Five WAR Quest Log Gripes

There are a lot of things I do not like about the quest log in Warhammer Online.  I have some of them listed out below.  But I doubt Mythic will ever fix most of them simply because the quest log is part of the Tome of Knowledge.

Being part of the ToK means that the quest log inherits a bunch of restrictions.  It has to keep that “book” feel.  It has to be that huge, screen obscuring size.  It can only display a single screen of data at a time.  This seems to me to be one of Paul Barnett’s “strong” ideas breeding some poor offspring.

To aid in my complaining, I have the quest log from one of my tier 1 characters here.  Refer to this picture to see what I am bitching about below.  Clicking on it will let you see it full size.

With that, on to the list.

1) Much Too Small

Not the quest log window, which is too big frankly, but the number of quests which the log holds.  Twenty seems to be the limit, a surprisingly small number when you feel the need to keep the six current tier RvR scenario quests on hand at all times while you run off to earn experience via quests and exploration.

I spend too much time dumping quests to pick up new ones because Mythic failed to notice that other games that started with a quest log that would only hold 20 quests (EQ2, LOTRO, WoW) eventually felt they had to expand that number at least a little bit. (+55, +20, and +5 quests held, respectively)

Of course, Mythic might have noticed that whole “20 isn’t enough” thing, but since they stuck the quest log in the Tome of Knowlegde, there isn’t room for more quests on the page while keeping to the style of the ToK.  I am going to bet there is a style guide for the ToK and one of the entries says “no scroll bars.”

2) Side By Side

And while we’re on the tyranny of the Tome of Knowledge, I might as well get this gripe in.  I like to be able to look through the quest log at two or three local quests to see what I am hunting.  In other games this is easy, because the list of quests is in one window while the actual quest detail is in another.  This makes it very easy to see two or three quest entries rapidly.  The quest content display window just updates to show the current quest you have highlighted in the list.

In the ToK though there are no child windows allowed it seems, so there is a lot of extra clicking and finding your place back in the list of quests that makes the effort feel extremely awkward.

3) The Missing Counter

And then there is the magic question, “How many quests do I have currently?”  This one seems to be such a no-brainer that I keep going back to the quest log to make sure I didn’t just miss it the last one hundred times I looked.  There should be a small counter of some sort that says “16/20” to let you know how many quests you have and, more importantly, how many free slots you have without having to count them or estimate blank space at the bottom of the list.

4) Poor Icon Choices

The icons in the quest log are, in my opinion, sub optimal.

First, there is the column of “quest type” icons.  None of them mean a thing to me.  They are too small and too cluttered to convey detail.  What does a yellow circle with two black exclamation points mean?  They took the time to put a UI help bubble at the column headings, then put a set of icons without context below that have no such help.  I only figured them out over time.  Ah, those are two foot prints, this is a quest that requires travel to find someone.

But nowhere in any UI design book that I have ever read, and I have a few on the shelf, has anybody suggested that an icons should be mysterious.  If you have to guess their meaning, you have failed.  Mythic would be better off removing the icons and putting in the words “Travel,” “Kill,” “RvR,” and “Scenario.”

Then there are the icons for quests that are completed.  A circle, and if it has an “X” in it, the quest is complete.  Not the worst choice in the world, certainly, though not quite universal.  The flaw here is that there is already a UI convention for quests that are completed.  It is that orange dot in the star.  Orange is the color of quest completion in WAR.  It is what the quest giver’s icon turns to, it is what the color that the text in the quest tracker turns to, so why come up with something new?

So the quest icon in the log should be the same as the quest giver icon on the map.  Consistency of message.  In my mind, an incomplete quests should be the green quest giver icon, to provide maximum visual contrast, but a quest giver whose quest you actually have is yellow on the map (though why they are on the map with an icon at all is a mystery to me), so I will take the consistent if not best choice and go with the yellow icon.

But, since there is that row of useless quest type icons right next to the quest complete column, you have to take care.  Two similar columns would just be more visually distracting.  Mythic opted to tone down the wrong column in my opinions.  Quests that are complete should jump out at you, not be a subdued circle next to a column of bright icons.

5) Opening The Log

A lot of times a UI convention that seems awkward at first becomes natural over time.  That is the sign that the developer made the right choice.

If, on the other hand, what was awkward pisses you off more and more over time, the developer may have erred.

So it is with opening the quest log.  I am more annoyed about that now than I was way back at the first preview weekend when certain individuals were railing against my inability to find the key command that did not exist.

I started making marks on my note pad every time I opened up the quest log to look at the quest list.  I do that about six times an hour.  Basically, I get mad at the game every ten minutes for not having a way to open the quest log directly.

I want a key that opens the ToK to the quest log list.  Not to whatever other page I was viewing last, just the quest log list with no additional clicks.

And the key that does that should be the “L” key.

Why the “L” key?

That was the key that WoW used.  I am trained to use that key.

That was the key that DAoC used.  You too may very well be trained to use that key.

That is the key that Mythic says it should be!  No, really.  Go look at the Key Command chart that came in your Warhammer Online box.  It is on the other side of the Product Registration Code.  Look at the “L” key on that chart.

It says, “Quest Log.”

Somebody at Mythic agrees with me.  I am not alone.  I rest my case.

Do You Care?

If you are going through ranks doing nothing but open RvR and scenarios, probably not.

If, however, you score high as an explorer and you want to see more of the world than the current three endlessly repetitive scenarios in your tier and actually gain some experience via quests while doing it (because the tome unlocks are nice, but I’m not gaining many levels on those alone) then you probably do care. You care because managing your quest log becomes a bigger effort than it should be.

Warhammer Online is still new.  There is time to correct these errors.  I fear, however, that they tyranny of the Tome of Knowledge, one of the most overrated features of the game, and its format restrictions will prevent any meaningful changes when it comes to the quest log.

20 thoughts on “Five WAR Quest Log Gripes

  1. syncaine

    I’ve done a lot of questing in WAR, and I just never really cared that much about the quest log. Now granted the gf and I like to finish a chapter before we move on, and we don’t jump to other pairings, but we do do all the quests in one area.

    I use the map and the red circles for my questing. Open map, look for red circle, and if you need to, click the red circle to bring up the quest in the log. Far quicker/easier than looking through the actual log itself and trying to figure out what quests to tackle next.

    Even when I’ve been jumping pairings on alts, going to the world map and then checking the different maps still shows you the red circles, making it easy to pick what zone to fly to in order to finish some stuff up.

    All that said, what you suggest can’t hurt (especially the icons, those confuse me as well), I just wonder how many people actually use the log like you do (being stuck in your old ways :) ) and how many people just quest search by using the map.

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  2. Wilhelm2451 Post author

    The problem I run into when trying to finish off a specific area is that I will get sent along to talk to another guy who will be in the middle of five or six quests. I grab those and start off to the nearest one, which often ends up yielding a few more quests, until my log says full. Then I have to start sorting and deleting, which means opening the quest log a lot to manage the quests and juggling that with the where things are on the map.

    I agree that the map splotches are great, at least when they are accurate, but they don’t solve the other problems.

    One additional item I left out was some sort of indication of how tough a quest is relative to your level. I’ve been given “go talk to X” quests as a very low level character only to find myself having a lot of trouble traveling through some much higher level aggro NPCs.

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  3. p@tsh@t

    A clickable table of contents organized by zone would help greatly and still save the sanctified format of the ToK.

    While they’re at it, make one of the categories “Shared” and “Shareable” by group. It would be a great boon to assemble a group and see what everyone already has available that is shareable among that group.

    I guess those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it. Kinda hard to believe that we are still reinventing the wheel (and seem to do it with every new release to some extent).

    A quick survey of the five top MMOs should reveal the basic core set of functionality that needs to be represented. Take the good, leave the bad, improve the paradigm. Just on the questing/quest log stuff, play the “Game X has this but WAR doesn’t game” and see what you come up with.

    Of course, if I was designing a new hammer, I’d tell my staff not to go to Home Depot to look at the competition too ;)

    I hope you have an auction UI post queued up…

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  4. Khan

    I’ve mainly been using the map splotches to zero in on quest locations. The Tome is cumbersome to work with so chances are if I can’t find a splotch, I’ll end up abandoning the quest.

    I agree about the quest level thing too: there’s no way to tell (that I know if) whether I can do a given quest at my level or if I should wait.

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  5. Gaff

    You lack of adjustment and “projection” of personal limitations never fails to amaze. You obviously forgot to drink the WAR!! koolaide in the noobie area.

    I wish to include Potshot and all his ilk, including those with characters I can’t find on my keyboard, in the above comment.

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  6. Pingback: Killed in a smiling accident. » Blog Archive » More important than the quest for certainty is the quest for clarity.

  7. zizlak

    I actually had only once the problem with the size of the Log. Most of the time I just check my quest stuff by clicking the red area in the map which opens the log-entry (just to read what the story was) or by just moving the mouse over the tracker-entry and checking what I have to do.
    So while I have the problem that the L-button doesn’t work for me, I have no real problems with the quest log being part of the ToK or feeling slowed down by it’s size. Some things can be improved but it’s not bad in the way it is right now.

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  8. Winged Nazgul

    The cap at 20 quests would be fine if they just removed the repeatable scenario complete and kill quests. This would also alleviate another symptom of bad game design: Waiting around the warmaster for your scenario to pop instead of doing something else you might want to do for fear of missing out of the XP.

    I know what they were trying to do – make leveling strictly through PVP a reality. But they can accomplish much the same thing by automatically awarding the XP even without the quests even if they need to reduce the award to compensate for the increased efficiency.

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  9. Wilhelm2451 Post author

    @WN – The scenario quests are exactly why I have to keep six slots available. I want to get the renown plus the maximum amount of experience out of running a scenario, but I do not want to hang out at the war camp all night. So by grabbing the quests for all three I at least limit the amount of times I have to run back and renew the quests.

    That war camp bias really irks because it make the achiever and the explorer in me fight. I want to maximize my time spent, but I also want to see the world.

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  10. Graktar

    I agree with you on the icons, they’re pretty worthless and the log would be better served by something else. While the 20 quest cap on the log is unnecessary (you don’t need scroll bars, just flip to the next page) your complaints about it seem more like a personal problem :p You don’t HAVE to have every quest available to you in your log at the same time. If you get a quest to go talk to some guy in a new area, but you’re not done with the old area yet, why are you picking up all the new quests in the new area that you won’t be adventuring in? They’ll still be there when you come back. You could have a 50 quest log cap and you’d still hit it playing like that.

    Keep in mind WoW only allows 25 quests, so its not like 20 is some vastly inferior design. I do think WAR should track repeatable quests (like the scenario quests) separately, much like WoW does with daily quests though.

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  11. Wilhelm2451 Post author

    A personal problem? Are you going to start in with attacks based on play styles that differ from your own? Unless you’re looking over my shoulder, don’t tell me how I should be playing.

    No, I don’t have to grab every quest in an area. Heck, I don’t have to do quests at all, I could just grind mobs or run scenarios.

    But I want to do quests. It just so happens that one of my pet peeves is running a quests is finishing one then picking up another only to find that it sends me to where I just finished fighting. Hence, I like to grab as many quests in an area as I can.

    I do not need to keep in mind that WoW only allows 25 quests. I brought it up in the post. But at one point it was only 20 quests, as with the other games I mentioned, and they decided that 20 was too small of a number. As you have noted, they also track some quests separately, something that EQ2 does as well.

    If WAR would track the scenario quests in a different tally, that would help quite a bit, as keeping those quests available makes the quest log essentially 14 quests deep and I seem to be able to fill that up just running quests in a single area at times.

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  12. Winged Nazgul

    Just remove the scenario quests altogether IMO. Give us the XP from the removed quests automatically – reduce it if you have to.

    Reduces quest log clutter as well as stop people loitering around the quest giver when there are more enjoyable ways in this game to pass the time. Kills two birds with one stone.

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  13. Wilhelm2451 Post author

    The problem with removing them is I get why they are there in the first place. Mythic wants to encourage people to try the RvR options. Somebody who has only played WoW might appreciate that encouragement. Go try a scenario and we’ll give you a cookie.

    Not to look down on WoW players, being one myself, but if that is the ONLY MMO you ever played before you came to WAR, you might have an expectation of being able to follow a path to the various features of the game.

    The same with the “go scout the open RvR control points” quests. They have the potential to get people out there who might have otherwise just given that a pass.

    Maybe the “run the scenario” quest should be a one time event and killing enemy players should be redeemable at the kill collector?

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  14. Winged Nazgul

    I confess that I hadn’t thought of that but you could be right. Although, how much encouragement do you really need to give when your whole game is billed as a RvR PvP-alooza?

    But I could live with your suggestions. I feel the makings of a blog post from this issue. Tune in tomorrow.

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  15. Wilhelm2451 Post author

    “Although, how much encouragement do you really need to give when your whole game is billed as a RvR PvP-alooza?”

    True enough. But then you start wondering why they thought they needed a barker out in front of Carol Doda‘s place back in the day. I mean, there was a huge sign with light bulbs for nipples. Did they think somebody might not “get it” at that point?

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  16. yunk

    I agree, I hate the quest log being in the ToK. Actually finding many things in the ToK is annoying, especially the book interface, which means going back and forth many times.

    Actually almost every interface element in WAR is awful, except maybe the tradeskill UI pages which once I set their opacity to 5% work pretty well. But everything else, from the icons above people’s heads to the mail and AH windows, game settings and help windows, even to click lag, it’s like UI was the very last thing they thought about.

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