segunda-feira, 6 de julho de 2015

The core structure of a QUEST

Today’s post is about one of my favorite subjects: quest design. A good quest could create immersion and, consequently, an emotional attachment in players. In order to discuss the creative process of quests in games, we will bring some ideas from Jeff Howard (2008) from the book “Quests: design, theory, and history in games and narratives” (one reading that I strongly recommend for all game researchers).

I’ll try to synthetize some nuclear thoughts from Howard in this post. First of all: the space where the quest happens is fundamental to merge the player’s imagination with the narrative. Space for quests should be fantastic (an alien world, a steam punk city), dreamlike (the oneiric realm of Bloodborne, the mysterious ambient of Back to Bed), allegorically arranged to convey ideas through their layout (puzzle games), organized to create a sense of progression through difficult ascent, and labyrinthine (HOWARD, 2008, p.50).

To construct the spaces of the quest is essential to keep in mind some considerations: embedded meaning (allied with plot, narrative etc.), a balance between challenging obstacles and exploration and a sense of progression, and the organization of spaces according to “quest hubs” (HOWARD, 2008, p.58).

After the definition of a space for the quest (based on a previous narrative) it’s very important to tune the characters with the objects of the quest, creating challenging situations. In the Batman’s game, Arkham Asylum, the player wears the hero’s cape to fight the Joker as a final threat. The main narrative has the Joker as the final challenge and, stage-by-stage, there are other villains to stop (Scarecrow, Crocodile, Poison Ivy). For players who want a more immersive challenge, there are a great number of side quests to face: Riddler’s trophies hidden in the scenario, mysterious inscriptions with the diary of Amadeus Arkham and many more.

In games like Arkham Asylum, the balance between main quests and side quests creates an experience for different kinds of players. Some will try to end the game through the main line. Others will finish the game looking for each hidden element in the stages. Think quests for the videogame’s platforms are a challenging exercise and Howard’s book helps us structure this kind of thought more precisely.


HOWARD, Jeff. Quests: design, theory, and history in games and narratives. Wellesley: A K Peters, 2008.

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