Quest indicators are a staple of a lot of PGs and open-world games. You open up the map and it’s filled with interesting markers and objectives for you to participate in. These are very helpful and are a fundamental way to save player’s time in maps and games that have maps that could be considered too large for their own good. But, I have an issue with them although they are a great quality of life feature.
A Loss Of Surprise
A long time ago, quests and side quests were something you had to find, you had to actively search them out in order to achieve your objectives. They were not easily found on the map and usually did not boil down to a fetch quest with little impact on the player.
If you found a quest, you had an expectation that it would at least provide something tangible in the form of lore or a more substantial reward. More importantly, however, you were surprised that your guess or assumption was correct and there was something to be obtained by paying attention in-game.
This experience is often lost in a lot of modern games and boils down to literal tasks that needed to be marked off on a checklist. That is fine in and of itself, but the stuff on that checklist should be interesting at the least. There are games that are exceptions to this, but a lot of triple-A games tend to fall into this category in a lot of ways. But, the important note is that we could do a lot better for players with our quests and keep them curious. And, there are even ways to do this without explicitly having quest indicators especially if the world is smaller than the average triple-A game. There are quieter solutions.
Old School Solutions
Hear me out; I think we can completely remove the indicator for something more subtle in smaller games that have already been used before in the form of the art and level design of older titles.
In older games, important areas and interesting people were clearly marked without consistently relying on indicators. For example, an NPC could be performing a strange action, be in a rather peculiar area, or obviously have their design dialed up to 11 begging the player to interact with them. All of these promote curiosity and give the player a chance to feel smart in the game world without a heavy-handed approach.
I’ve seen a similar approach used in Nier; Automata. Although in Nier, they do have indicators, they didn’t point you directly to the person in question. You still have to do some work to find the objective that you’re looking for. Additionally, many times the side quests have an interesting story or are completely hidden.
that’s a great middle ground. I don’t think it’s the only approach, but it’s a great jump off point for how you could set up something in your own game, especially if the world is fairly small. If you have a huge game world I do still think markers are great, but maybe consider a Breath of The Wild approach, where the marker is added after you interact with the point of interest. Again, use whatever you think works best for your game; in addition to that player feedback matters more than anything else.
With that said, I hope this helps you a little bit with your own game and have a good one! Good luck game-making.