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  1. #1
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    There's a time and place for sidequests...

    ... And interrupting me with your bullshit while I'm unraveling an international conspiracy is not one of them!

    Yes, I'm playing Deus Ex: Human Revolution. It's really great, but man, switching gears from the main plot to do the sidequests felt wrong. The narrative focus was always on the main plot, the energy always high, the consequences always severe. Allowing the player to stop and smell the sidequest roses seemed like a betrayal of the story and the world, and of the sense of urgency the game had created.

    DEHR is not alone in this: Mass Effect 1 & 2 also come to mind as having silly, inappropriate sidequests.

    What I'm trying to say is: some games should not have sidequests. The resources going into them should be spun into making more branching paths for the main quest, or something. With some games, the narrative is so propulsive that sidequests become plainly silly. The universe is about to be gangbanged by Reapers? Let's take some time out of stopping them to arbitrate this pointless municipal conflict!

    No.

    With some games sidequests fit right in, of course. The Elder Scrolls games are designed around a free open world in which to do sidequests. That works well. Some games deliberately include breaks in the main story ("we can't do anything right now, we need to wait to hear more information") to justify letting the player go do their own thing for a while. That's fine.

    But my machine-man hot on the trail of the people who destroyed his company and killed his girlfriend, a man capable of spitting out a radius of lethal explosives on command, shouldn't be asked to stop so he can punch some 2-bit gangster in the mouth.

    Hmph.

  2. #2
    Lesser Hivemind Node apricotsoup's Avatar
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    I think these kind of games could happily contain the sidequests without breaking off too much if they had more meaning to the current mission in important but not mission critical ways; gathering extra intelligence, securing equipment/resources, freeing helpful hostages, etc.

    But I do agree, much as I am someone that enjoys subquests there is definitely something detracting about knowing that how much everyone tells you time is critical, there is always enough time to help an old buddy find his spoon.

  3. #3
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    Do an Ultima. Make the side quests tie into the main quest. It's not even that hard to achieve.

  4. #4
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    Since you brought up DEHR, I loved how they added consequence to hostage mission. At the risk of being a bit of a spoiler, I took my sweet time deploying for the mission, stalking from office to office in the Sarif building stealing all that I could. Low and behold, by the time I actually arrived at the hostage scene, well let's just say there were fewer people to rescue. If this mechanic were used more widely through out games, it would be a great addition. Have some missions, say you are required to do some investigating or espionage have open time frames, but some time critical ones where if you don't show up, things happen anyways. It would do a lot to making the world seem alive. I have yet to complete DEHR, but I am hoping to see more of this as I go.

  5. #5
    Lesser Hivemind Node TillEulenspiegel's Avatar
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    Or don't have an urgent, world-saving main plot...

    I only played a little bit of the leaked DXHR press demo, but wasn't investigating the death of your ex-girlfriend technically a side quest?

  6. #6
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Squiz's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Wizardry View Post
    Do an Ultima. Make the side quests tie into the main quest. It's not even that hard to achieve.
    Deus Ex: HR has those too. Just not all of them are relevant for the main plot.

  7. #7
    I enjoyed DXHR quite a bit, but a few of the sidequests bothered me to Mass Effect 2 proportions. You know, where you have the most important mission of all time -- to save everything! In the universe! -- but the members of your crew need to take a time-out from that imposition to go and snipe someone. It was bad enough that I felt like the first loyalty mission I did was just opening the floodgates.

    Miranda: "But you helped out Jacob with that distress beacon! Why can't you help save my sister?"

    (disclaimer: I liked ME2, but man some of those sidequests...)

    MILD DXHR SPOILERS FOR DETROIT!

    The one that really galled me was the random investigation that I was persuaded to get involved in by that undercover cop for no reason. Sure, the quest ended up tying into the main plot (vaguely), but there was no compelling reason for me to launch a major investigation in the middle of my much more major investigation. It wasn't connected to the main plot until the tail end of the quest, and by that point it felt like a misstep: as though every single gangbanger and ex-cop in the city was somehow connected to the sinister conspiratorial forces of whatever.

    I considered turning down the quest, then I remembered: experience points.

  8. #8
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    It's funny, I find there aren't enough side quests! I quickly realised whilst doing some of the Detroit ones that they were tied to achievements and that there weren't that many. Same with The Witcher 2. Besides the notice board missions, there wasn't that many. Mass Effect too, where the citadel created my expectations of each area being a hub missions, both main and side, instead of the linear levels you end up with (the copy and paste planets don't count, as there are basically only 4 or 5 different missions.)

    I get what you mean, but it was never something that worried me. Guess I've just gotten used to it.
    Last edited by Vandelay; 02-09-2011 at 05:31 PM.

  9. #9
    I'm not against sidequests, just sidequests that feel contrived. You give an excellent example of optional quests that feel appropriate: The Witcher doing monster-slaying jobs for cash, which makes logical sense because that's what witchers do.

    Doing random investigations when I'm busy with pressing conspiracies and terrorism? Not so logical. Nor is me helping my squadmates resolve their family issues when the entire universe is at stake.

    I do love it when certain games offer me a load of sidequests though! It works well in games like Fallout: New Vegas or Morrowind, because largely the game is about exploration and finding fun things to do, rather than focusing solidly on the main plot.

  10. #10
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Heliocentric's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by apricotsoup View Post
    But I do agree, much as I am someone that enjoys subquests there is definitely something detracting about knowing that how much everyone tells you time is critical, there is always enough time to help an old buddy find his spoon.
    In shivering isles you legitimately need to find a spoon.
    http://uesp.net/wiki/Shivering:Everything_In_Its_Place

  11. #11
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Casimir Effect's Avatar
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    The Witcher had a few too many side quests but it was nice how some of them tied into the main plot. The sequel mostly corrected this by having far fewer sidequests, which was both a good and bad thing.

    I find more games need to learn where to have the majority of their sidequests. For me there is nothing worse than being towards the end or final act of a game, with the story charging on and a feeling of momentum built, only to have it dump a load of sidequests on you which you feel compelled to check out. Save them for the first half of the game like Baldur's Gate 2 or PS: Torment did. The Witcher made this mistake by throwing yet another fucking swamp area at you right near the end, and I'm tempted to call Icewind Dale 2 out as well.

    I've never had a problem with it in Bioware or Obsidian games because they follow this rule that, upon reaching a certain point in the plot, sidequests are (mostly) over.

    What I don't like is when a load of bland sidequests are put into the game to cover up the lack of content in the main quest. I'd go so far as to accuse Morrowind and Oblivion of this, even though I like those games.

  12. #12
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus The JG Man's Avatar
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    Whilst I agree that the side quests in ME2 were included a bit bizarrely, as much as they tried to justify it, the actual content was pretty damn good so I'll let it pass. ME1, however, I'll disagree with. On the whole, at least. A lot of the side quests were to do with things in-universe that helped give it a greater context; the 'VI' mission on the Moon showed what length the Alliance was prepared to go to to push military capability, whilst the entire section to do with Cerberus provided an interest insight too. That being said, unlike ME2, a lot of these quests were quite cookie-cutter mundane, so whilst they were involved better, they weren't as good.

    I think it really relies on the game itself. There's a good point of the open world games kinda having a bit more freedom to include them, especially if you don't have the fate of the galaxy looming on your door-step.
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  13. #13
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    I agree with the OP.

    Most of the time now I just ignore sidequests and just steam through the main story. In Oblivion, I did the sidequests after I finished the main storyline. Gave me a reason to continue exploring the game.

    I'd prefer it if they did that more. Include a couple of main quest related side quests, but after you finish the storyline just let you explore and do the other side quests.

  14. #14
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Berzee's Avatar
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    Agreed as well =)

    I don't want to lose sidequests in Deus Ex types of games, though. What I want is this:

    If you have an urgent world-saving plot, write a few points into the urgent world-saving plot where the protagonist will have time to do the sidequests. Even if things are urgent, there are still times where you would conceivably be waiting for other things to fall into place...you don't have to be constantly running.

    Example of a good time for sidequests: maybe there's a game where you are sent out from a castle to rescue the queen, and then you rescue her and bring her back to the castle and they decide to throw a feast in your honor that very evening! Sidequests before the queen is rescued would be silly. Sidequests before you go to your room to wash up for the feast, would be quite sensible. (And if you want to keep the main quest rolling, just head straight to your room).

    Even an "intense" plot can have some slower segments. =) Maybe it would be nice if, during these times where it is absolutely clear to the protagonist where he must go, and absolutely clear that something terrible will happen RIGHT NOW, he should either tell NPCs that he is busy and will help them later, or if he decides to help them, something terrible will happen.

    But depending on the game, I think it's tremendously important to keep the sidequests in it somewhere; when you are burned out from the huge overarching main quest, it's nice to take a break from the conspiracies and help (or destroy) a few individual lives. =) Especially when you have a main storyline that takes many hours to spin out, and involves some plot twists and failures and stuff along the way -- sidequests are a good minor dose of instant gratification. They let you know, "Okay, maybe I feel like a pawn in this worldwide struggle for power, and maybe I don't even know who my real enemies are...but I am enough of a hero to help an old friend beat up some thugs, so that's something!" Boost of confidence, see. =)
    Last edited by Berzee; 02-09-2011 at 09:03 PM.

  15. #15
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus vinraith's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Wizardry View Post
    Do an Ultima. Make the side quests tie into the main quest. It's not even that hard to achieve.
    Completely agreed. The whole notion of a purely linear game is completely mad, why use an interactive medium if you're not going to let the player make any decisions?

  16. #16
    Moderator QuantaCat's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by The Innocent View Post
    I'm not against sidequests, just sidequests that feel contrived. You give an excellent example of optional quests that feel appropriate: The Witcher doing monster-slaying jobs for cash, which makes logical sense because that's what witchers do.

    Doing random investigations when I'm busy with pressing conspiracies and terrorism? Not so logical. Nor is me helping my squadmates resolve their family issues when the entire universe is at stake.

    I do love it when certain games offer me a load of sidequests though! It works well in games like Fallout: New Vegas or Morrowind, because largely the game is about exploration and finding fun things to do, rather than focusing solidly on the main plot.
    What random investigation? The only "random" one, though it had to do with the riots and with jensens background, was "find the DPD bomber". And you can turn down any side quest. I think youre mixing "omg important but not necessarily time relevant main mission" with "if the main character were the character he were, he would take some of these missions on, because a) hes a cop, b) he can never get enough information and c) he wants to know about his personal past". If you think that jensen would have ignored all of those things, then by all means, ignore them. As soon as youre doing side quests for XP, then you dont really care about story and the role playing involved, now do you?

    Also: there is mostly no urgent save world plot, in DXHR. That plot only starts until very late in the game. And even though I "get" the sense of urgency to your main storyline, it is just investigating into a breakin, for most of the time.
    Last edited by QuantaCat; 03-09-2011 at 08:55 AM.
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  17. #17
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Drake Sigar's Avatar
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    Dragon Age Origins reinforces the urgency of your mission, visually showing you the movements of the Darkspawn army. Every hour lost is another village overrun, and you’re piddling about on a meaningless side quest to get a dwarf admitted to the mage’s tower? It’s like our characters have lost basic cognitive functions, specifically the ability to prioritize. This sort of thing takes me right out of the game.

  18. #18
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    I thought Mass Effect (1) was okay in this regard. You don't really have the full story about how urgent the goings-on in the main plot are until the end. You're mostly just hunting down a rogue agent and trying to figure out what's going on. There's a degree of urgency to it, but it's not end-of-the-world urgent. Plus most of the sub-quests ARE farily urgent - you pick up a distress call, or get asked to investigate a ship that's just gone missing or such. They don't tend to be "hey can you find my missing cat" - the exception being the quests on the Citadel, which again happen before the main plot really kicks off.

  19. #19
    Quote Originally Posted by justagigolo View Post
    Since you brought up DEHR, I loved how they added consequence to hostage mission. At the risk of being a bit of a spoiler, I took my sweet time deploying for the mission, stalking from office to office in the Sarif building stealing all that I could. Low and behold, by the time I actually arrived at the hostage scene, well let's just say there were fewer people to rescue. If this mechanic were used more widely through out games, it would be a great addition. Have some missions, say you are required to do some investigating or espionage have open time frames, but some time critical ones where if you don't show up, things happen anyways. It would do a lot to making the world seem alive. I have yet to complete DEHR, but I am hoping to see more of this as I go.
    There is no mechanic there. I rushed through as fast as I could and they all died. I think it's scripted and that happens no matter what you do, which I actually think is a bit lame and frustrating personally.

  20. #20
    Lesser Hivemind Node TillEulenspiegel's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Drake Sigar View Post
    Dragon Age Origins reinforces the urgency of your mission, visually showing you the movements of the Darkspawn army. Every hour lost is another village overrun
    Except that's utterly meaningless gameplay-wise, is it not?

    Stuff like that, when it's purely smoke and mirrors, makes it even worse.

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