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?).