Sansar: Questing Office Hours – questing best practices

Members of the Sansar Quest team (standing and facing towards the camera, with Community Manager Galileo hovering among them) at the Questing Office Hours, Friday, August 9th, 2019

On Friday, August 9th, 2019, members of the Sansar questing development team, together with the platform’s Community Manager, Galileo, held a QuestingOdffice Hours discussion group. The video of the meeting is available on Twitch (which unfortunately, won’t let me embed), and the following is a summary of the key discussion points.

At times the discussion strayed into areas of product re-sale, the Sansar Store, future general enhancements (Desktop parity with VR in the UI, vehicles, and so on), collaborative building, etc. These are excluded from the notes below, as they have been covered in various Sansar Product Meeting notes in this blog; for details of specifics discussed in the meeting, please refer to the video.

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Quest System – Purpose

  • To provide a mechanism by which directed play capabilities can be included in Sansar experiences, be they developed by Sansar Studios or by creators.
  • Can be considered a framework for telling stories / leading people into game play within experiences and even to help creators develop events that can engage with users directly.
  • In addition, it has been designed to work alongside the experience points (XP) / progression system, itself to encourage user engagement more broadly as they can earn XPs and “level up” in Sansar no matter what they do or where their particular interest in the platform lies (i.e. those who like to attend event or just spend time exploring or socialising can earn XPs as level up just like those who play games and / or engage directly in quests).
  • Quests, the XP system and rewards (the latter two still to be released) form what the Sansar team regard as a Core Loop of capabilities to help keep users involved in Sansar.
  • Initial requirements for the quest system included:
    • Having a defined start point, such as through an NPC type of character, offer the ability for players to interact with characters and objects, present quest creators with a means to guide players through their quests, allow structured, multiple objectives as a part of a quest / game, and present a means to build interactions, activities, objectives, into a cohesive story.
    • Providing hooks into Sansar’s Simple Script library so that interactivity, etc., could easily be built without the need for complex scripting, whilst also providing an API that those with more coding experience can then leverage as well, allowing them to make better use of scripted items already in their scenes.

How to Write a Quest

  • Some obvious considerations: what is the quest’s purpose? What are the likely levels / objectives going to be? How will users initially engage with it (e.g. is the quest the reason for the experience, or is it a part of an experience / group of experiences and people can engage with if they so wish, or can ignore if they prefer)? What is the end-point? What interactions will be required for finding / achieving objectives?
    • The above will generally inform as to the overall complexity of the quest, allowing the structure to be better defined.
  • Think about narrative.
    • Is the quest a game type of activity or multiple games within an experience? If so, you can probably get away with basic game play instructions: where / how to start, what to do, how to know when the objective is achieved.
    • If the quest is more adventure / exploring / progress oriented? Then consider more in the way of narrative: an outline of what the quest is, who the players are, what must be done, where it can end, etc. Keep the narrative flow present as objectives are presented / achieved.
  • Set expectations from the outset, and keep in mind how you might what to change things up / add twists in the case of things like adventure-type quests.
  • Consider progression carefully – how will players move from objective to objective? Is there a risk of becoming confused (e.g. setting out to complete one objective only to encounter the start of another and getting sidetracked into it).
    • Proximity and time are important: do you really want to send users after an objective that requires they travel from one end of an experience to the other (or even to another of your experiences) that takes large amounts of time to do, risking boredom?
    • Be aware of “rubber banding” – sending a player from and back to the same point when they are trying to complete objectives. This might work for certain types of game play, but can quickly become repetitive and boring if used with something like an evolving, story-driven quest, where point-to-point progression through the quest and the environment(s) in which it is set can be more engaging.
  • When building a quest across multiple experiences, consider (again) the route and how the player will engage with each experience.
  • For narrative-style quests, think about using “reveals” that might suddenly change the story somewhat for the player and re-pique their interest (e.g. walking through a cave and finding a door that, when entered suddenly moves the player to an entirely new environment that catches them by surprise).
The two Quest Givers at the Sansar Social Hub

Using Characters (NPCs) In Quests

  • Quest giver characters are currently in development with the Lab.
  • These will do things like: introduce a quest to a user; provide a list of available quests within an experience (from which the user can select), and to acknowledge the completion of a quest.
  • Characters will also have the ability to send players onwards to other characters with whom they can interact for other quests or for objectives.
    • Part of this is intended to help with quests that are dependent on one another: if you complete “quest A” then character B will allow you to commence  “quest B”, if you haven’t, character B will direct you to find character A so you can perform “quest A”.

Upcoming Quest Updates / Improvements

  • Current work is iterating on the quest interface to make it more informative (as per the August 7th update) and to keep it clean and easy to understand.
  • The progression / XP system is being worked on as well, this will include updates to the avatar profile panel (presumably to display achievements).
  • Later in the year the Sansar team will be releasing some first-person quests, which will include further scripting improvements.

General Q&A

  • How can a player inform a quest creator their quest may be broken (e.g. an objective will not complete) if they are not friends? Most likely tag and contact them via the Sansar Discord channel, or use the Sansar Quest channel on Discord.
  • Can Sansar Dollars be earned playing quests?
    • Only in the Sansar-provided quests (such as those at the Social Hub).
    • Creators will be able to offer objects as rewards (up to 3 per quest) in a future update, but they will not have the ability to offer Sansar Dollars.
    • The latter point will include the ability for creators to offer choices of rewards (e.g. take either A or B), and will eventually include the ability for players to follow a link to the creator’s Sansar Store, should they be interested in browsing / purchasing more items.
  • Will it be possible for users to at some point exchange rewards within a quest (e.g. carry out a form of trading “I’ll give you my two left-handed widget wranglers for that turbo whack-a-mole mallet”)? Such a system is on the roadmap using NPCs but no time frame for delivery at present.
    • This might include a quest-specific “soft” currency unrelated to Sansar Dollars or with fiat value.
    • The XP system might also be tied-in to this as well.
  • Can finding quests be made easier it’s not obvious in the Atlas?
    • One way being considered is for experiences published with complete quests will have a small icon associated with them when listed in the Atlas.
    • Another idea under consideration is for a portal or category to be made specifically for the most popular quests.
    • These ideas, if adopted, won’t be deployed until the quest system has been made a little more robust, feature-wise.
  • Can creators obtain data on how many people have participated in / completed their quests? Currently this data is being compiled manually by the Lab and then published to Discord. More robust / automated mechanisms are planned.
  • Are multi-player and / or repeatable quests on the roadmap? Yes, but no delivery dates available.
  • Can there be a means for users to abandon / drop a quest if they don’t want to complete it? Yes, and this will allow users to restart the quest.
  • Will there be a more complete quest journal for users, showing the quests they’ve participated in, completed, rewards gained, the experience(s) associated with a quest, etc? Yes.
  • Will quest givers support audio options (so users can hear as well as read about the quest)? Technically possible now (but not easy) to achieve. Could potentially be made easier.
  • The quest pop-up listing quests in progress for a user is seen as an irritating nag, although its usefulness as a reminder is understood.
  • Creators would also like (as per the week #32 Product Meeting) these ability to:
    • Reset specific objectives in a quest, rather than an entire quest.
    • Be able to add further objectives to an existing quest (such as news “chapters” to an evolving story) with user able to resume the quest and complete the new objectives without having to re-do the entire quest just to reach the newer objectives.

A butler, a first contact and tales in words and music

Seanchai Library

It’s time to highlight another week of storytelling in Voice by the staff and volunteers at the Seanchai Library. As always, all times SLT, and events are held at the Library’s home at Holly Kai Park, unless otherwise indicated.

Sunday, August 11 13:30: Tea Time with Jeeves

Just for summer, Seanchai Library takes a dive into the world of Reginald Jeeves, a well-educated, intelligent valets of indeterminate age who is employed by the amiable young man-about-town, Bertie Wooster, whom Jeeves routinely has to benignly rescue from the consequences of his idiocy.

Created by author, humorist, and lyricist (working with Guy Bolton and Jerome Kern) Pelham Grenville Wodehouse (October 1881 – February 1975), Jeeves and Wooster are perhaps his most iconic characters, their adventures eventually growing to 35 short stories and 11 novels, the majority of which are first-person narrated from the perspective of Bertie Wooster.

This week comes the second part of The Inimitable Jeeves.

A semi-novel published in the UK and the United States in 1923, The Inimitable Jeeves brings together 11 previously published stories structured as “chapters” rather than appearing as individual stories, giving the volume the appearance of being a novel something initially enhanced in early editions, which split the first five and final story into two chapters apiece, giving the impression the book was 18 chapters long (later editions reversed this, each story being just a single chapter for 11 in total).

The stories also add to the novel-like feel, as they each focused variously on a small group of characters throughout including Bertie’s Aunt Agatha, his somewhat inept friend Bingo, and his cousins Claude and Eustace, brought together with Jeeves and Wooster in some familiar Wodehouse themes.

Join Da5id Abbot, Kayden Oconnell, and Caledonia Skytower as they read this delightful series at Ceiliuradh Glen.

Monday, August 12th 19:00: Arthur C. Clarke’s Rendezvous with Rama

Gyro Muggins reads one of the greatest science fiction novels of human first contact with alien intelligence.

In 2131, a fast-moving object of extremely large size is detected beyond the orbit of Jupiter travelling on a course that will see it pass through the inner solar system to swing around the Sun, before heading out into space. An automated probe launched from Mars reveals the object to be a perfect cylinder, 50 km long and 20in diameter rotating regularly along its long axis and clearly artificial in nature.

The deep space survey vessel Endeavour, her crew untrained for first contact scenarios, is the only vessel that can intercept the cylinder as it uses the Sun’s gravity well to accelerate and bend its path onto a new trajectory. After a high-speed chase, the Endeavour reaches the cylinder – christened Rama by those who first identified it and finds one of the end caps has curious triple chamber airlock systems within it. Through one of them, the crew gains access to the object.

What they find within stuns them: the cylinder is hollow, a 50x16km “tube” the inner surface of which forms a circular world of three parts:  a large plain, with six city-like groups of structures scattered around it, a central band of frozen water the crew call the Cylindrical Sea with a single long, thin island (which they dub “New York” due to its superficial similarity to Manhattan island). Beyond the sea lies a landscape of split into cubes and squares, dominated by a group of massive cones extending inward along the cylinder’s long axis from southern end cap.

Initially in darkness and frigid when the Endeavour’s crew enter, the cylinder gradually comes to life, revealing its strange alien nature, where everything appears to be done in triplicate (or multiples thereof). And then, as tensions among the human civilisations across the solar system rise, the “Ramans” appear.

Tuesday, August 13th 19:00: Words and Music on the Wind

With Ktadhn Vesuvino, live on stream.

Wednesday, August 14th: A Cyberpunk Summer

Short stories with Finn Zeddmore.

Thursday, August 15th 19:00: The Blue Salt Road

An earthly nourris sits and sings
And aye she sings, “Ba lilly wean,
Little ken I my bairn’s father,
Far less the land that he staps in.

– Child Ballad, no. 113

So begins a stunning tale of love, loss and revenge, against a powerful backdrop of adventure on the high seas, and drama on the land. The Blue Salt Road balances passion and loss, love and violence and draws on nature and folklore to weave a stunning modern mythology around a nameless, wild young man.

Passion drew him to a new world, and trickery has kept him there – without his memories, separated from his own people. But as he finds his way in this dangerous new way of life, so he learns that his notions of home, and your people, might not be as fixed as he believed.

With Shandon Loring, also Also in Kitely – teleport from the main Seanchai World