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.
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…
…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?