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Josh Sawyer on Quest Staggering and why BG2 might have had it right


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Yeah, I do find that irksome too. I don't really want to re-check the entire town each time for new changed quests and things, unless it makes sense for changes to happen (prisoner saved, you find him in some house) rather than magically more people appear.

 

Such things, likewise a 'maximum of 5 quests at a time' would IMO be the most horrible design choices to do.

Having to re-check everything for new stuff to do isn't adding gameplay proper, it's extending the game artifically, adding gametime in a bad way.

And personally, I cannot support that.

 

EDIT:

This does not mean random events can happen just wandering about in frequent areas (so you might get ambushed at point A in game A, while C in game B). Which would help out with keeping the world real. But making them random and infront of critical areas prevents the happening of having to check each area all the time for new appearances, or having the 'do A to get B' type of happening.

Of course certain random events could trigger (have requirements of) after doing quests (piss of a NPC, he sends assassins). But they don't require you to re-go after each area since they can happen even later on on those pre-designed random event points (like KOTOR1 had) or even in those random travel events between 2 areas.

Edited by Hassat Hunter
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^

 

 

I agree that that is such a stupid idiotic pathetic garbage hateful retarded scumbag evil satanic nazi like term ever created. At least top 5.

 

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Yeah, I do find that irksome too. I don't really want to re-check the entire town each time for new changed quests and things, unless it makes sense for changes to happen (prisoner saved, you find him in some house) rather than magically more people appear.

 

Such things, likewise a 'maximum of 5 quests at a time' would IMO be the most horrible design choices to do.

Having to re-check everything for new stuff to do isn't adding gameplay proper, it's extending the game artifically, adding gametime in a bad way.

And personally, I cannot support that.

 

EDIT:

This does not mean random events can happen just wandering about in frequent areas (so you might get ambushed at point A in game A, while C in game B). Which would help out with keeping the world real. But making them random and infront of critical areas prevents the happening of having to check each area all the time for new appearances, or having the 'do A to get B' type of happening.

Of course certain random events could trigger (have requirements of) after doing quests (piss of a NPC, he sends assassins). But they don't require you to re-go after each area since they can happen even later on on those pre-designed random event points (like KOTOR1 had) or even in those random travel events between 2 areas.

Aye agreed!  Considering how big we all hope the game will be I am sure we'll end up with enough areas to check that going through them repeatedly on the off-chance that a quest pops up 'this time' will become tedious.

 

I've been thinking about how to phrase exactly why I feel the way I do in the best way, and I think I have it.  It's not that we want to 'complete everything', on the contrary I would say it's the exact opposite, it's to be able to do the things we like while avoiding the things we don't.  Remember the first dungeon in Baldur's Gate 2, or Chateau Irenicus as it has come to be known as?  There is a mod out there to skip it, because since it was the first thing you had to do every single playthrough people got so sick and tired of it that they just could not be bothered with it any more.  The main storyline quests are the ones you will always have to do whenever you play the game if you want to 'finish' the game, and as a result for those of us who multiple playthroughs no matter how well written they are there comes a point where they become tedious.  Being able to break up that tedium by doing side quests you enjoy or haven't tried yet helps to keep me going.  So, having to do the main questline to get to my favourite quests would work against that, if I was instead limited to five side quests none of which interested me or that I had already done so many times then I would not be so interested.  In fact, I would argue that quest staggering actually encourages completionists: since you only have access to them then you end up doing them, then quickly gobble up new quests when they come along, I prefer an All-You-Can-Eat buffet to a set dining course where they bring it out to you in order since then I can more happily leave things that I'm not so keen on.

 

In Baldur's Gate 2 you could do completely different side quests in different playthroughs each time and still do more than the designers intended you to do each time.  While in Athkatla you could actually feel like an adventurer, escaping the railroaded main questline to wander the land, actually seeking out quests and wandering from town to town as you pick up news of their needing help.  The questlines around Trademeet were awesome, incredibly detailed and felt like a true D&D module and yet that enitre area was just completely optional and had nothing to do with the main questline, which I have to say actually seemed to work against the whole feeling of being an adventurer in its tone and insistence of dragging you away from just wandering the land.  Hell, I'd argue you could get a perfectly great playthrough of just ignoring the main quest completely in Baldur's Gate 2 entirely and just adventuring across Athkatla, as you would get epic storylines, great dialogue, interesting stories and fascinating locales, enough that if you just ended it without ever returning to the main questline you could still feel like you had a full game.

 

I would not mind some quests being designed for higher levels than I am, most here I am sure are not big fans of level scaling, but I can decide that when I see that the creatures are level 10 and I'm still only level 4, I don't need to be locked out of it.  I could go away and come back, either by progressing the main storyline like intended or by taking loads of side quests (sure that may mean I am then over-leveled for the main quest line but if so I am probably on playthrough 2,704 and not particularly fussed).  I am also sure there are others who will view taking on a level 10 quest as level 4s as a challenge, I am sure that there will be those who find some way to do it solo. 

 

Anyway, I've waffled on for long enough, time to get back to work before someone catches me!

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As an aside I have no problem with "urgent" side quests.  If they are handled intelligently.  A great way to encourage replayability and uniqueness in a single game is to have forced choices.  Say there are three factions who all have a "urgent quest" that you can stumble upon at roughly the same time through different means.  You are made aware the factions need your help, and soon, and maybe even get told you have like 1 week to respond.  If you don't either the window closes and the faction loses it's shot at whatever it was or maybe someone else took the job.  In theory you could accept each quest but you are told clearly in game it is urgent and you have only a few weeks or something to resolve it.  Then the way the quests are laid out, with travel time, objectives etc, you basically only have enough time to do one.  The simple travel times etc will push the others out of the window so you are forced to make a choice in game about which (if any) you want to do.  Then based on your choice other side quests open up later, even if you helped none of them who is to say this wont result in a fourth faction gaining power and suddenly needing your help?

 

That said just throwing all three out there, saying they are urgent, then 4 months later in game you can still complete all three?  That is just bad design from a world building and RP perspective.

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Don't exactly need "urgency", just "mutual exclusive"

 

OE does this (Just look at KOTOR2 with Czerka/Ithorian, the differences in Onderon Revisited), Bethesda always never does this during/after Oblivion (allowing you to be all guildsmasters).

There's no need to make the PC complete any quests in a rigid time-matter just to lock out potential others for future plays. I really prefer timed quests at a bare minimum.

 

EDIT:
Also to addendum to above post, "questgiver doesn't give quest just yet" would solve magically appearing NPC's, but in PoE would even be worse in this regard since the lack of ! would make you re-talk to everyone. And assuming BG2 kind of dialogue heavyness, that's... bad.

Doesn't exclude having a few of these, but always with proper reasoning/trigger (being forwarded by a questgiver, finding a note) rather than an artibarity point past, that has no relevance to the NPC or quest in question...

Edited by Hassat Hunter
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^

 

 

I agree that that is such a stupid idiotic pathetic garbage hateful retarded scumbag evil satanic nazi like term ever created. At least top 5.

 

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Don't exactly need "urgency", just "mutual exclusive"

 

OE does this (Just look at KOTOR2 with Czerka/Ithorian, the differences in Onderon Revisited), Bethesda always never does this during/after Oblivion (allowing you to be all guildsmasters).

There's no need to make the PC complete any quests in a rigid time-matter just to lock out potential others for future plays. I really prefer timed quests at a bare minimum.

Don't get me wrong I am just using that as an example.  I personally see nothing wrong with timed quests and think they are great as long as they are not overdone and have real results for not doing them, as opposed to say "well you just don't get the rewards".  I am sure there will be plenty of mutually exclusive quests in game, I just hope they don't over do that one either.

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Yeah, I do find that irksome too. I don't really want to re-check the entire town each time for new changed quests and things, unless it makes sense for changes to happen (prisoner saved, you find him in some house) rather than magically more people appear.

 

Such things, likewise a 'maximum of 5 quests at a time' would IMO be the most horrible design choices to do.

Having to re-check everything for new stuff to do isn't adding gameplay proper, it's extending the game artifically, adding gametime in a bad way.

And personally, I cannot support that.

 

EDIT:

This does not mean random events can happen just wandering about in frequent areas (so you might get ambushed at point A in game A, while C in game B). Which would help out with keeping the world real. But making them random and infront of critical areas prevents the happening of having to check each area all the time for new appearances, or having the 'do A to get B' type of happening.

Of course certain random events could trigger (have requirements of) after doing quests (piss of a NPC, he sends assassins). But they don't require you to re-go after each area since they can happen even later on on those pre-designed random event points (like KOTOR1 had) or even in those random travel events between 2 areas.

 

What is this about checking the entire town? I don't understand what you people are talking about and what that has to do with my suggestion. You're just making a bunch of crap up to what end? Because you don't like a realistic world? I really don't get it, you're all being irrational.

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Yeah, I do find that irksome too. I don't really want to re-check the entire town each time for new changed quests and things, unless it makes sense for changes to happen (prisoner saved, you find him in some house) rather than magically more people appear.

 

......

 

What is this about checking the entire town? I don't understand what you people are talking about and what that has to do with my suggestion. You're just making a bunch of crap up to what end? Because you don't like a realistic world? I really don't get it, you're all being irrational.

 

 

 

 (Well, yes, that would be one explanation - all of the people saying this are irrational - but, if they are, there's no arguing with them anyway, so there's no point in telling them that they are. The other possibility is that you haven't understood their concerns, in which case, it would be more constructive to get more information from them. Calling them irrational is not going to be an effective way to do that, is it?)

 

 So, back to the subject: Let's look at an example from PS:T, a brilliant game story-wise but with some genuine issues with how the game play worked. To get through one of the portals in ragpickers square, you need a specific item called, 'junk' which you may not be carrying around with you (because, you know, it's JUNK). One way to find this out is to ask a character near the marketplace, a woman who is salvaging nails. However, the first time you speak to her, she doesn't tell you this. There is no obvious time to go back and ask her again. You could end up wandering around talking to everyone to try to figure out what you needed. That makes PS:T pretty broken in terms of game play.

 

 A second example was the search for Boo in BG2, part of the unfinished business mod. It does have a few different possible resolutions, but after you've seen them, it isn't a hugely interesting encounter. However, I like doing it (and there's not really much choice if you want to keep Minsc) if I'm going to go to spellhold early because the reward is very good. The trigger is pretty random (go into and out of the docks some number of times). Some games it doesn't trigger at all, probably due to a bug. Is that more realistic than having it trigger, say, the first or second time you leave the docks? I don't think so; it's just unpredictable in an annoying way. If the different outcomes were more random but the getting the quest was predictable, I think that would be more interesting.

 

 Staggering quests doesn't need to be done in either of those annoying ways (and I don't expect them to be in PoE), but they are examples of the (perfectly rational) concern that several people have.  

 

My preference would be that things like getting quests would be one of the more predictable parts of the game and things like combat and some of the puzzle like things needed to advance a questline would be less predictable.

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This old thread again?

 

Quest staggering can have some very useful implementations. It can be used to repopulate areas with new level adjusted quests after you've gone through any of the story bottlenecks. It rewards exploring and going back to places you've cleared of quests before, and prevents you from feeling like a place is now "completed and empty" after you've run through all the quests there.

Quest staggering based on pre-requisites like, story progression, level advancement, faction advancement, gear, areas uncovered, or specific triggers, can help make the world feel more alive and reactive. Suddenly that party you didn't get an invite to when you were still a mercenary scrub is much more welcoming now that you are the lord of a stronghold with prestige level x.

 

Anything that gives you a reason to come back to a place you've already visited, imo, enriches the world.

 

You can still have a great quest density with quest staggering

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I don't know about you guys, but I found myself stressed out by chapter 2. I even found myself reloading to avoid taking on a quest by an NPC that walked up to me and jammed it down my throat while saying that "If you don't do this real soon, actually like now, it will be too late and you will miss out on something". I was already torn between doing time-sensitive quests for three followers that I wanted to keep and this was just too much. I go to work to get stressed out, when I play video games I want to relax and do things in my own time! That's why I play pausable adventure games and not online manshooters.

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Well, I disagree with Josh here. However, I think what might be helpful, is if you can only have a set amount of quests active at any time, and only able to get others once it drops below 5.

 

So you'd come across someone who has quest dialogue for you

and you have 5 quests active, he'll reply "You look like you have a lot on your mind, why don't you come back later?" or some variation of that.

 

Because I don;t think the problem was the amount of content, I think it was that you got quests dumped on you up to the point that you weren't sure what quest you were working on.

That sounds frickin' fantastic.

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You could abandon them.

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You could abandon them.

I'll be honest, if your change was implemented I'd still go around talking to everyone. The only difference would be that now each quest outside those five I'm stuck with would have an extra step nailed onto the start: go back to the questgiver to 'get' the quest.

This kind of artificial limitation harms immersion and makes gameplay far more tedious.

 

As far as new quests appearing in old areas, I think it depends on how it's implemented.

Bad:

Sure, in the real world Farmer Joe back in Tutorialville might not loose his cow until I'm entering the final dungeon.

This means that he will have to deal with losing his cow, as it makes no in character sense to leave the final dungeon right before I fight the incarnation of all worldly evils so I can return to Tutorialville and do some manual labor. This content will be ignored by everyone who isn't using a walkthrough to get 100% completion.

 

Good:

If the mage wars begin in act 2 and the entire world is consumed via thaumic fire, the smoldering remains of Tutorialville can and probably should have some guy starving to death who needs your help to get food. This not appearing until later makes logical sense (as the problem didn't appear until later), and adds immersion.

 

tl;dr: It's okay for new quests to appear in old areas because of story reasons. It's not okay for new quests to appear in old areas because the designers thought act 3 needed more sidequests.

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Yeah, I find TOR's 25 questlimit low, imagine 5.

 

Not to mention "abandonement" gives a whole whoop new level of gameplay design change.

In order to re-get your quest all questgivers need to stay around (as they do in aforementioned MMO). Someone coming up, giving quest, then being deleted off the world? Unthinkable. What if he comes when you have 5 quests. What if you abandon and want it back?

It would also change design in that shorter questbranches will be made (since can't hold a quest through all acts, could you?) and likely be more closely to the questgiver (since giving 5 quests for faraway areas would seriously hamper gameplay, so it'll turn 5 next door so you can finish them and get new quests).

 

Such limitations put ACTUAL severe gameplay design changes on quest design. In the bad way (restrictive, repetitive, limitating). I wouldn't want to deal with those as developer, I wouldn't want to deal with those as gamer.

 

I really only see negatives to a hardlimit, and as you can notice can easily sum up quite a few in a short hwile, and can see no postives. At all.

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^

 

 

I agree that that is such a stupid idiotic pathetic garbage hateful retarded scumbag evil satanic nazi like term ever created. At least top 5.

 

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fair enough

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  • 7 months later...

I am becoming quite allergic to Sawyers opinions lately.

Athkatla had AWESOME amount of quests, that were put there to be done during all the chapters. For example secret mindflayer dungeon in sewers and completing Crom Fryer, you got there like in chapter 6 and its all in Athkatla. And to be honest, lots of quest I left incomplete during that precious and amazing first time I played BG2, for example that beholder cult thing. I was so absorbed by the story I was all like "**** it no time to loose lets find Imoen" and all that.

And it gave you amazing FREEDOM, as many of you mentioned before me, and I miss that in all other games! I literally HATE when you have to do some inane good-boy bull**** you don't even feel connected to.

No no no my dear fella, if you want to hide your inability or lack of resources to come up with something as awesome as Athkatla and BG2 itself by yourself, please don't hide behind nitpicking.

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@IRMA:

 

Could you kindly explain how proper quest staggering is somehow directly affiliated with the freedom to decline quests? I'm not understanding how what you're against has anything to do with Sawyer's opinions.

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Should we not start with some Ipelagos, or at least some Greater Ipelagos, before tackling a named Arch Ipelago? 6_u

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The majority of the non-plot quests had  to be in Chapter 2, because that is the only point in the game where random adventures made any narrative sense. The PC was stranded in Athkatla and needed to raise money, so they went on quests to remedy that. After that, the rest of the game picks up quickly with the strong narrative, and there isn't any place for random odd-jobs.

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I am becoming quite allergic to Sawyers opinions lately.

Athkatla had AWESOME amount of quests, that were put there to be done during all the chapters. For example secret mindflayer dungeon in sewers and completing Crom Fryer, you got there like in chapter 6 and its all in Athkatla.

*BG2 SoA spoilers*

Not really. For the middle half of the game you're pretty much stuck in the under dark and spellhold, and you can get very preoccupied in chapter 6. Then you're in Suldeneselar for the end. You really only have 2 and 3 to do the sidequests, and then the second half of 6 to tie up loose ends on the more powerful stuff like the so many random liches that seem to populate the Athkatla bathrooms and janitorial closets.

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I'm not sure if I agree with chapter 2 having to many quests. In fact, there aren't that many quests when you really think about it. The thing about chapter 2 wasn't the amount of quests, but the quality and size of the quests.

 

 

But just to go sure, let's just make a list of all quests in chapter 2, sorted by area (I exclude the mini quests and puzzles here like getting the swords and beer for the youngsters in Umar Hills, creating Lilarcor or the child murderer in the bridge district, because they don't qualify as real quests imho).

I also don't list quests twice that take place in multiple areas and only list them in the area they are most prominent.

Also, character specific quests like Edwin's nether scroll or Korgan's Book of Kazaa are excluded, as they depend on what characters you take.

 

 

Waukeens promenade:

- Circus quest

 

Slums:

- Slavers in Copper Coronet

- Planar Sphere

 

Graveyard District:

- Story-Quest to proceed to chapter 3 for vampires

 

 

Temple District:

- Unseeing Eye

- Helm/Lathander/Talos quest depending on alignment

 

Bridge District:

- Skinner, part I

- Paladins

- Theater

 

Docks:

- Story-Quest to proceed to chapter 3 for shadowthieves

- Mae'var

- Harpers

- Kangaxx

 

Government District:

- Art quest

 

De'Arnise Hold:

- Troll invasion

 

Umar Hills:

- Shadow Lord

- Mimic Blood

 

Trademeet:

- Animal attacks

- Skinner, part II

 

WIndspear Hills:

- Firkraag

- Dryads

 

 

As you can see, every area has more or less only 2-3 major quests. You can add 5 quests for character specific quests at average.

 

Imho, that's not that much. It only appears to be a lot due to how huge the quests are.

Edited by Zwiebelchen
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I think you're ignoring an awful lot when you discount the minor quests, many of which take half an hour to an hour if you haven't done them before.  Also there's the:

Strongholds,

Companion Quests,

Hidden Dungeons (like the slavers next to the Copper Coronet)

Large Sewers,

secret rooms with monstrous fights and so on and so forth.

 

 

I tried to do the same thing with my players in a D&D campaign, and they got pissed and wanted more direction.

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I think you're ignoring an awful lot when you discount the minor quests, many of which take half an hour to an hour if you haven't done them before.  Also there's the:

Strongholds,

Companion Quests,

Hidden Dungeons (like the slavers next to the Copper Coronet)

Large Sewers,

secret rooms with monstrous fights and so on and so forth.

 

 

I tried to do the same thing with my players in a D&D campaign, and they got pissed and wanted more direction.

 

Stronghold quests are basicly minor follow-up quests from the big quest chains. They won't "exist" at the same time as the major quest chain leading to the stronghold. I was more speaking about how much quests you could have at the same time.

Because things only get confusing if you have too many quests at the same time, not in general.

 

Most of the secret dungeons like the mind-flayers in the sewers or the mercenaries in the bridge district do not have a quest attached to them, so they are not really adding to the confusion of chapter 2. You more or less stumble upon them by chance (and most likely not at your first playthrough).

Edited by Zwiebelchen
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I was more speaking about how much quests you could have at the same time.

Because things only get confusing if you have too many quests at the same time, not in general.

I'd agree, except that I'd extend it a tiny bit beyond "at the same time." For example, if, at any given time, I can go complete a side-quest, then immediately have another one become available as a consequence, I think that's worth consideration. Sure, it wasn't available to me alongside the other one, but, if there are 15 quests available side-by-side, and each one results in another one becoming available (for example), then, at any given moment, you only have 15 quests available, even though you could do all 15 in an effort to clear all the sidequests before continuing with the main chain, and actually end up doing 30 consecutive quests.

 

Anywho, I think all optional quests available to you at any given "time" (between main story quests) is what to consider. You see this in Borderlands (which is a game that has ENTIRELY too many sidequests, amongst other problems that aren't relevant.)

Edited by Lephys

Should we not start with some Ipelagos, or at least some Greater Ipelagos, before tackling a named Arch Ipelago? 6_u

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No no no my dear fella, if you want to hide your inability or lack of resources to come up with something as awesome as Athkatla and BG2 itself by yourself, please don't hide behind nitpicking.

Please understand when I say that you have no idea what you are talking about that it has nothing to do with fanboyism.

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