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.