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  1. #1

    Default A Review of DDO Quests: Ecological Basics

    Ecology: How do the mobs live there? How and where do they eat and relieve themselves? Where are they sleeping & do they, perhaps, use guards? In short, how do they relate to their environment over a 24-hour period? These seem like obvious logistical real-life questions (especially if you have a young child and plan on an excursion) but they are often ignored--blatantly--by programmers.

    I will review a sampling of quests in DDO with these questions in mind. The goal here is to encourage players and, especially, developers, to design quests with ecological tenets. In DDO, efficient players facing grind tend to think of quests based on xp, loot, and completion time, forgetting our appreciation of immersive, thoughtful quests. Often posted here on the forums is the dislike of quests that have 'packs of mobs just standing there.' No wonder; they violate the tenets of Ecology.

    Some quests might seem to be able to avoid these tenets because they feature elementals, undead etc. as well as the location, such as a crypt.

    I will begin with Siegebreaker, since this is the best quest in DDO in terms of ecology.


    List of quests critiqued thus far/planned:
    1. Siegebreaker (excellent)
    2. Temple of Elemental Evil, Part One: Level 1 (poor)
    3. Walk the Butcher's Path (fair)
    4. Gianthold: Feast or Famine (poor)
    5. Spies in the House (fair)
    6. Stopping the Sahuagin (excellent)
    7. Redwillow's Ruins (very good)
    8. Chains of Flame (fair)
    9. Blockade Buster (excellent)





    Comments are welcome. I will adjust my reviews based on suggestions here or simply add links to replies.
    Last edited by Saekee; 08-17-2017 at 11:51 AM. Reason: redwillow

  2. #2

    Default Siegebreaker

    Siegebreaker
    Eco Rating: Excellent
    Designers: FlimsyFirewood (pending confirmation from Cordovan)
    Release: Update 7

    Siegebreaker has all the elements of the tenets of this thread. In fact, they are even incorporated into the optional experience points. Players face sleeping tents that can be burned, resting mobs (that can be snuck past or surprised), a cook (with a fun attack using grease), a water supply that can be poisoned using the 'public restroom,' army provisions that may be destroyed and later, blown up, and a basic method (portal) through which the army is invading.

    This quest is so well-designed that it inspired this thread.

    In fact, the entire Attack on Stormreach adventure pack receives high grades and is one of the best-designed series of quests in the game based on these tenets.

    LrdSlvrhnd notes in a post below that the final fight room is problematic: a no-exit room where the army is entering and, somehow, accessing the old ruins.





    Last edited by Saekee; 06-28-2017 at 06:15 AM.

  3. #3
    Community Member Arctigis's Avatar
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    I think you're absolutely spot on with this. I agree that the attack on Stormreach series is one of
    the best in the game for the criteria you have chosen. Most of the older quests would, I think,
    on average score higher than the newer quests. As of writing this, your list contains Siegebreaker
    and ToEE. I'd wager ToEE is in for a bit of a pasting

    Any designers reading - bunch of random mobs standing around waiting to be killed = bad. Particularly
    if that combination of mobs is even more immersion breaking. For example, Creeping Death (my
    candidate for this most egregiously tedious quest in DDO) has bunches of Kobolds and Oozes - those
    well known allies.

    Also, I think you mean tenets not tenants

  4. #4

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    Quote Originally Posted by Arctigis View Post
    I think you're absolutely spot on with this. I agree that the attack on Stormreach series is one of
    the best in the game for the criteria you have chosen. Most of the older quests would, I think,
    on average score higher than the newer quests. As of writing this, your list contains Siegebreaker
    and ToEE. I'd wager ToEE is in for a bit of a pasting

    Any designers reading - bunch of random mobs standing around waiting to be killed = bad. Particularly
    if that combination of mobs is even more immersion breaking. For example, Creeping Death (my
    candidate for this most egregiously tedious quest in DDO) has bunches of Kobolds and Oozes - those
    well known allies.

    Also, I think you mean tenets not tenants
    Hah! thx for grammar correction (facepalm)
    yes, ToEE will get a pasting...
    Would you like to review Walk the Butcher's Path? I will send you a PM.
    ROGUE Part QUATRE: Prove your Stealth Skills!

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  5. #5
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    Another one that stands out as being excellent to me is Haunted Halls. For starters there are a wide variety of difference monsters, and different tactics needed. But all of the monsters have a reason for being there, explained through the notes, the voiceovers, or the environment.

    E.g. there are a bunch of kobolds there, but it isn't just clusters of kobolds in the corridor, it's clear that they have moved in and made their own modifications from the original castle. They definitely belong there.

    When you disturb the fireplace, you get waves upon waves of ghosts, and you know why.

    Each section is rich with story, despite different kinds of creatures being very near to each other.

    And of course a privy, which even has a story tying together the history of the castle with the hauntings of a couple of the ghosts there.



    In one of the most recent quests, Tower of Frost is pretty okay for ecology too, some orcs are sleeping, others are standing around looking like you've interrupted them, the garden is full of garden creatures etc. Mephits were being used as cold storage. They appear to have food stores. There are still too many of all the enemies in what feels like it should be a shorter quest, but it's in the right direction for ecology, definitely!
    Nistafa on Khyber

  6. #6

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    Quote Originally Posted by Elfishski View Post
    Another one that stands out as being excellent to me is Haunted Halls. For starters there are a wide variety of difference monsters, and different tactics needed. But all of the monsters have a reason for being there, explained through the notes, the voiceovers, or the environment.

    E.g. there are a bunch of kobolds there, but it isn't just clusters of kobolds in the corridor, it's clear that they have moved in and made their own modifications from the original castle. They definitely belong there.

    When you disturb the fireplace, you get waves upon waves of ghosts, and you know why.

    Each section is rich with story, despite different kinds of creatures being very near to each other.

    And of course a privy, which even has a story tying together the history of the castle with the hauntings of a couple of the ghosts there.



    In one of the most recent quests, Tower of Frost is pretty okay for ecology too, some orcs are sleeping, others are standing around looking like you've interrupted them, the garden is full of garden creatures etc. Mephits were being used as cold storage. They appear to have food stores. There are still too many of all the enemies in what feels like it should be a shorter quest, but it's in the right direction for ecology, definitely!
    thanks for the insights! I had thought about including Haunted Halls--when I do, I will include your thoughts! Unless you wish to do it along with Tower of Frost? Basically, toss in a few pics and build a little upon what you already wrote.
    ROGUE Part QUATRE: Prove your Stealth Skills!

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  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Saekee View Post
    thanks for the insights! I had thought about including Haunted Halls--when I do, I will include your thoughts! Unless you wish to do it along with Tower of Frost? Basically, toss in a few pics and build a little upon what you already wrote.
    Too lazy to do pictures, but looking forward to other posts in this thread (and the richly deserved ecology-based pasting for TOEE).
    Nistafa on Khyber

  8. #8
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    Neat thread, thanks.
    Have fun, and don't forget to gather for buffs!
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  9. #9
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    Default Ed Greenwood

    In Haunted Halls if you go the full narration route, Ed Greenwood makes some great comments about this very topic!

    I won't spoil it, but you'lll have to run Haunted Halls on full narration. I do beleive you get some extra xp for getting all the narrations?

  10. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by Livmo View Post
    In Haunted Halls if you go the full narration route, Ed Greenwood makes some great comments about this very topic!

    I won't spoil it, but you'lll have to run Haunted Halls on full narration. I do beleive you get some extra xp for getting all the narrations?
    thanks for the tip Livmo!
    ROGUE Part QUATRE: Prove your Stealth Skills!

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  11. #11
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    Default Yw!

    Quote Originally Posted by Saekee View Post
    thanks for the tip Livmo!
    Also on the down low, there is a level in Tower of Frost with toilets, but I won't post a screenie.

    Aside from the Bacon Room in Missing, behold the power of cheese:



    Does anyone know what quest this is (newer content)?

  12. #12
    Community Member Gargoyle69's Avatar
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    This is a great thread Saekee !

    As an original red-box player and still DM-ing 35 yrs later, I can tell you I really appreciate this side of the game. Thanks for doing this awesome work.

    +1.

  13. #13
    Community Member Gargoyle69's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Livmo View Post
    Does anyone know what quest this is (newer content)?
    I believe there are a bunch of dogs in there, am I right ?

  14. #14
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    Default :d

    Quote Originally Posted by Gargoyle69 View Post
    I believe there are a bunch of dogs in there, am I right ?
    Yes!

    And they are guarding the cheese from the _______ in_____?

    Even angry mobs need to eat

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    Default D'oh!

    Quote Originally Posted by Gargoyle69 View Post
    This is a great thread Saekee !

    As an original red-box player and still DM-ing 35 yrs later, I can tell you I really appreciate this side of the game. Thanks for doing this awesome work.

    +1.
    I rolled a 0 on the +1 D'oH!


  16. #16
    Community Member Nonesuch2008's Avatar
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    Thumbs up Already a keeper

    Got this on my official list of 'Threads to monitor & re-visit often'.
    "When asked if the developers hate the players, as they make so many challenging jumping puzzles, their response was that they have what they consider a “… normal amount of contempt for the players.” This is good. A dungeon master should always nurse a healthy contempt for his or her players."

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by Saekee View Post
    a basic method (portal) through which the army is invading.
    The problem I have with this is, they're porting into the bottom of a pit... which is capped by a ward... that's disabled from above. How do they get from the pit to the top? IMHO, this deserves points being taken off the ecology rating.

    Great idea for a thread, though! I've oft wondered where exactly everybody is hanging out, before adventurers come stomping along, in various quests.
    "Ignorance killed the cat, sir; curiosity was framed."
    Tripoint, C.J. Cherryh

  18. #18
    Community Member Ralmeth's Avatar
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    This is a great topic to explore. Back in the day, I played and DMd for a long time, and as I gained experience creating quests, I realized that ecology was definitely important, in order to immerse the players in the story. It has to make sense that monsters are where they are...Obviously they need to go out and get food, eat it somewhere, go to the bathroom, sleep somewhere, set-up their lair in a way that makes sense to them. If it's a lair of kobolds for example, where are the women and the kids? What defenses would it make sense for them to set-up? What's their motivation for being there, and how do they interact with the surrounding area? Are the kobolds surviving by scavaging the battlefields nearby, from when the orcs raid the local human villages, for example? Also, how do the monsters interact with other types of monsters in the area? All of these things should ideally be considered...Does it all make sense? I understand it takes time to think these things through, but if so then it really helps with the immersion of the players as it will make it feel like you're actually in the quest.

    I agree that the Attack on Stormreach series does a pretty good job at this, and I always wanted this storyline to be continued some day because of this. Though I also think that Haunted Halls does the best job of this in all of DDO, but then it was designed by Ed Greenwood. As a DDO player, I always snicker to myself when something totally breaks the immersion, such as the popular magical barrier or locked door that only unlocks or opens after all the mobs in the area are killed. How does that work, exactly?
    The best part of the 10th Anniversary of DDO...the description on the Oatmeal Raisin Kookie,
    "From a distance you thought this was a chocolate chip kookie. Now you're sad."

  19. #19

    Default Feast or Famine

    Feast or Famine
    Eco Rating: Gianthold: Very Poor; Feast or Famine: Poor (reply: Arch-Necromancer)
    Designers: TBD
    Release: no idea

    Feast or Famine, like all the Gianthold quests, are likable and well-designed for strategy, saga xp, and somewhat outdated loot. However, all of Gianthold suffers from the logistical nightmare of feeding an army of monstrous humanoids. I cannot imagine how much food is needed to keep a single giant alive, let alone an army in Gianthold Tor. There are no signs of fulfilling this necessity in Gianthold. (Cantor notes here that there is the Aurum supply master.) There is no rare spawn in the Gianthold wilderness called, 'Halt the Wagons of Horsemeat,' or something similar. Unless they are eating each other (which does not seem the case), ecology here rings false. Some quests, like The Crucible, avoid this problem, since its denizens are there purely for the trial.

    Feast or Famine is unique in that it has a special optional for defeating a hunting party. The hunting party arrives at the end of the quest (about 25ish, in waves), but they are empty-handed. If one exits the portal they enter (after killing them), then one arrives in some strange, difficult-to-reach nook of the Gianthold wilderness from where the hunting party apparently...hunts. We can allow that there are regions beyond the confines of the map, though, and assume that the hunting party hunts in these inaccessible areas.

    The quest itself, though, does not feature mess halls, pits or zones for relieving oneself (I am trying not to overly obsess over the need for bathrooms, or a pit, or a large designated outdoor tree, but that is part of ecology), or any structure that indicates how the denizens of Feast or Famine survive, or even live. There are no guards by gongs (occasional archers perched on mushrooms)--everyone is awake and on guard. The layout seems designed to be difficult for characters in an MMO--kill, kill, find the key, advance, kill, kill, finish with the boss.

    Imagine how this quest would have been far more immersive if it, and many others in gianthold like it, had mess halls, a water supply, specialized sections for retreats, storage areas, etc. Mobs should be resting in those alcoves, not standing around; the archers should be guards (in two) with gongs. There could even be some kind of religious section with an optional to take out the priest (demoralize bonus). We could have had food areas, maybe some kind of 'staff' like bugbears or kobolds, and even an optional like, 'poison the food supply.' This is why ecology is important--it guides quest design to be more fun, more strategic and more immersive.






    Last edited by Saekee; 08-17-2017 at 11:35 AM. Reason: arch-necromancer
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  20. #20

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    Quote Originally Posted by Cordovan View Post
    Neat thread, thanks.
    Thanks Jerry!

    Quote Originally Posted by Livmo View Post
    Also on the down low, there is a level in Tower of Frost with toilets, but I won't post a screenie.

    Aside from the Bacon Room in Missing, behold the power of cheese:



    Does anyone know what quest this is (newer content)?
    heh, no idea

    Quote Originally Posted by Gargoyle69 View Post
    This is a great thread Saekee !

    As an original red-box player and still DM-ing 35 yrs later, I can tell you I really appreciate this side of the game. Thanks for doing this awesome work.

    +1.
    thanks!

    Quote Originally Posted by Nonesuch2008 View Post
    Got this on my official list of 'Threads to monitor & re-visit often'.
    Thanks! You are welcome to review a quest; PM me!

    Quote Originally Posted by LrdSlvrhnd View Post
    The problem I have with this is, they're porting into the bottom of a pit... which is capped by a ward... that's disabled from above. How do they get from the pit to the top? IMHO, this deserves points being taken off the ecology rating.

    Great idea for a thread, though! I've oft wondered where exactly everybody is hanging out, before adventurers come stomping along, in various quests.
    Totally agreed. But I can give it a little squeeze room there.

    Quote Originally Posted by Ralmeth View Post
    This is a great topic to explore. Back in the day, I played and DMd for a long time, and as I gained experience creating quests, I realized that ecology was definitely important, in order to immerse the players in the story. It has to make sense that monsters are where they are...Obviously they need to go out and get food, eat it somewhere, go to the bathroom, sleep somewhere, set-up their lair in a way that makes sense to them. If it's a lair of kobolds for example, where are the women and the kids? What defenses would it make sense for them to set-up? What's their motivation for being there, and how do they interact with the surrounding area? Are the kobolds surviving by scavaging the battlefields nearby, from when the orcs raid the local human villages, for example? Also, how do the monsters interact with other types of monsters in the area? All of these things should ideally be considered...Does it all make sense? I understand it takes time to think these things through, but if so then it really helps with the immersion of the players as it will make it feel like you're actually in the quest.

    I agree that the Attack on Stormreach series does a pretty good job at this, and I always wanted this storyline to be continued some day because of this. Though I also think that Haunted Halls does the best job of this in all of DDO, but then it was designed by Ed Greenwood. As a DDO player, I always snicker to myself when something totally breaks the immersion, such as the popular magical barrier or locked door that only unlocks or opens after all the mobs in the area are killed. How does that work, exactly?
    thx for feedback!


    I did not expect this thread to get such a great set of responses. Thanks to all interested! Feel free to PM me with ideas to review or, if someone would like to do one, post it here!
    ROGUE Part QUATRE: Prove your Stealth Skills!

    Proud Knight of the Silver Legion, Cannith: Saekee (main; epic completionist), Naerfelka (farmer)

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