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What is your Quest Design Philosophy?

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#1 Great Glass

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Posted 25 April 2019 - 02:57 PM

Talk about your Quest Design Philosophy here. Mine is to make players feel a sense of fun and enjoyment consistently.

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#2 Joelmacool



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Posted 25 April 2019 - 03:12 PM

Normally when I attempt to make a quest, I initially think of what the outline for the story would be. After that, I start work on outlining an overworld for the quest, and then I go on to add details to that overworld (enemies and items come after the overworld is designed). I then make the caves for the world, and then I create the dungeons. I worry about music and story at the end of development, however I try to understand why each dungeon is relevant to the story when designing the dungeon itself.


My aim is to make players feel a sense of freedom and allow them to explore in any fashion they wish, and I feel that this method in quest developing helps with that.

Edited by Joelmacool, 25 April 2019 - 03:13 PM.

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#3 Twilight Knight

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Posted 28 April 2019 - 01:40 PM

This is an interesting topic!


When I start a quest I think for a long time what it should be about and what the overworld is like. All I want from this is just a mere idea of the story, the theme, the overworld(s) and the dungeons. This is a fase that can take a long time, revising or scrapping the idea a lot. What helps for me is not to rush it and take a couple of weeks at least to ensure I have something I want to spend a whole lot more time on making. It's no use if I get bored quickly of the project.


Making a good story is not my strength at all, I tend to just draw inspiration from other games, books, movies or tv shows. Conveying the story is also something I struggle with.


Making the overworld is my favourite thing. I decide upon the size of the overworld and think of some themes of areas I would like to make. I really like snowy areas for example, so that's definitely on that list every time. Maybe I'd make a sketch or 2, but nothing detailed, of where these areas are supposed to be. Then comes a very important part which is picking the palettes for the areas. While nothing is set in stone yet, this is useful for when actually making the screens, but also for me to create a layout of the areas by copy pasting screens all over the map. I end up with a barebone of empty screens on the map, with the palettes indicating which area is where.


By now serious planning is required: how many dungeons? Which items will be used? What is the order in dungeons? Where are they located? Without these questions answered I would be making the quest blindly and probably end up with a very linear overworld and dungeons. Now bold decisions can be made.


When these questions are answered I simply make the screens and do everything at a random order, doing what I feel like at the time. I think that works best for me, because only doing a particular thing for a long time tends to get really boring. I hate writing strings the most of all these things.



It's also funny that in contrary to Joel, I prefer to pick the music for an area as soon as possible. Then I can listen to it when making the area itself, drawing inspiration from the music.

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#4 ShadowTiger



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Posted 28 May 2019 - 10:41 AM

The very first thing I do is design the concept for a story.  "You're a somebody that turns out to have been a nobody this whole time, but everyone elses' confidence in you turns you into a somebody."  Or  "You're a soldier sent to investigate a large cave, but the moment you're in there, people are trying to fight you, and you find these artifacts that give you superpowers, and then even more people fight you, and it turns out you were their god the whole time, and they just wanted to make sure."  (Patent pending. :freak: Don't steal my ideas.)   Stuff like that.  I want it working from start to finish.  Every character, every piece of the story, every string critical to the plot, and what they should look like.  If I don't have that, I don't have a game.  It would just be an environment to explore.  It's all or nothing there.  But there's still some room to fiddle with characters that will fit in with environments I have to make that fit the items.


Then I design the gameplay, which means designing the challenges the players will face, and then designing the items that they'll need to conquer those challenges.


Then I design the unique areas that will be best suited to those items and their challenges.  If I find a hammer somewhere, I have to ask myself "why would there be a hammer there, rather than a hookshot or a raft?"   Maybe there are boulders that need to be pounded, or large serpent-worms that pop out of the ground that the ancient people that lived there need to play whack-a-mole with. Maybe the hammer was the scepter of a very large King, and you're using it as a weapon whereas he used it as a means to emphasize judicial judgments thousands of years ago.  It's that kind of planning, really.  It's mildly detached from the plot because the storyline needs some flexibility to mould itself into whatever shape the setting turns out to be in.


Once I have an idea about all of the areas, I set about making a general map of the world and its regions.  It's very broad, really.  It's like a rough-draft of an essay.   I make two maps - One that connects all of the areas to show where they are in relation to the other and how to get from one to the other,  and another map set that lists each area individually and where all of the locations and hidden areas should be.  After that, I pretty much just get to work.


Then, I start making my tileset.  This is where I usually get very distracted by the tileset-designing and lose myself to the process.  I absolutely love optimizing my workspace, and I would rather spend five years building up my tileset and combo pages so they work easily and fluently for my workflow habits than have to endure using someone else's tileset right out of the date.  This is where my projects go to die.  :P

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#5 NewJourneysFire



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Posted 29 May 2019 - 09:57 AM

Variety, consistency, complexity, and lots and lots of polish (bug testing). People will have fun if they resonate with your style of fun, but nobody will have fun if you release something cheap, boring, rushed or broken. (Well, you'll get some fans... Souls of Wisdom exists).

#6 Shane


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Posted 29 May 2019 - 10:47 AM

First I decide on a core gameplay element, something like wall painting from A Link Between Worlds as an example. I experiment with ideas to see if I can work with it. I usually plan two major areas with this core gameplay idea in mind: Gameplay, Story/World Building. What do I mean by this?


- Gameplay is pretty obvious. What sort of puzzles, enemies and areas can I come up with using this core mechanic? One of the three can inspire the other two. For example, I could come up with puzzles for sand blocks, so I decide on a desert and enemies that would fit in the desert. Maybe I could have enemies and items hiding inside these sand blocks? Can I implement the core gameplay mechanic into this creatively in more ways than one? I think of questions like this to get the ball rolling.


- Story, I usually base around the theme of the mechanic. Using wind to solve puzzles? How about a world set in a storm. Though, I already did that. :P How about playing as a robot? Maybe this could be a sci-fi sort of thing set in a simulation. Experimenting with hunting demons as your core idea? Maybe this can take place in a haunted mansion or castle. It's an easy way to create the basis of a setting and get a world that matches your gameplay. Maybe even the tone of the entire thing.


With a theme and tone in mind, I plan world building, coming up with a detailed backstory so I can personally understand the world I'm designing inside out. I detail every crucial event, character and area. A lot of details probably won't be used for the projects. It's just something to satisfy my imagination and/or in case I want NPCs to explain some interesting tidbits about the world I'm creating. Unless this is Hyrule, then I just lay out the areas and characters basically.


What sort of characters would work with the setting? If the protagonist is in a setting with a very harsh landscape, perhaps he is already a firm, experienced character that's modest but hopes for a paradise to appear. How would a character in a rebellion against a huge kingdom act? What if the core gameplay mechanic is involved? For example, if my quest is focused on magic, perhaps I can have a mage in training. Again, it's mostly a series of relevant questions and ideas that eventually become a planned out plan. I tend to overthink ideas and get scatterbrained as I'm not the best at planning but I manage to get there in my own way eventually. I have 3-4 quests fully documented that I want to make some day or am already making. I guess I usually end up making organized messes.


Tileset? Now that's easy, I use GB. :P

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#7 Shoshon the Elegant

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Posted 30 May 2019 - 06:36 AM

How I design depends on the quest I am making.



The way I have worked on the quest I am currently working on.



1. Design all dungeons.

2. Design all overworld.

3. Connect overworld to dungeons.

4. Hide all heart pieces.

5. Design all mini dungeons.

2-6. Plan out all bosses, mini bosses and characters (basically, somewhere mixed into the first 5, I do this.)

7. Gather together all scripts.

8. Gather together all sprites.

9. Design any bosses/mini boss tactics I need to.

10. Place enemies.

11. Build story.



Right now, I am working on 2-6, 1-5 are done.




Generally though, I build areas before placing enemies, and I place enemies before making story.

Even if I have the story in mind.

#8 Yloh


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Posted 30 May 2019 - 08:19 AM

Making screens with purpose is important to me. Purpose such as: does this screen have a secret, is this a battle screen, do you need a key and/or item in this screen, is there a key or item in this screen, does this screen unlock a short cut, what kind of trap can I hide here, etc...


When making dungeons, I normally think about what shape I want the overall dungeon to be in. After planning a shape, I just try to make everything work out. Sadly, this has caused me to make more filler screens than I would care to admit. Some of my best work has been areas where I don't try to force the environment to fit a certain standard. Why does the overworld have to be 16 x 8? Why does every dungeon have to be symmetrical and/or be shaped like something. This is something I've been thinking about recently and will avoid when making another quest.


In terms of planning, I really don't do anything more than plan for the dungeon's gimmick, item, and boss. Working with the editor and coming up with ideas on the fly is more fun for me than planning.

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#9 TheRock


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Posted 30 May 2019 - 11:01 AM

I like to plan out the gimmick for the dungeon. Then figure out how I want to use the gimmick. I also like using a unique layout for the dungeon. 

Overworlds I like to plan what kind of flow I want. Like a mountain area the the only way to go up is the cave system. 

#10 Evan20000


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Posted 30 May 2019 - 11:38 AM

To put in the most simple terms, to make the game I want to play. Getting more abstract than that would be an actual essay's worth. If anyone is genuinely interested, I'd type it, but I don't want to vomit a wall of text if nobody wants to read it. :P

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#11 Jamian


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Posted 31 May 2019 - 04:30 AM

To put in the most simple terms, to make the game I want to play.


Same. Except I couldn't type an essay's worth explaining it, since, depending on my mood, I may want to play very different games.


Also, I vote that you type it out.

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#12 Evan20000


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Posted 31 May 2019 - 10:44 AM

I ate too much. I'm gonna be sick. Oh no, I think I feel a textbarf coming on.


(Actually way shorter than I thought it'd be, but I didn't want to go into the more repetitive aspects of writing out how to design each area/whatnot when there's tons of youtube videos or whatever on the subject. This is probably the most concise explanation I can produce without compromising content.)

Edited by Evan20000, 31 May 2019 - 10:45 AM.

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#13 HeroOfFire



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Posted 31 May 2019 - 01:16 PM

I'm a bit too numbers based, so while I attempt to, uh, design as I go, having screens with currently unreachable content to eventually connect back to (or start a new route from), more often than not I find myself pre-planning a lot of stuff. Things like number of dungeons per area, number of items per dungeon, etc.


Sometimes I even plan out exactly which level has X item. How said item is used comes up when I'm actually designing those screens, but it means I have an idea well in advance when parts of the quest open up. This also tends to lead to a certain... balance, like enemy sets each showing up about the same number of times, multiple key items being used in the same number of dungeons, etc.


I think the most spur of the moment ideas are the bosses. Well, the scripted ones. Same with area and dungeon themes. I might have an idea like "this is the fire dungeon", but what that actually means may not be decided until after I've made a few screens.


As for flow, that one varies based on the quest design. In my more "traditional" quests, it tends to be somewhat linear, with dungeon items opening up more. I can try to have a few extra distractions here and there, but it mostly ends up being the new area unlocked that the next dungeon is located in. Of course, I've also tried some more open ended designs. At that point, it's less what opens up, and more "how far do you have to go" to determine things like enemy difficulty.


I probably need to work on enemy mixing better. I usually pick a good 4 - 7 enemies to show up in an area, and make lots of screens with 4 - 6 of the same enemy, then go back and have a few screens have a mix of 2 of the enemies.


And now, what most of you were probably waiting for. Designing a randomizer.


Any quest with Randomizer in the title is very calculated. Most of them could be charted in a spreadsheet, and obvious patterns would emerge. So I won't go too much into that. But when it comes to actually placing the items (and sometimes the dungeons), I have to keep track of what key items unlock each location, and also a general "difficulty" rating of an area. I then use a combination of these to decide where each key item can appear. I try to make it more casual friendly, so this means things like not placing the first Ladder in a Level 8, having some Swords and Tunics placed "early", not having low leveled dungeons in remote areas, etc.


Randomizers have also effected my level design (well, the ones that are not just Z1 screens). I often designed the dungeons in two parts, the early part where you can access a few item locations, and the later part that needs more items to explore. And I need to make sure there are enough keys in the first part to open every lock. I do want to drop this design though, and make dungeons that either fit a more traditional "path to dungeon item" style, or have multiple different branches opened by different items. For the "open world" designs I'm trying out now, this has led to item checks you can open from both sides, since you could encounter them both ways.


And of course, references. Putting in small (or obvious) jokes meant to get a laugh. Things like referencing other game series, other quests, even romhacks and fangames. This often comes in the form of the bosses, but sometimes the items and dungeon designs. I also have my own lore I may use once in a while, though probably not enough for others to get the full picture.


And overall, I tend to go for Exploration and Experimentation. This means enemy difficulty tends to be low, but the player can get access to lots of items to play around with, and some obscure corners of the world to find. Or options how to explore the world. Depending on the quest, this can lead to some replayability where each playthrough can be different. This is also what drives the randomizers: getting different items, and having to explore to find where things ended up.


With Omega development wrapping up, I'm shifting focus to a new "engine". While randomization will still be around, I've opened the door to new design options. Playthroughs with different characters. RPG mechanics. A checkpoint-based respawn / F6 Continue system. Not relying on broken items like the Ladder and Raft. And just as my randomizers refined their mechanics over time, these new ideas will likely also see changes as I use them.

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