Hellgate: London Updated Q&A - Quests and Quest Design

Flagship Studios writer Ivan Sulic gives us a rundown of the interesting and unusual quests that you'll pursue in this action role-playing game.

Hellgate: London is an action role-playing game that doesn't feature a fantasy setting, haughty elves, surly dwarves, or sassy peasants. Instead, this action RPG, which can be played from either first- or third-person perspective, is set in the gutted ruins of a future London after a dimensional portal has opened a rift that allows demons to enter the world. Your job is to kill every demon in your path as you pursue hundreds of quests and try to, hopefully, save the world. To learn more about the mission that you'll pursue, we turned to Ivan Sulic, writer for Flagship Studios. Hellgate: London will ship in late October.

GameSpot: We've heard that Hellgate: London will ship with hundreds of quests. How many are you up to currently? What's the typical quest like?

Ivan Sulic: I believe we're at about 250 quests for launch. There are essentially three primary quest types in Hellgate: London. We have story quests, template quests, and...um...tasks? The names get changed often. Apparently "task" isn't very exciting. Let's just call them, "Those grand opportunities of much astonishing fun."

Hellgate: London features some unusual quest design for an RPG, such as this quest that's designed to be like a real-time strategy game.

Anyway, story quests are entirely unique. They are coded to offer experiences that may include minigames, special scenarios and/or events, environment alterations, and scripts not found in template quests. For instance, we have a story quest that lets players control a giant robot. We even have story quests that see the player leaping into the mind of a madman, chasing demons through supernatural rifts, delving the depths of an ever-darkening crypt, assembling a gibbering monkeylike demon from various gruesome pieces, shooting down a massive airborne demon with heavy weaponry, and even participating in several minigames modeled after popular competitive multiplayer modes like king of the hill, domination, and tug of war.

Template quests are pretty straightforward. They are built off eight basic formulas: collect, explore, escort, infestation, hunt, travel/talk-and-do, use item, and operate object. Templates allow us to create quests assigned to different non-player characters without a lot of code work. Their primary function is to give players something to do while they undertake story quests: Going to Bloomsbury because the story said so? You might as well pick up some template-driven side quests that also point to Bloomsbury. It's all pretty self-explanatory: kill stuff, get stuff, save stuff, etc.

The final type, which I'll just keep right on calling "tasks" until someone kills me with a hammer, are combinations of templates and story quests. We code each of these, but we do it in a way that allows us to drop them into the game at various parts. So, we may have a task players can stumble upon midmission, such as "Help me! I've been mauled by that thing over there. It shot purple stuff at my eyes. Most unpleasant. I'm quite sure I've got some kind of infection now. Can you do something about it? If so, you'll first need to do these other three things." Stuff like that.

There aren't so many tasks in the game at present, but there are a heck of a lot of story quests and templates. Our plan for future content includes developing much more of each type but focusing a bit more heavily on the random tasks that may appear during any given quest.

GS: Lots of games feature template quests. For example, you usually have to go out and kill X number of a certain creature or you have to deliver an object to someone. How does Hellgate put a unique spin on them?

IS: Our randomization systems help ensure every potentially mundane activity is unique in its own way. We also try and add a lot of character to our characters. Hopefully, if players are inclined to read quest dialogs, they'll be entertained, amused, or even offended. Anything but bored will work for me.

Aside from that, we try and make sure our primary story quests are as interesting as possible from both narrative and gameplay-design perspectives. Although, we are aware that templates and tasks are only there to enhance those primary quests and give players something extra to achieve while adventuring.

That being said, coding giant robots and real-time strategy minigames is a lot of work. It's just not financially viable to create an entire RPG experience off unique elements like that. And so, like most other developers (as you mentioned), we implement templates and tasks to create more activities for the player. But they also balance out leveling and loot gathering.

In the RTS quest, you'll command a handful of units as you try to get through a level crawling with demons.

GS: We got a glimpse of the "real-time strategy quest" at the EA Studio Showcase. But what is the RTS quest exactly? What do you do in it?

IS: Basically, a templar lord named Maxim isn't the best of leaders. His men can be uncooperative or insubordinate. These particular soldiers have found themselves overwhelmed by a demon attack in an area they were commanded to hold, and they're now incapable of doing their jobs effectively. A nobler templar lord recognizes this and sends the player to directly command this unit of scrubs, and an RTS is born!

The Hellgate RTS mechanic is comparable to one of those Command & Conquer or Starcraft single-player levels where the player is given control of a small group of units without any base-building capabilities. In our game, players must use this small group of units and point and click their way to victory, prioritizing targets and moving troops as needed.

The RTS quest also carries a simple leadership theme. We try and break some of our quests up into themes, like leadership, which tie into the main objective of the game. That objective is to find five "truths" of man. Think of them as physical representations of qualities most in keeping with the "creator." Demons, of course, serve as opposites of those qualities. The truths are all nicely themed, too.

GS: Tell us about the "Galaga quest." (When we think Galaga, we think of the classic fixed-shooter arcade game from the 1980s.)

Completing quests gives you the opportunity to collect all sorts of interesting loot.

IS: Sounds like you're talking about a quest we call "The Big Gundown." It provides players with an opportunity to use some turrets against an enormous flying demon that's dropping tons of smaller ones on to the heads of hapless folk. Basically, you blow the holy hell out of the demon with turrets.

GS: We understand that there are also faction-specific quests that you won't see unless you play as a certain class. What can you tell us about them? Is there anything special worth calling out?

IS: Actually, we cut those. They just weren't fun. We pulled them all and are reworking them right now, so you'll likely see them in a future update. There wasn't a lot of incentive to do these faction quests we had. Players basically got faction points that were as much use as play money at a real bank. And it was confusing too.

More faction stuff might come in our first or second patch. Our chief vision officer, Dave Brevik, has some great ideas in regards to improving our faction system. Since he also programs it all, I would say new faction stuff for ongoing content is a given.

GS: In your opinion, what's the secret of good quest design? Are there any general rules of thumb when designing a quest for Hellgate?

IS: Secrets? There are none. Just use some common sense.

If you're making a Japanese RPG, for instance, perhaps you shouldn't have a story about some boy with amnesia that wakes up with his father's sword and suddenly goes on a grand adventure with a flamboyant tagalong. And if you're making a Western RPG, maybe you should cut down on the orc slaying some. Not every town needs a wizard to kill that jerk of a dragon that's been eating all those cows, you know. That's all narrative, though. In terms of mechanics, I think a good design is one that plays off the strengths of your base systems but does not rely on them.

We have a solid action RPG foundation in Hellgate that features customizable characters, deep skill use, and highly randomized environments, weapons, items, and monsters. That alone makes wandering around any given level and killing things worthwhile. What do we then do to make the entire experience more enjoyable? To make unique quests interesting? We simply create those unique experiences I mentioned above. None of them are too radical and none of them negate the base gameplay. But, all of them allow players to do something extraordinary while they're enjoying the game's core features.

GS: While the game will be free to play online, Flagship is also producing ongoing content for those who choose to subscribe. What sort of quest development can we see going forward?

After years in development, Hellgate will finally ship later next month.

IS: Everything. We're going to new places, we're doing new story, we're adding more templates, we're adding more tasks, and we're adding monsters, items, weapons, classes, features, modes, and more. Seriously, we're continuing to work on absolutely everything. Unfortunately, it'd be premature for me to elaborate on exactly where we'll take ongoing content and why.

GS: Finally, what's your favorite quest and why?

IS: I think I like the Mind of 314 best. It's a simple change of venue--stomp around some poor bastard's brain instead of the street he lives on--but I love our Lucious and Techsmith 314 characters. One is insane, the other is comically suicidal. I find their dialogue to be irrational and totally nonsensical, but then how often do you see that kind of thing in massively multiplayer online role-playing games or RPGs in general? Most MMO quest blocks are so boring people don't even bother to glance at them. At least with these two characters, players may chance upon the term "Taco Fort!" What's not to love? I suppose "Hold Fast" (the RTS quest) and the competitive multiplayer spins we do at the end of the game are far and away the most interesting in terms of functionality, though.

GS: Thank you.

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Discussion

152 comments
-Rhys-
-Rhys-

this game is crap from what i've played so far. run hit the mouse button when you get close to a monster. repeat this as needed. stop every once in a while to put on the new armour you get. really repetitive :(

alcari
alcari

@Delirin, contrary to what you seem to think, there will not be a Flagship employee holding a gun to your head, forcing you to buy the game or pay the fee. It's OPTIONAL. I persaonlly think it's a great game. Was good in alpha, better in Beta, and i'm sure it will rock in retail.

delirin
delirin

SWEET! In game ads, sloppy coding, npc's that don't fit the overall theme, characters with no torso movement and tiered multiplayer! Freakin' sign me up yesterday!

kontralucid
kontralucid

waiting for my debit card application to arrive in the mail so i can purchase the Collectors' Edition pack. woohoo!!

tommynj
tommynj

This game looks really awesome. I have no issues paying a monthly fee but the arguement is that this is a rpg and not a mmo. MMo's have 3x more content than rpgs do. Either way, if they decide to to have a monthly fee I will be playing anyway. The game looks great.

dnuggs40
dnuggs40

This game is awesome (I know from experience :) ), and if the optional fee is actually making you think twice about getting it...seriously...your loss. I laugh at all these people crying about the fee, you guys are seriously gonna miss out on one of the best games of the year.

Maximiliator
Maximiliator

hehehe i´m alpha tester of Hellgate London, and i can tell ya, that THIS is a HAVE TO BUY game !!! --- Max

100yan
100yan

Sounds fun will play

Azhar85
Azhar85

[This message was deleted at the request of a moderator or administrator]

Nosak
Nosak

Kason If I buy the game and wait dont pay subscription than when theres new task and stronger weps i pay to get them than dont pay again and pay again when theres harder tasks and stronger weps and dont pay again than pay again when theres more and harder tasks and stronger weps , would that be a good choice or is it only just pay all the way , becus like wow when u subscribe a month u automaticly get content and when u stop and pay again u get new content again so does it mean the only choice is pay to play? 5/5

xXx_Phenix_xXx
xXx_Phenix_xXx

sound's a bit like what Arena Net has done with Guild Wars to give it that added twist to the storyline instead of the same crap on a different day over and over again....now if only blizzard could pull off this kind of thing, maby i'd re-subscribe. grinding and 'template quests' get old after the first 100 that you've completed by the time you're level 10, and i'm glad to see that more devlopers realize this and are making storylines and whatnot more interesting.

360bloke
360bloke

OMG!!! stop freakin moanin about the monthly fee! borrow the game from a friend and see if it sucks or if its worth buyin! I mean, nont that im in favour of payin an extra £10 or so a mont on a game when its already £35, and I think it should be like WC3, which I played online for at least 2 years... for free! So, yes, in summary, it does stink that it is extra money, but it IS optional. So dont be brainwashed into paying it, and then complain. give it a go for a month, or get a demo if it comes out, and then decide.

israserj
israserj

is not something special...............

graavigala
graavigala

this game looks good, but why the hell do tey have to stuff that fcking MMO in to every single game novadays? does it make game worse if it doesnt have multiplayer option? ive played Diablo2 over and over but not once have i tried to multiplayr of that game. why? because its just not interesting

delirin
delirin

edge, mmo's that charge fees have persistant worlds with thousands of simultanious users and hence, huge server costs as well as constant updates. This game is instance based multiplayer, just like guild wars... only with a payment teir where paying users will get better gear, pvp, ability to start guilds etc. I have no problem paying for multiplayer, but traditiionally games like this have been free (diablo, d2, guild wars). Right now, I do pay a monthly fee for WoW and a 50 man vent server, because I feel it's justified. In the case of Hellgate... it's a different story. The pricing tier devides the userbase much like the ripoff korean "free to play" mmo's. Sorry if I'm not interested in turning my computer into a glorified slot machine... but I'm not going to start paying for something I can get elsewhere for free.

garbe
garbe

this game seems wierd but may be fun to play

edge2002
edge2002

Ummm...I can't help but notice how people are saying things,like (but not limited to), " No way am I going to support games,like these,that charge retail, and then have a tiered service,by which users have to pay a monthly"etc. etc. To that ,I simply must ask: Do people not buy World of Warcraft,Final Fantasy XI,Lord of the Rings Online,and the likes, at retail price...also paying monthly...with 'NO' form of "offline" play? Just wondering how this would be different..The payment structure of,this game,appears,to me,to be like that of Phantasy Star Universe.

ethanas
ethanas

My concern about the subscription is some of the originally planned features (faction quests and faction points) are cut from the planned release. Which means they won't have it when they release it. However they do planned to include it when they fine-tuned it in the future. Now, knowing there are tiered plans for players, what hope do those of us who just bought the core game and not suscribing to have these nifty interesting features available to us? Almost none. There is also a worry that support for normal non-suscribing players will not be as great too. Ethanas

Nosak
Nosak

Kason Im a huge fan of this and Wow and 250 story combined with template tasks is just not enuf tasks. Im gonna be hardcore and get all the tasks possible. Being in the fantasy world of Wow the fantasy tasks r getting boring so now i need hell tasks for a change but im still gonna play warrior class which is the templar. No more killing trolls and kill more demons. Cool yes i rate it 5/5.

delirin
delirin

linking, I haven't seen one iota of a slight mention of an expansion pack to ever surface for hellgate: london. If you have a current link to a developer saying otherwise, please share it.... I have been wrong before, but don't think that I am here. As to your logic on sticking the game out regardless of missing elements, I'm just not interested in a tiered pricing structure in any way shape or form in any game that I'll be playing. I'll pay a fee... if it's justified, and in this case it isn't to me and I've no lack of games this fall to spend my money on that aren't aiming to nickel and dime me with sub fees.

linkingfire
linkingfire

You won't have to. All the 'elite' new content will be put out in an expansion pack every 6-9 months. That way people who a) don't want to pay monthly, b) don't have an internet connection, c) only care about single player can get the updated content. So, by choosing to wait for the updated content, you save about $20-50 dollars. The only exception is the advanced pvp, which IS elite only and the extra character slots (which I think is hokey anyway, especially for single player when they won't be stored on a server...). That makes sense, really. And also follows the mold of other pvp games (Think Raikon, etc). And expansion packs are certainly an established part of the game world, and paying for an expansion pack is like paying for them to upkeep the game. I don't think that's bad. I would agree with you if they weren't putting out expansions, but they are, and how is that different from normal? Me? I plan on not paying the elite and buying the expansions. I don't care about the bonus pvp, but the added loot, quests, monsters, etc is stuff that I want to see them improve. So I'll buy that. I don't think they've stressed the idea of expansion packs nearly enough. If they phrased it as "pay to get to try out items, quests, and features before everyone else" then you bet people would be crawling over each other proclaiming how cool the feature was. Instead, people are thinking they get a static product if they don't pay, and they aren't. Anywho, cheers.

delirin
delirin

No way am I going to support games like these that charge retail, and then have a tiered service where users have to pay a monthley sub for the "elite" version of the game. Give me a freaking break.

Megawizard
Megawizard

I can't help but think that the monthly fee was EA's idea (god knows they won't do crap if they can't get money from it), but Flagship Studios didn't want one. So they compromised and put the fee on extra content.

magicmo
magicmo

Sounds like a very cool experience. Hope I have a PC that can run it someday.

Bozanimal
Bozanimal

A dimensional rift allows demons to enter our world? That hasn't been done before. :roll: Of course, it doesn't get old, either. ;) @uberjannie - What's wrong with single-player done well (e.g. Bioshock)?

uberjannie
uberjannie

I just hope this doesnt become a big singleplayer grind..

Nosak
Nosak

Kason Story quests - story template quests - is basicly the part where u do the story quests Tasks = story and template quest combine meaning the game is a boring task?

erlachu2
erlachu2

That's just a grand idea, allowing the user to choose to pay for extra content. This way, I won't have to spend an extra $15 a month to keep my account on a game and still play it. I spent $60 on a game to play it, so why should that $60 be void if i don't want extra content? Paying monthly is a good thing, though, as it gives the company more resources from which to build more servers, content and staff. it's financially obvious that no company in its right mind would spend as many resources on a non-subscription game as a subscription one would. In short, this just seems like a good balance between cost efficiency and financial support of the update devs, in theory, of course.

haesuse
haesuse

this game has been shaping up very promisingly however there are so many other issues. and i do agree with few ppl that dont look at the paying as a negative thing, but small nuisances like that seem to be piling up here. Hopefuly it doesnt get to be too much of a jam, as i would like to check this one out!

leem2k1
leem2k1

I wish people would stop moaning about the subscription and not getting "the full game" out of the box. What comes out of the box is the full god-damn game. Anything else is just a bonus. When you play other games, do you expect the expansion packs to be free? No, it would be stupid. So why is this any different?

Maxwell1222
Maxwell1222

i hate the idea of not being able to get extra content, unless you pay the extra fee. can this be played on windows XP to? i hope so.

BlackBaldwin
BlackBaldwin

Mmmm looks very interesting I might have to rent this one as soon as it comes out and then maybe even buy it....maybe....

covhunter
covhunter

At last a non-generic RPG with a wider variety of quests than the usual kill umpteem million monsters for the slim chance that you might get the needed item. It seems that they have put a lot of thought and effort into the game, keeping it from the same old mediocre grind-fest that most other RPGs have become. Definately looking forward to it.

Batch86
Batch86

I was curious about a 360 version as well. Just because I don't feel like having to buy a gaming PC.

chico129
chico129

Foorman, WoW is old, this is new, do you get paid by Blizzard to advertise? No? So your just an obsessed fan? Oh, ok.

Reaper_182
Reaper_182

sounds like this will be a very good game ^_^

Lescale
Lescale

@ Foogaman ... you still use the word "noob"? Jesus man, get out of cave and evolve. If you prefer wow, your choice, but don't spend the rest of your time on this planet to call other people names. Imo you should stop WoW for some time and stop spending time with all the kids there. Grown ups like other games. Live with it. And between us, Alpha testing proved me it will not suck.

Relnoir2
Relnoir2

I believe the online content will feature a FREE service, much like Diablo Two. I personally believe that paying to play a game online is absurd and racks up much more money for the same content as a single player game.

FoogaMan
FoogaMan

lol an RTS quest? whenever they ask this guy a question, he started making examples of other things, and didnt ultimately answer anything. This guys a noob, and this game is going to suck. If you want a good MMO, play World of Warcraft.

Agermemnon
Agermemnon

What is with this monthly fee ??????????? it's not a mmo is it ? i hope this don't start a new trend for come buy our game and stick your hand in your pocket every month for the privilege , as for a 360 ver you never know these days .

darkpresence
darkpresence

charging near MMO prices on a NOn-MMO game? psshhhff, ill pass. fun game or not, I wont be getting ripped for $10 a month or whatever they are charging for a run and gun RTS/FPS hybrid. too lopsided in favor of the subbed players, almost makes it pointless to pay $50 for a game that you dont get to play the whole thing unless u fork an additional $10 a month to play. can u say extortion? bait and switch? either way, the game looks like the same thing ive seen before in earlier games. if i want to get charged $10 a month ill actually play a MMO and get my months worth. no offense to the people who sub this game, i say if you enjoy it do ya thing, go nuts.

the_bi99man
the_bi99man

@rulo_rezn0r: 360 version? Ha. These guys made Diablo and Diablo II. They're PC devs. There won't be one. As for all the talk about whether or not it will beat Oblivion: These guys know how to optimize a game, so it's not a buggy piece of dogsh!t. Hellgate wins.

TriggerWolf
TriggerWolf

Looking forward to playing this game, a mixture of a RPG with the action of a good looking RTS (even if its just a couple of missions or so its always good to have some variety, right?) @ForgottenDemon: Amen XD

The_Marshal
The_Marshal

[This message was deleted at the request of a moderator or administrator]

Leonagard
Leonagard

Im waiting too play the final version of this game... just curious, but I dont know if HG is gonna be a great game... looks like the same thing with better graphics as anusual... mixed generes wont make a game a masterpiece... and I dont think it's inovation... but looks fun!... lets try and see! hope they made the right choice... mixing elements.

ethanas
ethanas

From this most recent review, I am a little worried. It seems like only the suscribers are getting more of the quests-in-plan (faction quests). 250 quests really didn't seems like a lot after splitting the majority of the quests out into Story Quests and Template Quests. I do worry a little about the amount of fun randomised quests (tasks). Though its still quite early to complain by just reading the preview. Maybe we should wait a little longer to have more info coming our way.