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  • Results from Game Design Challenge: RPG Quest

    [09.19.08]
    - Manveer Heir and GameCareerGuide.com staff
  •  For the "Game Design Challenge: RPG Quest," you were asked to create a backstory for a side mission in a fantasy role-playing game. The mission revolved around an old man who asked you to visit a forest and collect 20 dwarf beards.

    The idea behind this challenge is simple: Take something that is mostly uncreative, such as a fetch quest, and make it into something unique and interesting that player's may care about or otherwise be drawn in to check out.

    We may not like it, but the fact of the matter is many of our games have filler content. Sometimes, it's the job of a designer to work on that filler content, even if you don't agree with it or like it. If you just do the bare minimum to get the work done, you may never be given better and more significant work to do (such as the main quest of the RPG). Can you make a side quest feel like as much love and effort was put into it as the main quests?

    Also, it's a chance to flex your writing skills, which are an important tool for designers. Writing character dialogue is something many designers end up doing at some point. Trying to understand characters and coming up with a backstory, a reason for the quest to exist, and a reason for the player (not the avatar, but the actual person playing the game) to accept the quest are all important parts of writing for characters. The best entries covered all of these points to create a quest that players would hopefully jump at to try.

    Best Entries
    Casey Dockendorf, animator/artist at Global Gaming Group, The Masquerade
    (see page 2)
    Casey Dockendorf's quest asks the player to help an old man but without becoming too involved in the old man's story. In other words, there's no need for the player to become attached to this character, which is highly practical for a side quest. With no emotional attachment, and with the player sensing that he is a bit daft, the old man's untimely demise remains lighthearted, silly, and exploitable.

    Christopher H. Abeel, TRG tester, The Hair Club for Dwarves
    (see page 3)
    The Hair Club for Dwarves, Christopher H. Abeel's submission, reads like a scene that could have been used in The Princess Bride. He uses two themes - redundancy and a spoof on the "Hair Club for Men" - and weaves them together in a creative and amusing way. A player would be compelled to play through this quest just to see what kind of ridiculous thing will come out of Ricardo Ricardo's mouth next.

    Clement Linel, AI student and aspiring game programmer, Stain Guard
    (see page 4)
    In his submission, Clement Linel plays with some of the things players and game creators tend to neglect about fantasy game worlds and characters; for instance, how do dwarves keep their beards so clean? The self-reflexive humor works perfectly well in a side quest, where it won't detract from the main game (where players prefer to immerse themselves in the experience, rather than question the details).

    Honorable Mention
    Gábor Bácsi, software engineer, Hitting the Party
    (see page 5)
    Many entries to this design challenge assumed that a fetch quest about dwarf beards required the dwarves themselves to be hunted, sometimes killed and sometimes just robbed of their facial hair. Gábor Bácsi (and one or two others) instead reinterpreted the quest and made it about protecting and saving the dwarves. We appreciated the twist and thought lead designers on the team might have viewed this approach as evidence of a level design who was willing to challenge basic assumptions (a good thing).

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