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Design & Style

How to Write Side Quests for Video Games

Written by MasterClass

Last updated: Jun 10, 2020 • 3 min read

Side quests are an entertaining gameplay avenue that gives players who need a break from the main story of a game an opportunity to enhance their character or explore the game world.

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What Is a Side Quest?

A side quest is a player objective that is separate from the main plotline of a video game. Side quests are implemented to help connect the player to the world, introduce them to characters, and help them discover locations. A side quest can add volume to a game, but when done well, it can also add intrigue and fun alongside the main plot.

There are many types of quests with different objectives. For example, there are kill quests, which are focused on taking out an enemy, or escort quests, that focus on leading a character to safety or a different location (while protecting them along the way).

What Makes a Good Side Quest?

A good side quest is compelling, fun, and adds to the depth of the game world. Side quests can inform character development, settings, resources, or lore. This type of quest can help a linear game feel more open and player-controlled. The best side quests can enhance a game’s storyline to make a more immersive user experience.

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5 Tips for Creating a Compelling Side Quest

Side quests are smaller missions that enhance the world of the video game. These quest lines should be interesting and fun. Here are some tips for designing a great side quest:

  1. Make the quest givers interesting. Non-player characters (NPCs) shouldn’t just exist to hand out quests. Add dimension to these players by giving them a small amount of backstory that makes the player want to help them.
  2. Add depth to the game’s world. Certain side quests may be for enhancing player gear or gathering resources but take that opportunity to teach the player something about the game world itself. Can water only be accessed from a particular location? Is there a certain type of dangerous enemy that hangs out by a village? Giving your side quests a multilayered purpose makes them feel more meaningful and valuable to the story.
  3. Offer satisfying rewards. Game players will want to go out of their way to complete a side quest—if it’s worth it. Avoid dragging your players around the game world for measly bounty or minuscule experience points. Players need incentives to continue exploration. Each one of your side quests should either teach or give the player something of value, and make it worth deviating from the main story itself.
  4. Get creative. Depending on your game’s style, you can offer a variety of side missions like delivery quests, escort missions, mini-games, battles, new area discovery, or item collecting for crafting. Give the gamer plenty of side quest types so it feels diverse and compelling, rather than repetitive.
  5. Practice moderation. Some games are notorious for having endless side quest chains that can extend the length of the main quest, or requiring a completed playthrough of the main game to complete. Side quests are a part of many iconic games and can be fun for collectors and completionists, but it is best to avoid loading up your game with too many, as they can start to feel unsatisfying or overwhelming. Many role-playing games (RPGs) are guilty of using “fetch quests” (pointless item gathering) to keep a player busy. Tedious side quests—like ones that require intense leveling, constant backtracking, or lengthy travel—can also distract the player from the main plotline for too long, which can cause them to lose interest in the premise overall.

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