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  • The Art Of Compelling Quest Design

    [01.19.21]
    - Sukhraj Johal
  • Ghost of Tsushima is one of the only open worlds in recent memory that has nailed the player experience where the open-world content can distract players from the protagonist's main questline. A lot of side quests that the game has to offer aren't hollow fetch quests; they often provide players with rich narrative content. Whether it be finding a former student gone astray, hunting a murderer or investigating disappearances, just to name a few!

    I want to explore how the developers at Suckerpunch Productions crafted a living world. Let's dissect one a great example from the game that effectively hooks in players. The Mythic Tale: The Spirit Of Yarikawa's Vengeance.

    Quest Design of The Spirit Of Yarikawa's Vengeance

    Premise

    Jin finds a musician sitting on a road where several bodies have been found in the ruins of Yarikawa. He learns about an ancient spirit that is taking requests to brutally kill the enemies of the Yarikawa villagers. The samurai must track down and take care of the vengeful spirit!

    Quest Flow

    Here's the quest mapped out into a flow diagram:

    Repeating elements such as searching for the white smoke are used as a means to propel the story forward, slowly understanding the heinous acts this spirit is doing until it gets to a breaking point where you as the player has to fight the spirit.

    Quest Walkthrough Video - Credit to TheNinjaGuyDon

    What Can Designers Learn From This Quest?

    1. Provide Open-Ended Quest Goals Over Completing a Checklist

    A common trend that is often seen within side quests from other games is the idea of "completing a checklist". Whether it be doing a sequence of events in chronological order or fetching a certain number of items. For example, collect 5 feathers to complete the quest.

    Even though this quest follows a linear progression, the devs at Suckerpunch packaged it in a way where the players feel like they are slowly unravelling a mystery. This is done by drip-feeding new goals as the player progresses. For example, once the player has investigated something they may gather a clue that will lead them to something else. This approach keeps players intrigued rather than laying out all the goals they need to hit before the quest starts. By presenting everything upfront in an expositional dump, players will see how the mission will be resolved. Something more open-ended like "investigate the spirit that is killing people" will provide some mystery and intrigue.

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