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"We shouldn't have killed that barkeep
"I have a feeling that he had a quest for us..."
— reportedly a game quote
In some video games, players are just presented with their objectives automatically as they go along, or the objective is always obvious, but in others, players are expected to actively seek out quests and missions to complete, talking to various characters in order to be assigned a job by them. Naturally, players can find it helpful if the quest givers are in some way indicated to them, so they don't have to go Talk to Everyone
in order to find them.
From most obvious to least, the options for introducing players to quest-givers seem to be:
- Have all quest-givers directly approach the characters automatically, even when the quest is an avoidable side-story. This way, players don't have to identify the quest-givers at all, since the characters do it for them.
- Clearly mark all relevant quest-givers somehow, such as having a sign float over the character's head. (In some games, just having a name rather than being Generic Peasant #16 might be enough).
- Go for a slightly more subtle approach, and just make the quest-giver stand in a prominent place and say things that suggest they're a potential quest-giver (such as loudly saying "Oh, whatever shall I do!?" every thirty seconds until players get sick of it and decide to find out what the quest is).
- Don't mark quest-givers at all. Players won't know if the character gives a quest unless they ask. One down side to this is it forces players out for 100% Completion to Talk to Everyone.
The Treacherous Quest Giver
is, naturally, a subtrope of this.
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- Otakon LARP starts every character off with a couple of plot hooks to get them engaged, but the whiteboard is used for any player to become a quest giver for any other player.
- Floating exclamation marks over a character's head are found in:
- Some of the more recent games by Blizzard: Diablo II, WarCraft III and World of Warcraft. In the first, the exclamation marks are in speech bubbles and the character will will try to come towards you. In the later games, it's just a giant yellow exclamation mark hovering there.
- World of Warcraft also features the third variety: A starting-area questgiver asks passing players to help him find his dog, with sound files no less. (Blizzard did this as part of a a Make-a-Wish request.)
- La Tale marks any NPC that has a quest for you with an exclamation mark. If you've completed, but not turned in, a quest by them, it changes to a check mark.
- Floating exclamation point in gold marks it out for Wizard 101 - same as for World of Warcraft.
- Guild Wars has green ones.
- zOMG! has speech bubbles with red exclamation marks over an NPC's head when a quest is available or ready to be turned in.
- Hellgate: London also uses Blizzard's gold exclamation points.
- Browser-based RPG Dragon's Call also uses these to signify NPCs with quests available, and gold question marks when the quest reward can be claimed.
- Dragon Age.
- Quest givers appear as exclamation marks on your map in Borderlands and Borderlands 2.
- MySims Kingdom and MySims Agents.
- Lampshaded in Sunset Overdrive, in which it is revealed that quest icons are rented from a local salesperson who sends you on a sidequest to get icons back from some former questgivers, who have been trying to find various uses for said icons.
- The third generation of Grand Theft Auto games mark quest givers on the map (each getting their own distinct icon, usually a letter). When you get to the location, there's a visible marker on the ground to step into - doing so begins a cut-scene.
- In RuneScape, a blue * in a circle on the world map shows where quests start.
- City of Heroes gives players an initial contact, who will give them missions, then eventually send them to another contact to repeat the process. One can also use the Police Scanner or the Newspaper for missions, but completing enough will eventually get you to a contact.
- In The Elder Scrolls, most quest givers patiently wait until the PC comes to talk to them, in full accordance to the Wide Open Sandbox doctrine. The Thieves' Guild questline in Oblivion can be initiated by someone coming up to you, though (and the Dark Brotherhood questline in both that game and in Daggerfall is started by killing someone — doesn't matter who, so long as it wasn't in self-defence — and getting contacted by the Dark Brotherhood for recruitment).
- Most BioWare games don't mark quest-giving characters visually, although many of them will approach characters directly or have other ways of making themselves obvious through what they say and do.
- While Final Fantasy XI has no special markings for quest givers, some are commonly known and even pointed out simply though normal play by NPCs, like the gate guards that give the main missions for each of the three nations as well as the NPCs used for Assault.
- In Pokémon Ranger: Shadows of Almia, quest givers have a little speech bubble with three dots in it, and an exclamation mark once the quest is accepted.
- Persona 4 is of the last variety and most seem to want items from the TV World despite not really knowing abut it. Lampshaded when the MC's accept line is "I'll search the TV"; the other party is confused.
- The main character gives himself a quest at one point - feeding a cat.
- In Shin Megami Tensei IV, the Hunters' Association and K's Tavern fill this role, with Burroughs registering any quests as they pop up. Many demons will also offer quests if spoken to at the right moments. Many of the quests issued by the Association are actually from Fujiwara, who's issuing them precisely to find a Hunter capable of wielding the power of Masakado.
- In Dragon Quest IX, NPCs with quests have blue speech bubbles over their heads when you try to talk with them, as opposed to the usual white.
- In AdventureQuest Worlds, quest givers are marked by a red circle button with a yellow exclamation point and a white border.
- Dungeons & Dragons Online marks its quest givers with gold chalice icons above their heads.
- The Lord of the Rings Online uses (what else?) golden rings, resembling cocked halos. The rings change color for completed or over/underleveled quests, and people who are willing to talk to you about a quest you're currently on (without actually advancing it) display a ring with s quill inside.
- Mega Man Star Force had sidequest givers go totally unmarked save by the Transer icons over their heads, which were identical to those who didn't have quests yet; in 2, everyone updated to Star Carriers, with icons that were blue in normal operation and pink when an aggravatingly minor problem needed to be solved.
- In Drakensang, quest givers (well, side-quests givers anyway) can usually be recognized due to the fact that 1) They have proper nouns and 2) They're usually muttering something interesting that may catch your attention.
- Subverted in Magicka. A woman early in the game has a giant exclamation point over her head, and she gives you a Twenty Bear Asses sort of quest; but goblins attack right after you talk to her, causing her to decide the rats in the cellar aren't such a big deal after all. The game has no other quest givers, real or fake.
- In Little Kings Story, quests are sent to the king via suggestion box. They are distinguished from normal messages in that they're golden instead of the usual white.
- Borderlands2 uses floating exclamation points that are very obvious on the player's map, a vast improvement over the original.