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Links to the Past – Quest Design (Part 1)

August 2, 2010

Today I’d like to talk a bit about quest design. For this discussion I prepared a sample quest chain, which can be downloaded in my samples area.

But before we start, a short disclaimer:

Quest design is a very complex topic and can not be fully covered within a couple of blog post. With this post (and the following posts) I’d like to give you a short insight in my approach when designing a quest. Also please be aware, that designing a quest highly depends on the game and genre you’re working on. A quest for a RPG game is usually way more complex than a quest for a classic shooter.

Enough with the disclaimer, let’s start.

Step 1 (The Background):

Before I start designing a quest I usually like to spend some time with the background material, which is already available. The reason I’m doing this is, because I’d always like to let my quest be part of the game world, part of the overall story and that’s why I need to know what actually is going on in the fictional world. It also helps to talk with your peers from the lore development team, cause they usually can give you a great overview or even the details you need to know.

For the sample quest chain “Links to the past“, I picked the Warcraft lore as the background, because personally I really like the world of Warcraft and its highly detailed background. If you haven’t played World of Warcraft yet, I highly recommend you to get a guest account and start playing, because it is a master piece of MMO development and every game designer should have played it.

Step 2 (The High Concept):

After I spent some time thinking about the background, it is time to develop the hook for my quest. The hook can be seen as the high concept for the quest or quest chain.

For me the central questions, when designing the hook are:

  • Why is this quest fun to play?
  • What makes it unique to other quests?
  • What information will be given to the player about the lore?
  • How epic is this quest?

For the sample quest chain, I decided that my quest should expose the player a bit more to the background of the orcs. As the unique element I choose the fact that I want to give the player a kind of meaningful choice within the quest chain. Also the quest is designed to work for established heroes, who already reached level 70, but are not yet the epic heroes, that they would be with level 80.

Finally the most important question is, “Why is this quest fun to play?“. For the quest chain “Links to the Past” I imagined that the freedom of choice within this quest chain combined with classic game mechanics, will be a lot of fun. 

As I said before the question “Why is it fun?” is the most important one and I think you should only design something you like to play, because if you don’t enjoy your quest, why should someone else? It’s always good to embrace your inner child, when designing a quest and to let your mind wander to the places where you would have a lot of fun.

The final hook for the sample quest chain is: “Meet the past of the Horde and make your decision whom you’ll follow.” 

So much for part 1 of quest design, please check back later to see in part 2 what other steps I took, while designing “Links to the past“.

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