Dev Blog: Narrative

Hey team, cross posting this from our official site for anyone interested.


“Greetings , Puzzle Quest fans!

It’s Sirrian here, AKA Steve Fawkner, and I just wanted to write a short foreword to this dev blog to give it a little context.

For many years, going back through Puzzle Quest, Battlecry , and the original Warlords games, we’ve been sharing the stories of Etheria with you all. These stories have grown from RPG games I’ve run in my world of Etheria for over three decades now.

With Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords, my goal was to create a story that felt like “my first RPG game” – a big mishmash of nonsensical adventures and whimsical characters, with big bad Lord Bane waiting at the end. In Puzzle Quest 2, the new goal was to create “my first dungeon crawl.” It was more of the same, and, as a writer, it felt like a step backward.

But with Puzzle Quest 3, my motivation has been to craft “my first real RPG story” – one that felt more ambitious than what we’d done before. A story that would give players a feeling they might have once before when they first played an RPG and really connected with the characters. To help with that, I conscripted Ella, AKA Salty, and I must say it’s been a pleasure co-writing a story with somebody who sees things differently to me. It makes both of our work stronger.

Now… over to her!”


Ahoy, adventurers! It’s Salty, AKA Ella, AKA your Communications Manager turned Narrative Designer, and I’m here to talk about the narrative design behind Puzzle Quest 3.

Process and planning

Steve had a rough outline of the story and a list of the characters that would become our Followers in-game. We fleshed out these characters during the planning process, giving them quirks, motivations, and backstories before moving onto the overall narrative structure. It was decided that the base game would contain 15 chapters, each taking place in a new location with a Follower joining along the way.

From there, we prepared internal documentation which detailed the emotional beats that would occur throughout each chapter, how the characters would grow, and the outcome of their actions on the world and overall storyline. By breaking this down, it became easier to understand why our heroes were on their quest and where we could build tension in the narrative.

Writing and Editing

After our planning process was complete, it was time to start writing. Our goal was to ensure that the cast of characters fit our natural tone, one that is upbeat, sarcastic, and cheeky. When the drafts were finished, it was time to move onto a lengthy editing process.

The design team worked on how the game’s narrative would be presented, and then we had to decide how long each conversation could be, with line limits and other boundaries put in place. These rules are broken during crucial scenes, but having the guide in place led us into our first round of editing to better understand what we needed. Around this time, we sent the narrative to 505 Games for review, and they offered their thoughts and opinions that would further improve the story.

After the rough draft, we had to embark on a full rewrite. Following the first full edit of the script, we reviewed the narrative again and made additional changes as needed. During this process, the writing was put into our game engine, and the files were gameready(ish).

(Before we had our character art finalised, this is what our in-game tool looked like. We used the Hero portraits from Puzzle Quest 1 as placeholders!)

The Rest

While our work was nearing its end, we weren’t quite finished yet! The next steps included localising the story into other languages, and we liaised with the translation team to ensure the story was as close to our intentions as possible. They also cleaned up a bunch of typos, a harsh reality of writing to a deadline.

Puzzle Quest 3 is releasing with the core 15 chapters completed, with more to come in the future! We are excited to continue writing the adventures of our heroes (and yours!) for years to come.

All that’s left is for players to jump in and experience the story for themselves at the worldwide launch. We can’t wait to see how you react to the choices and sacrifices our heroes must make as you return to the world of Etheria.


Over time, our developers will be writing blogs that explore different parts of Puzzle Quest 3.

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First off, the original Warlords games were some of my favorite, and while I was too young to remember anything concrete, I still remember having a blast playing them over and over. I think it’s kinda cool to discover they’re set in the same world.

Secondly, I actually enjoy the story. I like that the overall tone is far more nuanced than “We’re the good guys, they’re the bad,” and there are several character interactions that were more adult than I expected from this game, both in the mature adult manner, as well as the immature (but enjoyable) adult manner.

I’m definitely playing less since I beat the plot, but I am planning on sticking around to see how this develops. I have enjoyed my experience so far, even in the bare bones state the game is in.

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I loved the original Warlords games, 3 in particular! But Battlecry 2 will always be my favourite SSG title.

Glad to hear you’re enjoying the story, Steve and I had a lot of fun writing it. We wanted it to be more involved thatn previous Puzzle Quest games, so we introduced more stakes and impact on the world.

We will have more story in the future, and I’m excited to see how players feel about where the narrative goes!

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I feel the story was very well done, especially considering the limitations of just a few lines per chapter. I enjoyed it.

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Ok… my takeaway from the OP is that once upon a time there was an actual faction system with individual followers?

That explains so much regarding the dialog trees in the narrative, because they “scream” that there should have been some sort of faction system in place (or if there is one, it is currently disabled or is not in use).

On the story in general… there are so many high points… to name a few, Auri’s confrontation with Toragon, Adhakus discovering snow, Auri’s first hug, and so on. There’s so many out there.

On the other hand… there’s Chapter 15. I don’t know what happened here. Without spoiling things in general, the chapter feels like a tv production where the director holds up a card to the cast that there are 60 seconds left of airtime and to “wrap things up” as fast as possible. After 14 Chapters of growth and development across the party, that’s all thrown away like this growth never happened “because reasons”. After everything that the party experienced in the previous 14 Chapters, I refuse to believe that the party members would do just what they did midway through Chapter 15.

Also, the long awaited payoff with Gong that was alluded to several times across the narrative didn’t happen. :slightly_frowning_face:

There seems like there also should have been something… more with the intermission at the end of Chapter 15. It feels like there should have been an additional story beat with some sort of closure with one of the two parties at the end of the chapter or some sort of looking forward to Chapter 16 or Act 2.

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I’m still waiting for an in-universe nod to my…special way of completing the game. You all know I did it. :stuck_out_tongue:

@Lyrian I honestly love the confrontation with Auri and Toragon, it was one of the first scenes that was written for the game.

I can’t speak too much to a wrap up, but there will be more narrative archs where our characters will continue to grow!

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Warlords: Battlecry II is one of my all-time favorite games. I played it through with several very distinct heroes. I still have the game!

And the story line here on Puzzle Quest 3 is what kept me entranced. Now I’m just grinding to level up my eq, but I did really enjoy the characters in the main plot. There were times I laughed out loud, and times I tried to explain amusing plot points to my not-a-gamer wife.

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@Sirrian and @Salty, thank you for putting this narrative dev blog together! Very interesting to hear about your creation process and structure that weaves these separate stories together.

As a fan of both PQ 1&2, particularly for the strong story, I was very happy to find that PQ3 also had a strong cast of characters and entertaining story.

One key thing I miss from PQ 1&2 stories was the sense of engagement, agency, and choice. With future stories, I hope you can find a way to return some of these elements, by adding decision points (e.g. mission A or B), relevance to the battles (fighting this hoard of rats raiding the store), and perhaps seek specific story relevant artifacts.

Finally, as someone who hasn’t played any of the Warlord games (just learned you also created this universe!) I encourage you to revisit some of the past game story-archs! 30 years was a long time ago!

Thanks again for putting your hearts into this game’s story and characters. It shows!

P.S. really looking forward to seeing Auri’s final form :wink:

Sal

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