Before I ramble any more, I thought I would talk about the polls. The poll asking about how often I should blog came to an end last week and the results were significantly in favour that I should continue to blog weekly, scoring 73%. I am quite happy to do this, but I would encourage feedback from readers in the way of questions about the module that may help inspire certain topics from week to week. The second poll (currently still running) is asking for player's preferences when it comes to style of gameplay and finishes at the end of the week. If you haven't voted yet, please do. I will discuss the results of that one next week.
My rambling topic this week is about the number of paths a quest can take and just how quickly the number of permutations can grow when allowing the player just a few different options to take along the way. For example, I have one side quest that can "start" in no less than 4 ways. Furthermore, the first two ways involve a potential split in direction. The same quest also involves a number of NPCs. Depending upon the order the PC encounters these NPCs also adjusts the conversations, with each node varying according to the way the quest started in the first place.
If you take every possible permutation the player could take to resolve the quest, then I think there are easily over 20 different ways, if not more! Of course, this could have easily been brought down to a couple of paths by restricting player options, including limiting access to certain areas and/or dealing with NPCs. However, as I wrote the quest, I tried to include all the various options I believed a player might want to take and that would be considered reasonable.
The bottom line is, however, I have learnt a lesson since writing this quest: Keep design tighter and involve only one or two NPCs per quest. This lesson may appear obvious to many already, but there is also a danger in the process of sticking rigidly to this design in that a builder could inadvertently railroad the player along a path of limited choice. Knowing how to balance this design is the trick to learn. Consider some of your own designs for a quest. What design limitations tools do you use to help keep the variables under control? Which options do you use here:-
1) Are some areas restricted or are they all available from the start?
2) Can quest NPCs be killed at any time or never be hurt?
3) Can locks be bypassed with certain skills or do they often require a certain key?
Personally, I try to limit restrictions in all these three areas, but have had to recognise I needed them in a couple of circumstances. However, I have only used them as a last resort and in a way that I hope will not impact of the majority of players. I would be interested in hearing the opinion of both builders and players with respect to game design:-
Builders: I would like to know how involved you make your quests? Do you cater for the less likely path and events or do you ensure players play by the rules you lay down and have only one path through the quest? (I am not just talking about different quest ends, but different quest paths to various ends.)
Players: I would like to know how involved you like your quests? Do you like simple and straightforward quests or more complex tasks? What has been your favourite quest (in any game) to date?
Basically, I want to here about your quests! If you are a builder, tell me about your preferred design technique. And if you are a player, tell me about your favourite quests.