Side Quests: Interesting vs. Boring

Warning: Spoilers ahead for Dragon Age II and Kingdom Hearts.

 

Anyone who has played any sort of mission/quest based game is familiar with side quests.  They’re those pesky optional quests that the player can choose to complete or not.  Some are simple, such as delivering a package to the NPC in the next town.  Some are challenging, like cave diving for a treasure.  Then there’s also the invariably hard and cruel ones that have you defeat some optional boss that takes every ounce of your being to defeat.  In either case, side quests come in a variety of flavors and vastly help to buffer the gameplay time.

However, not all side quests were created equal.  In fact, some can be outright snore fests.  Take, for instance, pretty much any optional quest in an MMORPG.  In general, these fall into one of a few categories: kill a certain number of creatures, collect certain ingredients/items, or deliver something to an NPC.  MMORPGs are very formulaic when it comes to this matter.  While these side quests do earn you experience points (exp) and virtual money, they have little else to offer the player.  They are, essentially, what makes a lot of MMORPGs grind-fests as it were.  Single player games can often be guilty of the same thing, especially for the RPG genre in general.

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Another Argument for Mechanic Transparency: Dragon Age II Edition

Warning: Semi spoilers ahead for Dragon Age II.

 

Enemy waves are no new concept to video games.  They have been around for years and will probably remain for as long as they offer value to players.  While from my experience their existence can be a bit polarizing, it’s hard to discount them completely given the numerous amounts of players that like the challenge.  That being said, there are cases in which its execution is flawed at best.  One such instance that I wish to discuss today appears in Dragon Age II, where a lack of transparency makes the experience somewhat infuriating.

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When Game Mechanics Break Lore Pt. 1

Warning: Spoilers ahead for the Dragon Age series.

 

As a writer and lover of world design, one of my favorite story aspects to games is their background lore.  Whether it is elves, aliens, or simply just some regular old human history, I greatly appreciate the amount of detail and depth it adds to any game world.  Even if the lore does not always play a part in the plot, I believe it is an important element if you want to have an immersive, fictional world.  Especially for those who enjoy exploration aspects, it makes the exploration more worthwhile and adds many hours of gameplay.

That being said, it can be a double edged sword.  Whether you’re writing for a game, a novel, or anything else, keeping your lore straight can be vitally important.  When it comes to having diehard fans, they will always be quick to point out when new lore makes an error.  While the severity of errors varies (from a simple typo of a year to a totally new event that doesn’t fit established history), they can potentially ruin the immersion.  These sorts of mistakes remind the explorers that these worlds they invest their time into are not real, which speaking personally, is a huge downer.

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