The Questlist Manifesto

Gamers, I have a serious confession to make. I, iTZKooPA, am an absolute sucker for lists. Since my youngest days, those lacking hair follicles on certain parts of my anatomy, my consciousness has held fast that productivity meant the absence of sleep. Oddly, not further growth of said follicles.

You see, sleep, was a weakness. Something that must be done. Something that stops me from doing necessary goals. Usually while conscious. The only aspect in this nerd’s life to sway such unreasonable notions was my adolescent brain’s discovery of lists. The hatred of sleep hasn’t been eradicated, but toned down thanks to the ability to formulate my thoughts into concrete objectives. A simple piece of paper with ink generated from my cranium solidified my metaphysical needs.

Jumping to the present, I routinely carry around targets. Not only for organizational purposes, but to feed my personal desire to measure productivity. These goals remain handwritten, on paper. Not on an iPad note or Google Document. The need to cross off tasks as completed is so great that, and this is a confession, I add tasks after I have completed them just to cross them out.

Originally, objectives in games had to be kept the old-fashioned way, pen and paper. Then we gamers were given a quest log. Not because designers felt they could take advantage of this psychological factor, but as a quality-of-life benefit. No more pen and paper means no break from immersion. It’s only in the last few years that designers have begun leveraging this humanoid need for concrete progress to benefit the experience. Achievements are great, usually, but their ability to keep us playing should be just the beginning. By expanding upon that genius innovation, I believe questing can be saved.

Recent AAA titles haven’t pushed this boundary. To date, nothing, and I mean nothing, tops the product that EA Mythic put out with Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning four years ago. The ToK combined all of the information a player may need for his career in WAR in one incredibly well-designed feature. WAR’s lore, quest details, history of the world, notable NPCs, a beastiary and even your character’s historical armor are tracked and viewable in-game at any time. Returning to the facsimile feature in other games after leaving WAR, spread across numerous screens mind you, was as poor an experience as viewing standard definition TV today.

The questlog is now a standard feature. Yet it’s rarely more than a digital pen-and-paper approach. Add, complete, check off, remove, rinse and repeat. Players are lucky if there’s any historical information at all. WAR’s grandest feature should not be abandoned to history after all it has been heralded. As the industry so often does, its concept should be borrowed and innovated further.

It’ll never happen, but one addition I would like to see is bylines for the writers.

This post was partially inspired by The Checklist Manifesto.