Andrew Barker
Mobile Side-Quests and the Cat Emperor
New ideas about integrating mobile devices and console games.
10.12.14 - 12:33 PM

All hail Rollo, Emperor of cats!

If you haven't had the chance to play it yet, Tales of Xillia 2 features a game-long side-quest that's all about collecting kitties. Maniacs who can control the flow of time are on the loose, but Ludger and friends are out there hunting down 100 cats all across the world. The kittens hide out in nooks and crannies, and recovering them allows you to then send out cat minions to that area and bring back rare items. It's incredibly basic in premise (think 100 Gold Skulltulas in Ocarina of Time without any of the puzzle solving to actually nab them), but I found it effective in providing motivation to explore areas I'd already been through in Xillia 1.

It also got me thinking.

A new trend in the video game market, particularly among larger companies with AAA titles, is to release iOS and Android compendium apps. Many of these are large-scale endeavours, like Final Fantasy XIV's Libra Eorzea or Destiny's Companion App, but what if these were more widely used on a smaller scale? Let's go back to Tales of Xillia 2 as an example. After actually catching the cats, sending them out to hunt down items is simply a matter of waiting. Once a certain period of time has passed, the cat returns with their treasure. In that sense, it doesn't really add a lot to the game; you have little direct input on how their actions play out. Instead, what if it were contained to an external mobile app?

Even while not actually playing Xillia, you could send out cat minions to stock up on items and then sync/send them to your console to use while playing. It removes a mildly tedious task from the game, lets you continue to play the game (in a way) on the go, and it's a great marketing tool for Bandai to keep you thinking about their products. Of course, cost is a factor, so it wouldn't be possible for the vast majority of smaller companies, but I think it's a potentially interesting area for expansion. In order to finish my cat-collecting item list, I left my PlayStation 3 on for extended periods of time anyway, so it would have been far more convenient to have on my mobile device.

As exhilarating as sending out cats is, there's plenty of other side-quest-related uses mobile apps could have. You might remember that Pokémon HeartGold & SoulSilver (and I'm sure there are other examples) already did it. Those two games came with the Pokéwalker: a Tamagotchi-style electronic item that you could catch Pokémon and items on, and then later send them to your game.

I actually took mine overseas with me in 2010. I played my full SoulSilver game at night before bed, but took my Pokéwalker with me everywhere. I racked up tens of thousands of steps, which was quite a nice bonus to the sightseeing I did. It was a simple device, but technology has progressed a long way, even since that relatively short time ago. Now imagine if you could breed Pokémon on an external device by walking around in real life, not just riding your bicycle back-and-forth past the daycare centre for hours.

What else? How about performing alchemy in Skyrim on your device? You could send over materials from the game, spend some time brewing it all together, and then send the potions back. In Xenoblade, it could keep track of those hundreds of quests and allow you to craft gems and then sync them back over. In the Atelier series, the options would be endless: mini-game like side-quests that raise your ratings, alchemy, quest management, and more. Considering Square Enix's recent releases on mobile, it's easy to picture them incorporating it for Final Fantasy XV in some way, too.

There are definitely ways external devices can go wrong though: syncing issues, potential online requirements, hacking, DLC abuse, and so on, but I think there's fun potential there, too. While technology for more impressive console to mobile game technology is already there (Wii U Gamepad), smaller uses are being overlooked. The 3DS' StreetPass features are on the right track, though for most games the benefits it brings are not particularly substantial, and they rely on you living in a heavily populated area.

Are mobile side-quests necessary? Definitely not. But could they be fun? Definitely yes.


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