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This is something I struggled with in Skyrim, for sure. I enjoy Elder Scrolls games most when I'm exploring the world and trying to figure something out. That can work when there are quests associated with exploration or not. I loved the part of Morrowind when I had to go into the ashlands and make friends with the Ashlanders, which was quest-driven; and I loved finding the Gray Fox's secret lair in Oblivion, which wasn't. In both cases, I felt like I was diving into something unknown and having to read my surroundings. That's the feeling I love in those games. Skyrim never once scratched that itch, and I'm not sure why. Part of it is the generative quest system, which quickly teaches you that similar things will happen wherever you go. Variations between locations are weakened because they share templates. I see where they were going with the quest system, but for me it had the effect you're talking about here - all those entries in my quest log just sapped my intrinsic motivation. I think there might be a missed opportunity there, in fact. So you have a template of semi-generic actions that makes up a quest, okay. One way to use that is to instantiate it, write it explicitly on a piece of paper, and hand it to the player. But you could also just apply it retroactively. If the player has performed a series of actions that fits a template, trigger an appropriate reward or consequence. You'll probably finish fewer quests, but is that a bad thing? And what you get in return might be a world that feels responsive, rather than demanding.
Toggle Commented Jul 4, 2012 on Does Overjustification Hurt Games? at ihobo
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Jul 4, 2012