I'm writing this on the brink of a momentous occasion in my life. No, I haven't finished Look How Big I Drew This Dog. No, I didn't get published somewhere noteworthy, that isn't edited by a friend. No, I'm not suddenly in the grips of a deeply significant new love that renders all the colors of my life in glorious new fidelity. I'm arriving at a far more meaningful moment in my life, a moment that's long been coming. I'm approaching the death of the daily quest in my life.
I was getting close to it before, when Neverwinter, my current daily quest vector and constant obstacle to productivity, let me more or less cap out my progress within its structures by gating them with prohibitively large time and social effort requirements: in order to move past a certain point in Neverwinter, gear wise, I'd now have to either join a guild, or spend hours grinding "epic heroic encounters" in the most recent expansion, neither of which are especially appealing prospects to me. I don't play Neverwinter for the other players. In fact, I find almost all of them entirely distasteful, when they're not acting as obstacles to me enjoying the game outright.
But then Neverwinter did something tricky. It incentivized me leveling up a character to the maximum level again. SWTOR did this too, did it really well, but Neverwinter was squirrely about it, making me mess around with their end-game content with not one but two characters if I wanted to get an item that, while not great, is certainly pretty good. Since it let me engage with the part of Neverwinter I liked (moving through dungeons, fighting enemies in little actiony battles, getting loot, leveling up and assigning skill points) I was psyched. There's a certain charm to running characters through the early-to-mid game frameworks of MMOs, wherein every encounter is scaled to make you feel like a burgeoning badass. But then the late-game sets in, and the game spikes in challenge and time commitment. Progress slows. In the case of Neverwinter, the conventional progress system falls away and becomes replaced by a series of precariously nested menus, each of which contains a series of unique currencies, all of which are earned in different locations at different paces. There's something cruel about this, about the loss of the "ding" feature, and about the way that Neverwinter, through its insidious currency system, endeavors to keep players playing their craft game to earn virtual money which is ostensibly worth real money.
But Neverwinter broke its own economy with a series of ill-conceived sales. There's currently a week long waiting list to purchase real-world-money currency with Neverwinter-game currency, which adds another timer to an already startlingly slow paced set of late-game progress sliders. Even as I unlock new and interesting assets, even as I race through sections of the game that once stalled me out with my new character, I find myself rolling my eyes at the tawdry daily quests that ask me to re-tread the same ground again and again for modest gains.
But here's the thing: I used to love the shit out of daily quests. I used to call them Star Wars chores. I'd do them with friends, quickly and easily, and then move on with my day. I'd usually try to do them once a week, and even then, I'd make decent progress (though, it's fair to say, this followed a month of intense daily-questing to get the things I wanted out of the process). But the Star Wars daily quests were pretty modest affairs, and their rewards were transparent. Save up this many space-bucks over a few weeks to get this incredible implant for your Jedi Sentinel or Sith Marauder. Save up this many Black Hole commendations over a few months and you can earn tier 2 gear without the tedium of a drop. Pretty sweet, all things considered.
Neverwinter made the mistake of turning their daily quests into central content, blowing them up and asking players to invest large chunks of time in them. They figured out that this formula wasn't the greatest in their most recent daily quest expansion, wherein they replaced the notion of two to three hour dungeons (the thing that Neverwinter does worst is both constructing and allowing players to form parties for these dungeons, but I digress) with a ten to fifteen minute mini-dungeon encounter, called a Skirmish. It's actually kind of a brilliant move, but even that means that finishing up daily content is a matter of multiple hours, spread across two characters, while I try to play other games and do other things. All I want to do is find some sweet ass swords and daggers! What's the deal, Neverwinter?
There's an upside. In a sense, I never got tired of Star Wars: The Old Republic. It remains on the edge of my awareness, an object that I consider and, likewise, consider returning to. Neverwinter has crushed my love of it with its daily quests. Writing this, I realize I'll be back in to it to check out its upcoming expansion, and that I'll continue logging in, both to finish up weekly and daily quests and to occasionally see if the market has reached reasonable levels anew, but I know that when I finish up the bulk of these quests, it's unlikely I'll be coming back to Neverwinter any time soon.
It's not that the game hasn't been fun. I've sunk nearly 500 hours into Neverwinter to date, an absurd amount considering I spent all of zero dollars on it. But the late game content has occupied nearly 200 of those gameplay hours, and the bulk of that gameplay has been made up of the same several actions, repeated ad infini. I've got a high tolerance for that, obviously, but as time ekes on and my purchases from Steam's summer sale begin to chafe within my video game crisper, I realize something: that Neverwinter sold me on a beautiful lie, that of endless progress, and that my only real option is to break free. To shatter the chains of daily quests and say, once and for all: man, Neverwinter used to be fun, but now it feels like a third job.