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TechnoGoth

Quest items in freeform games

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TechnoGoth    2937
I’ve been thinking about quest items recently trying to decide if they should exist in the game world before the quest is given to player, and what effect that should have on the quest structure if any. For instance if there is an optional quest to find some incriminating evidence about a corporation and the player decided to break into their office before getting that quest. Should they be able to find the evidence? And if they can should they now it’s a quest item? From a realism perspective it would make sense that they could find it, and even sell it never knowing its true worth. From a game play perspective it open up a host of structure and continuity issues. Does finding the evidence give the player a new quest “blackmail the corporation, or find a buyer. “. Does the quest giver now ask the player to find the person who stole the evidence, rather than break in and find it? If during the flow of the original quest the corporation sends an assassin after the player to steal back the evidence should the assassin still be triggered even if the player hasn’t gotten the quest? Making the quests malleably and changeable by player actions I feel would make a more interesting and layered gameplay but the resulting complexity could make scripting and testing a nightmare. It could also mean the player looses out on some quests if their actions can invalidate a future quest. Thoughts?

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Pete Michaud    137
Being able to fumble a quest without realizing it would be a grave design mistake. In your example, it should be impossible to accidentally trash the quest item without knowing its value.

I think the most feasible approach is to make it impossible to acquire the items before the quest. You can always construct story barriers.

Again for your example, you may have been in the corporate offices before, but the quest giver has a keycard to the executive level that allows you to access the area with the incriminating evidence.

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Daaark    3553
Quote:
Original post by Pete Michaud
Again for your example, you may have been in the corporate offices before, but the quest giver has a keycard to the executive level that allows you to access the area with the incriminating evidence.
++;

That happens a lot in games like Dragon Age or Elder Scrolls games, and it's disappointing. You either get NPCs standing around with no dialogue because you don't meet the quest requirements, or you talk to someone holding the right randomly found item to trigger the end of a quest you never started.

Also, another thing to consider, is why you would even notice the "incriminating evidence"? It's really just lying next to all other junk in the background that doesn't interest you. If you weren't looking for it specifically, it's not even on your radar.

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Trinavarta    146
To give a clear statement... it depents :)

Generally I always hated it when I got a quest like: "Kill that bad guy and bring me his special weapon.".
Just after killing him 20 times, without the matching quest. Most times this is because I didnt took the "right way" and this way missed the quest giver.

In situations like this I really want quest items to drop everytime, but like allready mentioned this feature can also be very confusing when you find items and have no idea what to do with them or who may need this for a quest.

I am not entirely sure whats the best way to handle this...


best regards,

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Brain me    170
I agree with Trinavarta. I hate killing/doing something ingame, only to find out hours later that I have to do it again because I didn't have the quest active.

I remember back when I played Morrowind I died at one point, restored the game, and worked on this one quest for about an hour (travelling in this game took forever!), only to realized *AFTER* I killed someone that I forgot to start the quest after reloading the game...

I think a relatively simple way to handle something like this is to allow players to gain quest items before they have the quest, but design the game so that you can't destroy items. Instead, if you sell or drop an item, the player has some log that they can look at and read "Precious Ring of Healing: Sold to x".

If x hasn't sold that item, at any point you can buy it back from him, but if he has sold it AND the quest involving that item is active, you can question him about where he sold it.

Just an idea though. Good luck.

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Diodor    517
This whole business of scripted quests in freeform games seems to me oxymoronic. If it's freeform it shouldn't have items the world isn't prepared to react to naturally in a variety of ways and places.

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Wavinator    2017
I think I agree with Diodor on this one. Rigid scripts really hurt the whole spirit of a freeform game.

Quote:
Original post by TechnoGoth
For instance if there is an optional quest to find some incriminating evidence about a corporation and the player decided to break into their office before getting that quest. Should they be able to find the evidence? And if they can should they now it’s a quest item?


What if you design gameplay intentionally around a whole "stumble upon" mechanic which relies on the fact that quest objects can be discovered at any point? Rather than lame story gates that you have to hide things behind, maybe think in terms of scripts which spawn "quest objects" for locations you can predefine and test, and for which there's a whole set of gameplay rules for finding more about. So you break into TransOrbital and find something about "Project Xerxes?" Well, who would know what it's worth? Can there be a system of info brokers, with layers of gear dependent security and ways of finding out who to trust? How dangerous would it be to have the information? When people start gunning for you in attack helicopters, that may become easy to figure out. (And this doesn't have to be wildly unbalanced, either-- if you have a character leveling system via stats, implants or gear, the juicier stuff is just harder and harder to get to but nevertheless always available).

Instead of going to a person and getting a quest, think instead of maybe designing all your areas to have spawn points for a wide variety of both characters and objects: A hotel lobby or cybercafe, for instance, or monorail depot could be used over and over again for meetings, skulking about, firefights, ambushes and near escapes from the law. They could be randomly populated by bums, or kissing lovers, any one of which could turn out to be a spook, broker, or assassin.

You might even trigger off events partly by giving "quest objects" time limits. Maybe if an object is in a "stolen" state long enough, Maas reps start getting picked off by their chief enemy, Maas. You could set up regions to experience significant events based on common objects-- a car bomb, for instance, or power being cut to a cybercafe which is stormed by SWAT raiders.

If there's some system for recording trust and betrayal as well as freeform faction standings, I think the player can wander the world at will picking up whatever they like. Should the assassin come after them anyway? Absolutely! Isn't that the basis for many good cyberpunk plotlines, the "what we found was way more important than we thought, and they'll stop at nothing to get it back..." trope?

I think one neat possibility about all of this is that your world could potentially be more dynamic and you could reuse your levels over and over again, concentrating on scripting behaviors and spawns more than specific sequences. Your action can take place in slightly altered sets ("Maas Offices, Chicago" or "Maas Offices, Beijing" just have different writing, security spawn locations and twists on furniture orientation). You could then generate, test and repeat, tweaking and tuning more abstract state variables like "level of assassin armor" or "chance for cybercafe ambush".


Quote:

It could also mean the player looses out on some quests if their actions can invalidate a future quest.


You probably would only care about this is there were a limited amount of quests. I started avoiding areas in Morrowind and Fallout because of this exact problem. I really recommend focusing on the idea of continuous renewal. Even if you generate highly specific quests (so that everything doesn't start feeling generic) you can still use more traditional barriers and make them very rigid provided the player has a surfeit of other quests to engage in.

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Diodor    517
Quote:
Original post by Wavinator
What if you design gameplay intentionally around a whole "stumble upon" mechanic which relies on the fact that quest objects can be discovered at any point? Rather than lame story gates that you have to hide things behind, maybe think in terms of scripts which spawn "quest objects" for locations you can predefine and test, and for which there's a whole set of gameplay rules for finding more about. So you break into TransOrbital and find something about "Project Xerxes?" Well, who would know what it's worth? Can there be a system of info brokers, with layers of gear dependent security and ways of finding out who to trust? How dangerous would it be to have the information? When people start gunning for you in attack helicopters, that may become easy to figure out. (And this doesn't have to be wildly unbalanced, either-- if you have a character leveling system via stats, implants or gear, the juicier stuff is just harder and harder to get to but nevertheless always available).


Excellent! The trick is once you decide to make the game about knowing stuff and knowing who knows about your knowing and so on you have to be ruthless in eliminating stuff from the game that doesn't further exactly that. It's no good if six months into the project you're doing pathfinding for real-time tactical pets.

For instance a cyberpunk game might need like cyberninja battles, these could be done tightly as a map-less real time simulation where the player fits operatives into various operation-specific slots and gives them slot specific commands. That way missions would be contained and their outcomes nice and sharp and well defined, and an enormous amount of headaches gone just like that (no game map, no 3d rendering, no moving characters, no gunshots raytracing).

Then one would want hacking gameplay - and this would use the same slot-based system with different slots - in fact many missions would have hacking and fighting components all sharing the same screen and user interface.

Quote:
Original post by Wavinator
You might even trigger off events partly by giving "quest objects" time limits.


As an aside, the idea of renewable tech trees, with high level technologies/items falling towards the root after a while (or after a game event). WoW does what amounts to this by adding new gear tiers with expansions, other games by providing deep tech trees.

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TechnoGoth    2937
Quote:
Original post by Wavinator
What if you design gameplay intentionally around a whole "stumble upon" mechanic which relies on the fact that quest objects can be discovered at any point? Rather than lame story gates that you have to hide things behind, maybe think in terms of scripts which spawn "quest objects" for locations you can predefine and test, and for which there's a whole set of gameplay rules for finding more about. So you break into TransOrbital and find something about "Project Xerxes?" Well, who would know what it's worth? Can there be a system of info brokers, with layers of gear dependent


Some good ideas there

I hadn’t thought about making the stumble upon mechanic as central mechanic, but it makes sense and opens up all sorts of possibilities. Especially if there are restrictions like time, and inventory size. You’ve broken into TransOrbital and on your way to ceo’s office you notice a security door that wasn’t on blue prints do you stop and explore now, or mark it down to investigate later.

One thing I really want to avoid is the ever annoying quest locking of areas. There is nothing I hate more than a game where you can hack through every locked door except for one that is locked for a quest. Locking areas by difficulty is much more interesting and gives the player meta challenges. No one may have asked the player to break into the undocumented secure area, but the player can make a meta quest gathering intel and the equipment necessary to break in, and perhaps gain a quest from what they find inside.

Quote:
If there's some system for recording trust and betrayal as well as freeform faction standings, I think the player can wander the world at will picking up whatever they like. Should the assassin come after them anyway? Absolutely! Isn't that the basis for many good cyberpunk plotlines, the "what we found was way more important than we thought, and they'll stop at nothing to get it back..." trope?


The one thing I’d probably have to include or would I? Is a hidden threat rating to cap the overall level of risk to the player at any one time, a player’s max threat rating would increase as they develop. This would prevent a situation like in the “The Warriors “ where everyone in a city is after the player.

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Wavinator    2017
Just a quick thought about this: Spawning pursuers and interested parties could give the game a feel of a dynamic world, but there's no reason why the forces in play all have to be against the player. What if you had freelancers or interested aligned parties that rose in strength proportional to the threat? So yes, you're being pursued by a deadly cyborg assassin, but maybe the forces against the forces that sent him give you gear or info so that you have a leg up. If they're not necessarily altruistic they could be doing it simply to keep a pawn in play, so to speak, in a larger chess game that you're slowly becoming aware of.

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TechnoGoth    2937
Quote:
Original post by Wavinator
Just a quick thought about this: Spawning pursuers and interested parties could give the game a feel of a dynamic world, but there's no reason why the forces in play all have to be against the player. What if you had freelancers or interested aligned parties that rose in strength proportional to the threat? So yes, you're being pursued by a deadly cyborg assassin, but maybe the forces against the forces that sent him give you gear or info so that you have a leg up. If they're not necessarily altruistic they could be doing it simply to keep a pawn in play, so to speak, in a larger chess game that you're slowly becoming aware of.


I was thinking about this myself. The game would seem more reactive and dynamic if for instance the player knows that two cyborg assassins are after them and they can lure both into a trap where they end fighting each other instead of the player.

Also rival organizations taking advantage of the players actions for their own benefit. Which is a pretty standard espionage story plot. The player steals the files on Project Ubermahn from the NeoGen Labs and while and the NeoGen executives are scrambling their security forces to eliminate the player, CyberDyne Industries take the opportunity to eliminate as many of the executives as they can. In fact that might be why they sent the player into the NeoGen Labs in first place.

Behind the scenes it would be simply a matter of the profile and exposure rating increasing and security rating decreasing for those executives and the Background Event Engine firing off assassination events against those characters now that risk level has dropped significantly.

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