in 8.2, although I sure wish it was! I think they’ll offer us something that fits the ideas I’ve expressed though – it is a massive opportunity to put both factions into a zone in large numbers and to emphasize that faction conflict at last. Also, I’m not a game designer or programmer outside of armchairing the whole thing, so while I would imagine these things would be possible and exciting, there are definitely things I am blind to and so this really is more me designing something I would like to play – maybe it doesn’t work for everyone and maybe it would be unfeasible.
But I think Blizzard has a huge opportunity on the table for patch 8.2 with Nazjatar, and I want to see them nail it so perfectly that I swing back to WoW on a daily basis.