Funded! This project was successfully funded on November 29.

Update #14

Narrative and Quests

21 comments
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Greetings!

Many of you have asked us about the quest system in Lords of Xulima. Today we’d like to give you a little information about our thoughts on this subject and how it’s being approached in Lords of Xulima.

Personally, I don’t like it at all when the story of a game is simplified into a list of tasks that the player must complete. When I played Oblivion, I started to feel overwhelmed and stressed by all of the different quests I had waiting for completion in my queue. Sometimes, completing one quest just led to two or three additional quests being added. It left me with the impression that instead of playing a game, I was really working.

Are quests necessary in RPGs? 

It would seem that the answer to this question is obviously yes. It’s well established that an RPG has to have the typical quest system, a main quest line to advance the story and a number of optional side quests. Must every RPG follow this pattern? In JRPGs like Final Fantasy, epic storylines were fluidly told without having to resort to a quest system, though they had the advantage of being very linear. Games like the first few entries in the Might & Magic series and Wizardry VII didn't have a list of missions either, you simply advanced through the games learning about the story bit by bit, the drawback was that at times these games were a little too opaque and you had to guess what it was you were supposed to do.

The Main Story In Lords of Xulima

The main story is told through 4 themes that are developed in parallel and sometimes cross over. The four main themes are: The Divine Temples, The Impious Princes, The Divine Artifacts, and The Titans.

These plot lines advance according to what you chose to do in the game. Each time you advance in one of them, a note is added to the journal for that particular story arc. There are no missions associated with these; you decide how to proceed based on what you know of the story. 

If you are not sure what to do, you can always consult your journal to go over the events again. Our intention is that the player immerses themselves in the story and enjoys it at their own pace and rhythm, exploring and learning about the story as they play. We want the player to do as they choose, not give them a list of tasks that they need to complete. 

Optional Subplots

Additionally, there are other subplots which are entirely optional. If the player chooses to advance in these, they may obtain great treasures or even special powers. These subplots are: The Mausoleums of Kings, The Gifts of the Gods and the Champion of the Arena.

What about side quests?

Lords of Xulima was originally conceived not to include any side quests. However, later we saw that these could offer additional gameplay as well as give the player an opportunity to earn more experience and treasures. In Lords of Xulima, they are entirely optional. 

These quests are offered by the instructor in each village. You just need to talk to the instructor and ask about the bulletin board and the instructor will tell you about the list of quests that the people of the village have posted: “There are some dangerous spiders in the garden”, “The Ogre is blocking the road to Sorrentia”, “We need 20 Vermolio Spores”, etc… If you complete a task, you only need to return to the bulletin board to collect your reward.

These missions are also listed in your journal like in any other RPG. As you progress in the game more missions will be available on the bulletin boards. In any case, it is entirely possible to complete Lords of Xulima without doing any of these side quests.

With this system we have maintained some aspects from the classics and included some of the newer innovations in RPG quest systems. We believe that our approach puts the emphasis on the narrative and advances the story in a less artificial manor.

What do you think?

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Peter Taucher, Cybe Wolf, and 8 more people like this update.

Comments

    1. Blankpaw.small

      Creator M.S.S on November 24

      "Gaupher the Explorer"

      Nah I'm just kidding. I'm one of those fanatics who actually enjoy grinding in a good game... Persona 3 was great partly because most of the fights were interesting, and there was so much to grind for. A few side-quests to make the process shorter & more rewarding is always a good thing, IMO.

    2. 169.small

      Creator Sirius on November 23

      Awesome update as always.
      I do like side quests because in most of the games if you only follow the main quest you don't explore the whole map, doing side quests kinda "forces" you to explore it more meticulously and so you find out more about the world and how polish and alive (or not) the game is, it tells you if the developers care about putting the side quest or they just did to extend the length of the game.
      Recently I played a game called The inquisitor (buy it on gog its awesome!) and the side quests missions were attached to the main one (or most of them were) so by completing and helping all the npc of a town you progress through the main plot too..you can progress without doing the "side quests" but you will lost a lot of information in the process and leveling your character too, I think that is the way every game should handle side quests.

    3. Logo_numantiangames_square.small

      Creator Numantian Games on November 23

      @Sergio: We can agree more with you!

      Wizardry VII was a bit opaque but I enjoyed a lot (that game is one of my five favorite games).
      Might & Magic I and II were much more opaque. Until half of the adventure you only know some very obscure and weird clues about the main story.

      In LoX is easier to follow the story, it is more organized than those classics. But the story, is complex and with lots of subtle details...

    4. Missing_small

      Creator Sergio on November 23

      Personally I think the way Ultima and Wizardry games did it is best. There's no need for explicit quests neither mandatory nor optional: the player gathers the facts and then acts accordingly based on that knowledge, what could be simpler?

      Some of those actions may be necessary to advance in the game, others will be optional (but still worthwhile in some way), it shouldn't even be obvious beforehand which are which!

      I have to say I find slightly depressing that you think Wizardry 7 is 'opaque' since I was expecting LoX to feature the kind of complexity in story and riddles that game had. I want to have to think about what to do!

    5. Ngames_-_logo.small

      Creator MathieuNG on November 23

      @Will Yes, precisely. Whatever one's stance is on Quest systems... in LoX, it is more a way to separate entries & events in the Journal than it is a "System". Those mini-quests are merely a way for us to make your exploration and battles more satisfying, especially if you're preparing for a dangerous descent into that Dungeon you just discovered and need supplies/XP.

      Believe me when I say that we love this game far too much to be lazy about anything :) I know lots of finer details for being a Tester, but it can be hard to cover everything in Updates and Comments. At any rate, I hope some of you guys make it into the closed Beta. We'll have a community Forum by then, where we can talk about all of this good stuff to our heart's content, and add ideas to the game's creative process/developement at the same time :-)

    6. Will_herrmann.small

      Creator Will Herrmann on November 23

      One thing that a quest system helps with is to help you remember what you're supposed to be doing. With a game like The Elder Scrools, if I play the game for a few hours, then return to it in few weeks, I can quickly figure out what I'm supposed to be doing. In fact, this was problem in the first version of Morrowind where there was no quest system and everything was just dumped into your journal in the order you received it. The result? You usually forgot what you were supposed to be doing and had to go through pages of journal notes to figure out what happened (the expansions added a quest system which was very much welcome!)

      Some games in the Ultima series also had this problem. As the review on the Spoony Experiment showed, one of the main quests in Ultima VII resulted in you wandering all across the world and talking to a bunch of people and in general it was hard to remember what you needed to do and where you needed to go (and in that one, there wasn't really a journal system at all). Most of the fanmade Ultima remakes add some sort of quest system to solve this problem.

      If you do decide not to do a quest system and just do journals, make sure that things are easy to look up if you haven't played the game in a few weeks. One suggestion is to have each entry "tagged" with a location, subject, and related questline (if applicable). That way if I'm going to the capitol city, or looking for things related to artifacts, or looking for things related to The Impious Princes storylines, I can quickly find what I what I want to know without having to dig through 10 pages of other stuff I don't care about at the moment.

    7. Flyingthing.small

      Creator Keith Turner on November 22

      @Numantian: Ahh okay, the background information you've provided in your comment makes them sound much more interesting and significant than the update post indicated. It does sound like you have put quite a bit more detail and thought into them. I think tossing them out without the additional context, and mentioning a bulletin board turn-in system, gave us the wrong impression.

      In other words, thank you for clarifying and keep up the good work! Raising pledge...

    8. Ksav.small

      Creator Talon Edgewater [Xulima[Bloom]Deathfire] on November 22

      @NG: Well then, these optional quests sound much different than I had thought. I think you guys are definitely on the right track with everything, now that I am more informed. I, too, cannot wait to play this glorious game!

    9. Kitty%20sniper.small

      Creator Chet on November 22

      I really like the way you've got the plot and sub-quests separated.

      Once again, the more info you give us on the game, the more excited I get.

      It's going to be sooooooo difficult to wait for Feb to get here.

      Hmmmmmm, what if I change the name of December on my calendar to Feb would that make the game come sooner ....... :P

    10. Logo_numantiangames_square.small

      Creator Numantian Games on November 22

      Thanks for the comments, you really take care of this game, they are really appreciated!

      About the secondary quests:
      I think you believe that you are going to spend 95% of the game doing hundred of boring tasks (fetch quests) like in some other games, but in LoX it just the opposite.

      As the story is so epic, and the protagonist is trying to accomplish a divine mission because the world where he lives is collapsing, it does not make sense that he spends most of the time doing tasks for secondary NPCs. The plot lines are the important part and you are going to spend the time exploring and advancing through those plot lines. That is Lords of Xulima, exploration & story.

      Said that. I don't know why you suggest the fetch quests are not interesting.
      There are about 3-5 quests for every one of the five villages. Many of them are not related to do something for an NPC, they are for helping in global problems that affect the village. For example, the Ogre in the road to Sorrentia is a very powerful boss who has a lair near with a mountain of corpses of the people who has tried to pass through his domain to reach Sorrentia. The spiders are a singular and unique combat in which you have to use special "spells" or tricks. The spores of Vermolio force you to explore one of the dangerous forest of Febret, the Goddess of Nature...

      The side quest are optional, you can ignore them if you like, but they are few, interesting and fun to do, although they are not do epic as the main story.

    11. Fb_profile_picture.small

      Creator Kordanor on November 22

      Yep, Maestro ist totally right. I am doing each and every quest in all games. Only if it is obvious that you can't mark it as "solved" and leave it behind (because it's randomly generated and unlimited) it will be left out.

    12. Missing_small

      Creator Maestro the Wasted Obsidian Weresheep on November 22

      Never underestimate an RPG completionist's quest OCD.

      If there's a quest, I'll do it. Period. You'll likely have a non-trivial percentage of your players who will feel the same way. The word "optional" does not compute. Incidentally, this is why I always seem to find myself overlevelled in many games. Bethesda games are the worst this way.

      Whether this alters your plans for the quest system doesn't really matter to me, but you need to be aware that calling something "optional" doesn't automatically make it so for everyone. ;p

    13. Ksav.small

      Creator Talon Edgewater [Xulima[Bloom]Deathfire] on November 22

      Also, if quests are given by the people who need the help it makes the quests more personal and interesting. Hearing someones harrowing story of a lost child or hearing their joy when you complete the quest makes non-plot side-quests much more interesting and rewarding than simply going to a quest board and it saying "you completed 2 quests, here's [reward]"

    14. Flyingthing.small

      Creator Keith Turner on November 22

      Lords of Xulima's focus is clearly on it's unique lore and storytelling, which is of course what many of us are attracted to. When we consider what we know about the lore, it's protagonist Gaulen who has been chosen by Golot, and the real-worth mythology that helped inspire the creation of this world, the inclusion of mundane quests seems out of out of touch with the rest of the story.

      I can understand the desire to provide a way for players to acquire more gold or experience, if for example they are in over their heads. Quests are seen as a better way than killing random monsters, a method typically associated with experience "grinding", and in a way, I agree. Perhaps less, but more epic, optional missions would be the key here. Non-essential missions that still make the player say "Wow, I really enjoyed and feel rewarded for the time I just spent doing that." Another thing you might like to hear them say is "I've never seen a quest like that before, that was really interesting."

    15. Fb_profile_picture.small

      Creator Kordanor on November 22

      Have to agree with the previous comments. These generic quests do sound incredibly boring. Well, we don't know how the much we will have to do with the 4 main plots of course.
      I loved the aspect of Daggerfall which gave random quests and generated whole random dungeons for that and I was thrilled when they said they want to make something similar in Skyrim. What they did was something like you discribed for Xulima. Besides of crappy rewards these quests were boring and after two of these quests I didn't care about them at all anymore. The same about the first witcher game, which had blackboards screaming "boring stuff here". So...yeah...not a big fan.

    16. Ksav.small

      Creator Talon Edgewater [Xulima[Bloom]Deathfire] on November 22

      I echo some of the previous sentiments in these comments. I love absolutely everything about this game, aside from the quest board. Quest boards are sort of a generic way to present side quests. A simple (and already suggested) fix to this is to have the side quests issued by the citizen of the villages/towns/castles instead of funneled into a quest board. It also gives us more reason to interact with non-essential NPCs (citizens, etc). Maybe make each quest-giving citizen something unique about them to better identify ones with quest (pacing faster than usual, going in circles, wearing something really unique) so that for those who like side quests can find them easier and don't have to resorts to talking to each and every citizen to make sure they have all the quests.

      This is a small gripe on an otherwise GLORIOUS game. It's the KS project I'm most excited about!

    17. Tinydan.small

      Creator alcaray on November 22

      An RPG is about the story. If you want to tell a story about a gopher (the human sort who runs around and does people's bidding for a living) then quest systems are perfect. If you want to tell a story about a protagonist with plans/dreams/wishes/motivations, who wants to make an important mark on the world (and not as a gopher), then quest systems just get in the way.

      I appreciate that quest systems make RPG game development a lot easier.

    18. Logo_numantiangames_square.small

      Creator Numantian Games on November 22

      @Keith: Lords of Xulima is about the main story, not fetch quests. They are only in the case you need more money or some more experience, because the other option would be killing random enemies. They are optional and you can ignore them. Because of that, they are restricted to the instructors. Don't worry about that! It is the less important element of LoX.

      The real meaningful optional content are the subplots. They are part of the story and lore and they have really interesting rewards if you complete them.

    19. Bonhommepenseur.small

      Creator Simon on November 22

      I have to agree with Keith. I've come to expect great creativity and imagination from everything in Lords of Xulima, but it seems strangely missing for these side-quests. Please consider finding a different way than copy/pasting an instructor and a billboard. No matter how optional they are, many gamers will feel obligated to do them. Devs learn this the hard way, we are just silly like that :P

      Discovering quests on the road, after beating mini-bosses, while exploring remote areas... at least you are delivering the outdated concept of "fetch quests" in an original way.

      Who are you, and what have you done with our RPG Guru Jesus =P

    20. Flyingthing.small

      Creator Keith Turner on November 22

      The main story and optional subplots sound great! Had the update stopped there I would have been extremely pleased.

      Unfortunately, the section on side quests is much less interesting. Especially when presented as a bulletin board. Side quests to me work best when you find out about them in passing. For instance, when you overhear a conversation between two people discussing a disturbance somewhere off the beaten path, perhaps at a villager's home or something. Should you choose to investigate it, it could end up being something much greater than anyone expected. Perhaps the owner discovered a hidden passage within his home and unleashed something unimaginable. It could be anything really, but in the end rewards from quests should come from the act of doing the quest rather than as errands to be performed for townspeople.

      Another approach to giving out quests is to provide books or lore information for the player to uncover. This could create a journal entry that the player can choose to uncover if they wish. A story about a long lost item or spell lost by time might lead the player to investigate a place in a different way, or even examine something seemingly mundane to uncover a hidden mystery.

      I feel like side quests should be limited, interesting, and rewarding. Typically magical items, new spells, and other items of power are a great reward for this. JRPGs used to have great weapons you could uncover, for instance, and though they may be outdated later, they were worth doing the side mission for in your earlier days. Final Fantasy also used to have summoning spells you could only get by going to great length, and you were never really handheld to get there. Receiving XP, gold, or some potions from a "quest giver", be it a person or a bulletin board, is just not satisfying. Especially when it means doing fetch quests or kill X amount of things quests.

      Just my two cents. I love the originality you guys are putting forth and “There are some dangerous spiders in the garden”, “The Ogre is blocking the road to Sorrentia”, “We need 20 Vermolio Spores”... this just does not sound epic or interesting at all.

    21. Frank.small

      Creator Frank Flury on November 22

      That's great news!
      Many games have per say open world but the way they incorporate their stories aren't usually very good and you have to advance it by doing the quests in a certain way and that totally ruins them both. The Idea of an open story system is really appealing because in the others you almost have to do all the quests to finish the game and it doesn't make for a game with very good replay ability. It sounds like I will be able to get fully immersed into the game and be able to play and enjoy it my way and will want to play a totally different way in a new game. I'm glad to be a part of this game and it sounds better all the time.
      Thank you.

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