Saturday, October 18, 2014

Vanilla Reloaded - Authoring a quest driven experience

Minecraft is one of my great gaming loves for the last year.  I've played countless hours of vanilla, as well as modded packs.

However, when I try to introduce friends to Minecraft, sometimes it doesn't stick.  I think it doesn't stick for a variety of reasons

  • Some players hear that Minecraft is an "open world undirected game" and decide it's not for them before they even start.
  • Some players try it for 20 minutes but get stuck and frustrated and drop out.  The early game experience is not kind and they don't know what they're supposed to do.
  • Some players are so used to a directed game experience they simply can't play games anymore without a task list.
To try and solve these problems I've begun work on a questing pack for Minecraft.  I am using the Hardcore Questing Mod (HQM) by the Hardcore Questing team.  Don't let the name fool you, it does not have to be Hardcore.  I'm mostly interested in the Questing component of it.

Before anybody says I'm "destroying the magic of Minecraft" by creating a directed experience, let me say - I love the Minecraft open-ended experience.  However, I believe many gamers simply don't know how to play without a task list anymore.  An important rule in game design is "don't fight the player psychology."  Or at least, if you're going to fight player psychology, you better have a good reason to do so.  I contend that most of the people who are ready for an open-ended experience already enjoy Minecraft.  I'm not making this mod for them. This mod is for people who haven't been able to enjoy the game in it's native state.

Have you noticed that Minecraft tends to be more popular with kids than adults?  One reason for this is that children's brains naturally look wide. They are easily distracted, naturally curious, and always looking around them.  Adults on the other hand have a greater ability to focus, but that ability to focus comes at the cost of our brains filtering out distractions.  We're also more task focused as adults, more satisfied when we feel like we've gotten things done.  I believe many adults who are able to pick up Minecraft are the ones who've been able to retain some of that child-like, unhurried curiosity of the world.  Many who don't would still love Minecraft if there was a quest log focusing their attentions towards the next task at hand.

I'll close with a teaser shot of Vanilla Reloaded during development.