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Nov 01 2008 -
An Insight into Quest Design
uests are an essential part of Tibia, for many players they are the spice that keeps things interesting and adds flavour to the game: fulfilling a task, fighting monsters or solving mysteries and riddles, and finally getting an achievement or reward.

There are many different kinds of quests, sometimes you have to deliver a note or collect several items, another time, you have to kill a horde of monsters. Whatever your mission is, your life as an adventurer gets enriched with each quest and after completing a difficult mission, you often feel really proud. A valuable treasure or a certain achievement is nice for sure, but the feeling of having solved a riddle or having defeated a bunch of fierce monsters is something you will most likely not forget anytime soon. Sometimes, the journey to solve a quest is the real reward or at least part of the reward.

Amaro de Quester is a retired adventurer who always had a keen interest in exploring the world around him. Recently, he got the chance to meet CipSoft's content team, Chayenne, Dens Larika and Knightmare, the quest designers so to say, and he kindly agreed to share his experiences with us...

"I visited the content team to get a better insight into the quest design of Tibia. Of course, I had my head full of questions: Are there any guidelines? What kind of things do you have to keep in mind when creating a quest? What is a typical quest line? Are there any undiscovered quests? I really enjoyed my time there and I will now try to summarise what I have learnt.

For every major update, the content team usually prepares between one and three bigger quest lines and a few smaller quests. Naturally, it depends on the number of other features that are planned. And guess what, not all quests are announced in a news article, so with every update some hidden quests may come along!

In preparation for an update, the quest designers start with a brainstorming session. One of the first decisions that has to be made is what kind of quest they want to make. A big quest line with several tasks like the postman quest can either have a linear plot or a modular, more flexible and dynamic quest line. On the other hand, single quests with just one or a few tasks can also be very entertaining. The Tibia Tales, for example, consist of several smaller quests which do not necessarily relate to each other. And some quests in Tibia can be repeated like the Machinery of War quest, for example. Yeah, of course, you never know what those pesky orcs are up to so you better pay them a visit every once in a while...

I always wondered who comes up with all these great quests in Tibia. Well, the whole content team is involved in creating stories and riddles. Sometimes, they also get inspired by player proposals. And there is this huge pin board in their office on which members of other departments can contribute their ideas.

Of course, I told them about my idea, a man, a strong, brave man, you know, a muscle man, and you have to compete against him, see? However, I was not aware of all the design guidelines you have to follow and all the things you have to bear in mind. Thinking up a story is just one part of making a quest, you also have to script and implement it. Of course, the storyline has to fit into Tibia's setting. Oh yeah, I knew that one. But I did not think about the degree of difficulty which should either remain relatively constant or rise, depending on the type of quest. How challenging should it be? That is a crucial question.

Of course, quests are tested carefully so players do not skip a certain part of the quest or can exploit a certain game feature. Likewise, players should not be able to reset a quest in order to get a reward several times. If that is possible in a non-repeatable quest, it is most likely a bug and has to be reported immediately. I guess it's quite difficult to find every possible exploit or flaw in advance. To be honest, I think it is certainly a good idea to assume some players may attempt to diminish the fun of others, disrupt and ruin quests. By keeping this in mind, the quest designers can identify weak points that might give players an unfair advantage.
I really appreciate that the content team tries to avoid dead ends. Losing a quest item or making a wrong decision should not get you stuck. Therefore, they often implement alternative ways to regain quest items lost due to a character's death, for example. In the end, the cost-benefit ratio is also important and should be balanced so that a quest which was extremely difficult to script cannot be solved in just five minutes.

There are many more decisions that influence the quest design and the final reward. You have to think about requirements such as level or vocation, what kind of monsters have to be faced, what items are needed, should it be a team quest or a single player quest, how to give hints and tips and so on. I almost fell asleep when I listened to this long list which seemed to be never-ending.

Things started to sound really technical and complicated so I asked the content team to exemplify a quest line by using my favourite quest, the Djinn Quest. This quest is particularly interesting because it is a faction quest, at the beginning you have to decide on whose side you are on... ally with the Efreet, the green djinns, or the blue djinns called Marid.

Generally speaking, the quest consists of a quest flag marking your faction alliance and two quest lines, each of them with three missions depending on your allies. A quest flag is basically a marker that can be set to a value if you perform a certain action. That way it keeps track of your progress in a quest. To put it simple, if you open a chest quest for the first time, your quest flag will be set to "you have already opened this chest". I often tend to forget my quest progress so I rejoiced when they introduced the questlog. Finally, you could track your progress or re-read some quest hints, at least in main quests. I sometimes wondered why the questlog does not include an entry for every chest you open. The content team told me that there are around 1,000 quest flags by now so only "real" quests are displayed there.

But let's get back to the djinnies. You receive the first quest flag if you have learnt the djinn greeting from Melchior, the blind beggar who knows a lot about the djinns. Then, you just have to talk to the gatekeeper in front of blue djinn fortress or to the gatekeeper in front of the green djinn fortress, depending on the faction you would like to choose. Each of them checks if you have the correct quest value ("learnt word of greeting") and if you do, you can ally with them against the opposing djinn faction. Of course, your quest flag will be set to a value identifying your alliance ("blue" or "green"). This quest flag value is essentially important as it affects your quest line and everything you can do in the quest from then on, which doors you can open, how NPCs will react to you and so on. You will also find a questlog entry concerning your alliance.

I am a Marid - of course - and I still remember my first mission, the dwarven kitchen, a delivery mission. I will try to explain the basic structure of this quest to see if I understood it right. OK, so NPC Bo'ques was looking for a special recipe and I agreed to help him getting his hands on it. Thus, my quest flag was set to "mission received". Fortunately, there was a questlog entry in case I should forget my mission while wandering about in a labyrinth also known as Kazordoon. Yes, it IS a labyrinth. Even with map markers I usually get lost somewhere.

After what felt like an eternity, I finally found the dwarven lady Maryza and asked her about the dwarven cookbook. By checking the status of my quest flag, she knew I was on a mission to get that book. Therefore, she handed it over with a bearded smile and set the quest flag to "cookbook received". You know, I asked her for another one as I thought this might be an awesome gift for my mother, but blimey, she knew that I already got one. Well, I returned to Bo'ques who checked my quest flag to see if I am really at the right point in the quest line and if I obtained the cookbook. Finally, he took the book which set my quest flag to "mission completed" and also updated my questlog.

I guess that's what quest flags are all about.. to mark if a player meets the requirements and is allowed to do something, talk to an NPC, switch a lever, or if he has already received a quest item or a special reward, for example.

Finally, I asked the question that has been nagging at me for a long time: Are there any undiscovered or unsolved quests? Chayenne told me that they usually try not to leave players in the dark for too long and that you get the majority of quests from NPCs who also provide you with some useful hints. Nevertheless, there are some quests which are not explicitly mentioned somewhere and which do not show up in the questlog even if you have already found a hint. And guess what? The content team really enjoys implementing such quests and watching us looking for hints. Such quests often involve many riddles, like the Paradox Tower quest. Unfortunately, they often get spoiled quickly and you can find all the necessary information in the net. Therefore, the quest reward is often not as high as in other quests.
Who knows, maybe our dear quest designers will implement new hidden quests in the future or continue open end quests. I guess I have to start roaming around again, looking for quests, exploring the vast lands of Tibia... being an adventurer is more than just a life style, it's a state of mind. Where is my walking stick?"

And off he went into the horizon. Maybe you would like to follow him on his journey?

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