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"We shoudn'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 One Hundred Percent Completion to Talk to Everyone.
The Treacherous Quest-Giver is, naturally, a subtrope of this.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 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 Adventure Quest Worlds, quest givers are marked by a red circle button with a yellow exclamation point and a white border.
- Dungeons and Dragons Online marks its quest givers with gold chalice icons above their heads.
- The Lord of the Rings Online uses (what else?) golden rings.
- 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 8-Bit Theater, which parodies RPGs, Red Mage's insistence that he lives in a game world sometimes prompts him to treat people as quest-givers even when they're not. From Episode 498:
- Shown here in GGC, where the party must collect a thousand items.
- In a bonus Goblins strip, Tempts Fate pretends to be a quest-giver to trick some player characters that are trying to kill him into killing themselves instead.
- Van Von Hunter had a bit character whose official name was "Quest-Giver Guy". (In fact the page quote sounds remarkably like a conversation Van and his sidekick would have had about him.)