Monday, December 2, 2013

Filling out content

In addition to the playtesting I've been doing to piece the core plot of the game together from start to finish, I've also been working on designing and adding in some extra content that has been in my mind for a while. I'm talking about "light content", which is the little subquests that revolve more around exploration and puzzle solving that reward the inquisitive player.  Generally, these things are much less time consuming and demanding to implement for me than fully fledged quests. Think of these quests like the "Chanter's Board" quests from Dragon Age, but without a central location to kick them off for you.

There are a few things that I want to make sure that I do with these quests in order to make them interesting, and so am trying to follow a few principles when creating them.

Don't make it immediately obvious

The point here is that I want the player to start the quest by finding something, not by going to a person with a marker above their head or a notice board in the middle of a village. It could be a journal, a scrap of paper, a strange item, some kind of key, or anything really.  The main point is that the player should find something that gives them a clue that there is something else that they could do or find.

Require exploration
These objects should be spread out across the areas that the player will explore - they won't just be found in the main locations that every player will have to visit. The levels I've created for the mod are reasonably large - and I'd like to encourage players to explore them. With many modern games, we're often forced down very linear paths, so trying to get players to search and experience the fun of exploration is something I'd like to be able to do.

Monsters are easy to find, these should require more effort

Puzzles can be fun
One thing I find really annoying about puzzles in many games is that they're either really obscure and illogical (the worst of Monkey Island syndrome, or Anna), or blatantly obvious (Towers of Hanoi).  The other annoyance is when puzzles are presented in a way that they're not solvable when you encounter them, either because you don't have the right skills/items to solve them (e.g. Batman, Assassin's Creed), or worse, that the player cannot complete the puzzle until they are explicitly told what to do. Where I implement puzzles, I want the player to be given enough information to carry them out, but without beating them over the head with an answer. This is a tough balance, but I'm hoping to provide a mix of puzzles that should be interesting.

Use player skills
Skills like tracking, herbalism, pick pocketing and the like are things that are often neglected by designers. Even in Dragon Age itself, it felt like these were mostly for facilitating combat rather than being useful for anything else.  I want to be able to use these skills to assist, or possibly even be required to complete some of these quests.

Give rewards
The player should get something from these kinds of quests. They're exploring, uncovering secrets and the like, and thus should be rewarded with different and unique items as a result. This is the icing on the cake to make the player go "that was awesome!" This is where I'll be giving out the most interesting and powerful items in the game, because it rewards dedicated players, and makes people want to explore and find those hidden secrets.

So that's my update for this week. Stay tuned for another update next week!