Thursday, June 7, 2012

No quest log clutter

The problem with many RPGs of today - both single-player and multi-player - is that they figuratively bombard the player with quests. When you come to a new town you can quickly fill your quest log with 10 or so unrelated things to do. The order in which to do them is left to you. When you are like me, you prioritize all these quests after practical concerns: minimizing travel time, prioritizing quests with rewards I need, or do those first with the lowest level requirement.

The problem with that is that it really kills the narration of each individual quest. Adventuring and storytelling is replaced with managing a checklist. How can you expect the player to follow ten story arcs simultaneously?

For that reason I think that it would be better to abandon the quest log for a mission system like the GTA series. I give you lots of quests to choose from, and you are free to do them in any order you like. But you can only have one active quest at a time. You can abort a quest when you are stuck, but then you have to start it from the beginning. Quests won't be that long, so you won't have to redo too much. Longer storylines will consist of a series of many consequitve quests. The next quest of the series should be offered right after the previous, so that it's clear that they belong together. They still give you the option to decline for now and pursue other quests first.

That way you will be able to fully immerse yourself in the story of a quest without being distracted by the twenty other quests on your questlog.

But what about sidequests? Little surprise challenges along the way? These should also have a space, but they need to be designed in a way that they can be done in the direct vicinity so that you aren't taken too far away from the quest you pursue at the moment.

How will this look in practice? Quest givers will still be marked with different icons telling you 1. if they offer a quest of a new line or the continuation of an existing one (shape) and 2. the length of the quest line (color). These icons will be visible while being on a different quest, but you won't be able to interact with the quest givers yet.

Quest lengths:

quick: a single quest which can be done in the direct vicinity of the quest giver. These can be taken without interrupting an on-going quest because they will be too short to distract too much.
short: a single quest which requires some travelling.
medium: 2-3 consecutive quests, or one with a very long travelling distance and/or multiple optional sidequests along the way.
long: 4-6 consecutive quests, or less but with long travel distances
epic: 7 or more stations, might include planned interruptions where the next quest giver won't be obvious right away or which have "nested" quests - quests which require that other questlines (which will be integrated into the narration) have to be completed in-between.

Example for an epic quests with nesting: 1. find out about an artefact which is broken into three pieces, 2- complete three separate medium-length quests to collect the pieces, 3. reconstruct the artefact 4. use it to destroy a boss monster.

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