Quest Design – step by step, or all in one?

Some quests require you to do their steps in order: you can’t do B before A, and god forbid you should try to start with D before having done A, B, and then C. Other quests don’t care how you do what’s required, so long as you come back with whatever it was the quest-giver needed. Now, I like both models, and they both have their place — but what would be helpful sometimes would be some indication that a quest must be completed sequentially, especially when I decide to get clever and efficient and do things in an effective but non-sequential way, only to discover it was wasted effort.

EQ2 has a megagajillion quests, and therefore it has plenty of instances of both those types of quest design. Some NPCs just want their 10 foozle tails and don’t care how you got them; others would prefer you to start with baby foozles, and work your way up to elder foozles, and won’t give you credit for the elders till you’ve killed some of the younger ones.

EQ2-waiting-for-the-airship

Killed, bought, negotiated or crafted, I should say. EQ2 suddenly has a wealth of crafter content (more on which some other day), including a ton of quests for crafters and harvesters that involve making stuff for various people. I just wish I’d had a way to tell that I shouldn’t make all the items given to me in the strange, pustulating “Bert’s Big Book of Health” — instead, I need to wait until the quest tells me I need to make one, then I must make that item and only that item before proceeding. It’s actually quite well explained by the quest as you go along, and it’s an entertaining quest — Bert’s Book is to health as the Necronomicon is to SAN points — but there’s a point at which the clever, standard and normal thing to do appears to be to make the recipes it contains, when what you’re supposed to do is wait until one of the NPCs tells you to make one specific item, advance the quest through dialogue some more, make another specific item, advance the quest some more, and so on round.

I should fess up: names have been changed to protect the innocent. I did this quest some weeks ago, not long after I resubbed my old account back to EQ2; the particular incident I’m talking about today happened to the spousal unit, though I’ll admit I made the same mistake. Get quest, quest contains recipe book (that EQ2 crafters use to, you know, learn recipes), make recipes, go back to quest NPC. Oops.

I’m not entirely sure how one would mark a quest as being one type or the other, and it’s quite possible that doing so might somehow lessen one’s overall enjoyment, though I doubt it — that’s not exactly the type of mystery that needs to be preserved. What might be a problem would be presenting the information in a way that wouldn’t be totally intrusive or un-immersive. “Hello there brave crafter, yadda yadda quest text, but make sure you don’t make everything at once or the sky will fall!” … Naaaah.

Or, I could just stop jumping the gun and knuckle under, and only do what I’m told when I’m told to do it. If I’m told to buy a book and learn its contents, that’s what I’ll do. I won’t try to make the contents till I’m told to, and then I will make ONLY what I’m ordered to do. … Naaaaaah. I’ve never been good at taking orders, and trying to anticipate stuff is part of the fun of games. Sometimes you get it right, sometimes you don’t. Either way, if the quest is fun then one’s mistakes turn into amusing anecdotes. If the quest isn’t fun, then those same mistakes turn into gruelling boulders on the way to completion. Everything’s relative, as the physicist said.

5 responses to “Quest Design – step by step, or all in one?

  1. Sometimes it’s possible to vendor the items you crafted prematurely, buy them back, and have them update as they re-enter your inventory. I don’t fully recommend this, since it might not always work, but it’s worth a try if you arrive and discover you’ve done it wrong. I will say that I often end up being creative in juggling my recall cooldowns (guild hall, and home city -> Inn -> Guild Hall) because I almost always do the crafting in-house for access to the supply box.

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  2. This is something that Runes of Magic did right – all items count, regardless of when you got/made the items and when you obtained the quest.

    Although I suspect that the overall quest quality in EQ2 is higher though.

    I also tend to often to craft what I can and find useful and not what the quests might order me to do later. Always think it will be good to have, until one gets to that point where the stupid quest giver does not understand I already have a truckload (sorry wagonload) of whatever he wanted.
    The Call of Cthulhu reference gave me a smile, BTW;)

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  3. But…. only the powerful items can even have a CHANCE at affecting Cthulu! Too bad they make me go insane before I can use them. . . .

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