For the November forum update dedicated to The Age of Decadence, Iron Tower Studio's Vince give us a quick update on how the beta testing for the indie turn-based RPG is going and then delves into some thoughts on side-quest design and what they learned on it from the game's beta testing. Here's a snip:
When we started working on the game, there was a number of "traditional" elements I wanted to eliminate to, um, "streamline" the gameplay:
- mindless running across maps and locations. You know, the typical "fedex" quests or "now run all the way back and tell the questgiver that you finished the quest!" It adds nothing to gameplay and just wastes your time.
- mindless sidequests. You run around and talk to NPCs with silly problems.
"I'm a hunter, can you please kill 10 wolves for me?"
"Um, yeah, sure, I love killing wolves."
"How would you like to listen about my family problems and then talk to my father/brother/wife/son to solve them for me once and for all?"
"Oh boy, would I!"
"My [place] is infested with [rats/spiders/bandits/tax collectors]. Please help me, I don't know what else to do."
"Say no more, my good man. That's why I play RPGs I live for this shit!"
- mindless looting. "Hey, a barrel! I wonder what's inside. A magic sword?!! Wow! Hey, another barrel..."
So, we've eliminated all 3 and focused instead of developing interwoven questlines with different options and outcomes. The outcome? There is no need to explore the towns, 'cause there isn't much to do outside the faction quests. If you want to walk around looking for spontaneous stuff to do, you're in the wrong game.
In other words, only when we skipped the mindless stuff, did we realize what it was there for. Take Fallout 2, for example. Even though it was inferior to the first game (that's just, like, my opinion, man), it was a well-rounded game with a lot of content. Sure, some quests were silly but when mixed with the good stuff, they didn't seem to bug me that much.
Once the testers pointed it out, we had to fill the town with something. Naturally, we didn't want to fill it with barrels, ripe for picking chests, NPCs suffering without quality delivery services, etc.
At first we wanted to do something quick and stupid. You walk down the street and see - perception check - something hidden in that, uh, wall? tree? barrel? In the end, we decided to do it right, as painful as it is during the beta test. Trust me, we all want that fucking demo out so that we can relax and, like, not think of it for a week or two? Have fun, enjoy life, run outside naked, play Skyrim, troll some forums?
One by one, we added 8 - I don't know how to call them? mini quests? situations? events? something something? They filled in the town, expanded the gameworld and lore, and gave you a reason to explore. So, I guess we did learn something in the end.