The Six Types of Quests in Game Design

Moved by Motivation

A Motivational quest is about finding inspiration to change.  In this quest, the player usually starts from a negative position, either weak in some physical or mental attribute or low in social status, and must find a way to overcome the obstacles placed in the way of attaining a higher status or stronger ability.  This is typical in FPS and Adventure games, like Gears of War or Megaman, but can also be a feature in Shop-Keeping games like Recettear or Rogue-likes like Dead Cells or Hades.

Select Your Style

Style quests are about finding ways to express player preference and customization within the game world. Some games are extremely choice heavy, like RPGs or Visual Novels, where the Player(s) is given a range of styles to choose from when playing through the game.  In the typical RPG, you might choose to focus on Offense, building on your character’s strength and attack abilities.  A different Player(s) might prefer to use Stealth, strengthening their ability to sneak through the level unnoticed and never even running into a fight.  The thing about passing information is that it is thought of as a simple yes or no value, either you know something or you don’t.  But when you add in interaction between parties, the Relationship gets quite a bit more complex.  Think about food.  Some people love spicy food, others can’t stand it.  It comes down to your stylistic preference, whether it's something you like or hate, prefer or dislike.  

Up the Utility

You may have heard the phrase, “there’s more than one way to skin a cat.”  While I strongly discourage bringing harm to any animal, most especially our precocious felines, the phrase does hold merit.  As we discussed in Style above, when there are multiple ways to perform an action, it will naturally follow that some will prefer one way while others might prefer another.  A utility quest is thus similar to a Style quest, in that you are building on your character, but here the point of the quest is process improvement rather than personal expression.  Utility quests are focused on improving and upgrading the Player's tools, so that they can continually grow in skill and ability.

Show Your Strength

Robert Mckee is quoted as saying,” True character is revealed in the choices a human being makes under pressure”. A quest of strength is all about building and displaying strength of character, therefore it will be a quest focused on forcing the player to make hard binary choices, either in gameplay or in dialogue choices.

Best In Class

In this section, we are focused on the qualifications that define who the Player themselves is or who they want to be, within the constraints of the Game World. Similar to Strength,  these quests are focused on your character build, but it is focused on social status rather than physical prowess.  Some games  may do this explicitly through Dialogue Choices like the Paragon vs Renegade morality system in Mass Effect.  Others might make it a bit more explicit or overt, like the massive Skill Trees in games like Final Fantasy X or Path of Exile, which allow a huge amount of customization of character class that also has an affect on the characters in world perception.

The Talent Show

A Talent Quest provides the player with a platform to showcase their ability in a specific talent. Talent is essentially a measure of whether or not the Player can perform the action properly and precisely as tasked, regardless of when or where the task is assigned. Think about a game like Tony Hawk Pro Skater, where the Player is tasked to get a certain number of points in a certain measure of time, and each trick they choose to perform within the time limit is judged and rated on how well the Player is able to perform it.  That is the essence of Talent, not just a binary yes or no on whether you can or cannot perform a certain action, but a higher level of the timing and understanding necessary to perform the action well.