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From Hunt the Wumpus to EverQuest: Introduction to Quest Theory

Aarseth, Espen

Entertainment Computing - ICEC 2005, vol. 3711, pp. 496-506, 2005


The paper will explore how the landscape types and the quest types are used in various games, how they structure the gameplay, how they act as bones for the game-content (graphics, dialogue, sound) and how they sometimes form the base on which a story is imposed and related to the player. The question then becomes, how does the quest structure influence the story structure? How do the limitations of the quest combinations limit the kinds of story that are possible? How rich can the imposed story be, without breaking the gameplay? Are landscape and quest-structure the dominant factors in quest game design, to which the story-ambitions must defer? The main thesis of the paper is that if we understand the powerful but simple structure - the grammar - of quests (how they work, how they are used) we can understand both the limits and the potential of these kinds of games.

1. Introduction
This paper will lay out the foundations of a theory of quests in computer games. Quests are a basic, dominant ingredient in a number of types of games in virtual environments, from the early adventure games to today’s massive multiplayers, and by understanding their functions and importance for game design and game aesthetics we can contribute to many of the current debates in game studies, such as the question of genres and typologies, the question of narrativity in games and cross media productions, and the crucial issue of playability and replayability.




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