My dabbling in old quests continues. In fact I found myself a lot more enthused about the idea than I originally thought, and finished off both the Barrens and Stonetalon Mountains yesterday. I didn't discover any new quests in either zone, that is to say that I had done all of them before on some alt or another, just never on my main.
Initially I found myself groaning at the long travel times, and wondered how I ever managed to get other characters through most of these quests back when you didn't get a mount until level forty. The effect was heightened by the fact that I had just completed the Zul'Drak quests on my night elf only two nights ago, which made for a very stark contrast in terms of a sleek gaming experience.
In the end I acclimated quite quickly however, and realised to my great surprise that all that running around actually added something to the experience too. Don't get me wrong, sometimes it did feel pointless and like it was only there to make the quests seem longer than they actually were. Running back and forth between the Crossroads and the Dry Hills three times just to kill a different bunch of harpies each time felt silly. When Kadrak at the Mor'shan Rampart asked me to plant a Horde banner in a cave somewhere in the Stonetalon Mountains, I really wanted to tell him that he had more immediate threats to worry about. And realising after completing Raptor Horns that I had to kill a whole nest of exactly the same mobs for Stolen Silver was annoying.
But for every quest-related frustration like that, there was another situation where the old quest design system actually added something enjoyable to the experience with the way it made quest givers stand around in odd places and forced me run around a lot. For example, having a crazed hermit living in a tent in the middle of nowhere and giving out a single quest may not be the most accessible way of going about these things, but it really does drive home the point that he is a crazed hermit. If he lived conveniently close to a village or people were sending messages to him, he wouldn't really be much of a hermit, would he?
Likewise, a goblin in Ratchet sending you to collect spider eggs in Stonetalon might not make for the most streamlined gaming experience, but you really get a sense that he is a smart entrepreneur who likes to hire other people to do the grunt work for him. If he was already sitting in Windshear Crag himself just to save you running time, he wouldn't appear to be nearly as clever. After all it doesn't take a genius to come up with the idea of picking up what's already right in front of you.
Or take this quest: All it does is tell you to go talk to someone else, since the quest giver feels that he's too old to handle the matter, a completely unnecessary step that could have been cut out very easily for the sake of convenience. As it is however, it makes you feel that NPCs are people too, and may simply not always have all the answers you want. There were a lot of quests like that in the Barrens region, with people telling you to ask someone else for help or seek the expertise of someone who lives elsewhere.
This certainly gave me pause and made me realise for the first time just how strangely isolated and completely self-sufficient most "quest hubs" in Outland and Northrend are. No matter what strange discoveries you make, there's almost always someone around who can make sense of it in close proximity. None of this "uh, we should report back to Orgrimmar" stuff, with the notable exception of the Mag'har quest line. I don't know why that is, are we just meant to assume that all the communication happens off-screen? Are the player characters too good to serve as messengers these days? But why? Blizzard still puts in breadcrumb quests to lead you back and forth between different zones, they just happen to be a lot less meaningful in comparison and can almost always be summed up as "go report to Guy McGuyson at [faction outpost], he might have work for you". Why not let us report some more interesting news?
Also, having to travel a lot simply makes things feel more epic. Frodo's journey to Mount Doom wouldn't have been half as interesting if he had already been living right next to it at the start of the story. I know people might argue with this, saying that travel in WoW is just a boring chore and adds nothing, but I suspect that it's simply something that we don't think about consciously most of the time. We know that we're willing to go to great lengths for things that are important to us, so we assume that if someone else asks us to do the same for them, it must be important too.
I thought a decent example of this in the Barrens was the Samophlange quest line. I mean, if you think about it it's just a goblin asking you to steal some gadget from the Venture company, completely trivial. But then he sends you to someone in the northern Barrens to repair it, and that lady then sends you to Orgrimmar, and you get asked to recover a torn manual in a mine, and so on and so forth, and you can't help but feel that this samophlange thing must be quite powerful after a while, because if it wasn't nobody would bother with all this stuff, would they?
I'm also convinced that the real reason that the Crusader Bridenbrad quest line is so popular is not that it tells a touching story, but that it makes you run all over the frikkin place: to Moonglade and into the emerald dream, to Wyrmrest temple, to Outland! If all the remedies that you try to save him had been conveniently available right there in Icecrown it wouldn't have felt half as epic I tell you.