The Hunter's Guide to Playing Custom Quests

Namakemono

Member
Note, this isn't actually a guide but a message to all players of Custom Quests. It's just a play on "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy". So please, don't bother moving the topic because this is a more opinionated subject matter that revolves around things such as pride, worth, etc. The most I would expect from this topic are other players' opinions and their agreements and disagreements.

So getting right to it, Custom Quests are without a doubt quests that were not made by SEGA but by local players who also enjoys playing PSO. Vanilla Quests tend to stick to a certain pattern and expectation, such as monster count, lore friendly stories, etc. Recently, Ephinea has brought us quests from other servers for us to enjoy which is great. I love this. I feel like quests are one of the most important aspects of PSO. It turns the one track roller coaster ride into something with more potential and depth to offer.

What I'm going to discuss here today is the mentality of most players. I am not here to belittle, shame, or ostracize certain demographic groups, but to shine a light onto prevalent things that exists. Most of us have come from the console days where most of our journey consists of SEGA's storyline. Things such as Rico's message pods, dialogue from wandering NPCs, the VR links you see in Episode 2, all of these things contained some sort of story or info that you could read and it is never shoved in your face unless you play something like Blue Star Memories or Seat of Heart. But personally, I am more of a fan of the type of quests that allows the player to discover the story on their own. That's not to say I dislike cut scenes, they are great too and require a significant amount of time and effort to make. Much like one abandoned project I made some time ago. But back to the point, all of these things are very key to sending important clues and messages to the player, yet they are ignored all the time... Why is that? Well, I have a theory. When people played SEGA quests back in the day, they knew what to expect already. They've metaphorically made a new line of code in their programming to always ignore these things because stopping to read them will only set you back when your team is running ahead of you. Not only that, you won't be getting much of anything out of these messages. So is it perfectly logical to ignore this? Unfortunately, yes.

But I want to shine some light onto this controversy. Custom Quests are NOT the same as Vanilla Quests. SEGA only did what they were required to do, but a loving fan can go above and beyond. Recently, I did Revisiting Darkness with a few peeps. It was a fun quest, but it was the thing that ultimately led me to create this topic. It's not a mastermind at what it does, but it does execute the important parts to a certain extent. In one of the first rooms, a VR link will warn you ahead of time before entering that "pressing switches isn't always a good idea", giving you a very strong hint. So the moment you hit the switch, it will spawn Gizonde traps that will constantly appear and shock the player. From this point on, VR links will be your main source of anticipation. After hitting that switch, it gave my co-hunter a sense of wariness for every single switch he pressed, making him more mindful about what he did. Ultimately, the quest was a bulldog quest and the VR links were his only source of trust, not trusting anything else. This is a basic example of good quest design. And I'm not giving the credit to only Revisiting Darkness, but there are other quests that are out there that does a good job. Granted, not ALL Custom Quests will do this. You do have to keep in mind that some Custom Quests are not all that quality and just quantity... *coughmascough* But that's yet another thing. Everyone has a different style or way of making quests and this should be respected. If a quest begins saying "ARE YOU A BAD ENOUGH DUDE TO SAVE RED RING RICO?" and start you off with fifty Hildetorrs surrounding the spawn point, then fine. That's just your style, man.

I'm going to start here with a personal opinion of mine. When I create a quest, most of my passion is behind the scripting. Scripting does NOT include things like enemy placements and the like. Scripting is the most versatile and what makes a quest unique from one another. Just put yourself into a quest developer's shoes. When you make a quest, you make EVERYTHING. The NPCs, the things they say, the VR links, the Rico message pods, terminals, etc. Everything you see that you can interact with was specifically made by the creator and is a unique part of the quest, unless that quest is strictly an edit of another quest, namely a Vanilla Quest that became an Edited Quest. (sidenote, Edited Quests are worse than Vanilla Quest imo) Now you might be thinking, why should we care? Well, you DON'T have to. It's completely optional. If you're here on Ephinea, playing quests for the sake of how much EXP you can gain or how practical it is for hunts, that's completely fine. But this is a personal opinion of mine: When I pour majority of my time into a quest with its scripts, and the ONLY thing they compliment is how practical it is for hunting or grinding, I'm kinda disgusted by that end-game/meta-game mentality of sorts. Don't get me wrong, I know that I'm not always going to get genuine, well-thought out compliments, and I still appreciate the fact that you're even playing my quests to begin with, but there is a lot that you're potentially ignoring. But still, I'm not going to bite your head off when I log on in-game and be like "so how ya like the quest?" and you say "oh yeah, I love how much Merlans spawn in that quest" I'm not going to say "HOW DARE YOU NOT APPRECIATE EVERY SQUARE INCH OF MY QUEST".

Here's the main point I'm driving, anyway. When you play a quest made by someone, a person, not a corporation (Sonic Team), it deserves a more thorough look around. Not merely for the sake of finding something to compliment, but something to give a genuine opinion formed by an individual. Sometimes, these quests are going to require more than just a glance, but an analysis. Using your brain, in other words. The way I like to encourage this is by not necessarily punishing them, but making them feel a little bit loss, such as "Why can't I progress? Did I forget to talk to someone?" It will encourage them to read and find out WHY they cannot progress and perhaps even more secrets that the quest hides from them without reading beforehand. Knight of Coral (Ep1) has a very simple example of this. When you go into the main teleporter, you'll warp in forest near the dome and you'll see it being blocked by these fences. There's nothing you can do, so you just walk back and talk to the client once again. When you actually "read" his borderline riddled speech, you'll say "Oh! THAT'S how I begin the quest!" But when I make a quest, I try to get deeper and immersive with things. One of the things I have in ALL, or no, ALMOST all of my quests is the Quest Board. My goal is to make the Quest Board feel like it's a part of your inventory, a part of your character, something you need to be informed of what you have or what's needed to be done next. A quest that has many clues human beings can put together with their natural ability of seeing patterns. You get what I'm saying, don't you?

In closing, Custom Quests have more than just enemies and experience. If you actually read all my bullshit, that alone means you care to some extent, so thank you. I think I had something else to close with but... I forgot.
 

Aleron Ives

Member
When I pour majority of my time into a quest with its scripts, and the ONLY thing they compliment is how practical it is for hunting or grinding, I'm kinda disgusted by that end-game/meta-game mentality of sorts. Don't get me wrong, I know that I'm not always going to get genuine, well-thought out compliments, and I still appreciate the fact that you're even playing my quests to begin with, but there is a lot that you're potentially ignoring. But still, I'm not going to bite your head off when I log on in-game and be like "so how ya like the quest?" and you say "oh yeah, I love how much Merlans spawn in that quest" I'm not going to say "HOW DARE YOU NOT APPRECIATE EVERY SQUARE INCH OF MY QUEST".
As much as people like to shit on V2 for not dropping rares in quests, it does make for a better experience as a developer when people are actually playing your quest for the fun of playing something different and not because they're trying to play quest x with the most of enemy y so as to find item z. It also encourages you to do interesting things with the script when people want to play quests that operate differently from freeplay and aren't going to complain that your scripted events prevent them from grinding levels or hunting items efficiently.

As for story quests, the sad fact is that most developers don't care about PSO's story and thus aren't willing to take the time to make additions that fit with Sega's canon. The fact that most people see quests as item hunting tools is partly to blame for this, but the fact that PSO's story has zero bearing on the gameplay means that Sega is as much to blame for this as anyone. (Of course, the lack of story in PSO is actually one of its biggest strengths, because any traditional RPG that relies heavily on story elements automatically has less replay value, because once you know what happens, you're less inclined to play the game again. Since PSO gameplay doesn't rely on narrative at all, you never reach "the end" of the game and thus have more reason to keep playing.)

It's also worth noting that scripting is much harder than slapping enemies into a map (even if the map is well designed); just look at something like the opening of "Soul of Steel": every single time Montague or Elenor takes a step or turns around during the initial confrontation with the WORKS soldier on Pioneer 2 has to be explicitly scripted, not to mention every camera angle change, and that kind of meticulous NPC management requires a lot of time and effort when working with an interface as rudimentary as the one in Qedit.

"Soul of Steel" and "Seat of the Heart" are the crown jewels of what can be accomplished with PSO's script system, but creating a magnum opus quest is no small feat, and as developers, it's very disheartening to know that even if you took on such a monumental task, the end result would be that one person would play it, discover that it had no monsters to spam, and then tell everybody else not to play it, either. Even the few people who do care about PSO's story would only play it once per character in all likelihood, because of the aforementioned low replay value inherent with narrative content. (People might read their favourite novels more than once in a lifetime, but nobody would expect you to read War and Peace as often as you play "Lost HEAT SWORD".)

Sega of course had the benefit of an entire team of developers to make quests, not to mention a high-level language to use when programming them, so something like "Seat of the Heart" was surely easier for Sonic Team to create than it would be for one of us to craft in Qedit by ourselves.

In the end, developers have to decide what they want to create in terms of what makes them happy and not what they think people would want to play. In as much as quest creation is your artistic expression of how you want to play out a scenario in a particular area, all you can do is create something that makes you happy and then hope that other players share in your satisfaction. If you spend your time trying to anticipate what other people are going to like or dislike, you probably won't enjoy creating quests very much.
 
Top