Design a better map, not a quest helper

30th January 2010 – 3.51 pm

With the recent patch, a new quest helper has been integrated in to the main World of Warcraft client. As is typical when a feature is added for convenience, I am sure there have been detractors of the quest helper, probably even before it was used, complaining about making the game too easy. Any such complaints are understandable, as there could be less and less of an actual game to play the more a player is told exactly what to do. At least the quest helper can be turned off, allowing individuals to choose their own level of immersion.

I turn the quest helper off myself, preferring to explore and experience the world more vividly to remember locations. But then I find an old quest in my log asking me to seek someone 'at Dawn's Reach in Dragonblight'. I don't know that place, nor can I find it on my map, which is curious because I have the 'Explorer' achievement. I have uncovered every region of every zone on the entire map, poked my nose in to all the hidden areas of the world, yet I am foxed when trying to find location with a quest NPC. My fully explored map of Dragonblight does not show me where Dawn's Reach is, even if I carefully move my mouse of every area.

It is not just Dawn's Reach that sits anonymously in the Dragonblight region. The Bronze Dragonshrine is a rather important quest objective location, one quite memorable for meeting your future self, and is of considerable size. Yet the Bronze Dragonshrine also does not have a legend on the map of Dragonblight, even though it appears graphically. For such a significant element of the region, one that is shown on the map, it is odd that there is no textual reminder of its location.

The problem with the lack of text to identify locations wouldn't be so curious if it weren't quite so inconsistent. There are plenty of areas and locations that are revealed on the map that can be found by name, either directly on the map itself or appearing on mouseover. There are also plenty more areas that do not appear on the map that are named when you pass through them, which is fine for presenting elements of a populated world, but causes issues when those areas are not simply descriptive and are actually significant to the player. When I am told to visit Dawn's Reach and I have a complete map, I expect to be able to find Dawn's Reach by following the map.

I like exploring in games. I was wandering around the world and being inquisitive even before the achievement of 'Explorer' was introduced. But I am not a fan of aimless wandering when I have a purpose. I do not relish flying over an entire compass point on a map trying to find an outpost that should rightfully be marked. In the end, I turn to the new quest helper to find my destination, which it points out quite helpfully. But I am not about to claim that the quest helper is necessary and welcome. If the map were adequate to begin with, I wouldn't need help to find my way.

I don't see the addition of the quest helper as making the game easier, but rather a failure of the current tool. The quest helper is merely an extension of the map, adding extra information that would otherwise not be included. But we don't need a new feature if the map fails to record and show simple quest hubs, we simply need the current one to be fixed. A patch with a note stating 'all named locations now added to the in-game map' would have been sufficient.

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