Thursday, May 24, 2012

Bad quest design: Things changing because you talked to someone

I like that most of the quests in Dragon Age: Origins are pretty easy to figure out. Go kill some guys or put a red X on their doors and then you're done. I also like it when I need to gather information, but I feel like this just sets up a bad situation.

One example is finding the cartel in the dwarf town. The bandits who have the key you need don't show up in their little room until after you've talked to the lady who knows their leader. Before you talk to her, you can go inside and it's just an empty room. There seems to be no logical connection between talking to the woman and the bandits appearing other than quest progression. The same thing happens a LOT in Touch Detective. If I'm stuck in Touch Detective, it's because I haven't talked to everyone twice. Sometimes someone I'm supposed to talk to doesn't even appear until after I've talked to someone else. It's way frustrating.

I've identified this problem, but I'm not sure what a good solution would be. Have all the pieces of the puzzle laid out already, and risk the player encountering them out-of-order? Put a little exclamation point over someone you need to talk to? A request where you need to gather more information before proceeding makes sense. The thing we need to get rid of is the empty rooms changing unnoticed. But if every change is visible, it damages the conception of the game world as a place that is changing even when the player isn't looking (for some reason this is important, right?).

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Playing Dragon Age Origins!

Hey readers!  I'm going to start working as a part-time intern for the Killscreen, which is really close to my dream job! So I'm excited about that. I've already transcribed an interview, which doesn't sound glamorous, but it's still kind of fun to see the other side of a publication and be a part of that.

I wrote two articles for Nightmare Mode: an article on Journey's Parallels to the Mormon Temple Ceremony, and another on Pippinbarr's Pongs and how they criticize video game mechanics WITHIN a video game. I like writing for another site and working on an article until it's a lot better than something I'd just type out in an evening (like what I usually write here). But I still like the spontaneity of writing here. 

don't worry he is not actually as interesting as my husband
I started playing Dragon Age: Origins and I'm beginning to understand more of the Bioware fandom. I wanted to get Alistair to like my character, but in the process I ended up liking him more. I kind of like the dating sim part of the game! Sometimes the characters predictably like the "good" or "chaotic" choices, but you know, people in real life are like that sometimes. 

One thing I wasn't aware of was how the challenge scaling works in the game (basically, how the game determines how difficult the enemies are). I went to the big city as soon as I could, had difficulty beating the blood mages there, and just ratcheted the difficulty down so I could finish it, instead of figuring that I could come back when I was higher level. I thought it would work more like in Oblivion, but there's definitely an order that's best to follow for the enemies to match your level. I kind of wish I had stayed on the normal difficulty, but the casual difficulty is really easy and it's making it less likely for me to get stuck (and therefore I'm getting more time to spend on the parts of the game I like). Maybe it's going to injure my gamer cred, but oh well. Don't even worry, I'm going to get a grease/fire combo going at some point with my mage, even if I don't need to deal that much damage. 

I also regret leaving some things undone in Lothering (? that first town), not realizing it was going to be un-visitable with the encroaching blight. So I didn't get the bard or the prisoner dude in my party. I'm tempted to do another run through to do all the "bad" things (you know, like freeing the prisoner and making deals with demons) so I can see more of the story things. But I also want to get to Dragon Age 2! And all the other games on my shelf.  Those of you who have played DA:O, is it worth doing a second run?