I would approach this question with the following thought processes.
tl;dr, Scroll all the way to the bottom for my idea
What is your primary objective in implemeting this feature? I can think of a couple.
- To provide a difficult puzzle that induce a collaborative effort by the community to solve.
- To create an experience that forces the player to figure it out by themselves
- To create a sense of achievement for the player that completed this mission
There are probably many other reasons for creating this feature (You can give me them and I will elaborate on them). Addressing these 3, I shall give some reference titles.
Difficult puzzle to be solved by the community
There are many games you can reference for this.
- Fez - Red Cube puzzles
- Mu Complex - Website Puzzle
- Call of Duty - Zombie survival easter eggs
- In general, any game's easter eggs
This motivation would be to create a puzzle that is very difficult for the individual to solve. It would give the creator a feeling of amazement as you watch the community as a whole, work together at a common goal.
Forcing the player to figure out on his own
This might be a bad idea. Not everyone like solving difficult puzzles and some may get stuck. Knowledge of this might deter players from starting the game, knowing they may not get the full experience as one will have to figure it out on his own. To that end, I cannot give any titles that has fully implemented this feature.
The only way to force the player to figure out on his own without ANY possibility of tutorials would only be to randomize the quest. This would be equivalent to gambling where one may have the chance to get an easy success where others may have a hard time figuring it out. Writing narrative for such quests would also be dreadful.
Giving the player a sense of achievement
This is very well established motivation for creating such a feature. In order to encourage players to obscure the contents of this quest, the full glory of finishing this quest must be felt by the player. (Note this is only Encouraging the player to not reveal it. Some players will reveal it anyways)
One VERY good example I can give is NotPron. This game clearly states on its front page the following information
The clear motivation here is that if you are able to finish the full game, you are part of the 0.0001% that persevered till the very end. This motivation is a strong one in a psychological standpoint. To be exclusive, the only few to hold this glory. Sharing on the solutions will negate this glory.
You can most definitely find tutorials on the game online. But never full tutorials. The level changes minutely periodically but the core concept of each level never change. This means that if you understand the puzzle, a changed solution will never stop you.
This is your limitations. This means that any solutions you think of must still fit the game genre's intended objective. In the case of MMORPGs, that would be teamwork and fairness as well as not alienating the game community that comprises the "Life" of your game.
- You cannot randomize the quest fully as some may get an easier quest than others.
- You cannot make it that solution is unique to everyone story dependent as that would make narrative writing for the game setting extremely difficult.
- You have to balance the reward of the quest such that any that finishes it is satisfied without making those that are not able to finish it feel cheated or inferior.
- You still have to encourage teamwork as this is an "MMORPG"
This would be what you can do. Fun fact: I actually had some of these ideas while writing this post. Compile a list of what you can work with and then work from there
- Team effort
- Faction based objective
- Manual Alterations
- Quest Ingredients - (Go to, speak to, kill, binary decisions, etc)
My take at this issue
How I would implement this would be as follows.
- Divide my players into factions
- Create a monthly/quaterly bonus that serves as the motivation
- Segregate the community into their individual factions - Make them unable to talk to each other ingame
- Make them understand that allowing the other faction to achieve this objective would serve them no good.
- Write a unique narrative monthly/quaterly for this unique Grand Quest
Other ideas (May not be feasable)
- Each faction can region quests that would give a small piece of the puzzle (Quest item perhaps?).
- Every player can contribute to the faction results.
- Create the tools for accomplishing this feature (This can be an out of game website where players can work together to solve the puzzle and unlock something ingame)
This quest would then be collaboratively solved by the community of each faction. By doing a faction quest, you encourage collaboration while still maintain a sense of competition. By changing the quest only when its completed, you cut down on the strain on your writers.
Addressing the further info in the comments, you might want to refer to the implmentation of quests in Dark Souls.
- Quest can be completely Narrative Driven. This means no quest objective markers, no quest tracker, no guidance whatsoever. The quest can start without the player knowing, and end without the player knowing.
- Quest can have a failure state. This would be the default state for reaching the quest "End" without completing the preqrequisites. This might not be as good for an MMORPG.
- Rewards can be integrated into the narrative like as it is supposed to be given the player. Make the player not realise its part of a quest.
If the player doesnt know its a quest, there there will be no tutorial to speak of. Though guides may still cover it and someone will realise that not everyone gets it.