Join Date: Jun 2008
Location: Tallahassee, FL
Guild: Toys R Us
Nest Building with Desmodeus: Entry 7 - Quest Development in Dragon Nest
I’m Desmodeus, the lead producer for Dragon Nest. Initially I was just going to let Lucius and Princess K unleash their crazies here and only interject in this blog occasionally. However, I’m absolutely in love with this game and I love sharing what gets me so pumped about it. So this week, I wanted to let you all in on the process of how we develop quests in Dragon Nest and tie them together with interesting stories.
Flowcharts and Graphs
Quests serve several important functions in Dragon Nest:
1. Drive the story forward, or flesh out the world of Dragon Nest
2. Give players clearly defined objectives to achieve
3. Reward players with items
With these points in mind, the initial design phase of any quest is the toughest. This is where the biggest collision of ideas takes place and the most intense debates happen. That’s because a Dragon Nest quest doesn’t begin with what you’re going to do, but rather with what the story is going to reveal. That doesn’t mean that every quest is going to be excessively dramatic. Not only would that get boring, but we’d quickly run out of central storyline!
Dragon Nest as a whole doesn’t take itself that seriously, so there are going to be plenty of light-hearted quests. One early quest, for instance, consists of you trying to retrieve a bulldog from the dungeon where it’s wandered, and return the pooch to its owner. Overall, though, the point is to present stories in ways that make sense and create memorable and consistent characters.
In fact, the game’s story is so important, we have a regular series of “story meetings” where the team gets together and discusses the Dragon Nest storyline. This often involves filling a huge whiteboard with names, characters, places, boxes and lines showing how everything connects together. When we were done with our very first meeting, the white board looked the circuit map for a CPU – and we had only gotten as far as the fight between the Void Dragon and the Tempest Dragon! It’s important though, because if we don’t understand the storyline ourselves, we can’t present it to you in a way that both makes sense and is fun.
Bad doggies! Bad!
“Fun” is Hard Work
Once the basic storyline of the quest is decided on, one person is designated as the “Keeper” of the quest. They’re responsible for creating the design document for the quest, creating the specs for any necessary obstacles or environmental effects (like an NPC to be escorted), and submitting requests to the modeling, animation, and graphics teams to get them developed. While that’s being worked on, we use an internal tool known as “Quest Tool” to create the actual quest. Quest Tool creates the necessary internal game logic, sets event flags, and creates trigger conditions to enable the quest to run properly.
Unfortunately, there really isn’t any by-the-numbers method for programming in “fun.” So even while the assets for the quest are being developed, we’ll run the quest through dozens of iterations to see if it takes too long, is too easy for the level, offers too little or too big a reward, or a million other considerations. Sometimes the team will put in a ton of work only to have it all get scrapped because a quest just isn’t working out or someone comes up with a better idea.
It’s important that all the factors come together right – story, objectives, rewards, and of course FUN.
It’s the challenge of giving deeper meaning to Dragon Nest’s slam-bang action that we keep most in mind when presenting the game’s stories. Many people tend to give short shrift to video game stories in favor of getting to the action quicker, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Some people are just in it for the thrills and Dragon Nest has lots of those. But for those who want that sense of “mission,” it’s our responsibility to make sure that every aspect of Dragon Nest is as good as it can be – including the story.