Most games have pointers built in. A player starts the game and immediately there are several quest givers. Those quest givers will sent them on tasks, and when you finish those, they will point you to the next series of quest givers. This continues on all the way up until max level (well, in Wow this continues until about level 20, takes a break, then picks back up in Outland).

In a game like mine, I was planning on doing generated starting experiences. The player can either fill out background information about their character, or just have some random bullshit filled in for them if they can't be bothered to do it themselves, and then the game generates a starting experience for them which covers all the basic points from controls to interface and its parts, and other game systems like combat. After this, the character decides to go out into the world and their pointer NPC, which could be family or a friend or a lifelong teacher (whatever the generated scenario comes up with) would maybe give them a map to the nearby town or major city (depending on where the player chose or the game chose to start them off at) and tell them that their dreams could be realized there.

However, after that the game becomes freeform and sandbox-y. Players can go wherever they wish to once they leave the beginner area. If they want to become a druid, where do they go? How do they get there? How would they even find out this information (assuming you couldn't just go look it up on a website)? These are daunting problems that could be game breakers if not dealt with carefully.

I had two ideas to dealing with the problem, both of which would be explained by NPCs before leaving the starting area. If a player wanted to know something about the game, there could maybe be a menu where the player could construct a question.

Option 1: Where can I find/Where can I learn / What is / Who is / some other question starters.
Option 2: (Name of a person from quests you are on) or (Game feature such as Auction House) or (Specific place mentioned in a quest text) / (Person, Thing, or Concept mentioned in quest texts) / (Person from Quests) / (Other question endings)

This way, players could construct a question (either during conversation with an NPC or save a question ahead of time to be asked later) to find out information. This could also be used as a quest mechanic for quests which require investigation or interrogation. But by doing this, every NPC becomes a potential pointer towards whatever the player needs to know. Granted, not every NPC is going to know what the player asks them, but a lot of them would at least have a general idea of who to go and talk to that would know the answer.

The other idea I had was a Fortune Teller mechanic. For a small fee, players could step into the fortune teller's shop and have their fortunes told by expert psychics. They will be told to focus on a crystal ball and think about that which they want most (or some other relevant text). The game would then directly ask them what they want, and the player could input what they needed to know. If they need help with a quest, or if they want to learn a new ability, or whatever, then the game would tell them exactly where to go and what to do, but leave it a slight bit cryptic. This would of course, be recorded in any quest text (or as a new quest if the thing asked didn't apply to a current quest) so that the player could reference it later.

The fortune teller could also be used to select people for specific quests important to advancing the overall world plot if they meet the necessary criteria.

I'm still trying to think of other ways that can be used to point people towards quests and other places, because since I was planning on having quests be one time use only, I can't very well have chains which point players around and lead them on a tour across the globe.

Posted by Glyph, the Architect | at 1/29/2010 10:49:00 PM


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