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A Treatise on Controversy: Quitters and Key Quest

by phadalusfish


It’s awesome. We all love it. The tokens are nifty, the mini-games are great, and the prizes are worth every agonizing minute spent playing for them. On average, I can make 80k-100k a day playing Key Quest for gold keys--those codestones and neggs along with the occasional paint brush and lab map piece add up to a small fortune over time (yes, for those of you that don’t play, you can win paint brushes off gold keys!). I’ll admit that most of my bank balance comes from selling off the Key Quest prizes. My shop sales history is full of neggs and codestones. But, with everything good, there must be something bad, right?

With all sorts of Neopians playing Key Quest (it’s pretty simple if you don’t already play; check out the tutorial and get some games in!) and everyone vying for keys, things tend to get absurdly competitive, and everyone seems to get equally as absurdly opinionated about certain things. Since games can range from two to four players and two to five keys, with only first place on a five-key game getting the gold key, not everyone gets what they want all the time, and this is where the biggest problem seems to arise: people quitting.

Again, I’ll be completely honest. I quit in the middle of Key Quest. A lot. And I’m not alone. What you have to understand, though, is that I don’t do it to keep you from getting your gold key or your neopoints. If there were a way to give the “last player standing” the prizes he or she has earned, I’d be about a million percent for it. Remember, the people that quit have been on both sides--quitting and being quit on--and we also know what it’s like: miserable. Investing ten minutes into a game and getting nothing out of it is the epitome of unfortunate. I’m not, in any way, attempting to defend or justify quitting, just trying to shine some light on what really goes on behind it: there really are reasons.

A lot of games end in people quitting. Some games don’t even get started--people exit the game if they don’t get to go first. While this is slightly less annoying than quitting mid-game, it still means your opponent has to wait for someone else to play against. It’s definitely an inconvenience.

So why do we do it? It has nothing to do with our opponents, really. If I could give you your gold key and still start up a new game, I’d do it. The reason for quitting is simpler than you might think: time, or, to be more precise, capitalism. The fundamentals of capitalism are pretty simple: make as many neopoints as possible. To do this, you have to decide what investments, both of time and of neopoints, are going to result in the greatest returns (profit), and balance the risk (investment of time and/or neopoints) against the potential profit. Key Quest is pretty high on the list, with about 8k-10k neopoints worth of items for ten to fifteen minutes of play (assuming you get a gold key) and no neopoint investment. So, people like me play Key Quest for the profit.

Since the best prizes come from the gold keys, I would obviously prefer gold keys to silver, bronze, or lead ones. Also, since there’s a limit of ten key redemptions per day, it doesn’t make much sense for me to invest the time in a game where I’d get a silver key when I could play a different game and get to ten gold ones without much trouble.

At some point, during every game of Key Quest, you realize whether or not you’re going to win the game. It could be when you land on the treasure chest and pick up the yellow key and Loaded Gummy Dice, or when your opponent does the same thing. In the case of your opponent doing it, you know you have no way to win and, at the best, will get a silver key. At this point in the game, every Neopian capitalist is faced with a decision: do I play the game out and take the sub-par silver key, or do I quit this game and start over to try to get a gold one? Obviously, the answer depends on a few things.

First of all, how long will it take you to lose? And what’s in it for you if you play it out? If you realize two keys into a five key game that you probably aren’t going to win, it makes sense to quit and try again. If, however, both you and your opponent have five keys, you’ve collected 1500 NP for the game, and your opponent is two squares from winning, it makes more sense to take the few extra seconds to play the game out and take the 1500 NP and ignore the silver key. Or just save it for a day when you don’t have time to play to your ten games for gold keys.

So it all comes down to something called opportunity cost: what you have to give up in order to do something. For you to finish the game and take silver, you have to give up time you could be using to play for a gold key. If there’s not a lot of time to the end of the game, you can afford that cost and take the NP you’ve picked up. If there is a lot of time left (as above, when the game’s only about half over), it makes more sense, from a capitalist point of view, to restart the game.

The most important thing to understand about this is the time factor. If I have a limited amount of time in which to play Key Quest, I want to take as much away from it as possible. This means using all of my time in the best way possible, which means sometimes quitting a game I can’t win to move on. Think of it like playing a game and not having a good score at the end of the first level: instead of playing the game to the end and ending up with a score less than what you know you could get, you start over and try again.

Obviously, the game ending if only one player remains isn‘t the most optimal set-up. I’ve been quit on before. It happens, and when it happens right before the end of a game, it’s one of the worst things ever. But, in the long run, Key Quest is worth playing regardless of how many games you have to play to get to your ten gold keys, which means it’s worth enduring the people that quit. There are a few solutions to this problem, like updating the game to award at least some prize to players left in the game when everyone else leaves, though any system of this sort is open to abuse, especially if the keys are given out. I’m thinking you still get your NP, so the game wasn’t entirely a waste of time, and maybe a consolation key depending on how long the game was supposed to be (for example, a four-key game gets a bronze key and a five-key game gets a silver key). Also, TNT could impose a wait period on anyone that leaves a game, though again there are problems: people getting kicked out of games by glitches having to wait to play again. As long as there’s a way to quit a game--and there always will be--quitting will happen. All we can hope for is some way to atone for it, either by punishing those that quit, or by awarding some prize to the people left over.

My two parting thoughts? People quitting has nothing to do with depriving you of your keys and everything to do with them making neopoints to paint and feed and spoil their pets with. And, Key Quest is a great game that’s worth playing even despite the aggravation of opponents quitting.

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