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Wavinator

Getting Rid of Missions and Quests (RPG-like)

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What kinds of options and gameplay would you need to have in order to never miss quests / missions in an RPG-like game? Quests / missions serve chiefly as a way to set a specific goal with a specific reward. Some have specific time frames to add pressure, or changing goals mid-mission, or even conflicting or branching goals. Because they're so traditional, it may not be possible to get rid of them. But what would a game need to offer if they could be dropped from an RPG-like game?
One of the first things that might need to go is the idea of NPCs acting as gating mechanisms for progress through the story or game world. NPCs are often the font of wealth, resources and equipment--which means gameplay capability (e.g., combat prowess, lockpicking skill, etc.) If this happened, then another major thing necessary would be more continuous freeplay options. You don't go kill the leader of a rival faction to get access to the supercomputer to continue the plot, you advance the plot whenever you get access to the supercomputer, be it by sneaking in or building one yourself. ???

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I've already come to the conclusion that quests are too formulaic and not very realistic - and I agree completely. I'm thinking that quests shouldn't be just a short story snippet and a variable stored somewhere set to false - perhaps less set in stone and more dynamic. E.g, a person asks you to deliver some package somewhere. They give you a package. What you do with it is your choice, there is no quest log and there is no set 'completion' reward. Stuff happens dynamically as a result of your action.

If you were to deliver the package, the NPC reacts based on when you delivered it, your appearance, a number of factors.

If you pawn the goods, you might get away with it, but the person might find out about it and you could be screwed, making you outlawed in the territory in which you caused the problem, or a slew of other dynamic reactions.

Point being, there would be nowhere where it says "If fail then player = outlawed."

People would react to the package not being delivered, shun you socially, and the authorities might seek you out, depending on the laws of the land and how they feel about you. Being 'outlawed' would just be a label for your position, and your position would really be a dynamic set of variables.

Furthermore, in an online game with a persistent world, since quests aren't set in stone and dynamic, you could have non-repeating quests without sacrificing playability for everyone.

My two cents :)

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I'm not sure whether removing quests entirely from RPGs will be possible. Even the most freeform of RPGs need at least one quest to define what the game is about.

To take the grandfather source story of most RPGs today as an example, in Lord of the Rings there really is the one Quest; drop the Ring into the fires of Mount Doom without letting an enemy (Sauron/Sauraman) getting his hands on it. This defines what the whole adventure is about. Without the Quest objective, there is no story, and I'm not sure whether you could get an RPG out of this.

That's not saying that you couldn't make a game without quests, but it would be more of a simulation than an RPG. And of course, you only really need the one Quest to define the objective. And you don't have to fix what the Quest actually is, the game can generate ones on the fly.

I've got more to write about this issue, but I'm on a break from work at the moment, so I'll post again later. I'd like to clarify however whether you are wanting to consider (hypothetically speaking) abolishing the Quest objective entirely, or just the subquests.

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Original post by Trapper Zoid
I'd like to clarify however whether you are wanting to consider (hypothetically speaking) abolishing the Quest objective entirely, or just the subquests.


Though it's quite unwise, I'm going for the jugular. [wink] No main quest, no side quests. You appear in the world by some rhetorical device. Forces in the world are moving about. You develop a vested interest in one side or another because the vignettes or resources or big picture results of one side or another winning appeal to you. There are phases of tension and expectation, self-directed goals to accomplish, and (ultimately) resolution and summation of your existence in the world.

It can't exactly be that without a story it wouldn't be an RPG-like game because there are RPGs without story (Gauntlet, Diablo, etc.) And simulation typically applies to a complex model of some reality. Gauntlet, for instance, isn't a simulation (of a medieval world of monsters), while Sim City is.

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Original post by Wavinator
It can't exactly be that without a story it wouldn't be an RPG-like game because there are RPGs without story (Gauntlet, Diablo, etc.)


I always thought that Gauntlet and Diablo were more "Dungeon Crawlers" than RPGs. And even Diablo did have a Quest, of sorts (although from memory I don't think Gauntlet did, although I've only played Gauntlet II so I can't say for sure).

Quote:
And simulation typically applies to a complex model of some reality. Gauntlet, for instance, isn't a simulation (of a medieval world of monsters), while Sim City is.


Isn't that what you'll have to do without quests? Some sort of model of a reality that the player interacts with? Without a concrete objective, then you have an open-ended sim, right?

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Original post by Trapper Zoid

I always thought that Gauntlet and Diablo were more "Dungeon Crawlers" than RPGs.


Actually, Diablo did have a story, so I stand corrected. I don't think any of the Guantlet or many of hte Roguelike games ever did, though. Unfortunately, though, when "whether or not Gauntlet or Diablo is an RPG" comes up, all we ever get is an endless debate.

In my book, if it has shopping, character improvement, a strong focus on an avatar or small group and customization, it's an RPG.


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Quote:
And simulation typically applies to a complex model of some reality. Gauntlet, for instance, isn't a simulation (of a medieval world of monsters), while Sim City is.


Isn't that what you'll have to do without quests? Some sort of model of a reality that the player interacts with? Without a concrete objective, then you have an open-ended sim, right?


I guess my strong objection to the word simulation is its connotation, which is a large, complex, details heavy affair. For instance, you could have a huge maze filled with monsters, traps, sliding walls and a configurable environment and still call it an RPG. (This actually was like early D&D RPG board games). But when I think SimCity or Falcon 4.0, I definitely don't think of something like this.

When does something become a simulation? (FWIW, my concern might just be baggage of discussing simulated worlds, which is in this forum a topic that often goes nowhere.)

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I know I'm being a little terse here, as I'm typing these replies up while I'm debugging this code, which means I might be being a little loose with my explanations. With this kind of topic it's hard to know if everyone is using the same mental dictionary for terms such as "RPG", "simulation" and "quest".

Quote:
Original post by Wavinator
Actually, Diablo did have a story, so I stand corrected. I don't think any of the Guantlet or many of hte Roguelike games ever did, though. Unfortunately, though, when "whether or not Gauntlet or Diablo is an RPG" comes up, all we ever get is an endless debate.

In my book, if it has shopping, character improvement, a strong focus on an avatar or small group and customization, it's an RPG.


Yes, those debates never really go anywhere. Someone ought to make the definitive definition of all these terms, or write a proper taxonomy of computer game genres, so that this confusion doesn't arrive.

By the way, my definition of an RPG pretty much boils down to "anything that feels like one", which is pretty useless, but I guess I'd define it with these terms:
- Character Improvement (usually through stats)
- Strong Focus on Hero or Heroes
- An "Epic" Context, defined by the Quest/s (see, this is where we are conflicting! [smile])
- One of the following:
- able to interact with the plot, different avatar personalities allowed
- based on previously declared RPG material (pen and paper RPG setting etc.)
- similar style to Dragon Warrior/Final Fantasy, the Japanese or console RPG

I really don't like that last one, but there's a huge difference between a console and a PC style RPG. But every list like this has flaws where obvious non-members can be described as members of the set. For example, SWAT 2 fits all your criteria for an RPG, but it obviously isn't.

Quote:

I guess my strong objection to the word simulation is its connotation, which is a large, complex, details heavy affair. For instance, you could have a huge maze filled with monsters, traps, sliding walls and a configurable environment and still call it an RPG. (This actually was like early D&D RPG board games). But when I think SimCity or Falcon 4.0, I definitely don't think of something like this.

When does something become a simulation? (FWIW, my concern might just be baggage of discussing simulated worlds, which is in this forum a topic that often goes nowhere.)


I define "simulation" as being a set of rules defined to approximate something (pretty much anything), with no restrictions due to arbitrary rules defined by a storyteller or umpire. Usually this refers to a sim of real life, but it doesn't really have to be. So you could have a "dungeon sim", if the ruleset was defined for the typical things you find in a dungeon. Obviously this starts blurring the definitions if you start defining rules for how story content should be strung together.

But I could also be being influenced by all those "simulated world" topics to which you refer (these are the ones that go on about how the perfect game would be a huge set of behavioural rules for a large group of NPCs, for ultimate freeform play, right?). I thought that might be where you were leading with this topic, especially with that bit about the supercomputer in your topic starting post. How do you distinguish between those kinds of simulated worlds and what you are proposing with a questless RPG-like game?

By the way, since my definition of RPG involves the "epic" feel, I'm not sure how you can deal away with quests and keep an RPG feel. I think it will start to become more like a strategy or tactical game. However, you are probably planning something that I haven't quite grasped yet that could change my mind on this matter...

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Just give the player a chance to stumble upon any given reward at any given moment, and such moments are created by other moments.

Stealing ideas from Garriott here - you give a blind woman some coins at the beginning of a game, later on you run in to her son, or her or something, and you are given a gift, an heir or something - and it was all because you just randomly decided to do something at the beginning of the game.

Now, a game can't be filled with blind women but if you look around you in life - someone is always in need of something, and you could just kinda volunteer yourself automatically, you won't always get a reward but some will pay up.



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Original post by Wavinator
any of the Guantlet or many of hte Roguelike games ever did, though. Unfortunately, though, when "whether or not Gauntlet or Diablo is an RPG" comes up, all we ever get is an endless debate.


I don't see why it has to be a debate. Diablo is a Roguelike. Period.
Anyone playing a Roguelike, then comparing to Diablo, will realise this. Don't they?
ADOM has a story. It is still very much a Rogelike.
Whether you want to include Roguelikes as a subset of computer RPGs is another matter. Personally that's how a view it (roguelike as a subset of cRPGs).

Philippe

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I'm going to just brain dump.

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Original post by Wavinator
What kinds of options and gameplay would you need to have in order to never miss quests / missions in an RPG-like game?


A very engaging story, and/or 'other' things to do. With most RPGs I play to accomplish 'the next big thing'. In Diablo 2, it was each individual quest, and then moving onto the next chapter - I didn't actually much care about the story, I cared more about character advancement and the new shiny shield +50 billion I was going to get, and that I would get treated to a very nice cutscene at the start of each chapter (and I did like Blizzard's cutscenes).

In Baldur's Gate and Neverwinter Nights, it was more to advance the story, the quests were quite directed in this regard as well, but I have a problem with them because there are annoying 'side quests' which as a... I dunno, perfectionist, I don't feel like I can skip, and they take up loads of time and generally get in the way and piss me off. Those aren't particularly good examples of engaging stories, but that really depends on everybody's own opinion of what is engaging.

Next, when I talk about 'other' things I mean things the player can do just to waste away time, or to just enjoy themselves. Go and kill monsters would be one example, or just exploring the world you're part of. There's no quest there, it's just something the player wants to do. There are other things, such as trading, building, etc. that you could work into your economy with no quests involved - player says "I want to be a businessman" and let him build up a business empire. Doesn't get you anywhere with a story, but it's still a roleplay.

The trouble is that games should have some direction, it's fine to talk about open-endedness and choices and so forth, but if you don't take the player on an enjoyable journey, what has the game achieved? I can't think of a game I would like to play where you just started, and didn't know what to do, where to go, who to talk to or what the point of my existance was. Thus, there should be a central story, which the player advances through - there have to be goals (quests) or the player doesn't have that direction, and the game doesn't really go anywhere. It's really more the means by which you let them advance that makes the difference. Like you said, sneaking into an enemy base to get to the supercomputer, or taking a team in and assaulting the compound.

In summary:
I really don't see how you can get rid of the core idea of "to advance, you need to achieve condition X". That's the way it is in life, and in games. There are, however, plenty of things that can be done to disguise it and to improve the gameplay experience considerably for the player.

-Mezz

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