Game Development Reference
direct hand in their characters' development, which is much harder to convey with a
simple “yes/no” or “accept/decline” dialogue box.
Say an NPC named Orrin the Wise offers a quest, ending with the line, “Will you
bring me the sacred chalice?” Give the player responses that can allow for different
Here is an example:
Response 1: What's in it for me?
Response 2: Of course I'll help you.
Response 3: And if I don't?
Response 4: I don't want to get involved.
Note that the response choices are fairly neutral, yet they allow players to infer certain
motivations for themselves. Response 1 is motivated by greed; it's not necessarily an
evil response, yet it could certainly be taken that way. Response 2 could be seen as the
good or helpful response. Then again, the player may intend to retrieve the sacred
chalice and use it in some other way (provided you give the player that option).
Response 3 could be evil or good. This response indicates a desire to know more
about the consequences and allows you to give more backstory. Response 4 gives the
player a way to decline a quest she doesn't want.
Does every quest need four different player responses? Definitely not. Two might
be all you need to make sense in the context of the quest offering. The variety of
response options can give your quest more depth. In the end, the only choice the
player makes is whether or not to accept the quest. To that end, even when you are
offering a variety of responses, you must always move the player toward a decision.
Hopefully, the player will be swayed by your masterful way with words and accept the
mission or quest that is offered. Either that or the player is quickly clicking through
the dialogue tree and has no idea what to do or why she wants to do it.
Another way to make players feel heroic and important is to give NPCs the
ability to recognize and respond to things they have achieved or done. Perhaps after
returning the chalice to Orrin the Wise, this NPC will evermore call out to the player
character when he walks by. Or perhaps when the character achieves a certain level of
reputation with the city guards, they will salute when the character comes into town.
Little details like this immerse players in the game by making them feel that their
actions have meaning, and they can make them forget for a little while that many
other players have achieved a lot of the same things they have.
Setting the Pace
In a book, the writer has absolute freedom to take a character from Point A to Point
B in whichever manner she chooses. In a film, the director and editor decide how
much to show the viewer in order to tell the story. Peter Jackson didn't feel the need
to show you every step of Frodo's journey to Mordor—just the interesting bits.