Question What are your feelings about timed quests in a game?

It doesn't have to be an RPG-type game, but that's my main gaming experience so I'm posting this question here.

You get a quest and have so many days, or game hours to complete it or fail. Sometimes the quests are more immediate and you have just a few game minutes or seconds to complete it. Get an antidote for a man's poisoned wife. Stop a psycho from setting off a bomb. Rescue a farmer's virgin daughter from bandits (very rare). The possible scenarios are endless, but they all have a time limit.

In general, I hate it when I get one of those type quests in my journal or log, as I have to stop what I'm doing and try to complete that quest. As long as I can go back to what I was doing before that quest, I deal with it, even though it interrupts my current exploration. So much depends upon how the game developer designed the quest. It can make sense and create a feeling of urgency and tension, as long as there aren't too many of those types of quests.

I'd rather deal with the shorter kind (minutes or seconds) than the longer ones, as they take place in the area that you're in and you have to make certain choices or actions right now. And gaming gods forbid, I am not talking about QTEs, I've outright quit games before because an infusion of QTEs.

As an example of the shorter kind would be a somewhat obscure quest you can get in Mass Effect 1 on the Citadel that involves tracking a rouge AI after playing a certain Quasar machine. Ultimately, you'll find yourselves in a room with the door locking behind you. After a brief conversation with the AI it initiates a self-destruct sequence that you have about 10 seconds to solve. It's literally do or die in 10 seconds.

I've also experienced timed quests that don't tell you the time limit, it's like an internal timer the game creates and starts ticking once you get the quest. There's a bunch of those in Fallout 4, most of those being settlement attacks, or a settler being kidnapped by raiders or gunners. Those can be modded out of the game if you don't like them, but those I actually like, because it can drop your character into a huge fire fight especially at higher levels.

I'd love to hear your experiences and thoughts on timed quests you've encounterd.
 
Not a fan for my type of games, but I imagine they're a good addition to melee-heavy games—as you say, extra tension and pressure.

Usually such missions involve failing 3-4 times before memorizing the required sequence—North first, then West… My least fav Far Cry 4 mission was bad guys planting bombs around a monastery which required you to scurry around like a blue-assed fly to either whack the guys or deactivate the bombs. Until you figure out the optimum starting location so you can snipe 1-2 of the early ones.

Just played a FC3 mission last night which had me on the ground floor of a burning house, needing to get to the girl on the top floor. As above, is it N-W-E-S or E-W-S-N? I've also had a couple of QTEs so far, while a tiger chews my face—so glad QTEs have died out. FC5 was the worst tho, with its 9 or 12 timed capture sequences.

I was a fairly good casual chess player, but I never enjoyed the few 5-minute games I tried. I guess my main problem with all this is there's very little game-relevant skill involved. It's like introducing a round of boxing into a chess game—boxing is of course very skillful, but not game-relevant to chess.

They'd never do that… would they?
 
I don't like timed missions. In the two versions listed in the OP, I would prefer the longer time period as opposed to one that suddenly starts a timer on your screen and you have X minutes or seconds to complete it. If it's a certain amount of days, I can still play my methodical style.

Another type of timed mission is a limited number of turns. This happened a lot in Xcom 2. You arrive on the scene and you have 6 turns, or whatever, to complete the objective. I never talked to anyone who liked that, although I'm a strangely fast Xcom player, so I always finished the missions with a couple of turns to spare. Still didn't like them.

I guess another kind would be racing. In a AAA open world game, these are usually optional. Like the Far Cry games usually have a series of timed vehicle races and Dying Light 2 has timed parkour courses (I tried one, didn't get close and didn't try anymore).

I've run into at least one boss, but I can't remember where off the top of my head, who was sneakily a timed mission because if you didn't kill him fast enough, he healed himself back to full health.

And survival games are sort of on a running timer due to things like hunger, thirst and oxygen. i don't mind those so much because traditionally you can turn them down in the settings. Also, I'm a hoarder, so before too long I've got enough supplies to last me a good long time.
 

Zloth

Community Contributor
And another kind: the "quit grinding and get on with it" timer. Pathfinder: Kingmaker had one. Once you finish the tutorial sections, you've got a certain number of months to take over a bandit fortress. Assuming you play normally, you'll get that done long before the timer runs out. If you try to crank up your level by going back and forth, all over the lands to try and pump your levels up via wandering monsters, you'll have problems.

The turn-timer in XCom2 is similar - a timer to keep you from playing in a boring way. The safest way to get through an XCom mission is to put all but one soldier on overwatch, then move a soldier forward. Never reveal any new hexes on the map unless as many people as possible are in overwatch mode! It's also an exceedingly boring way to play. The devs fought it in XCom1 (starting with a DLC?) by dropping useful items from enemies that would expire after three turns. In Xcom2 they threw in turn limits.

Those turn limits do have problems - namely the procedural generated levels. The game has to guess how long it should give you to complete the mission and sometimes it doesn't guess so well. If you aren't playing Ironman mode, you can just jump back to a save from before the mission started and go in again or just bail out and take the loss. If it's one of the pre-made missions, though, and you're still having problems then it's probably time to dump the turtle formation and get moving!

Edit: Oh! I forgot to give my opinion!

Timers are just like any other aspect of quest design. They are good if they are done well. They reek if they aren't done well. Timer missions aren't like escort missions, where I'm immediately dubious.
 

PCG Ted

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I'm always down for when a game does something new or different that might be traditionally seen as a little abrasive or user-unfriendly. I liked it when Mass Effect 1 gave you a hokey little timer to get to Tali after the bar shootout, even though it was way too much time for there to be any risk. Love how the original Fallout only gave you so many days to find the water chip.

I gotta say Baldur's Gate 2's timed companion quests nearly gave me an ulcer though. Felt like I was spinning five plates in the air.

Limited turns in something like XCom rocks, I think introducing strategic handicaps is one of the most exciting difficulty modifiers for a turn-based game, like that fight you have to do blindfolded in Divinity Original Sin 2 (you can still see, all of your abilities just have minimum range.)
 
I've also had a couple of QTEs so far, while a tiger chews my face—so glad QTEs have died out. FC5 was the worst tho, with its 9 or 12 timed capture sequences.
Hopefully QTEs are dead and buried deep. I don't mind the occasional tension of a timed quest, or event, but I found QTEs to be more frustrating than tension-fun. They're the reason I gave up on the Tomb Raider series with I think (?) with The Angel of Darkness game. That and a check point save system. Which is a shame because some of the more recent TR games look really great.

I guess another kind would be racing. In a AAA open world game, these are usually optional.
I've never played a racing game, but there was a horse race in Two Worlds 2 that required you to race your horse through an obstacle course within a certain time limit. The controls that Reality Pump's used, it felt like trying to maneuver a tractor trailer without knowing how to drive one. I competed it eventually, but it took at least 4 or 5 tries.

And survival games are sort of on a running timer due to things like hunger, thirst and oxygen. i don't mind those so much because traditionally you can turn them down in the settings. Also, I'm a hoarder, so before too long I've got enough supplies to last me a good long time.
I've never played a true survival game either, but I always mod games like Skyrim and Fallout 4 to include those survival elements, and there are some excellent mods for survival that you can tweak to your comfort level. Hunger, thirst, sleeping, and diseases (if you get one) are all on timers. It adds a sense of realism to those games that I really like.

And another kind: the "quit grinding and get on with it" timer. Pathfinder: Kingmaker had one. Once you finish the tutorial sections, you've got a certain number of months to take over a bandit fortress. Assuming you play normally, you'll get that done long before the timer runs out. If you try to crank up your level by going back and forth, all over the lands to try and pump your levels up via wandering monsters, you'll have problems.
I shied away from that game for that reason. I read too many Steam reviews that complained about the time limits and how it limited your exploration. True or not? I don't know, but it gave me enough doubts that I never tried it, which is also a shame because it looks like an excellent RPG.

I gotta say Baldur's Gate 2's timed companion quests nearly gave me an ulcer though. Felt like I was spinning five plates in the air.
Oh man, I forgot about those, another example of those internal timers ticking that you're not initially aware of. The first I time I encountered that was in Baldur's Gate 1. Jaheira and Khalid would leave you if you didn't investigate the Nashkel Mines in time, and Minsc would attack you if you didn't rescue Dynaheir within a certain time limit. I had to reload early saves a few times to be able to keep them all.
 
The thing about not having timed quests in RPG's for me is it breaks any sense of urgency to the story.

Oh we need to rescue our friend from the evil Baron before he's executed. Actually nah, I'll come back in 6 in game weeks once I've caught one of every type of fish, recruited every class of mercenary for my stronghold and I've ground out enough mobs to get the materials for those steel hot pants I liked the look of. The gang will be on the hill by the castle waiting next to a quest marker the whole time whatever I do.

It tears up any story pacing, which grates on me at times especially when the story is decent. I appreciate that most can suspend their disbelief, or just ignore the narrative dissonance but it always bothers me in open world games.
 

Zloth

Community Contributor
Hopefully QTEs are dead and buried deep.
Hmmm, last night, in FF7 Remake, there was a musical number where your character dances. While it's playing, lines fly through the air and... and there's no way I'm going to explain it right. Here's a clip. Is that a QTE or a rhythm game?

I've never played a racing game, but there was a horse race in Two Worlds 2 that required you to race your horse through an obstacle course within a certain time limit. The controls that Reality Pump's used, it felt like trying to maneuver a tractor trailer without knowing how to drive one. I competed it eventually, but it took at least 4 or 5 tries.
Been there. Done that. Also didn't like it.

I shied away from that game for that reason. I read too many Steam reviews that complained about the time limits and how it limited your exploration. True or not? I don't know, but it gave me enough doubts that I never tried it, which is also a shame because it looks like an excellent RPG.
False. You can explore quite a lot before time runs out. More importantly, when you finish the bandit keep, the places to explore don't vanish! Explore them afterward! I've got no idea what's running through peoples' heads, but I would really like to know if they are putting off the bandit keep because they want to explore first or if they are putting off the keep because they are worried about whether they aren't strong enough yet. If the latter is the real reason, then the timer's doing its job of making people get on with it. If not, then maybe the timer is being a problem. (At any rate, it is easily modded out.)

The thing about not having timed quests in RPG's for me is it breaks any sense of urgency to the story.
Oh yeah, that's a constant problem in RPGs. "Uncle Joe's house is on fire! You have to get over there and save his whole family!" Oh yeah? Well, I'm currently doing the get-familiar-with-the-village-by-picking-up-a-loaf-of-bread-at-every-interest-point quest and I've already been to Uncle Joe's house. If it takes me somewhere close again, I'll see about saving them. If not, well, I'll have to see what other quests I've got on my list. Don't worry, I'm SURE I will be there in the nick of time no matter when I show up. (eye roll)
 
Oh yeah, that's a constant problem in RPGs. "Uncle Joe's house is on fire! You have to get over there and save his whole family!" Oh yeah? Well, I'm currently doing the get-familiar-with-the-village-by-picking-up-a-loaf-of-bread-at-every-interest-point quest and I've already been to Uncle Joe's house. If it takes me somewhere close again, I'll see about saving them. If not, well, I'll have to see what other quests I've got on my list. Don't worry, I'm SURE I will be there in the nick of time no matter when I show up. (eye roll)


Its somehow easier to forgive or think around when youre reading text and looking at static character portraits.
 
I agree that it really depends on the implementation. Short term time limits can be a legitimate way to force you to try out a new strategy, but that only works if every valid built can adapt to this new strategy. It sucks if you've made a slow build that's viable in 99% of the game but fails in the one part where you're suddenly on a timer.

Short term time limits that just give you a sense of urgency are fine too if the game gives you plenty of time (I don't want the game to suddenly turn into a race) and if they don't force you to go to a new location without warning.

Longer term time limits need to have some way of communicating how much urgency you need. It sucks if you think you have enough time to explore and level up, but then suddenly hit something that slows your progress more than expected, requiring you to load a way earlier save. It also sucks if you skip a whole bunch of content because you're worried you might not make it in time and it turns out you actually did have plenty of time. Or worse, you needed that extra time to prepare and now you're severely underpowered and you also need to load an earlier save.
 
I'm always down for when a game does something new or different that might be traditionally seen as a little abrasive or user-unfriendly. I liked it when Mass Effect 1 gave you a hokey little timer to get to Tali after the bar shootout, even though it was way too much time for there to be any risk.
That timer is the reason why I went berserker mode and died when I forgot to do simple things such as ordering my teammates where to stand and just ran straight into combat headfirst.

Timers can be good or bad, I think @Pifanjr said it pretty well. I never liked the timed missions in older GTA games because they were often buggy as hell, but as long as they are done good, I would not mind having some short ones. I'm not really a fan of having longer-timed limited quests, because I like having the time to go about my own way.
 
Longer term time limits need to have some way of communicating how much urgency you need. It sucks if you think you have enough time to explore and level up, but then suddenly hit something that slows your progress more than expected, requiring you to load a way earlier save. It also sucks if you skip a whole bunch of content because you're worried you might not make it in time and it turns out you actually did have plenty of time. Or worse, you needed that extra time to prepare and now you're severely underpowered and you also need to load an earlier save.

I'm not really a fan of having longer-timed limited quests, because I like having the time to go about my own way.
I love to explore in RPGs (wilderness, caves & ruins, planets, ect), and completing side quests or companion quests, or crafting if it's a gameplay element. I tend to do things my own way whether it's logical or not. In general, I don't like quests or events that take me away from that. I can understand that sense of urgency that some quests have, or should have, to add a bit of realism to a game. I can deal with those timed quests that allow me to go back to where I was and what I was doing, and not force me into leaving that area behind for good.

It all comes down to the implementation and how much detail the developers give the players.
 
If it is properly integrated into the story/ gameplay then I usually don't notice it - I didn't remember the Mass Effect ones or the BG2s "sticking out like sore thumbs" but I have played them and no doubt lots of others.

Currently I am playing BG2 so I tend to look at the list of quests I know about and then imagine it's real - what would I do? Nalia's castle - high priority, slavers do 1st part to get access to good weapons then off to liberate the keep. Trademeet intrudes but that is only animal attacks so it can wait. Damn - the poisoned man (harpers) - it's only one man versus many possibly dying at the keep. Guess what - I always choose the certain death quest over the probable dead at the keep. Logic be damned.

If the urgency, using a timed approach, is not there then I probably try to introduce it myself especially if I am playing RPGs. I would prefer that timed events don't lead to "game over" or need to reload a save game that is several game hours or days old.
 
Anyone know if there's a tech reason why devs can't make many game elements optional? Or progressive?

So with timed quests, you get extra points for doing them, or can continue on if you prefer to avoid them. Or at least make them progressive, so you get points relative to your time to complete.

A single time is just dumb. Say it's 1 minute—super duper guy on this style of play will complete in 20-30 seconds, super duper guy on different style will take 2-3 minutes.

This same question applies to so many other game elements. I strongly suspect that devs get into a bubble where they lose any sight of the gameplaying public and instead make the game they want to play, or that will appeal to reviewers, or that follows the boss' "vision"—eg Kojima.

Options are a Good Thing!
 
Generally speaking, I'm not a huge fan of timed quests. When I'm gaming I really just want to relax. I will admit, though, that timers - even very forgiving ones - do successfully add urgency (at least for me), which can make sense depending on the context. Still, if I'm invested enough into a story and it is well-written I will probably feel urgency regardless of whether there is a timer or not.
 
game development is also a timed "quest" and adding options takes time, both to implement them and to test them
Of course. I wonder has someone tested the RoI in the RPG, Shooter & other genres.

Genre I know of where there are more options than anyone could play in a lifetime is 4X. Clearly the RoI is positive there, where the big emphasis is on giving players maximum control and choice.
 
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Still, if I'm invested enough into a story and it is well-written I will probably feel urgency regardless of whether there is a timer or not.
Absolutely. It was like that for me with the main story line in Mass Effect 3. Yes, Earth is getting destroyed by Reapers, but so is the rest of the Galaxy. And most of the associated quests involve gaining enough allied strength to take back Earth and destroy the Reapers, and saving your allies and sometimes their planets, as well as protecting your crew members. The sense of tension and urgency is there the majority of the time, and without any actual time limits.
 
I love to be able to explore in a game, so I hate time limits of any sort in any game. I'll give one example, even though it's not an RPG. 3D Mario games. I liked in the Mario Galaxy games that you could explore and just find your way around. When 3D World came out on the Wii U, I was excited to finally get an HD 3D Mario game. But then they added level timers, and it just ruined it for me. I wanted to be able to explore the 3D levels, and I couldn't because I had to hurry around and get to the goal.

It's the same with RPGs or any other kind of game, too. I play games to get away from stress, and timers just add stress to me.
 
A timer doesn't necessarily stop exploration.
This is also true. Such as survival-type timers for thirst, hunger, disease effects, or oxygen. Those (to me) are timers that are continually ticking and that you have to monitor or suffer the consequences. I actually like that kind and will often mod them into a game (if mods are available) if not included in the base game. It adds a certain element of realism to my character(s) and less like a game. Those timers might temporarily interrupt what I'm doing, but they add a lot of immersion that can make the game more enjoyable.
 
Hmmm, last night, in FF7 Remake, there was a musical number where your character dances. While it's playing, lines fly through the air and... and there's no way I'm going to explain it right. Here's a clip. Is that a QTE or a rhythm game?
In the original FF7, there's a scene where you are, and this was a long time ago so forgive me if this is entirely wrong, infiltrating this military group, and you are supposed to learn this routine so that you fit in during the military presentation. It just really quickly explained what the button presses were and when you were supposed to use them and when the thing started, it showed you in a line with the real military guys and then the moves started. I don't recall getting a single one correct, and I don't think I've ever laughed so hard in a game. Out of the whole game, that's the scene I remember the most.

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Would you consider Farming Simulator as a series of timed missions? Everything has to be done on a certain date, like sowing, harvesting, weeding, fertilizing, etc. It would take some work to fail that, though, as you can make each day last 48 real world hours if you want to. So is it really a timed mission if it's almost impossible to fail the timing part?
 
So is it really a timed mission if it's almost impossible to fail the timing part?
I think it is, there's a long-term timer ticking, even if it's a generous one, that applies to certain tasks that you have to complete by a certain date. I've never played Framing Simulator, but it seems like that aspect would add a sense of realism to what you're trying to accomplish. I remember helping my grandfather on his farm in Marietta, Ohio back when I was young. He always had to judge when to plant (early in spring but after any frost danger), the length of the growing season for a specific crop's maturity, and when to harvest before the first frost in autumn. He had, by instinct, all those internal timers ticking in his head. Good man, my grandfather, John Hall; I miss him still.
 

Zloth

Community Contributor
Pathfinder: WotR threw one at me yesterday. You're told that there's going to be a demon attack on your safe little tavern "soon" - but nobody really knows how long it will be. A couple of days maybe? They'll send a messenger when it's about time, and you'll have time to rest when you get back (so you don't need to stay battle-ready at all times).

The effect was interesting. What it mostly did was encourage me to avoid resting. This is one of those RPGs where a lot of skills and spells are used "x times per day," so resting replenishes all those stats. If it weren't for the timer, I would probably rest anytime the party had lost roughly half its potential just in case a really hard fight popped up around the next corner.

Baldur's Gate has the same mechanic (in 1 and 2, I don't know what 3 is like) and I hit that rest button a LOT in that game. So much that it was getting pretty silly. A party of adventurers raiding the evil lair is one thing, but a party of adventurers raiding an evil lair for about half an hour, then setting up camp for 8+ hours, then raiding a little more, then setting up camp again over and over? You would think somebody would organize some sort of counterattack. Heck, these adventurers are so slow that a couple of bricklayers could wall them into whatever room they were camping in!
 
@Zloth-I remember doing that at times in the BG games, though I tried to push my party as far as I could. I found it most brutal in the early levels, where my mage had only 6-8 hit points, 2 magic missile spells, a shocking grasp, and maybe 1 or 2 defensive spells (or similar configuration). I got around the need to rest so often by equipping everyone with a ranged weapon of some type and keep them at a distance, constantly moving around (and using the pause button frequently), gradually picking off the enemies.

It worked well in most outdoor areas, but much more difficult in dungeons or other interior areas. Like in the lower levels of the Nashkel Mines early in BG1. I was getting decimated by the fire arrows from those Kabold Commandos, so I was forced to use everything I had to survive, which forced me to rest (when possible) often.

I'll be interested to hear how your Pathfinder WotR playthrough goes, as I've had that on my wishlist since it came out. Partially, I was concerned about how many timed quests there were, as I'd read that the first PF game had quite a few. I believe that WotR also gives you a choice between Turn-based & Real Time w/Pause?
 

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