• 12/17/14 01:53 PM
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    Barebones of Quests

    Game Design and Theory

    GalvonicBond
    I'll go ahead and start with the obligatory "I've been gaming for as long as I can remember". Around 14-15 years ago, games evolved from being just fun and exciting challenges and finally something that players can use to escape from reality. You had great titles such as Morrowind that were rich in lore and story. Sometimes the history of the world you're in would explain itself through quests. And of course, it's very hard to pull off a progressive story without some variant of quests or missions. It's just one major question that a lot of designers ask themselves: What's the character's incentive for going on this quest? The overall structure of quest design is surprisingly simple. Let's take a look at what most quests in video games are made of.

    Don't worry about the story

    Well, not yet, anyway. After all, the #1 priority in the creative side of games should be the challenges players have to go through. Before we go any further, let's put ourselves in a position where a designer cares more about progressing his story in a scenario as opposed to making a fun quest. Jonas was a powerful Battlemage. He had unlocked all five sacred runes and was fully prepared to enter the Dark Wizard's lair. Except a Stone Guardian stood in front of the entrance. Jonas fought the Stone Guardian, who shattered to pieces. When he went inside the lair, the Dark Wizard decided to absorb the Stone Guardian's soul and grew stronger than ever. Okay, not my best work, but you get the idea. This sounds like it'd be really enjoyable to go through because the story's so deep. Hey, even from a gameplay perspective it's pretty neat. The Dark Wizard has new powers in the final boss battle! Except, there's one thing missing. The depth. Not the kind of depth you look for in a story, either. I'm talking about the sequence of actions the player must take in order to complete his mission. When you think about it, the final quest really just boils down to the player going to the lair and killing two people. He should have built his story off of the barebones of a fun quest.

    Barebones of quests

    I think you've seen them in games before, too. You've played enough mediocre and just plain awful RPG games to see that all quests have this skeletal structure of blandness that's added on to by story. These barebones often include basic quest structures such as:
    • Go find this item.
    • Go kill this mob.
    • Bring this mob to this location safely.
    • Go kill X amount of mobs and bring me their substance.
    The sad thing is that many games out there do not add "meat" to their structure. Instead, the quest-givers will often say something along the lines of "Go to this cave and find this because it's important to me. I will give you gold." . Sound familiar? How about, "Those thugs stole my stuff. Go to their camp and bring it back for me." ? Of course, a few "simple" side-quests here and there don't hurt, but it's when they outnumber the good stuff and sometimes even take place in the main plot that it gets out of hand. A good way to avoid "skinny" plots is to always ask, "Why?" when adding another part to the sequence. Like this: Go kill those spiders and bring me their venom Because they've been kidnapping children and it's too dangerous to step directly into their lair. We need to know whether or not this venom is instantly lethal. Sneak into that abandoned house and steal this journal Because that house isn't abandonded, these spiders are possessed by a witch living in there. We need her notes. Try not to startle her, will you? Go into their lair and bring this little boy to the Castle Because that's the Prince and we just found out that he might just still be alive. We went over the witch's notes, she wants to extract his youth and live for eternity. We also found out that the reason these spiders didn't eat her before she attempted magic on them was because she mixed their venom with Vampire Dust. This renders you invisible to these spiders, so drink this. So, now you have a somewhat interesting quest about this evil witch trying to possess nearby spiders to bring children to her lair so that she will be young forever. This was all from expanding the "Why's" of a pretty basic quest sequence.

    Conclusion

    Now we know how to give a quest both an interesting story and a fun sequence of action. Basic tasks can be expanded into something really deep with a bit of effort, and it's up to you to either conform your stories to your quests, or the other way around. This method can be used for those who aren't good at coming up with stories and need to create an incentive to play the game, or for those who are great with stories and need to create quests that can also stand as a fun and challenging experience.


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