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Media => Single-Player RPGs => Topic started by: Kiem on June 23, 2011, 04:31:05 PM

Title: The Art of Quests
Post by: Kiem on June 23, 2011, 04:31:05 PM
Reading through old posts on the forum, I came across a thread about stories within RPGs and how important they are.

Well, that leads to a very important question: What kind of quests do you find interesting and fun? And is there any possibility for originality within quests these days?

You have your kill quests, your fetch quests, your escort quests, your collection quests...What else can there be?

Can you come up with interesting and unique quests for a single player RPG?
Title: Re: The Art of Quests
Post by: Commander Jubby Shepard on June 23, 2011, 04:35:07 PM
I don't personally mind those kinds of quests so long as they have good rewards. The best kind are ones that do have their own side stories, like the ones in Nier and Mass Effect. What's even better is when they have their own dungeons that have unique mechanics or use old mechanics in unique ways.

And I can't make quests off the top of my head. I'd need more time and an actual game to make sidequests for.
Title: Re: The Art of Quests
Post by: Eusis on June 23, 2011, 04:40:14 PM
THIS is where I tend to value narrative most in an RPG. I guess it's part of why Dragon Quest can be so appealing, those little vignettes you can watch unfold and (usually) participate in, but it applies just as strongly in stuff like Bioware's best and other WRPGs where the focus isn't on loot, the quest about the rival farm families in Knights of the Old Republic really sticks out to me. Ones that are simply about beating up on enemies for awhile meanwhile tend to be my least liked, especially when done as awfully as in NieR, I want unique objectives or at least something like "reach point A, do thing, go to point B for other activity".
Title: Re: The Art of Quests
Post by: Vanguard on June 23, 2011, 05:00:54 PM
At their most basic level, I don't think much room exists for innovation in quests. That's not to say they're uninteresting, but the basic framework is pretty static most of the time. What really makes them interesting is what their ability to add flavor to a world or locale, introduce new characters, or strengthen the bonds between the ones in your party.

Take Radiant Historia. This game has all of the aforementioned quests, but none of them exist within the confines of their basic formula. Each time a new plot node is added, you are given the chance to further explore the world. This is a rare case, and certainly one of the best examples, but at no moment do the quests reduce to "go here and kill this monster" or "go here and retrieve this item."
Title: Re: The Art of Quests
Post by: hanako on June 23, 2011, 05:16:52 PM
Quote
You have your kill quests, your fetch quests, your escort quests, your collection quests...What else can there be?

... Talking to people, coming to conclusions, and making decisions?

But then, I'm a VN player. :) I enjoy learning about the world and choosing who to side with. That makes things much more interesting than just killing ten foozles.
Title: Re: The Art of Quests
Post by: Kevadu on June 23, 2011, 05:17:41 PM
At their most basic level, I don't think much room exists for innovation in quests.

I don't think I could disagree more.  Just because a lot of game developers don't have much innovation in their quests doesn't mean that it can't be done.  I will pretty much echo Eusis's sentiments here, but the best quests are one that have some actual depth to them.  They don't have to be world-changing events (in fact they probably shouldn't be, they are side material after all), but that doesn't mean they can't have well-developed characters and occasional twists and turns.  Bioware sometimes gets this right, but certainly not always.  

But yeah, there's nothing more boring than 'collect n units of material A' or 'kill monster X'.  Developers put those sort of quests in because it's easy to do and considered safe and reliable.

Actually, I'm going to contradict myself for a second and note that the hunts in FFXII were an example of 'kill monster X' quests that I really enjoyed.  But that was because there was often some research and planning involved in even finding said monsters and sometimes you also needed special tactics to be able to take them out.  Furthermore, if you do enough of thoses quests you should know that there actually were some unexpected twists and turns.  So yeah, I guess even that sort of quest can be done well.  Rarely is, though.

A side comment, but one thing I find really makes me more likely to engage in sidequests is some sort of in-game quest log.  More and more games do this sort of thing now, but still not all of them.  But it's really helpful for games that you're not necessarily playing all the time.
Title: Re: The Art of Quests
Post by: CDFN on June 23, 2011, 07:35:18 PM
I like:

-When they end up adding a new character to your party (like vincent and yuffie in FF7)
-When they are relevant to the game's main plot and influence its outcome (like Mass Effect 2)
-When they allow you to discover locations and monsters that you wouldn't see otherwise (some of the most beautiful locations in the last remnant weren't part of the main plot)
-A good self-contained story is enough to make a sidequest worthwhile, Nier has lots of those.

These things allow the sidequests to feel relevant instead of a waste of time. You already fight thousands of enemies when playing through the main plot, giving the player a half-assed pretext to fight a few more of the same monsters by just having a NPC spout a couple of lines is not a good sidequest.
Title: Re: The Art of Quests
Post by: Kiem on June 23, 2011, 08:57:21 PM
So from the sounds of the replies thus far, the wheel isn't broken, people just don't know how to use it properly.

A good story and narrative with strong and meaningful goals make a good quest. That sound about right?

This helps a lot guys! Thanks for input and keep them coming!

I believe that quests are one of the hardest features to master in an RPG.
Title: Re: The Art of Quests
Post by: Fei on June 23, 2011, 09:22:19 PM
*cries at the memory of Square*

Chrono Trigger did it like 1000 years ago.  You hardly realize you're questing when you are just exploring and getting a full helping of valid narrative.  Maybe the quest WAS to kill <however many enemies you killed before the cutscene>, but who is counting? 

Who is counting dawg, yo, you're in it to win it dawg
Title: Re: The Art of Quests
Post by: Vanguard on June 23, 2011, 09:35:01 PM
At their most basic level, I don't think much room exists for innovation in quests.

I don't think I could disagree more.  Just because a lot of game developers don't have much innovation in their quests doesn't mean that it can't be done.  I will pretty much echo Eusis's sentiments here, but the best quests are one that have some actual depth to them.  They don't have to be world-changing events (in fact they probably shouldn't be, they are side material after all), but that doesn't mean they can't have well-developed characters and occasional twists and turns.  Bioware sometimes gets this right, but certainly not always.  

Did you read my post?

Quests, at their most basic level, are pretty linear. No matter how many twists you throw at the player, it's still always, "Go here and find this person/kill this monster/collect these items." That's the setup part, anyway. Once you're out doing it, the rules can be thrown out the window.
Title: Re: The Art of Quests
Post by: Der Jermeister on June 23, 2011, 10:34:19 PM
I find quests that actually add to a game's story most interesting and fun.
Title: Re: The Art of Quests
Post by: Dincrest on June 23, 2011, 10:56:23 PM
When it comes to sidequests, my favorites were the ones on the Hunter's Board in Phantasy Star IV.  I always did all of them every time I played the game, and I rarely touch more than a couple of sidequests.  What I liked about them was that they had subplots and enhanced the worldbuilding.  I can't imagine playing Phantasy Star IV without the sidequests, so that's done right to me. 

Personally, I'm not a fan of the chained fetch quest.  The escort quests are painful if the person you're bodyguarding is incompetent.  Like in Phantasy Star Online, it was a pleasure escorting Matha Graves because she had competent AI, unlike Mome or Shino who would win Darwin awards for sure. 

So, yeah, quests that enhance the worldbuilding and narrative through cool subplots are cool.  As long as the quest doesn't feel like needless busywork. 
Title: Re: The Art of Quests
Post by: Bytor on June 24, 2011, 12:00:18 AM
Add to the story, very simple request. Simply going from point A to point B and back simply to get some $$ or experience strikes me as pointless.
Title: Re: The Art of Quests
Post by: Darklight on June 24, 2011, 12:08:33 AM
Personal quests that explain more of your extra characters life/situation can enhance the over all game experience, if not too sappy. Fetch this/that, kill this many thingies are just there for leveling purposes or training.
Title: Re: The Art of Quests
Post by: Lard on June 24, 2011, 01:16:44 AM
As much as I liked Nier, I have to agree with Eusis that the sidequests were terrible in that game.

Also agree that a quest that gives you a character or narrative moment is better than a fetch quest. Suikoden was good for that sometimes.
Title: Re: The Art of Quests
Post by: Maxximum on June 24, 2011, 11:58:22 AM
I like side quests that have their own story arch. Not just "bring me 10 wolf furs to gain some XP and a healing potion" since my only drive to do them usually comes from the urge to "do everything". More often than not, this proves to be more tedious and annoying than it is actually fun.
Title: Re: The Art of Quests
Post by: Kiem on June 24, 2011, 02:58:20 PM
I see a lot of games being mentioned for their quality in quests, but are there specific quests you guys can point to that is the embodiment of the ideal elements that make a perfect quest/quest line?
Title: Re: The Art of Quests
Post by: Dincrest on June 24, 2011, 04:49:06 PM
I mentioned Phantasy Star 4's quests.  None of the quests rewrote the book on questing, but they were fun because they had great narratives, subplots, and were manageable in size and scope.  They never felt tedious.  Even "The Stain in Life" was fun for me, but would be a pointless rip off quest in any other RPG.  So, more or less, what made any given quest in Phantasy Star good was that it "made vegetables delectable" to quote a salad dressing's ad slogan. 

Here's summaries of the quests: http://www.phantasy-star.net/psiv/jobs.html

In addition, accessing them was pretty easy.  I didn't feel like I needed to go out of my way to find them or complete them.  When quests and secrets feel like they're there just to sell strategy guides, that bugs me.  There also weren't too many or too few of them.  I wanted to get 100% completion and 9 times out of 10, I never go for 100%. 

So, really, the value in Phantasy Star 4's quests was not in the rewards, but in the intrinsic value (namely the worldbuilding, subplots, and additional character development.)  Though the reward was a nice bonus.  It's the difference between getting a good paycheck for a job you loathe going to vs. getting a meager paycheck for a job you absolutely love. 

Title: Re: The Art of Quests
Post by: Danku on June 29, 2011, 07:12:48 PM
Like Maxximum said, I also enjoy quests that have their own story arch. I thought the Saga series was pretty good at that. 
Title: Re: The Art of Quests
Post by: Aeolus on June 29, 2011, 08:19:54 PM
I typically prefer sidequests where the character can go and do something like address some issue lingering from their past or something or just something they do on the side like romance someone. Something that can be used to build the character without having to bog down the main plot. Basically something ala FFVI where the end game opens up and you can go about rerecruiting party members as well as resolving some hanging issues that they've kept putting off while the world was still in balance and not in ruin where some lingering memory of the past would remind them of something they took for granted or just simply ignored until now (like Daryl's Tomb, the Phoenix Esper sidequests, and many more).

Too bad most sidequests are either filler used to keep you in the current region long enough to make use of the current level of equipment, are shoehorned into the main quest at really inappropriate times, are only ever about the main character, involve whiny NPCs who can't do anything on their own or are too lazy to do whatever menial tasks that's on their agenda yet can somehow inexplicably afford the services of whatever do-gooding party is in the general vicinity, or some combination of the above.
Title: Re: The Art of Quests
Post by: Britton on June 30, 2011, 09:13:22 AM
I like any of them if they are interesting, well written/thought out and have something to do with the storyline or world that game is taking place in. Sacred 2 is a good example of BAD sidequests. Most of them had nothing to do with anything and seemed like they were thought up in minutes. Dungeons Siege 3 had decent side quests, most of which seemed like part of the main quest. And they lasted more than 2 minutes.
Title: Re: The Art of Quests
Post by: Dincrest on June 30, 2011, 10:04:20 AM
I typically prefer sidequests where the character can go and do something like address some issue lingering from their past or something or just something they do on the side like romance someone. Something that can be used to build the character without having to bog down the main plot. Basically something ala FFVI where the end game opens up and you can go about rerecruiting party members as well as resolving some hanging issues that they've kept putting off while the world was still in balance and not in ruin where some lingering memory of the past would remind them of something they took for granted or just simply ignored until now (like Daryl's Tomb, the Phoenix Esper sidequests, and many more).


I'll +1 this definitely.  For example, my favorite sidequest in FF8 was hooking up Zell with the library girl.  Hell of a lot better love story than the main ones, that's for sure.  World building and character development sidequests for the win. 

Septerra Core had well-intentioned sidequests.  In that game if characters hated each other, they'd attack each other in battles so the game had sidequests where they could reconcile or at least learn to tolerate each other.  Of course, the game itself was slowly paced and had overly long dungeons so I wasn't as motivated to do them.  So even the best intentions can be betrayed by poor game design. 
Title: Re: The Art of Quests
Post by: Alisha on June 30, 2011, 01:00:39 PM
while i enjoy the quests that advance side stories(those in ffxi in particularly were excellent) i also really enjoyed the mark hunts in FFXII.
Title: Re: The Art of Quests
Post by: Kiem on July 01, 2011, 08:16:33 AM
Another question is how many mediocre side quests can a game get away with? 5 kill quests for every good side quest? What's the ratio that a developer can get away with before the game is considered a side quest filler?
Title: Re: The Art of Quests
Post by: Starmongoose on July 01, 2011, 08:23:39 AM
You can dress up a simple kill quest with cheap, quick character development thus making to not feel like a generic fetch quest. People would be enticed to play though them not only for the reward but for a few bits of dialogue from characters that helps them get to know them. It's still filler, but less obnoxious about it.
Title: Re: The Art of Quests
Post by: Dincrest on July 01, 2011, 11:26:59 AM
Yeah, a simple fetch quest can be given personality by having the characters comment on it.  Sometimes, that makes a bitter pill easier to swallow.  Like in Revelations: Persona when Maggie made the party go through a 12 story dungeon twice in a row and did all kinds of bullshit stuff to piss off the player, conversations with Nate would have him ranting about how bullshit this is, and I felt like, "Ahhh, the characters think this is bullshit too.  Immersion!"  

Of course, the one quest type that I feel would still annoy me even if dressed up is the chained fetch quest.  I'm surprised I was as tolerant of them in Crimson Gem Saga as I was because I hate them.  Some of the Breath of Fire games are notorious offenders there.    

As for ratio, I'd go with 5 or fewer "empty calorie/ quick snack" quests for every beefy one.  Just as long as the missions don't repeat constantly (i.e. the stupid Dudbear quests in Children of Mana) so there is a sense of accomplishment and doesn't feel like an endless void of "what's the point?" 
Title: Re: The Art of Quests
Post by: jphussey on July 01, 2011, 01:56:45 PM
I think Radiant Historia figured out Quests just nicely
Title: Re: The Art of Quests
Post by: Alan_01987 on July 01, 2011, 03:42:09 PM
So far, from my experience, I like quests that make me explore and travel to find hidden areas, involved gathering treasure chests and hidden bosses. I dont like quests that have a storyline because i want to play on my own pace.
Title: Re: The Art of Quests
Post by: Aeolus on July 02, 2011, 06:01:26 AM
Another question is how many mediocre side quests can a game get away with? 5 kill quests for every good side quest? What's the ratio that a developer can get away with before the game is considered a side quest filler?

In the old days I'd point to a Lufia game and be done with it. Nowadays I point to shit like that DS Kingdom Hearts game which is nothing but useless sidequests. At least the first two Lufia games had a decent plot bookending the useless filler dungeons/meaningless fetch quests (especially 2 because even though the reasons for entering most dungeons were superficial at most, many of the dungeons themselves were well designed enough to be worth going through at least once).


Also, I'll +1 the Radiant Historia getting it right comment.
Title: Re: The Art of Quests
Post by: Alan_01987 on July 02, 2011, 06:38:04 PM
Another question is how many mediocre side quests can a game get away with? 5 kill quests for every good side quest? What's the ratio that a developer can get away with before the game is considered a side quest filler?
Also, I'll +1 the Radiant Historia getting it right comment.
You mean by finishing 10 specific optional quests to have an impact on the ending(AKA true ending)?
Personally I don't like the side quests in RH because the time travel mechanics(AKA quests) were messy . it is basically a straight lines, and any deviations just end the game and the the bad endings don't do much to contribute to the overall story. Radiant Historia doesn't get it right at all unless i am missing something ?
Title: Re: The Art of Quests
Post by: Demon_Princess_Kay on July 02, 2011, 06:46:28 PM
To me quests have to be rewarding whether it comes in the form of rare items, exp etc or expanding on a characters back story or stuff like that. It doesn't matter what the quest entails of as long as i get something worthwhile from it.
Title: Re: The Art of Quests
Post by: Prime Mover on July 02, 2011, 10:44:59 PM
I like a fetch quest if you don't realize it's a fetch quest, or the number of items in the quest is ambiguous. Some games do a great job at taking a fetch quest and completely turning it upside down. Like halfway through the quest you're forced to abandon the quest because of some reason. I remember FFIX did a really good job with this kind of thing.
Title: Re: The Art of Quests
Post by: Aeolus on July 03, 2011, 02:04:55 AM
Another question is how many mediocre side quests can a game get away with? 5 kill quests for every good side quest? What's the ratio that a developer can get away with before the game is considered a side quest filler?
Also, I'll +1 the Radiant Historia getting it right comment.
You mean by finishing 10 specific optional quests to have an impact on the ending(AKA true ending)?
Personally I don't like the side quests in RH because the time travel mechanics(AKA quests) were messy . it is basically a straight lines, and any deviations just end the game and the the bad endings don't do much to contribute to the overall story. Radiant Historia doesn't get it right at all unless i am missing something ?

You must have missed the bad end where drunken baby Marco goes apeshit and nearly TPKs the entire party. You don't see anything like that in sidequests from other games due to the fact that you'll only get one shot at them, and most of the time all they can do is net you some extra cash for farming a few boar tusks or the game's equivalent.

Basically what I'm trying to say is that sure it has its own filler quests. Games that have sidequests have filler ones since not everything you do changes the world in grand sweeping ways. But in RH its got like 30 sidequests, of those a third of them directly impact the story. And none of the above involve the side quests featuring skill gaining sidequests. There's also the fact that other sidequests confer characters with some of their best equips over the course of the game rather than dog piling them at the end. Think of it this way, how many side quests in Chrono Trigger affect the ending and how many of them don't? RH has probably the best mix going due to the fact that there are so many side quests worth doing and more importantly, there's no blink and you miss them permanently sidequests like so many other games have. Yes RH is incredibly linear when you get down to it, but it has to be given how much freedom the time and space travel mechanic gives. There's nothing stopping you from visiting the Sand Fortress, Granog, or Cygnus once you first access them nor are you forever locked out of Alsteel when the plot says you can't be here right now because you can always go back to when its still available to you.
Title: Re: The Art of Quests
Post by: Soulreaper on July 03, 2011, 10:16:03 PM
I like quests which actually make you care about the task, and make you want to complete the quest instead of just wanting to get over with it to get the rewards, or the ones which start as relatively simple, but turn out to be something a lot bigger and more significant. Overall quests, that are more like small adventures instead of mindless fetching or killing quests. Baldur's Gate 2 for example has got it right; investigate a mysterious cult holed up in sewers beneath the city - save a town being attacked by wild animals for some reason - your party member becomes aware, that his former wife has given birth to their child after he left, and you got to deal with it - find out why people of a small rural village keep disappearing at night - solve the mystery of people murdered and skinned for no apparent logical reason - a noble hires you to kill a bunch of ogres marauding his lands, but it turns out to be something quite different - find a caretaker for an orphan child, and so on and so on, no "go there, kill chickens and bring me 10 chicken lips-bullshit. And all of these are completely optional, yet full of interesting stories and dialogue, different ways to accomplish them, choices to make and usually proper rewards. I also like (optional) quests considering your party members, which open up their background and in the end make the character stronger.

Overall I think sidequests tend to be a lot better and more numerous in wrpgs than in jrpgs where there are usually very few of them, and they tend to be simple "talk to person A, talk to person B, talk to person C and kill monster D, or just those simple fetching quests. Not that they always suck of course, everything in moderation.
Title: Re: The Art of Quests
Post by: Eusis on July 03, 2011, 11:48:21 PM
Another question is how many mediocre side quests can a game get away with? 5 kill quests for every good side quest? What's the ratio that a developer can get away with before the game is considered a side quest filler?
Also, I'll +1 the Radiant Historia getting it right comment.
You mean by finishing 10 specific optional quests to have an impact on the ending(AKA true ending)?
Personally I don't like the side quests in RH because the time travel mechanics(AKA quests) were messy . it is basically a straight lines, and any deviations just end the game and the the bad endings don't do much to contribute to the overall story. Radiant Historia doesn't get it right at all unless i am missing something ?

Play Nier, ATTEMPT several side quests, then come back. What Radiant Historia gets right is that few (if any?) are merely about beating X number of enemies or grinding some stupid item off of them. Ys Seven did similar as Nier actually, but was generally more tolerable about it because each enemy was liable to drop a ton of crap anyway. I guess if you prefer those kinds of quests then, yeah, Radiant Historia did it "wrong".

Anyways, I think the filler quest tolerance has more to do with how much they drown out the neater quests and how essential they are to bother with. Nier was mostly great for its story, and you only needed to do a few quests to see every ending, so despite having some of the worst quests in a game it was still acceptable, not to mention a good chunk of those quests DID have interesting story material. However, unlike Nier Dragon Age separated the quests that were pretty much gather X number of items by putting them on bulletin boards and whatnot, whereas the more interesting quests were initiated with the NPCs. So even if it's 10 to 1 you'd still be able to ignore the dumb grindy ones and zone in on the interesting ones.