In With the New: Cataclysm Quest Mechanics
March 8th by Lylirra

We're always looking for ways to improve World of Warcraft and, for Cataclysm, we introduced several UI features and new types of technology to help make questing more accessible, more immersive, and, most importantly, more fun! You've probably already encountered  many of these mechanics as you've explored post-shattering Azeroth, but we still wanted to take some time to discuss their purpose and functionality with you, as well as get your feedback on how they've contributed to your leveling experience this expansion.

So, here's what's new:

  • The ability to complete and accept new quests in the field. To help improve the flow of several quest chains in Cataclysm, we've added a feature that allows players to both complete and accept quests without having to interact with a quest giver. What does this mean for players? No more running back-and-forth  during the heat of battle! (Most of the time, at least.)

    If a quest is eligible to be completed on-the-go, a large button will appear just beneath the default mini-map that reads "Click Here to Complete Quest." As the message text suggests, clicking on this button will open up the standard quest completion window, letting you turn in the quest right then and there. You might also receive a prompt to start a new quest through this feature, so keep an eye out for that shiny button when you're getting your XP on.

  • Quest NPC objective windows. Have you ever accepted one of those quests that asks you to administer some sweet, sweet vengeance on a certain NPC and, as you mount your trusted steed, shoulder your finely-crafted weapons, and start to saunter towards the horizon, you have no idea what this mysterious, soon-to-be-dead individual looks like? Well, now there's a mechanic for that.

    The NPC objective window is designed to display 3D images of notable creatures or NPCs that you need to kill (or find) as part of a quest. While this window won't be used for every quest,  its default location will always be to the immediate right of the quest Accept/Decline window. Be sure to use it to your advantage when it appears, as it's great for identifying named objectives -- like Warden Silva in Tol Barad or Bingham Gadgetstring in Azshara, for example.

  • Highlighted quest NPC names. In many cases, if a creature or NPC is an objective for a quest you've accepted, its name will automatically show up in red, yellow, or green -- depending on whether the mob is hostile, neutral, or friendly -- whenever you're in range of it. Why is this helpful? Because, sometimes, finding those ten silver-tipped kobolds can be a bit cumbersome, especially if they look almost identical to their cobalt-tipped brethren (which are far more common, as far as kobold genetics are concerned). By highlighting their names, we can make the search for these illustrious creatures smoother and hopefully more enjoyable for you.

    If you would prefer not to have names highlighted, that's okay, too. You can disable highlighted quest NPC names at any time through the Interface options menu by selecting "None" from the NPC Names drop-down box within the Names option subheading. (On the flip side, keep in mind that this feature won't be too useful if all NPC names are turned on, so if you want to get the most out of it, be sure to select "Quest NPCs." )

  • Resource bars. Resource bars are used sparingly, but they're great for keeping track of important variables that are unique to certain quests and raid encounters (e.g. stacking buffs and debuffs, timers, etc).

    A good example of this mechanic in action is in the Hillsbrad quest "Studies in Lethality." For this quest, players are tasked with testing nearby blight slimes to determine their lethality. Initially, the blight slimes will be ambivalent to a player's scientific poking and prodding; however, with each consecutive test, the blight slime collective will grow a bit more annoyed, eventually becoming hostile to the player and attacking him or her on sight. Fortunately, slimes have short memories and, over a period of time of no testing, a player can once again fall into their good graces. A resource bar is provided during this quest to help the player determine how angry the blight slimes are, as well as when it's safe to continue testing.

  • Multi-tag targets. As the name suggests, this feature allows multiple players to tag or "tap" a single creature. This means that you can receive quest credit for killing an eligible quest boss, regardless of party status, so long as you participate in the fight (and the boss' death). Not all quest bosses will function this way, but quite a few of them do -- especially in Tol Barad. 

  • Terrain phasing. Terrain phasing is very similar to normal phasing, which works by hiding or revealing sets of intractable items, NPCs, and buildings depending on your progression through a specific quest or quest series. Unlike normal phasing, though, which only allows us to adjust objects in the world, terrain phasing gives us the opportunity to change the world itself -- or, more specifically, how it appears to you. We can literally move mountains and raze cities through this technology, providing you with a more engaging and dynamic questing experience. You'll see a lot of terrain phasing in starting zones like Gilneas and the isle of Kezan, as well as in higher-level areas like the Regrowth in Mount Hyjal or during the infamous bombing of Stonetalon.

  • Personal summons. In addition to terrain phasing, another new technology that we've implemented in this expansion is personal summons . With personal summons, we're able to create environments and play out game events that only you can see. "Peacebloom vs. Ghouls" is a great example of personal summons in action. In this quest, players are provided with their own version of Botanist Brazie to interact with, their own lawn to cultivate, and their own waves of undead to squash mercilessly.

  • New character camera controls. Our new control options are simple in concept, but they allow us to do some pretty cool things with character perspective -- including panning and sweeping the in-game camera to play out short, but personalized cut-scenes. While these controls aren't technically a quest "mechanic," they've given us the opportunity to create some epic cinematic moments for you as you level up.

    If cut-scenes aren't your thing, though, we understand. Should you ever want to skip past a cut-scene, just hit the "Escape" key and you'll be brought back to the standard character screen.

We think these new mechanics help make players feel like a part of an unfolding story, but that's just our perspective. We'd love to hear your thoughts on these additions and how they've improved or otherwise affected your gaming. Tell us what you think in the comments!

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