Progress Quest is an application created as a parody of EverQuest and other massively multiplayer online role-playing games. It is loosely considered a zero-player game, in the sense that once the player has set up his artificial character, there is no user interaction at all; the game "plays" itself, with the human player as spectator.
Progress Quest parodies the stat-gathering aspect of computer role-playing games, whereby the player advances his character by accumulating arbitrary statistic points. EverQuest and many other MMORPGs of its time are infamous for their "auto-attack" combat system, where players press a button to initiate combat mode and, from then on, have little to do other than watch; Progress Quest mocks this with its totally non-interactive gameplay after the initial character setup. Progress Quest also pokes fun at traditional RPG races, classes, stories, quests, items, and more.
The program was made available by Eric Fredricksen in early 2002. Fans quickly joined in on the parody by submitting numerous fake reviews to several popular freeware download sites and game review sites giving Progress Quest the highest scores possible.
The game displays the character's stats on the screen, including several progress bars representing how far the player character has advanced in the game. The character gains experience points and items, and also encounters monsters. Items are then sold at a profit to purchase new equipment, relative to the character's level. There are also quests that are part of an overall "plot progression", which add a new chapter after each previous chapter has been completed.
On starting a new game, the player is presented with a few options, such as the choice of race and character class for their player character. Stats are rolled and unrolled to determine Strength, Constitution, Dexterity, Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma. Players start off with subpar equipment, eventually earning better weapons, armor, and spells.
Nearly none of the above-mentioned character statistics and equipment have any effect on gameplay, however. The only exception is the Strength stat, which affects carrying capacity, indirectly influencing the speed of level gain.
The story tells of the history of Grumdrig and the creation of the realms. Currently there are five realms: Knoram, Expodrine, Oobag, Spoltog, and Pemptus. The latter two are still open, but Knoram, Expodrine and Oobag were permanently closed to the creation of new characters upon the arrival of Pemptus, which, being the newest realm, launched on February 8, 2007. The story mimics convoluted fantasy plots, using archaic and made up words such as "aberdoxy".
After character creation the game runs its course. The lengthy, combat free prologue is represented by a set of progress bars, each accompanied by a line of text describing, among other things, the "foreboding vision" the character has. Then the first act begins, and the character is "heading to the killing fields..." where they will start the endless cycle of "executing (number of monsters) (adjective of monsters) (monster type)" or "executing a passing (player character)", only disrupted when their strength is no longer sufficient to carry more items. This forces their return to the market, where they will sell all the loot (each group of monsters drops one monster-specific item of loot, player characters will drop random magic loot) and then spend all their accumulated money to buy equipment. With each group of monsters "executed" the quest progress bar will advance one step; once it is filled it will be reset and the player awarded either with a magic item, a piece of equipment or a stats upgrade including the learning or leveling of a spell. After a fixed amount of time, the player will enter a new act, which has no effect whatsoever.
All equipment in the game is randomly given out as a reward for several instances in the game such as completing a quest, killing certain enemies, leveling a character, and especially when at the market, in which the character uses gold from the loot to 'upgrade' his or her equipment. These items usually consist of two adjectives and a noun. Like the games Progress Quest mocks, these items have statistics and the adjectives are variables describing the item. The character level is used to determine what stats and adjectives each item has.
Players may choose to create an account offline for their own enjoyment, or create an online account that allows their character stats to be saved on a ranking website. This allows characters to compare their accomplishments with others while trying to achieve a higher ranking on their respective realm. Players can also join guilds of Good, Neutral, or Evil alignment in certain realms, though there is no benefit for doing so.
The game has been upgraded several times throughout its history. One particular upgrade added shaded bars to the screen, which caused some players to refer to the new version as Progress Quest 3D. On the game's official forums, a popular in-joke leads newbies to believe that there exist Silver, Gold, Platinum or even Diamond-encrusted DVD versions of the game which have enhanced 3D graphics. Fake "Progress Quest" screenshots from other games, obscure 3D RPGs, helped spread this rumour.
Reviewer Nick Hide compared this with other MMORPGs in which players persevere through dull tasks, just to level up or obtain a new item, due to an emotional attachment with the character.
- Morgan Webb (2002). Download of the Day: 'Progress Quest'. TechTV. Retrieved on February 16, 2006.