SIDE QUESTS: WHY?

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Side quests are a pretty common things in video games. Some games, like Fallout 3, are pretty much ONLY side quests, with the main story being extremely short (~10 hours for an RPG? pff!). But... why do we feel the need to jam so many optional quests into the game?

I mean, I understand not wanting to FORCE the player to go and collect ten apples or fifteen wolf pelts or whatever other shitty side quests you can think of, but there are plenty of very interesting objectives and missions that can be totally overlooked in some games. Sometimes, these quests fill in gaps left by the main story, or offer additional details on the matter. Why are these interesting, story-related quests left out of the main arc? It seems like we, as RPGMakers, are conditioned to add side quests just... because... OTHER GAMES HAVE THEM!

Unless your game is very reward oriented and side quests are the main route to gaining more power to make the main game easier (which is sometimes the case) or the side quests are extremely time consuming and you expect players to replay your game over and over again (which is the case for Fallout 3, which I mentioned earlier) there is no good reason to not have your interesting side quests tie into the main plotline some how. If the quests are fun, then the player will be happy for the additional gameplay (who doesn't with their favourite RPGs were a little longer?). If they aren't fun, they have no business being your game, anyways.

There is another topic going on about people investigating; one thing people are forced to investigate is possible openings for new side quests. But if you just make those optional missions parts of the story, then you can rest assured the player will be seeing your story, fully fleshed out, displayed to them as opposed to hoping they are being really thorough and finding every snippet themselves.

Now I'm not saying do away with side quests; far from it. Just have those interesting side quests tie into your main storyline wherever they are applicable. Nobody really wants to be moving from Point A to Point B and get sidetracked twenty times to do stupid things, but most players like to be derailed to do something interesting on an otherwise boring leg of the story/main quest. There is a balance in here.

Western RPGs are particularly guilty of inundating the player with a huge number of optional missions which aren't really optional. Missions that you theoretically want to do, but don't advance the story. The problem is (AND THIS IS MY MAJOR POINT POORLY CONCEALED IN THE SECOND TO LAST PARAGRAPH) that you have to do them to succeed. If you don't do the side quests, you're underlevelled/out of money/embarrassingly powerless in the face of evil. I suppose you have some lee way in terms of which ones you do, but when there is an obvious correlation between Doing Quests and Being Stronger, most people are going to choose "All of the Above" when it comes to side quest selection.

It seems like an excuse, to me, to add content without bothering to actually tie it into your game properly. Anything can be fitted into a 40+ hour epic if the story is interesting enough in the first place, since it should take the player to all corners of the game world (which isn't necessarily a world, as it could be a city or a cave or the galaxy, depending on the scope of your game). What are your takes on it? Why do you guys add side quests instead of tying that content into the main story?
I keep purely "side" quests to a minimum. I find that unless you are advancing the story or plot (or even characterization) in some minimal way the sidequest is a waste of time. The few sidequests I do keep are usually obvious and the rewards great. But they almost always fall into the "You have to do the sidequest or you're underpowered" category.

For fun from my FUNdamentals articles:

The Lazy Quest-o-matic

Having trouble coming up with that last quest needed to finish your game? Need a few diversionary sidequests and are fresh out of ideas? Then grab a normal six-sided die and start The Lazy Quest-o-matic. Make two rolls, and apply the results as below:

First Roll:
If Roll is: The action of the quest is to:
1 Liberate/Recover/Intercept
2 Destroy/Kill
3 Guard/Defend
4 Transport/Escort/Journey To
5 Create/Build/Summon
6 Gather Information About

Second Roll:
If Roll is: The object of the quest is to:
1 Item
2 NPC
3 Message/Data
4 Secret or Dangerous Location
5 Magical Equipment/Technology
6 Monster

Note for all the actions that there are contingencies separated by slashes. It would be pretty strange to Escort a Dangerous Location. You are, of course, not restricted to this list. Make your own list, or use a higher-numbered die. Or add a third die with a setting (cave/dungeon, forest, tower, temple, castle/village, swamp).

Disclaimer: This is a place to get a quest idea started. Overly randomized games tend to be disorganized and somewhat silly. Employ quests that are tied in to the problem and circumstances of your world.

EDIT:

This is also relevant:
The Fundamental Concepts

Provide Real Benefit to the Avatar. Never send players off on a quest that does not directly benefit them in some way.

Give Proportional Rewards. The reward should be proportional to the risk posed by undertaking it. Make the quest worth the effort.

Maintain Forward Momentum. If possible, try to structure your quests so that they propel the player forward through the game. Avoid needless backtracking just so that the player can receive their reward or return to the main storyline. At the very least provide a shortcut for them to return to their previously visited locations.

Support the Story Line Attempt to make the quests support the game's larger theme so that the player feels as though their actions are relevant.
You've sort of hit the nail on the head, Mr. Anderson.

One of the problems with side quests is that they generally fall into two categories:
1) Generic; acting as low-quality filler
2) Interesting; something players will never pass up by choice

Which means that 1s have no place in the game and 2s are something that could easily exist inside the storyline and the player would be glad of it. There are also "hidden" side quests which I think are really the only acceptable form. If they're hidden, then they act as a reward in and of themselves, which is neat. Plus, you learn secrets about the game world. Guild missions are an interesting diversion, in theory, but having them be a mainstay in a game tends to cause the player to lose focus/interest in the main story.

For your Fundamental Concepts portion point 3 is a very important one (maybe even... fundamental) that people (including professionals) seem to overlook: Nobody wants to backtrack for three hours to Rinkydinkville to get their sweet bag of gold for slaying a troll!
I'm all for side quests. Since I'm one of those western/tabletop RPGers my ideal is that the player should be able to choose what he wants or doesn't want to do. So I don't like the idea of forcing a main quest down someone's throat. Instead in true tabletop fashion slowly lure them into doing what you want them to do.

Say the main quest is that the bad guy needs to be defea... uh... encountered. So through different quests you first find out about the bad guy. Then perhaps meet a minion or two of the bad guy's (meetings that may or may not result in violence depending on previous choices) to finally encounter the main bad guy and deal with him the way you see fit. (usually in a boss battle but sometimes in an offer to "together we can rule the galaxy...")

Of course over the course of the game you meet people that have their own opinions of the bad guy and that may influence your decisions about the bad guy later on. And all of this is really just a bunch of "side quests" in the sense that "everything is optional. You pick your path."

This is of course the ideal. The end result is always something quite different.
I'm with Shinan or this but the way I see it, side quests and optional paths within the game seek to interact with the player and immense him more completely in the game, in ways of providing, perhaps not useful, but rather ear-candy, characterization or a small part of something bigger which may affect the outcome of a greater quest (not to mention finding the occasional magical sword perhaps, who whould pass that up?).

Right now, I am enjoying Dragon Age: Origins and I can tell you that I'm doing some side-quests to either;
a) update my codex (information and immersion in the game)
b) hear what me and my allies have to say about it (esp. if it is connected to one of my characters; then it gets REALLY interesting)
or c) the reward or quest itself is intriguing enough.

The same, above, applies for most westen RPGs I've played, providing they offer such possibilities and are good, of course. But the main point here being; as I said before, I like side quest, but (in addition) in order for them to not be a waste of time, acts of grinding or unrewarding distractions, they need a relevance to the game's world and more specifically, the player's interest. The actual gameplay reward of a side-quest is motivating and should be chosen with concern but should not be the REASON for the side quest and player's interest all-together. That's called a time-sink, grinding, MMO or something of the like.
Despite
When the going gets tough, go fuck yourself.
1317
I tend to like sidequests that might not necessarily further the main plot but might unveil some interesting facts about some of the characters.

For example: (a bad one but just so you understand :V)
One of the sidequests leads you to the hometown of one of the characters (not the main character :V) and you learn some neat things about him/her as you complete this sidequest.


Sounds basic, yea, and a bad idea if your game has cardboard character personalities, but for those juicy plot games with interesting characters it's always a treat for the player.


At least I think so when I play a good rpg game...

A sidequest doesn't always have to involve beating some insane monster or finding hidden weapons.
post=106094
Western RPGs are particularly guilty of inundating the player with a huge number of optional missions which aren't really optional. Missions that you theoretically want to do, but don't advance the story. The problem is (AND THIS IS MY MAJOR POINT POORLY CONCEALED IN THE SECOND TO LAST PARAGRAPH) that you have to do them to succeed. If you don't do the side quests, you're underlevelled/out of money/embarrassingly powerless in the face of evil. I suppose you have some lee way in terms of which ones you do, but when there is an obvious correlation between Doing Quests and Being Stronger, most people are going to choose "All of the Above" when it comes to side quest selection.


There's an enormous difference between having to do some side quests to be competitive and having to do all of them to advance. The former situation gives the player considerable control over the length and difficulty of the game. It's true that players often don't take 100% advantage of that until a replay, but if you look at that paragon of the wRPG, Baldur's Gate 2, it's pretty staggering to consider being forced to do all the sidequests available - or even receiving all of them in some linear fashion.
I'm a lazy game over, so I almost always skip side quests.

When making games, I have put an effort to into putting more and more optional stuff to do if you ever want to take a "break" from the main game.
I actually dislike games that are completely linear. Illusion of Gaia comes to mind, where (if I remember correctly) you couldn't even revisit a previous location. It was just a forward push to the end. I feel like side quests are an interesting way of breaking up the monotony (of course, this is only true if they don't pile on more monotony).
Maybe if the linear part of the game is monotonous then you're playing a bad game?

Having a non-linear story/quest structure isn't the only way to break up monotony. Look at Diablo 2. Same quests every time in the same order but the game keeps itself fresh through other means (random mapping, random loot, random(ish) monsters, increasing difficulty settings, etc...). Of course we can't really do that in RM but we can adhere to the principle of it by always striving to keep the game fresh and satisfying.
Side quests to me are more of like just extra things that you can do to build yourself up. Many sidequests generally have rewards, and these rewards generally help you complete the games. And if you're like me, you like to do EVERYTHING in a game eventually, so side quests often offer nice replay value (unless you do them all on your first playthrough, which I usually don't.) Plus, if you do end up beating the game, wrapping up those last sidequests allows you to enjoy that game to the fullest for just a little longer.
post=106652
Maybe if the linear part of the game is monotonous then you're playing a bad game?

Having a non-linear story/quest structure isn't the only way to break up monotony. Look at Diablo 2. Same quests every time in the same order but the game keeps itself fresh through other means (random mapping, random loot, random(ish) monsters, increasing difficulty settings, etc...). Of course we can't really do that in RM but we can adhere to the principle of it by always striving to keep the game fresh and satisfying.


Exactly. There's no reason not to have different ways to do the same thing. That increases replay value, especially if it makes you do the next thing differently, and so on. But finding ten apples or killing twelve vile rats in the sewers for their vile rat pelts isn't a good addition to the game unless you have really fun combat. If you have really fun combat, everyone will love being rewarded for killing twelve vile rats!
arcan
Having a signature is too mainstream. I'm not part of your system!
1791
I would assume side quests are all the things you wanted to add to the game but you couldn't/were to lazy to connect them to the storyline. Sometimes people just want to feel like they have a choice, it doesn't really matter if they do or not.
tardis
is it too late for ironhide facepalm
285
Side quests are, I think, an awesome way to alleviate the need for grinding in games that employ battles/level ups/etc. Providing they're interesting enough, challenging enough, and the rewards are worthwhile enough, I'd much rather do an interesting side quest (good example: the final fantasy tactics series' missions) than just kill dinosaurs in the dinosaur forest. AHEM FF6 :/
I don't have much to contribute here that hasn't been covered but guys this thread is seriously bitchin' and informative and my game will be better for having read it.

My take was that side quests were a great outlet for both the player and the designer so they didn't get totally sick of the main quest, and to introduce wacky but fun gameplay mechanics that wouldn't really fit anywhere else (minigame style). I agree that they don't have to be "kludged on" though and with a little extra skill in design they can advance the story, even if it's as subtle as giving the player more of the game world's background as they complete them.

Using Fallout games as an example again (an extreme example at that given its highly nonlinear nature) there are numerous quests in Fallout 2 that seemingly start off as part of the main quest ("Have you seen a GECK?") but in fact are either totally optional or only further you on the road to finishing the main quest if you make other optional choices as well. The game is non-linear but there are so many different paths to complete the game and so many points at which the optional and main quests intersect that you can pretty much leave your village, go in a random direction, and still eventually beat the game. The huge volume of side quests makes sense given the setting too, in a "hey I just crawled out of a tent and I need some odd jobs otherwise I'm gonna go broke and die" sort of way. For example, being a caravan guard is a simple sort of side quest that pays well, levels you up, and takes you to some of the more important towns you will probably need to go to eventually to advance the main quest.

I'm not sure if Fallout 3 actually failed to do this or simply didn't try, honestly the uninspired quest design and lack of cohesion between side quests and the main quest seems closer to Oblivion's quest lines than an attempt to expand on Fallout 2. BUT I DIGRESS...

I guess my point is that I think side quests are awesome, but you can't leave them hanging out in a vacuum, they have to have some significance to the game's plot. Otherwise, it won't make sense when your protagonist takes a break from saving the world from imminent destruction to go run into the forest to look for some little kid's lost puppy.
Side quests pad a game when you get stuck on the main quest.
Craze
i bet she's a diva with a potion popping problem
13508
post=107031
=My take was that side quests were a great outlet for both the player and the designer so they didn't get totally sick of the main quest, and to introduce wacky but fun gameplay mechanics that wouldn't really fit anywhere else (minigame style).

I hate making sidequests (and thus don't).
I always thought side-quests were good for:

1. A good way for making new allies (new party members)
2. A good way to introduce new kinds of weapons/abilities
3. good implications for mini-games and abnormal game-play

and of course its fun for both developer and player
I'd like to add something to this topic, related in a way. Side-quests are by definition outside of the main game and can be undertaken or completely forgotten. Some might include a really tough puzzle in a side-quest for this reason: if the player gets frustrated, they can simply abandon the side-quest. What do you think of puzzles that have to be completed for game progression?

Zelda is a perfect example. While many of the puzzles had nothing to do with the slash/magic/potions that made up the battle system, the developers introduced puzzles that were barriers to progression. Does this add to the game flavor or does it ask too much of the player?
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