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jzfredricks

Obvious clues for secret quests?

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Hi all,
My game has a few secret quests. I don't want to advertise these quests to the players. If they complete certain actions, certain things will happen.
To complete one of these secret quests the char has to be carrying an item that they'd not normally carry - a stone plaque with engraved, meaningful text on it.

My dilemna is this; if I only create this one, specific plaque in my world, it's a bit of a give away that it's important. To hide its importance, I could create more plaques, which will take time (especially if their text is as rich as the meaningful text). If I create too many, players might not ever carry it and complete the secret quest.

Just a general question: do you have any thoughts on the balance between dropping obvious plot hints and "letting them work it out for themselves". I'm sure peope will create walk-throughs, but it excites me to imagine a small number of players completing this type of quest by themselves.

This quest isn't vital to the game (a single player RPG). It just leads to an alternate ending. But it IS a part of the story I want discovered, with "discovered" being the key word.

cheers

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Can you programaticly create the plaques and texts somehow? Your game must already have some sort of internal text that can be used like character names, addresses, city names, historical heros, memorials. If you can, have something automatically generate a significant number of mundane plaques and just need custom make a few special purpose ones it might decrease the work load.

If so you could try to create a bunch more plaques and try and hold the player's hand to get him to pick one up of the ones for a less important, low level side quest. Maybe a map or some really obvious instructions to get something done or find something. The realization that there are certain significant plaques in the game world would hopefully then be made and when the player encounters the the big, meaningful plaque he may be inclined to keep it with him. If plaques are generally inconvenient to keep in the inventory, the player may be inclined to leave them or otherwise store them somewhere. Edited by kseh

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I'm not sure what the best answer is, but I'll share one of my pet gripes with you. It can be hard to tell the difference between:
- Mysterious as atmosphere
- Mysterious to cover up technical limitations
- Mysterious because it has a purpose

Even if it doesn't stand out like a sore thumb I think there should be some means of verifying whether an object leads to a secret quest. e.g. it gives a clue to a quest that will show if it's a dud or not. If there's no clue the player may have no idea what to do with it. I've had situations where I carried a mysterious looking object around and tried using it on anything that allowed the use option. I've had situations where I racked my brains for hours over a mysterious door that I couldn't open only to discover online that it's a door to a DLC I hadn't bought.

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EQ1 had items tagged "Lore" if they were used in quests. Something like this may be a simple easy to identify item system so people won't throw it away thinking it is worthless.

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If you want to give a hint, but not make it obvious, try making all important items contain gold embellishments or something that looks valuable. That way, the player will get used to the idea that embellished items are usually useful for something (like a quest). When they encounter that one plaque with the gold text, or edges, or whatever, they'll have a feeling that it might be useful, but for what? They'll have to find out for themselves ;)

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I'm not sure what the best answer is, but I'll share one of my pet gripes with you. It can be hard to tell the difference between:
- Mysterious as atmosphere
- Mysterious to cover up technical limitations
- Mysterious because it has a purpose

Even if it doesn't stand out like a sore thumb I think there should be some means of verifying whether an object leads to a secret quest. e.g. it gives a clue to a quest that will show if it's a dud or not. If there's no clue the player may have no idea what to do with it. I've had situations where I carried a mysterious looking object around and tried using it on anything that allowed the use option. I've had situations where I racked my brains for hours over a mysterious door that I couldn't open only to discover online that it's a door to a DLC I hadn't bought.


If you want to give a hint, but not make it obvious, try making all important items contain gold embellishments or something that looks valuable. That way, the player will get used to the idea that embellished items are usually useful for something (like a quest). When they encounter that one plaque with the gold text, or edges, or whatever, they'll have a feeling that it might be useful, but for what? They'll have to find out for themselves ;)

All of this. Also, if this side quest is really something I might want to see if I knew I had the option to see it, you might want to make it impossible for me to get rid of the item somehow, or at least make it easy to get it back.

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Thank you all for sharing your thoughts, it's really helped put my mind at ease.

I've decided on the following;

a) I don't like marking/identifying items as "quest" items. If there's a quest to collect items then the players should bloody well remember what it is they're trying to collect. Marking items as quest items feels like dumbing it down to me.

b) I'll make the plaque in question "pick-up-able", but non-quest plaques won't be. This might seem to contradict A), but on the up side it will at least make the player stop and think "why can I take this particular plaque? What use does it have?". It will hopefully make them stop and study the text, and the implications of its content.

I want this quest to remain "secret", as I don't want to spoon feed it to everyone. I want the players who consider/work out the issues to be rewarded for doing so.

cheers

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[color=#282828][font=helvetica, arial, verdana, tahoma, sans-serif]

If there's a quest to collect items then the players should bloody well remember what it is they're trying to collect.

[/font][/quote]

This is very dangerous logic. When a teen plays your game after school every single day, they never have a problem remembering what items they are collecting. But when a college student plays, he may get stuck in a rut where he's studying for midterms, applying to internships, and balancing his time with all sorts of other things. The last think you want to do as his source of entertainment is to punish him by not reminding that he's collecting item X. He hasn't played the game in weeks or months, so don't expect him to remember.

Unsurprisingly, I'm speaking this from experience, and I wouldn't be at all surprised to find that adults much older than me have had similar instances of this.

Don't be afraid of dumbing the game down in terms of remembering things that don't affect gameplay. Only be weary when it involves actual gameplay mechanics.

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b) I'll make the plaque in question "pick-up-able", but non-quest plaques won't be. This might seem to contradict A), but on the up side it will at least make the player stop and think "why can I take this particular plaque? What use does it have?". It will hopefully make them stop and study the text, and the implications of its content.


If the particular plaque in question is pick-up-able while all the others the player sees are not, what would make him think that he can pick up this one and carry it with him?

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[quote name='jzfredricks' timestamp='1328665282' post='4910723']
b) I'll make the plaque in question "pick-up-able", but non-quest plaques won't be. This might seem to contradict A), but on the up side it will at least make the player stop and think "why can I take this particular plaque? What use does it have?". It will hopefully make them stop and study the text, and the implications of its content.


If the particular plaque in question is pick-up-able while all the others the player sees are not, what would make him think that he can pick up this one and carry it with him?
[/quote]

Is there more to this question? A second part? It will be done in the same way as all other pick-up-able items. At this stage I've a "treasure" zone. The room description will describe the plaque, perhaps even display the text, and it will appear as treasure. The player can then pick it up if they want, which will allow them to re-read it.

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