One of the areas of development that has a knock-on effect throughout the entire game is quests. As our overarching quests get refined, this can cause other mechanics to be rethought so that everything continues to align, giving the player the best experience in Paleo Pines. We spoke with our writer, Kevin Beimers, on how a quest comes together and what we know about the story so far…
How important is the storytelling within Paleo Pines?
There’s nothing we love more at Italic Pig than well-rounded characters and snappy dialogue, so it should be no surprise that Paleo Pines will be packed with entertaining townsfolk, quirky quests and more than a few cheerful surprises!
Italic Pig is well known in the industry for creating great concepts, stories, characters and plot lines. We’ve written dialogue and puzzle design for tiny indie titles and huge productions, and the common thread to our writing is creating “characters with character”.
Early on in the narrative definition process, we had a few internal chats about the value of systems-driven characters – complete 5 quests, gain 1 heart, friendship level increased, etc. While I’ll be the first to say that this is a very common way of driving human NPCs in similar games of this genre (and between you and me would probably simplify a number of things in the back end), we’ve always found that as soon as a human becomes system-driven like this, it loses a part of its humanity.
The best I’ve ever heard it described was in a talk about relationships in games. The phrase used was “keep putting quarters in, until friendship falls out”, which, I think we can all agree, is not how most humans function.
Save the systems for the machines. We’re aiming to offer humans with depth. It’s more work, but it will be worth it in the end. Come for the dinosaurs, stay for the townsfolk!
How do you come up with the quests?
The first batch of quests are easy – they’re about necessity. Onboarding, tutorials, skills building and hand holding are all important starting points for the quest log to introduce the player to the game world and mechanics. The key to a good tutorial is to have it drop into place at a perfectly natural point in the player’s game, so that the player and the character have aligned motivations. It’s no good for the player to be thinking “how do I feed my dinosaur” while the game is saying “Time to learn how to change your wardrobe!”
The second batch of quests… are actually still on the necessity train. No longer exactly a tutorial anymore, but more of a gentle nudge to explore the depths of the regions and features the game has to offer. They are structured to draw attention to points of interest, hidden areas, new features, duplicate uses of skills or tools, things like that. Again, to allow the player and their character to align motivations, quests like these “plant seeds” in the player’s head, almost to the degree that the player may believe they’ve discovered some of these things all by themselves.
The third and personal favourite type of quests are the character builders. Each NPC is associated with a skill or feature – for example, Owynn is the Dinosaur Care specialist. So, Owynn will talk the player through the nuances of caring for dinosaurs (food, favourite treats, what makes it happy), but throughout the tutorial, Owynn can’t help but to be Owynn. By learning about dino care, the player learns about Owynn. Pretty soon, when there’s nothing left that Owynn needs to teach you, Owynn’s character and narrative arc comes into play. Pretty soon you’ve gotten to know Owynn well enough that the sort of things Owynn asks for make you laugh and say “That’s so Owynn.”
I don’t want to reveal too much, of course, but each character has a lovely narrative arc planned, and the player is lucky enough to act throughout as the agent for change (change for the better, that is!). We’re aware of the fact that the way we handle narrative and dialogue in Paleo Pines is a mix of traditional and unconventional with a bit of a twist, but we’re pretty sure we’ve combined the best bits of all to create something unique and special.
What do you think makes a good quest?
At the risk of sounding redundant, all of the above! A good quest is one that leads to discovery, is in alignment with the needs or convenience of the player, and allows the player to learn a little more about the character who originated it.
To add to this, the best quests have the perfect reward. For the record, perfect doesn’t mean big, it means perfect. It’s sensible that a handful of dandelions might earn you a few coins, and that opening a major road to a new region should bring new skills, friends and collectibles. But we hope that the rewards that stick with the player most are the ones that have no monetary or gameplay benefits at all – the ones that punch you right in the feels! 😀
A little treat
Some of you may have already seen this in our Discord channel (if you haven’t joined and would like to, click the link at the end of the blog!) but it’s just too cute not to share again. While playtesting, our animator Yazz stumbled upon not one but TWO albino Styracosaurus. After showing the team, our programmer Rob let her know that there’s a 1 in 10.000 chance of this happening, so it was a lucky, lucky day!
Keep in mind that this is a development shot, so things are still subject to change.
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TikTok: @italicpig Psst. This is a new one for us so we’d love your support.