To quest or not to quest

Skyrim boasts what it calls ‘radiant storytelling’. Apparently, this means that if Person A gives you a quest to retrieve the golden butt-scratcher, but Person A dies, someone else in Person A’s family will take over and continue to offer you the same rewards and everything else. That way, there’s a reduction in the number of ‘essential’ NPCs that existed in previous Elder Scrolls games, and the quests feel much more dynamic and more to do with a situation, than just the wishes of a particular individual that their closest family members might know nothing about.

This idea of quests not being tethered to a specific individual – who is generally invulnerable – is close to one I hope to use for Ultima Ratio Regum. However, I’m hoping to go one ‘further’ and try and (almost entirely) separate quests from individuals. Objectives will not be assigned by individuals in a situation where nobody else cares about that particular objective; rather, objectives will exist for groups, or factions, or cities, and anyone in that faction might be the one to carry it forward, recruit others to it, or argue in favor of its completion. Villagers attacked repeatedly by a high-level creature will all want you to slay it; citizens in a city at war with a rival civilization will all urge you to sign up to the army, or try out for the officer’s corps, or whatever; and so on and so forth.

What about quest journals?

Thus, rather than the quests defaulting to a second quest-giver, the quests are a) non-specific, and generalized in terms of objective – kill X, conquer Y, but with no specifics for doing it, b) given by broad groups who want another group or individual slain, and c) aren’t actually QUESTS, as such. You don’t have a quest journal, and you don’t get a clear reward in gold or items when you complete one. You will have a page which allows you to view the alliances/hatred of different factions, but nothing else. Completing a quest will have different outcomes – it’s all procedurally generated, so the outcomes of a ‘quest’ will depend on each particular situation and change your list of alliances/hatreds, and potentially redraw the map, appropriately.

Lastly, this is not to say that there will be no variation within people within a certain city. If a city is, say, ruled by one family but contains another powerful family, there may be tensions there, even if they nominally unite to fight off external threats. Family feuds…

More common than you might think, especially in the bigger cities.

…will exist through-out the world as many vie for limited amounts of power. While both families in a given city agree you should join the city and help it, each might try to recruit you to their own purposes too within those of the city. Individual feuds will exist, but no NPC will be ever be marked as essential, or invulnerable. If they die, that’s just that. If someone else cares about the issue, they would probably have been talking to you about it anyway; if they don’t, then that’s just that. It’s a harsh, pixelatedworld out there.

Coming Monday 28th: Heightmaps, hills, and the mythical z-axis.

Coming Monday 5th: A first creature profile?

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6 thoughts on “To quest or not to quest

  1. Nifty stuff. A refreshing take on the general “SOMEBODY really should do something about such and such”, as more of an amorphous thing striking back at the Bystander Effect would certainly knock things ahead a tad to say the least.

    If you could pair it eventually with an Inspiration mechanic or some such vis a vis the other NPC’s reacting to how you define yourself on the whole following impactful exploits that’d pretty much round it all out.

  2. Anybody who played TES series know that if you are going to do a killing spree, you have to be careful about who you are going to kil. Good to know things have changed in Skyrim. I can roleplay as a serial killer at last ^_^

    Since this game isn’t going to have a main quest or quests like “go save the world and bring me a sushi when you return” it’s not essential to have a quest journal. Still, it would be nice to take notes about what’s happening in a city. In TES: Morrowind, you could automatically record the exact sentence when someone talked to you. It was useful when you forget who was giving the quests. You could even record the advices they gave you.

  3. @ Getter – Yeah, I thought it strange that quest-givers in most games claim they just want someone to do x, but obviously quests can only be given to you. I’d much rather cities will try to recruit other NPCs to their causes, not just you. For the Inspiration idea, do you mean that certain tasks you’ve already done make certain groups more/less likely to ask you for help on certain issues?

    @ Leatra – Agreed! There are obviously still some essential NPCs, but the number is definitely lower than Oblivion, which is great. That’s an interesting suggestion about recording sentences: I might try and implement something of that sort. Certainly, the more time you spend in a city, the more information you gather (and will be stored) about that city… : )

    • You could even create an encyclopedia for the player. Encyclopedia can be broken down into categories like Cities, Guilds&Families, Individuals and they can be broken down into categories like Individuals>Generals, Kings, etc. Information like what kind of services which city provides can come in handy. An alphabetic encyclopedia could work too. If player takes note about every unimportant individual it may clutter the journal though. Maybe an option to “write it down on your journal” or something. A similiar option was included in Space Rangers 2. You could keep track of everything through the Galactic News Network.

      If the player is looking for information about, let’s say McGeneral, it could seem like this in the journal:

      JOURNAL:
      November 3
      McSoldier: “I heard McGeneral is recruiting again”

      November 11
      McBlacksmith: “McGeneral brought a lot of weapons and food from the capital and started training his soldiers. Is he preparing for something?”

      November 27
      McRandomGuy: “McGeneral keeps going on and on about declaring war (player would understand this guy is aggressive and reckless from this) to barbaric tribes in northwest. McNoble thinks citizens are still recovering from the last war and barbaric tribes didn’t do anything to provoke a war. (This guy is good and he values his people. Crossing personalities and ideologies…) They always oppose and hate each other.”

      I don’t if it would be easy to implement but it would be a nice feature I think ^_^

  4. I was planning to have your encyclopedia/journal/whatever organised by category, per your first suggestion; things like Towers, Caves, Forts etc to denote things you’ve found and what you found in them, then Cities, Villages etc which’ll list the people you’ve found in them, and whatnot. It’ll also note if you have found it yourself (white text, say) or been told about it (light grey, maybe).

    As for ease of implementation… well, I’m working on a not dissimilar idea for weapons, strangely enough, though I’ll be saying more about that at a later date. I think it could definitely be done that you have Person A belonging to Faction B living in City C has asked me to help them against Faction D who live in Cave E in order to achieve Objective F. Add in some variation in the actual text used, and you’ve got a system!

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