What makes a good side Quest? Give us examples

Kage

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Hi game makers.

I need help with creating a compelling side quest. I myself HATE fetch quests, go and kill that monster or escort someone to the closest town type of quests.

Don't get me wrong, personally I love side quests in an RPG game but if side quests are not engaging or compelling I drop them very quickly.

I read on internet that good side quest should:
-Not be a waste of time,
-Worth the efforts and be rewarded appropriately,
-Add more lore to your story,
-Develop and enrich your world,
-Develop and grow your Character, reveal more about them, their past or their personality,
-Encorage exploring or add new location,
-Be connected to the main story
-Be Short and sweet, can't over shadow the main quest etc.

But this is to generic for me. I need proper examples. It still doesn't give me a good idea how to do it. Myself I can't recall good side quests in any of the jrpgs I have played, only in western rpgs like Witcher 3 or Skyrim.

So my question is, what is a good side quest that adds value to your game? Do you recall one from your favourite game? Can you provide example? And what was about that quest that made it so special?
 

HarlekinLehl

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I usually ignore sidequests. My games don't feature sidequests, or even quests in general.
I can say I absolutely hate it when they put the main quest on you like it's something urgent, and then put that 5 year old girl right next to it who wants you to help her pick 5 flowers.

You can have interesting optional content without labeling it or setting it up as a quest. If you feel the need of having them, all quests boil down to kill this/gather that/go to this place. It's how quests work. The difference is whether or not the objects in question are some generic items or something unique that ties in to the unique story of that sidequest.

So all you need to do is put as much effort into your "side stories" as you do the main story.

I think most sidequests are not very memorable because they are set up in a way it makes sense. You talk to a random villager with a quest, of course he's going to have random villager problems, and not an epic tale of defeating the lord of destruction. (Though for comedic value, defeating a rat king and his minions for eating all the grain in the storage, labeled lord of destruction, could work lmao.)

As you can see, it's more about how you write and reward the quests, not so much about the objective.
 

alice_gristle

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I don't remember a lot of sidequests, so I guess most of them boring or humdrum to me... :kaoswt2:

I do remember one from Fallout 2 tho. :wub I first played it when I wuz a kid, so maybe some nostalgia involved, but eh? Anyway, you in New Reno, doin' odd jobs for mafia families, and this one family is like, one of our boys wuz killed, find out who done it. As in, which one of the competing mafia families.

And then you can snoop around and decide, oh, it wuz these guys, or it wuz these guys. And then you can go tell your employer who the culprit was, and they take revenge. Quest over. BUT, if you snoop around enough, you can sorta deduce it wuz nobody's fault, the kid just OD'd or summat. And then you can go, "Yo Mr. Carter, sorry to break it to you, but yo son's death wuz an accident."

And if I remember right Mr. Carter starts to cry when ya tell 'im that, and that wuz really heartbreaking to me.:kaocry:

Ok so Fallout 2 is basically one big heap of sidequests and anyway I dun remember if that's how it went BUT basically that was a nice sidequest to me. And what makes it nice is, Fallout 2 is pretty heavy on player decision, so the quest kinda reflects that... you can implicate these guys, or you can implicate those guys... but what impressed me as a kid was IF YOU REALLY INVESTIGATED AND GOT TO THE BOTTOM OF THINGS, you uncovered the truth. :kaopride:

Like, it didn't play out like scripted. That was amazing then, and that's amazing now. :wub
 

Popoto_milk

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Not sure if you'd count these as side quests or not considering their arguable importance towards the last mission, but the loyalty missions in Mass Effect 2 stick out to me.

It was really nice to not only know your companions better, but also help them when they needed it. There was some great worldbuilding as well as the obvious benefit of final mission survival. And heck, even Jacob's mission was interesting.

In fact, you could probably look at any of Bioware's companion missions (though ME2's might just be the best imo).
 
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Ami

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unlocking the chapters by doing the side-quest, as long it's not too generic like find 10 fruits or kill 5 monsters

or GTA Missions are the good idea to designing your quest
 

Nolonar

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The way I see it, the problem does not lie with the fetch/delivery quests themselves, but with the effort that went into making them. In fact, I'd even go as far as to say that the vast majority of quests in any game are a type of fetch/delivery quest.

So what is the difference between "Death Stranding is boring because it's nothing but fetch/delivery quests" and "The Witcher 3 is amazing even though it's nothing but fetch/delivery quests"?

Well, in Death Stranding, you do literally nothing else but deliver packages from A to B, and that's it. You can tell that the devs only spent at most 30 minutes to design each quest.

Whereas in The Witcher 3, there's (almost) always a twist of some kind. It's likely that the devs spent at least a couple of days designing each quest (to say nothing about all the time and effort spent into recording the voiced dialogues and testing all possible outcomes depending on the player's choices made during the quest, among many others).

For example, one of the earliest quests is literally nothing more than "fetch some ingredients and meet me there". And then what? You use those ingredients to craft bombs and potions, and use those to kill a Griffon.

Another early example would be the Noonwraith. Like with all Witcher Contract quests, it's a typical fetch quest: go somewhere, kill a monster, and bring back proof to collect the reward. Except there's almost always more to these contracts. In this case, you can't kill the monster, so now you're forced to investigate the village it's haunting to find out the reason it's there. Once you do, you can perform a ritual that allows you to kill it. While you can't really make any decisions during this specific quest, you still learn about the sad story surrounding the Noonwraith, which can be considered a reward in its own right.

So in the end it's all about how much effort you're willing to put into it.
  • Try and make your quests feel varied:
    • The player finds a caravan that's been attacked by wolves. There's a package with an address and a name. Will the player deliver the package, or keep the contents for themselves?

    • A merchant tasks the player to find a mushroom that only grows once a year in a specific cave. That cave is guarded by a bear (but you don't have to fight it). Once the player finds the mushroom, they encounter a hunter who needs that mushroom to cure his dying daughter. Will the player give it to him, or honor the deal with the merchant?

    • The King wants the player to deliver a very important diplomatic letter to another king in order to avoid a war. Just as the player is about to leave, the Minister asks the player to give the letter back and deliver a different letter instead. Will the player deliver the King's letter, or the Minister's?

  • Add more twists and content to the quest:
    • What if the caravan was actually attacked by bandits pretending to be wolves just so nobody would try and hunt them?

    • What if the player decided to kill the bear, and then it turns out that bear was a mother with cubs? What if the player decides to help the hunter, and the merchant sends assassins after the player as a result?

    • What if bandits attack the player in an attempt to steal the letter? What if another NPC asks to be escorted to the next kingdom, but then they turn out to be a thief trying to exchange the letter while the player is asleep? What if the player informed the King about the Minister's (many) attempts to intercept the letter?

  • Are you willing to have those quests affect the main story?
    • What if attacking those bandits results in safer roads for caravans, improving the city's logistics, and thereby saving it from the orc attack that will happen as part of the main story?

    • What if the hunter's daughter ends up joining your party, and it turns out she's actually the long lost princess who will end up pivotal to the plot?

    • How will the main story be affected, if the two kingdoms end up at war because you didn't deliver the (correct) letter? How will it be affected if there's peace instead, because you delivered the letter properly?

The more effort you're willing to put into a quest, the better it is. It really doesn't matter much that they're essentially all fetch/delivery quests. The fetch/delivery part is just an excuse to deliver more content and expand your story anyways.

But that's just my personal opinion.
 
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BraveKing

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I fully agree with your other points, but that last one "Be Short and sweet, can't over shadow the main quest etc" has several RPGs proving the opposite.

The biggest examples would be Fallout and Elder Scroll series which are basically "Long Sidequests: the game." In either one there's massive sidequest chains that are probably more memorable than the main quest itself.

Zelda games also do long sidequests pretty well where you need to visit multiple areas and seemingly "background" NPCs must be handed the right item to progress.

Long sidequests that make you travel around the game's world and interact with many NPCs can really help flesh things up. IMHO they really can make the game feel more alive by showing there's multiple stories running parallel, often interacting with each other in different ways. If done properly of course.
 

Kage

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I think most sidequests are not very memorable because they are set up in a way it makes sense. You talk to a random villager with a quest, of course he's going to have random villager problems, and not an epic tale of defeating the lord of destruction. (Though for comedic value, defeating a rat king and his minions for eating all the grain in the storage, labeled lord of destruction, could work lmao.)

As you can see, it's more about how you write and reward the quests, not so much about the objective.
I agree, most side quests are not memorable especially in jrpgs. I do believe that they are crucial to the good game but it amazes me how only few get it right and we are talking about big companies who primary make those type of games.

I guess I am looking for a way to revolutionise side quests in our games so they don't feel like a choirs and add value to the story or the gameplay. Let's try to brake the mould, is there anything else we can do or we are only stuck with fetch quests,etc hidden under beautifully written drama that poor NPC needs help with.
 

RCXGaming

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Decent ideas thrown around, but I don't think we've really hit the iron hard enough yet.

Sidequests can be way more than just fetch quests or just doing something slightly different for an NPC you don't really care about that much.

I propose having sidequests that flesh out your party members by going on individual adventures with them, or doing something that will inevitably relate back to them.

Chrono Trigger has the best version of what I'm talking about: each sidequest in the end of the game relates to your party members in some fashion, allowing you to learn more about them/give them closure while doing all of the traditional side-questy things like going through bonus dungeons and the like.

I have that, but also something a bit more unique to my own story: elemental sidequests where you have to train with the master of a specific element, often one of your own party members. Not only are these great exercises for worldbuilding, but each different session reveals something about your party members that you didn't know before and how your protagonist grows as a person.

... I'm also a fan of just seeing unique scenarios unfold for sidequests, a bit like @Nolonar suggested. I don't want to just beat up a bunch of ghosts, I want to be sucked into a haunted polybius cabinet and have to survive a glitched out creepypasta arcade game controlled by a vengeful spirit. That kind of thing.
 

residntevl

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Depending on the type of game you intend to create and how you decide narrative, side quests can be great to expand upon your character's quirks and otherwise smaller details the player may not have really needed to know, but will act as a cherry on top of the characters you are writing.

With that in mind, I like to write side quests to expand upon the world's lore and to introduce more flavor to an area as well as create the potential for questlines that connect to one another. Side quests should not always be a one-shot "Do X, get Y, Never talk to me or my son again". There's a lot of room to have fun you might not otherwise find yourself having when you are creating your main quest. The main quest requires a certain level of focus, a clear indication of stakes and threat, but a side quest can do its own thing, allowing for any difficulty and any task.

You can supplement your side quests in ways you might not be able to do in the main quest, such as minigames. This allows you to create fun and enjoyable experiences for your player as well, giving them a different challenge and a fun experience to take away from straying away from the main path.

Side quests should tell stories in your world that you wouldn't otherwise be telling like in a book.
 

Julijewels

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To me, a side quest needs to have an effect on the people who you are helping.

How I solve this is simple: The characters you help are the events, and they move on once you help them and do something else in the world.

An basic example that I once created but lost while attempting to make my very first game went like this:

There was a boy who was eating breakfast with his family in an Inn.

When speaking to him you could tell him to go play and he would run of and go outside and play with his friends.

When you went outside of the Inn, all of the NPCs that were playing hide-n-seek had moved and because of this new dialogue was added that increased the amount of worldbuilding I had for that city.

I know that wasn't really a quest but more of an example of how they should be. My point is it doesn't matter what the side quest makes you do, it matters what happens after and how it affects your world. Does the NPC just sit there and say thanks 50 times? Or did you actually solve a problem for them and now they can move on and go complete their task?
 

ATT_Turan

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Myself I can't recall good side quests in any of the jrpgs I have played, only in western rpgs like Witcher 3 or Skyrim.
What's the difference? How does a game having real-time combat on the map versus turn-based random encounters have any effect on what you do to complete quests?

Why wouldn't you be able to draw inspiration from Witcher or Skyrim when writing your RPG Maker game?
I myself HATE fetch quests, go and kill that monster or escort someone to the closest town type of quests.
I would submit you're thinking about this the wrong way. Quests in video games are kind of like writing stories - there are a finite number of templates. After all, there are only certain ways that a player can interact with the game. I'm not saying you listed all of them, but there are only so many.

It's more about what justification is given to a quest in the story than it is what you're mechanically doing.
Do you recall one from your favourite game?
In Phantasy Star IV, there's a guild job you pick up called The Dying Boy. This psychosomatic kid is certain he's on his last breath. You have to buy a replica prop of his favorite heroine's sword, the main character does a little demo with some custom sprite poses, and the kid is so inspired he leaps up and feels well again.
 

Kage

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What's the difference? How does a game having real-time combat on the map versus turn-based random encounters have any effect on what you do to complete quests?
That's not what I meant, you are absolutely right, combat type or where the game was made has nothing to do if I complete a side quest. I was just giving an example of a game that I had absolutely great time doing side quests, like in Skyrim or in Witcher 3. I remember enjoying doing the Mages Academy quest in Skyrim, it was long and very engaging and I was so invested that I didn't care about the main quest. I enjoyed the world, exploring the new area, and learning about magic and the ancient secret and I liked the NPCs involved.
Why wouldn't you be able to draw inspiration from Witcher or Skyrim when writing your RPG Maker game?
Hehe, actually I am trying to take inspiration from Skyrim and the Witcher but creating a side quest with multiple brunches and outcomes is not that easy in my opinion. It's especially more difficult when your game is based in a modern setting world plus I am not that experienced with RPG Maker to be able to create multiple endings depending on your choices yet. I am trying to create more linear and engaging sidequests that are not time wasters.
I would submit you're thinking about this the wrong way. Quests in video games are kind of like writing stories - there are a finite number of templates. After all, there are only certain ways that a player can interact with the game. I'm not saying you listed all of them, but there are only so many.
Agree.
It's more about what justification is given to a quest in the story than it is what you're mechanically doing.

In Phantasy Star IV, there's a guild job you pick up called The Dying Boy. This psychosomatic kid is certain he's on his last breath. You have to buy a replica prop of his favorite heroine's sword, the main character does a little demo with some custom sprite poses, and the kid is so inspired he leaps up and feels well again.
Love it.
 

Kage

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The way I see it, the problem does not lie with the fetch/delivery quests themselves, but with the effort that went into making them. In fact, I'd even go as far as to say that the vast majority of quests in any game are a type of fetch/delivery quest.

So what is the difference between "Death Stranding is boring because it's nothing but fetch/delivery quests" and "The Witcher 3 is amazing even though it's nothing but fetch/delivery quests"?

Well, in Death Stranding, you do literally nothing else but deliver packages from A to B, and that's it. You can tell that the devs only spent at most 30 minutes to design each quest.

Whereas in The Witcher 3, there's (almost) always a twist of some kind. It's likely that the devs spent at least a couple of days designing each quest (to say nothing about all the time and effort spent into recording the voiced dialogues and testing all possible outcomes depending on the player's choices made during the quest, among many others).

For example, one of the earliest quests is literally nothing more than "fetch some ingredients and meet me there". And then what? You use those ingredients to craft bombs and potions, and use those to kill a Griffon.

Another early example would be the Noonwraith. Like with all Witcher Contract quests, it's a typical fetch quest: go somewhere, kill a monster, and bring back proof to collect the reward. Except there's almost always more to these contracts. In this case, you can't kill the monster, so now you're forced to investigate the village it's haunting to find out the reason it's there. Once you do, you can perform a ritual that allows you to kill it. While you can't really make any decisions during this specific quest, you still learn about the sad story surrounding the Noonwraith, which can be considered a reward in its own right.

So in the end it's all about how much effort you're willing to put into it.
  • Try and make your quests feel varied:
    • The player finds a caravan that's been attacked by wolves. There's a package with an address and a name. Will the player deliver the package, or keep the contents for themselves?

    • A merchant tasks the player to find a mushroom that only grows once a year in a specific cave. That cave is guarded by a bear (but you don't have to fight it). Once the player finds the mushroom, they encounter a hunter who needs that mushroom to cure his dying daughter. Will the player give it to him, or honor the deal with the merchant?

    • The King wants the player to deliver a very important diplomatic letter to another king in order to avoid a war. Just as the player is about to leave, the Minister asks the player to give the letter back and deliver a different letter instead. Will the player deliver the King's letter, or the Minister's?
  • Add more twists and content to the quest:
    • What if the caravan was actually attacked by bandits pretending to be wolves just so nobody would try and hunt them?

    • What if the player decided to kill the bear, and then it turns out that bear was a mother with cubs? What if the player decides to help the hunter, and the merchant sends assassins after the player as a result?

    • What if bandits attack the player in an attempt to steal the letter? What if another NPC asks to be escorted to the next kingdom, but then they turn out to be a thief trying to exchange the letter while the player is asleep? What if the player informed the King about the Minister's (many) attempts to intercept the letter?
  • Are you willing to have those quests affect the main story?
    • What if attacking those bandits results in safer roads for caravans, improving the city's logistics, and thereby saving it from the orc attack that will happen as part of the main story?

    • What if the hunter's daughter ends up joining your party, and it turns out she's actually the long lost princess who will end up pivotal to the plot?

    • How will the main story be affected, if the two kingdoms end up at war because you didn't deliver the (correct) letter? How will it be affected if there's peace instead, because you delivered the letter properly?

The more effort you're willing to put into a quest, the better it is. It really doesn't matter much that they're essentially all fetch/delivery quests. The fetch/delivery part is just an excuse to deliver more content and expand your story anyways.

But that's just my personal opinion.
This is brilliant. That is what I am talking about :kaojoy::kaojoy::kaojoy:
 

Arctica

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The ones that add to a story in a personal way for certain characters and generates emotion.

TES4 Oblivion comes to mind, more specifically the quest The Wayward Knight. That one left a mark on me if only because he died on my watch and the reaction from the Count of Cheydinhal, his father, made it that much impactful.
 

freakytapir

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My favorite set of sidequests in a jRPG right now: The Hildebrand Quests in FF XIV.

They have 0% to do with the main plot.
The rewards are some cosmetic items and emotes and a token amount of XP.
But they are 100% hillarious.
They have nearly 0 interesting gameplay. They're basically a set of extended cutscenes with some MMO fetchquest in the middle of it, but they are Well Written.

That's the whole point. If you boil a sidequest down to it's components, it is nothing but a bunch of BS. But the story surrounding it must be compelling. Make a story you want to tell, and then drape it with some gameplay elements.
Tell the story of the area. Make the side quests where the lore lives.
Why did that guard give you that 'killl five boars quest'? Because the local militia is overwhelmed.
Why did the girl ask for five flowers? Because they remind her of her dad that's never coming back from the war.
Why did the alchemist ask you to gather those ingredients? Because if he doesn't make his quota in healing potions, some imperial soldiers are dragging him out back and are going to make an example out of him.
 

fop

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I LOVE sidequests. Just love them!!! I think some of my least favorite sidequests are the hunting quests in FFXV, because there's little to no story involved in each and i remember it being pretty hard to find the hunts. On the other hand, the quite similar hunting quests in FFXII were really enjoyable to me (mainly because the weirdos requesting the hunts were typically pretty interesting and the rewards gotten from the hunting guild were worth it to me when I played it.

When done well, sidequests are probably my favorite parts of a game. In my opinion, FF7 did one of the best jobs I've seen with sidequests. The entire events of Yuffie's hometown and chasing her around and seeing the Turks and Don Corneo was so memorable to me that my jaw dropped when I learned it was all optional.

Another one that I really liked was in Tales of Phantasia. It's been awhile, so I may have the details slightly off, but there's a sequence of events that really just require talking to a certain person when you see them around the world in the beginning of the game and you basically just play matchmaker between these two star-crossed lovers. I don't remember if there was ever a battle or anything associated with it, or if you even got any rewards other than seeing the two lovebirds happy, but I love that kind of simple sidequest.
 

Julijewels

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This video pretty much shares my views on how you should make side quests.

 

Finnuval

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Sidequest doesn't mean sidestory.

What I mean by that is that the story behind a sidequest should get the same love and detail poured into it as the main story/quest. Tho smaller in scale and with less impact on the overall world at large it should feel just as important to the characters involved as the main story.

The same amount of emotion, ambition and need should be present at least for your characters if not for the player.

Sidequest in my opinion are one of the best ways to give your characters more depth as a result of done correctly and open up a window in which you can show sides/facets of your characters not exposed during the main storyline.

Personally that is always the major gain when I make sidequests myself. The items, xp, etc you might gain that may be necessary for the plot at large are almost a sidenote for the sidequest itself where during the sidequest the gaining of bonding, getting to know your characters, exposing different sides or adding lore to events and places tales center stage.

That's my two cents anyway.
 

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