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What kind of sidequests do you like see in RPGs?

I like to think of my game as being divided into thirds - the beginning, the middle, and the end sections.

The 2 - 3 hour beginning section is linear and typical of your average jRPG. You do what you're told to do, and you don't make many decisions. Every dungeon must be completed in a certain order and that's it. However, the middle and end sections of my game are pretty different than the first - they both will have about 3 dungeons that can be completed in any order. After the three dungeons in the middle section are completed, the can move on to the end section. After the final three dungeons are completed, you can move on the final boss.

In other words, my game is very open-ended after the beginning portion. The goal in the last two divisions of the game is to complete the dungeons marked on your map. Otherwise, you're free to visit anywhere on the world map and explore.

To encourage this exploration, I've decided that I'd like to include many side quests. My question is this - what kind of side quests would you, the player, most enjoy playing? A bunch of "go get me ten " style quests or lengthy trade quests scattered throughout the world? Or would you rather have fewer but longer side quests that involve optional dungeons? A mixture of both simple and more in-depth quests? What kind of rewards would you like to see? Do you expect each quest to have it's own engaging storyline? Do you expect every town to contain at least one sidequest?

I'm looking to see some discussion.


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I hate "go get me ten X" type quests. They're just stupid in my opinion. I like side-quests that end up giving me more information on the game's world or its people, places, or culture. I like side-quests that are meaningful and aren't just there to make the game longer. Also, I like side-quests that offer useful rewards. I can't tell you how disappointing it is to scale a dungeon, defeat the boss(es) and then go back to town only to get: "Here! Take a potion!" or "Here! Take my sword!" I think side-quest rewards should offer one-of-a-kind items, weapons, or armours that are other wise impossible to find (or at least very hard to), even if the side-quest is so hidden that it'll never ever be found or completed.

Sorry for the wall-o-text.
I've always liked sidequests that offered some kind of mini-game to play, but there were mulitple instances to play (ie the Fortune's Market warehouse puzzles from Tales of Vesperia, as a fairly recent example).

Another neat idea is having the player look for a specific kind of item thoughout their journey in the game. Having a specific npc who tracks their progress helps give players incentive to keep looking for them (You found 8 crystals! There's still 37 more to find!)

And to follow up on BareGamer's point of rewards, I also believe the player should receive a good reward for completing a sidequest. The reward doesnt have to be game-breaking or earth-shattering, but you should be able to enjoy it, whether it is a unique item or skill or whatever. Having a good reward makes players feel proud to complete sidequests, no matter how boring or tedious they may be.
Every type of side-quest has it's own pros and cons. But the side-quest should be properly rewarding, in one or another. It is really frustrating, as BareGamer pointed out, until and unless, you get something during the quest which makes the quest worthwhile.
The "go get me ten " kind of side-quest should only be limited to the first few areas of the game, unless the "go get me ten" items are rare or the side-quest has some sort of ulterior motive.

And also, , you can also have some part of world blocked up, which can be only accessed after / during the side quest.
RPG Maker 2k/2k3 for life, baby!!
Making new sidequest specific maps is cool too, that way you also reward the player with a new place to explore (and one the player probably wouldn't even set foot in if not for the sidequest).

I like sidequests that bring something of value to the story, no important plot points, but bits of lore that make the story fit together and look believable.

But make sure you finish your main game maps before thinking serioulsy about the sidequests, remember that you'll always have time to make sidequests after the main game is finished.

Rewards I like are usually a better weapon for the time the sidequest is available (said weapon should remain useful for some time, specially if it was a hard sidequest), a magic/skill only learned this way (should be a bit more powerful then the ones available at that moment or strategic) or a rare useful item for battles.
I like Sidequests that make sense, first off. I hate it when I walk up to someone and they go "here are my life problems, I don't suppose you can solve them for me?" Like seriously?

I love a spontaneous quest though. Something like you walk into a certain city and it's under siege and you can help (though, regardless of how illogical it may be, the ability to revisit a sidequest should you skip it, such as one like this, is vital)

Also maybe a combative/mini-gamey type side quest? like guard a caravan and you have to walk around the caravan and intercept the enemies coming in and go into an encounter.

Optional dungeons are always awesome but hey.

In terms of rewards, better equipment is always a godsend. But not sword +10. Something more unique; a weapon that, maybe if not as powerful, at least has special effects that makes it worth using. A poisoned dagger. A vampiric sword. An Axe that attacks twice (because if an axe attacks twice, ouch). Etc.

Also, skills are great. If you help the martial master of the new world, you'd think he'd at least teach you a new skill or something. And maybe some stat boosts to go with. Skills/stat boosts are far more permanent and worth the time investing into doing a side quest than temporarily used equipment.
Thanks for the input, guys. Very helpful. I've taken it all into account and, so far, I've come up with ideas for a four major side quests:

1. As a reward for helping save a town, a soldier has given you access to a certain storage room filled with chests - however, for whatever reason, he's dropped the keys to the chests in the basement which is infested with monsters. Every key you find is to a different chest. However, the further along you go, the harder the monsters get. I like this idea because you see the reward before you even begin - the locked chests.

2. This is for closer to the end of the game. A blacksmith can make you either a sword or axe (your choice) made out of dragon scales and bones. However, it's up to your to travel up a mountain to a dragon's nest to retrieve the aforementioned scales and bones. This one will be interesting to the player because dragons are mentioned fairly often (one of the main characters is a famous dragon slayer), but otherwise dragons aren't involved storywise at all. It'll be exciting to actually see and kill a dragon... and the reward is the best weapon in the game. I'm thinking about making it so you can kill more dragons afterward to get dragon armor to match.

3. You must retrieve a stolen horse from a bandit. Your reward is that you get to keep the horse and participate in races, from which you can gain a lot of money.

4. This is one I'm not sure I'll implement. In my game there's a mystical tower called the Sorcerer's Tower - only the most powerful wizards can enter. Inside, numerous trials and tribulations await them. However, only by traversing through the tower can they receive even more power. Kniryk, the battle mage you play as, cannot enter in the beginning of the game. However, I thought it'd be cool if you could enter right before the final dungeon to acquire the best spells in the game.
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