What if there were no main quests or sidequests, just quests?

TheGentlemanLoser

True friends stab you in the front
Veteran
Joined
Dec 30, 2020
Messages
123
Reaction score
170
First Language
English
Primarily Uses
RMMV
So generally speaking in videogames where you take on missions, there's a clear delineation between the "critical path"/"main quest content" (which I sometimes think of as "yellow text" context because many games highlight these objectives in yellow while using other colors for other quests) and everything else that you can do but don't NEED to do to beat the game. How do you guys feel about a game just having "quests" w/ no indications of what is the main story and what isn't?

This is a distinct concept from not having a "main" questline at all ("full open world" or "full sandbox" if you will), although obviously the ideas are related.

I realize I reference it kind of a lot, but Fallout: NV is the first game that comes to mind when I think about AAA games that have taken this approach. There is a main quest but it's not treated differently from any other quest by the game's UX or the game itself.

Pros? Cons? Complications I've failed to foresee? Lemme know what you think.
 

ShadowDragon

Veteran
Veteran
Joined
Oct 8, 2018
Messages
3,329
Reaction score
1,247
First Language
Dutch
Primarily Uses
RMMV
if I recall correctly, The Elders Scroll 3 has similair, some sidequest goes to the same
NPC as the main quest, not really categorized as well. some give quest and send you
on your way, some give the main and side quest to 2 different roads (1 west, 1 east),
so you dont know which way exacly.

while sidequest might have a different color than main (main blue, sidequest yellow)
or whatever, sidequests can give optional quests, or rewards as well for some items
required for the main quest.

following the main quest sometimes re-direct you to the spot where the sidequest is,
so you take 2 in 1.

sometimes it's confusing, but if you just follow the path or walk around or follow one
quest, you can se where it takes, If I like the invernoment and story, I just do all quests
and makes me stronger, making the path forward a bit easier :).

so I dont really mind, as long it can give the color for the main quest visible.
like that quest colored in yellow are optional, but sometimes, the main quest can
sometimes collide to it so you can compleet more quests in 1 sweep =).

however you do it, just make things clear, so the player knows what to do or where to go.
 

SweetMeltyLove

Veteran
Veteran
Joined
May 4, 2015
Messages
114
Reaction score
155
First Language
English
Primarily Uses
RMVXA
It depends on who your target audience is. If the game has no clear goal, you might risk players getting confused on where to go, what to do or why do it in the first place.

For example if Skyrim didn't have a main quest and people could just go anywhere, they might end up feeling demotivated because of the lack of a goal, I know I've felt that in some games (usually ones focused on creativity)

This is something a lot of open world games realized, and so they just cater to both groups, widening their potential audience. Of course for independent devs that's a slippery slope as it ads a ton of extra development time
 

TheGentlemanLoser

True friends stab you in the front
Veteran
Joined
Dec 30, 2020
Messages
123
Reaction score
170
First Language
English
Primarily Uses
RMMV
one interesting thing in TES Morrowind is that anyone can die, BUT if you kill someone that breaks the main plot, the game will tell you "hey uh, you just broke the main plot, probably use a different save"...this can lead to spoilers, of course...depending on how many people you kill. not directly relevant just thought it was interesting.

I agree there needs to be a goal right off the bat, even one with multiple steps, but does that need to be a campaign-length story. Is the feeling of "okay game, I'm in your world...now what do I do?" the problem or is it (also) "alright, I finished this mission I started with, what now?". Because in the latter case the idea is that you should have picked up a half dozen optional objectives along the way. Fallout NV (the only videogame I play apparently??) does a great job of throwing quest hooks in front of the player with great redundancy, so that by the time you get to New Vegas, you might have picked up 8-10 sidequests even if all you were doing was chasing Benny.
 

AfroKat

Veteran
Veteran
Joined
Feb 4, 2017
Messages
84
Reaction score
53
First Language
English
Primarily Uses
RMMV
I personally dislike open world games, I like having a clear cut goal and stuff like Skyrim and BOTW I play for a few hours and never pick it back up.

Also some people like me, like to finish the game and move on. If there's no clear cut here is Ganondorf have fun, in not gonna play it. I don't feel like wandering the world talking to every NPC in hopes one will give me a quest that gets me to the credits.
 

Shikamon

The Dragonslayer
Veteran
Joined
Feb 4, 2017
Messages
73
Reaction score
118
First Language
Indonesia
Primarily Uses
RMVXA
Sounds like Mount and Blade for me, there's no clear quest. you just do what you want. roleplaying is more important, even all it's on your head. some people can even take their experience of playing to become the inspiration for a short story or novel.
 

Scorps

Veteran
Veteran
Joined
Feb 12, 2019
Messages
30
Reaction score
33
First Language
German
Primarily Uses
RMMV
If there is not a tag that says "main quest" in the journal, the story should tell the player indirectly that it is the main quest. Which can be a really good thing if done right. As an example: It could be a story about a farmboy who wishes to leave his village and have an adventure. Even if the player has multiple quest in his journal that can be completed in the village, he will understand that leaving the village to get to a new area may leave quests behind.
But if there is an overwhelming amount of quests things could become messy. The size of the area the player can explore at a time might be a factor. If the player moves from one "confined" area to another, he could keep track of the quests.
 
Joined
Dec 26, 2020
Messages
60
Reaction score
29
First Language
English
Primarily Uses
RMMZ
Game begins, you're on a map, you can leave, or talk to some NPCs. If you talk to NPCs, you will learn about what's happening on the map . . . or the main quest, depending on who you talk to. Side quests are now seamlessly blended into the main quest.
 

Tai_MT

Veteran
Veteran
Joined
May 1, 2013
Messages
5,520
Reaction score
4,932
First Language
English
Primarily Uses
RMMV
The main reason I enjoy the distinction as a player is so that I can advance the main plot at my own pace.

Strictly speaking, if I'm playing a game and enjoying it, I want to do as much of the content as possible. Most games "end" when you complete the main story missions. Granted, some will tell you, "Hey, this is the point of no return, go do anything else you haven't done and come back", but that always feels like a "slap in the face" to me as a player. I much prefer the game just say, "Hey, this is the main story quest, do this to get closer to the end of your playtime" and "hey, these are sidequests that only matter if you care about doing them".

This approach lets me choose which content I want to interact with and which I don't. Granted, I usually do absolutely everything, but there are cases where I just don't care about a quest and would rather I skip it.

New Vegas had this issue for me. Well, okay, one of many issues that game has... it's a literal garbage fire on any close inspection, but this is one of the major issues that stuck out to me as a player.

Namely, nothing really felt that important in New Vegas. The game didn't properly set up that it was even remotely important I be chasing Benny to begin with. Granted, if you go to Primm or whatever and view a very specific terminal that tells you about Couriers, you realize why you might have a motivation to go kill Benny and get your cargo back... But... Beyond that, the game gives you nothing. Because each quest was just "a quest", none of them felt important or impactful. More importantly, they sort of robbed me of my agency a little. Sometimes a random quest I completed would tie into another quest or part of the main story quest and I'd find that out much later. I enjoyed working with the Boomers and wanted to live with them and such on my first run, but then the game informs me that they're "flyover country". They exist purely to serve the main story and for no other reason. This shifted the context of their quests. I was no longer doing them because I enjoyed hanging out with them and liked their philosophy. No, I had been shmoozing them to get access to their guns and a plane that they could use in the Final Battle... as well as access to a few useful items you would want for the Main Story Quest.

New Vegas literally gives new context to some of your quests once it tells you that "Hey, this is part of the Main Story Quest, and you already did it, so move along". Interacting with the Boomers suddenly felt cheap and hollow after the game told me that. It was no longer, "Hey, I helped these people because I like them" it was, "Hey, I helped these people because the game suggest at some point I do so as part of most of the endings of the game". Interacting with them was a foregone conclusion. It wasn't some "out of the way" place I found with cool people that I worked my way into the good graces of. Oh no, I was always MEANT to come here. I was always MEANT to interact with them.

New Vegas had this problem a lot.

Well, it did also have a separate problem in that when it gave you quests, it didn't really tell you WHY you should be doing them. I picked up a lot of quests and did them purely because an achievement existed. Or, I wanted to level up. I didn't want to chase Benny down. I didn't care about the stupid cargo I was carrying. The game makes no big deal of me being a courier, and I never carry anything for anyone again, so my job is just a plot excuse. The game never punishes me for losing the cargo. The game doesn't reward me for getting it back. I didn't even want to kill Benny. Heck, I didn't even want to get involved in the stupid localized conflict of the area. If I did get involved in the conflict, I wanted to be the one in charge of it all when the dust settled, but there was no option for that ending. I could be a mean and ruthless and terrible jerk in the game... and I was still forced to play second-fiddle to other people and it would be an "ultimately altruistic" character I was playing by the end credits.

That's sort of the problem when you just have "Quests". Anything to do with the main story feels like, "eh, just something to do" until suddenly the game is over. Likewise, the message of your "main plot" essentially gets destroyed, as do the themes of your game. New Vegas liked to paint Caesar's Legion as some massive force of terror and elite warriors who posed a serious threat. But, every interaction I had with them didn't paint them that way. Every quest to do with them didn't make me think of them that way. Most of my interactions with "the main threat" were, "do I really have to fight these guys again? They've got garbage loot. How're they a threat? How do they manage to kill ANYONE in the wasteland when nearly everyone is packing heat? How are they any sort of major threat at all?"

Without the title of "Main Story Quest" to push me along, I just had no motivation to do many of the quests beyond, "get loot, get levels". Then, in the rare instances where I found I cared about something in the game, it retroactively ruined it for me by telling me, "Oh hey, you skipped part of the main story quest here, so you don't have to do it now, here's the next set of objectives".

Heck, in New Vegas I ran into quests like, "provide power to the Mohave" that I did because it felt important to do. I was like, "Yeah, that sounds cool, let's get some power flowing here, get some more amenities". What was the main story quest at the time? "Chase down a guy who stole a poker chip from you".

You seriously risk making your main story less important than side content if you just treat all quests exactly the same.
 

Aesica

undefined
Veteran
Joined
May 12, 2018
Messages
1,648
Reaction score
1,557
First Language
English
Primarily Uses
RMMV
I don't know, I think you need some sort of main quest to propel the player forward in your game. You, the developer, clearly have an end goal in mind for them. A big bad dragon, dark lord, demon, space potato, or whatever waiting at the end of the hardest dungeon that will lead to the game's completion.

The so-called "main quest" chain is just the steps that lead them (even if roughly) to that goal. Even in a full open world game, there's the kind of quest where you save Mrs. Johnson's cat from a tree and get 50 gold, and the kind of quest that leads you to the space potato's lair for the final showdown. It's pretty obvious which is the main and which is a side quest, even if it's fully open world and the player could stumble across either in any order.
 

Wavelength

MSD Strong
Global Mod
Joined
Jul 22, 2014
Messages
5,848
Reaction score
5,414
First Language
English
Primarily Uses
RMVXA
So since you said there would still be a main storyline quest; it just wouldn't be delineated or marked as such... I think it's just making it harder for players to really find and enjoy what they're supposed to. The player may stumble around with little dead-end reward quests for twenty hours and never find the coherent, progressing narrative that serves as the game's backbone. Also, it becomes very hard to gate progression (and changes in the world, NPC dialogue, etc.) based on main quest progress, because without clear signaling the player may be compelled to do other things instead, and as such you'll have long periods of nothing important changing followed by short periods where tons of things change before the player can even notice things are different - bad pacing.
 

Milennin

"With a bang and a boom!"
Veteran
Joined
Feb 7, 2013
Messages
2,687
Reaction score
1,813
First Language
English
Primarily Uses
RMMV
My first game consisted of a bunch of different quests, with none clearly marked as the main quest. There are 4 separate quest lines that must be completed before the final "main" quest can be done to finish the game, but it's up to the player to find those and do them. Almost the entirety of the game takes place in a small town, so it's really impossible to go very long without stumbling across something new to do.
Most of the quests in that game can be done in whatever order you like, giving it a bit of a small-scale free-roam vibe.

But for a major RPG with a large world, it sounds like it'd be a bad idea, if you don't structure it well. Eventually, you'd want the player to get on with the plot and progress through some kind of story. Making it easy to miss the hidden main quest could risk players getting stuck somewhere.
 

RomVHS

NPC
Veteran
Joined
Feb 1, 2021
Messages
51
Reaction score
122
First Language
English
Primarily Uses
RM2k3
I think Fallout: NV's method of handling quests brings upon a lot of worldbuilding and roleplaying in a way that doesn't feel forced or cheesy. It might be due to the storyline as well, but not being met with things like "you are the chosen one" or "humanity is in your hands" upfront is pretty interesting. Rather than creating a dire situation that needs to be met immediately, the quests make me want to know more about the world and myself (or rather, who I want to be). I can continue on a path of investigation and get revenge, or I can let it all be for a moment and enjoy the fact that I'm still alive.

Although I really enjoy Skyrim, I feel like you get more freedom when you go through the main quests, and while guilds make the experience pretty cool, for some reason... I know that I'm only there just to be the hero... everything else is second- in limbo until I find meaning through the main quests.

Story-wise, I think it would be a great idea to make all quests have meaning and lore, as well as/or help the player discover who they are in the world based on their decisions... even better if the results show their influence on the lands and people. If quests are created to set the scene as well as show how life is in its current state and eventually reveals a main quest, it could feel like it was more of the player's choice to go after it rather than being thrown into it and being sidetracked by other cooler or interesting quests.
 

gstv87

Veteran
Veteran
Joined
Oct 20, 2015
Messages
2,304
Reaction score
1,330
First Language
Spanish
Primarily Uses
RMVXA
you can't really tell the difference between main and side quests when you're playing.... you just *play* (ideally) and follow the story.

that being said, there's the point of the universe just *being* there, and the characters existing on it, so if the universe is to be believable, there must be main and side quests, because not everyone cares about the universe, or viceversa.
having variety of stories, and NPCs minding their own businesses, is what makes the universe fell alive.
 

Latest Threads

Latest Profile Posts

I added footstep sounds to our content that I posted in a previous thread. I was unable to edit the post, so if you're interested, see below.

DOWNLOAD LINK

I've started working on rpg maker again, and I can see a lot of improvement from when I was 13. I still have a long way to go, but I'm proud that I've gotten this far.
Animated Title screen is by SharkerrBlue(SB)
I am using the Nightmare Land pack.
I just can't walk to the store for lunch without walking past people smoking. It not only smells bad, it's probably poisoning me. I'm afraid I'll eventually have to be hospitalized. I can't take another path because there's too much traffic and drivers in the plaza are reckless sometimes. I almost got run over once, even after looking both ways.
RyanYe wrote on whtdragon's profile.
Your art works about Wyrvens and Dragons are sooooooooo cooooooooool~! I like them so bad
Can you create more? like Archangels, Devils, Titans, Cyclops!!
My valentine cutscene is now available on itch.io and you can get the "source code" as well, feel free to check it out!

The game page on itch can be found at:

Forum statistics

Threads
108,797
Messages
1,039,554
Members
141,245
Latest member
feedtalefour
Top