Is the mystery still alive for you?
Tibia has grown, but has the quest system grown with it? Do the new areas do the mysteries of old justice? Keep these questions in mind as you read. And, as always, enjoy!
Tibia's map in beta version 3.1
Now, recall your first few months of playing and the magic you felt when you realized that the possibilities for exploration in Tibia were endless. Where else can you walk the same route to your house that you do every day for weeks and then, in a moment of inspiration, use an axe on a tree and reveal a hidden treasure within? Almost any item that can be used in-game can be used on any environmental object and no one ever truly knows what possibilities for interaction exist. That is the potential that Tibia holds: endless possibilities and an infinite expanse of secrets that stretch out as far as your imagination. Yet clearly our imaginations simply do not cut it, since no one is uncovering a solution to hidden quests.
The first team to ever visit Mintwallin when it was created.
Many Tibians have played other online games that have rich plots that fill the game world with a story that can be followed from start to finish. Gamers look forward to updates in part because the next installment will certainly add more to that same story and unveil new mysteries to be solved in a logical progression. Tibia's design allows for the content team to have this same affect on players with true mysteries that can go years without being uncovered. As I have already argued in The Pitiful Seven, we do not have the rich, overarching plot that tickles the mind and encourages players to delve into the depths of Tibia's lore. There is no path out there to follow through the woods. Are their mysteries out there? Yes. Is their ample motivation to get players out there searching? Perhaps. We have been told over the years that there is a huge pool of quests just waiting to be found with rare rewards at the end of the road. Yet in the event that nothing is solved it may be difficult to see value in this aspect of the game.
Not many of us still remain that played Tibia as far back as 2003, but those that do will recall a time in the summer when the last major mystery was solved: Paradox Tower. Before spoilers were even used, Paradox Tower was the pinnacle of Tibian mysteries. Not unlike Serpentine Tower today, Paradox Tower intrigued players to the point of obsession. Yet this quest also had many more clues and leads to get players trying everything under the sun. Dead trees, hidden keys, magic walls blocking an entrance, and a secret pass up in the mountains. The mysteries these days seem to lack such trails and instead rely upon using random items and trying to leap an increasingly large gap between one clue and the next. These gaps do provide a higher level of difficulty, but not a logical progression that is necessarily to make these quests enjoyable. Instead the first player to stumble upon such random events is typically annoyed by the lack of logic and the senseless waste of time blindly trying different things. Yet years ago, players had faith and Paradox Tower was tackled and publicized on the old World of Tibia website for all to see. Young players such as myself had our minds blown by the concept that such amazing rewards were available and that quests could exist for so long without being discovered. The very ideas of exploring, talking to NPCs, reading books, and studying lore opened up a side of Tibia that was exciting beyond comparison. Who cares about gold when I can obtain something that cannot be bought? An incredible journey, Tibian fame, and items that were previously thought unobtainable. Yet this glamorous dream has long since passed, along with the eight years since the last solution was uncovered.
CipSoft has a strict spoiler policy and refuses to even acknowledge whether certain quests have a solution, yet the absence of player successes is clear evidence that the content is to blame. At the end of the day it is up to the company and more specifically the content team to provide players with the appropriate level of difficulty and design such mysteries to be solvable within a reasonable period of time. That of course brings up the question: what is "reasonable?" I'll start by saying that the historical way that CipSoft runs their systems is not necessarily right. Still, Tibians have grown used to mass market, major quests such as the Ancient Tombs, Pits of Inferno, Inquisition, and various others. They expect them to be easy to find, relatively easy to solve overall, and any difficult portions such as hiccups in logic to be pushed through usage of random items, pick holes, or senseless NPC prompts. The timing even for the most difficult and time consuming of these quests generally works out to be a solution within a week of the update for the innovators and a full spoiler within two weeks of the update. Now, clearly these kinds of quests have proven to be valuable to the community by providing a means of distracting players for a few hours and giving them something to take them away from monotonous hunting or training. However, the ease with which these major quests are solved does highlight a problem: why bother searching when all of the quests that are in-depth and interesting are solved so quickly? What does that say about the quests that have existed for years and have not been uncovered fully? Certainly given the randomness and luck necessary for most of the quests, the few mysteries that have not yet been found or solved must be even worse in these aspects. Does the risk taken on by trying to solve them even reflect a reward to match?
Eternian Inquisition Quest in 2008.
On the topic of risk versus reward, every action we take in life has an associated risk. That risk, at least in the mind of the individual, must be worth the potential for success. The simplest example of this is the Annihilator. Players pulled a lever, saw what the rewards were, and then for months they worked out a strategy in order to overcome the demons inside. Now some might say that the process of defeating the room and the memory for those players was reward enough. But keep in mind that the competition to be first and 99% of the motivation to defeat that "quest" was due to the existence of the rewards on the other side of the door. Tibians won't have the excitement of group quest solving and mystery discussions in the first place if there is not an appropriate amount of motivation that inspires other players to interact. The content system meant to support and motivate the questmongers of Tibia does not even come close to presenting reward worth the necessary risks, however. Any guess at exactly how many hours players have wasted over the years trying to probe the depths would be meaningless, but suffice it to say that the number is well into the thousands cumulatively. That is a lot of time, money, and gold consumed for the purpose of uncovering potential secrets. And what does the community have to show for it? I'll leave that question open, and pose another: is the risk worth the reward? Your answer to that question is likely your answer to whether or not the content team adequately supports the players that truly want to have a mystery worth their efforts.
In outlining some of the key issues of the quest system, questmongers and roleplayers will hopefully be better prepared to understand their frustrations with the system as it stands today. The effort that some Tibians put forth to persevere despite the lack of motivation is laudable. Yet those players still deserve to have comrades alongside of them that share that same passion. Unfortunately, many of those comrades have shrunk back into the shadow of the competition side of the game. There they level, train, and roll around in piles of riches that require very little intellectual exertion. Bring back the human element, as there is no doubt in my mind that this is yet another hidden, dusty gem that the content team needs to polish. Let it gleam once again and watch as the roleplayers crawl out of their hunting spots in order to participate in the community once more.
Discuss this with other Tibians, here!