Writing Quests for Video Games

Writing has become a very important part of video game making. In the early years of games this wasn't really the case. But now the story is the most important part of the game.

And if you want to write for games you can start out with quest writing. Quests are smaller stories and tasks within a game. It's a great place to start and exercise your creativity.

This tutorial will explain a little bit about quest writing.

And... Quests can be a very important part of a game. For some games most of the time a player spends is on the quests. So, be creative and try to make it fun for the player!

There are a couple of basic rules that you should follow when it comes to writing quests.

There are a couple of qualifications that your quest should meet. First off it should be fun and interesting. The player should enjoy doing the quest. Secondly there should be some kind of a reward upon completion of the quest.

The Storyline and the quest

Sometimes a quest is part of the main storyline of the game and sometimes it isn't. If you are just beginning your game writing you probably should start with non storyline quests. They are easier because they stand alone.

How to start the quest

Starting the quest is something you have to consider. And sometimes this is affected by what the quest and what the reward is. Some of the ways you can start a quest are:

  • With an NPC - A non player character can give the quest to the player
  • With an Item - A book or a scroll is a great way to start a quest
  • With an event - This is a little nebulous and seems a bit vague but let me give you an example. The player kills a creature and gets a message that starts the quest "You have killed the Mother Bear and now its children are orphans. Find the bear cubs and bring them to the nearest farmer to raise."

Some of the types of quests

  • A simple fetch quest - the player has to go and get something then either keep it as the reward or return it to the NPC for a reward
  • Steal something - This is a variation of the fetch quest where the item is owned and has to be obtained through theft without being discovered
  • Slay quest - The player must slay a character or creature
  • Gather information - There are a lot of ways to do this. The player might have to talk to another NPC or even sneak around and overhear a conversation.
  • Manipulate an object - The player might be required to go somewhere and do something such as move a lever or manipulate machinery or something like that.
  • Some more quick things to tweak your imagination about quests. The player could be asked to fetch, find, discover, slay, unpuzzle, drink, eat, negotiate, bargain, manipulate, collaborate, incant, complete or any number of other things.

One thing to note about quests is that sometimes a quest can branch giving the player several options. A good example of this is a quest for a weapon. The player is sent on a quest to get a powerful weapon and rather than return it to the quest giver the player could choose to keep it. And in modern video games there are a lot of various stats that can be affected by the players actions. Ethics is a good example of this. The player, during the quest, can be given the opportunity to make decisions. These decisions could be based on ethics which can affect a players stats. For example the player could be asked to kill an NPC or let the NPC live. This choice has an effect one way or the other.


The quest within a quest

You should also consider that a quest can have a quest embedded in it. For example: the player is given the task of visiting a wizard and gettting a scroll from him. That is the quest. Upon finding the wizard and talking to him the player is given another quest. The wizard says: "I will give you that scroll but first you have to do something for me.."


An example quest - Ok, let's have some fun!

Scene: Our player stumbles upon a small cottage nestled deep in the woods. Player enters to discover a typical single room cottage with a man inside. The player engages a conversation with the man.

Alchemist: "Oh. oh... oh My Matilda. She is lost to me. Can you bring my Matilda back to me?

Player: (Has several conversation options but eventually accepts the quest) Sure, I will find your Matilda and bring her back. Where is she?

Alchemist: "She is outside."

Ok, this is rather vague so the player is forced to go outside and take a look. Upon exploring the area around the cabin the player discovers a fresh grave with a gravestone engraved "Matilda".

The Player clicks on the grave and gets a message "You need a shovel"

So the player now has to further look around and find a shovel. Return to the grave and activate now with a shovel in inventory.

The grave opens to reveal a coffin. There is a corpse of a woman (Clearly Matilda) inside.

The player clicks on the corpse and gets a message:

"You need a potion of reanimation"

The player returns to the alchemist and can attempt to converse with the alchemist but at this point there is no response or conversation available. The player should look around the shop and discover a scroll with the recipe for a potion of reanimation.

The scroll says to gather passageroot, pond water and return to the alchemists table The player can search around the cabin and find the passageroot and pond water then return to the table and make the potion. The player then returns to the corpse of Matilda.

Upon clicking on the corpse the player gets a message: "Do you want to use the passageroot on the corpse?" The player responds by selecting "Yes".

The corpse of Matilda comes alive and stands up beside the grave. The player has the option to click on her. Conversation option comes up.

"Follow me" is the correct response

Then the player can walk to the alchemists shack and Matilda will follow. Once the player and Matilda enter the shack the player can now click on the alchemist to begin a conversation.

"I have brought Matilda back".

"Oh this is wonderful, thankyou very much. Here is your reward! " replies the alchemist.



Ok, you can see that this quest is a lot of fun and it gives some unexpected twists and turns. And you could go ahead and modify it in a lot of ways. Matilda could turn on the alchemist chiding him for killing her; the alchemist could scream in horror at what the player has done " A corpse!" Or any number of other things along the way. You could even discover that the alchemist himself is an animated corpse and the two of them will rot together happily ever after!

SO, go ahead and have some fun with this. Be creative and remember it is always about giving the game player a great gaming experience!!


Character Development and Storytelling for Games (Game Development Series)

This is a book of ideas and of choices. Knowing which choices to make is not teachable. It's part of that creative instinct we call talent whose secret voice guides us every time we sit down at the keyboard. All stories are not identical. They are shaped by all those unique facets of the human beings who write them. All any writer can do when he wants to share his knowledge with others is be as open and giving as possible; and hope others can learn from that. You hold in your hands most of what I know about writing for games and much of what I believe and practice no matter what kind of writing I'm doing. It is meant to inform, to instruct, and maybe even inspire. It is as much about game design as it is writing for games. The two are virtually inseparable. The book itself has been designed as a quest. We are all of us on a journey toward a destination for which there is no single road. --Lee Sheldon, Author


Professional Techniques for Video Game Writing

This book by the International Game Developers Association (IGDA) Game Writing Special Interest Group focuses on various aspects of working as a professional game writer, including how to break in to game writing, writing manuals, narrative design, writing in a team, working as a freelancer, working with new intellectual property, and more. It includes exercises and writing samples; additional writing samples are available from the book's website.








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