How Can Quests Be More Interesting?

I was just reading a post at Pearls of Unwisdom about The State of MMORPG Questing and it got me to thinking.  I’ve made no secret of my disdain for the quest log – the basic concept of having many minor errands to do at once – but on a more fundamental level, what’s needed to make an individual quest interesting?  How, in short, do we get players to care about the quest’s plot, and make quests more fun and memorable?

Some of this touches on themes I’ve written about before, naturally… 

1) Character-driven quests –  Let me as the player decide what I want to do and then find quests that serve MY goals.  I’m tired of doing whatever the lazy NPCs tell me to do.  Let them kill their own damned rats.  If I choose the basis of my quest I’m a lot more likely to care about it than I am with generic static quests.

2) Procedurally generated quests instead of static ones – If quests were created procedurally, then players wouldn’t know in advance what’s to come, which is itself going to contribute to players paying more attention.  Spoilers can ruin all the surprises, and many gamers will seek the most efficient way to obtain EXP and loot – this means going to websites and looking up all the details in advance.  This wouldn’t be possible with procedurally generated content.

3) An undetermined outcome –  Give us the chance to actually ~fail~ at quests, and not just try them again and again until we succeed.  This is deeply problematic with static content, but not at all problematic with procedurally generated content.

4) One quest at a time – Having a quest log full of quests means each individual quest is unimportant overall.  If we’re only doing one quest at a time then we’ll care more about what that quest actually entails.

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