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= AQ, Dev = Narrative Design Notes #2 -Tier 3 Class Quest Design

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3/19/2021 14:21:12   


Welcome back to the Narrative Design Notes! I hope everyone is staying safe in these times of unfortunate precedent. It's been a while since the last post, as particularly busy times result in favoring synchronous communication, but I have enough highly requested material to make up for lost time.

Today, I'm going to cover the design process for Tier 3 class quests as shown with Paladin.

Class Quest Design: Tier 3

The Process

The revamp of the Paladin class is allowing us to break some new ground for AdventureQuest. Having a whopping twenty skills, as well as the most story content that a class training has ever had, made it necessary to strike an immediate balance between quality and quantity. Now, as much as it would be epic to have a unique quest waiting for you every level... We haven't quite cracked transcendental colocation yet, and so we set the standard of a story quest for every five levels.

That left the crucial matter of the leveling experience. For the closest existing reference, I looked at the updated subrace quests and evaluated your response to them. The gathered feedback primarily concerned two things: Pacing, as well as a subset thereof in the inconvenience of stat rolls.

Grinding for subrace levels got more bearable over time through getting new skills to play around with, but it was still repeating the same experience ten times -- Or a total of twenty plus two trips to the Cure, if you wanted to be a Werepyre. Paladin broke up the possible monotony through only having to do four training quests between each story quest, but I still wanted the leveling quests to be fun in their own right. I aimed for the best of both worlds. Consequently, the stat rolls got less punishing to constitute more of a threat to SP management rather than time management, while the details of your enemies provided contextual storytelling.

The standard, then, was set as follows:

  • The quest hub introduces the premise and quest giver, as well as reflecting your progress as you go.
  • Random, repeatable leveling quests provide the framework of the class's story through contextual storytelling (Descriptions, status effects, scenery and enemy composition). They primarily provide both mooks and a boss for you to try your new skills against.
  • Milestone quests drive the primary narrative, with a soft closure at level 20 and further development for the Advanced quest (I can't wait for you to get to see all of it!).

    Lessons Learned

    With the complete leveling experience finally released, the reception made it clear that the team's fantastic job in bringing these ideas to life paid off in dividends. We have a great general format and a release structure that proved to work. Developing Necromancer should be a much smoother experience after learning from Paladin's releases.

    In terms of quest design, however, did I do the best job I could have?

    No. While feedback has been overwhelmingly positive, the good old 20/20 hindsight shows some clear room for improvement. Being mindful of the line between 'interesting' and 'complicated', as well as of what any given idea adds to the experience, are two concrete steps I will take as of writing this post.

    For a concrete example, let's go back to the matter of stat rolls in class quests. Their application was improved, but was the experience itself improved through their inclusion? Not really. While one can see them as a chance to add something interesting to a quest, the opposite perspective (Focused on the failure state) is equally valid when putting them on repeatable content. In fact, as used on Paladin, it's more accurate to consider them a save roll versus two unfavorable circumstances:

  • Having to spend more time in the quest, thus extending rather than breaking the monotony.
  • Going into the boss fight with reduced SP.

    The first possibility amounts to a chance for the roll to be self-defeating. The second would be better served as an optional challenge or boon. On a standalone quest, a risk of facing a longer challenge can be fun. On a quest that you'll repeat over a dozen times, it aggravates the monotony (Some degree of which is inevitable). Stat rolls could be used to break it up instead.

    Regular stat rolls are very much a product of their time, and checks of this nature can be an effective way of smoothing progression according to how prepared a growing character is to take on the upcoming challenge. With Tier 3 classes, however, the hero taking on this adventure is experienced and prepared, not to mention that they have already had to deal with enough rounds of basic tests of their characteristics. These are the quests in which heroes realize their potential, having already proven it.

    There is a place for chance in adventure. However, I will endeavor to focus on features that add fun to the experience rather than random repetition of arbitrary failure states. We can work on interesting uses instead, and make the class leveling experience all the better for it.

    Look forward to the future, because I am absolutely excited about helping the team craft an even better experience for everyone. Battle On!
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