I think it is natural that developers will take advantage of the advanced technology and do whatever they can to add as much content as possible.
But many people are fed up, including me, of having these side-quests or missions where they make you feel that you have a lot more content and stuff to do but in reality, they give you the illusion of the idea. More often than not, you are either doing the same objectives over and over again, or have little variation or just do not feel very rewarding or interesting.
Some games are exceptions to this surprisingly like Metal Gear Solid 5 – the side-quests are the same but the gameplay loop is greatly rewarding and fun; or the Witcher series where the side-quests have a lot of story behind them or led to other stories as well even though the main objective is meant to be the most important.
In reality, some video games actually manage to make side-quests work well like in the Deus Ex series, the worlds are incredibly small but the side quests either occur when you least expect them like when you take a certain route and notice a crime scene, or they give you another story that is tied into the world.
Some side-quests are actually hidden and actually encourage players to pay attention to their environment like in Metal Gear Solid 5, if you pay attention to what the soldiers are saying, you might reveal a hidden weapons cache or are might be able to rescue some prisoners if you want to.
Or some side-quests are completely optional but come with a catch – they give you an extra reward .. if you can manage. Like in RTS games where you are tied to a hard main objective and you are given a side objective and if you manage to gain it or use your wits well, you will be given an extra reward.
Heck, some open-world games have no or little side-quests at all like Breath of the Wild. It has side quests but it never really holds your hand to complete them immediately. The main quest is straight-forward – defeat Ganon but the world is literally up to you how you want to do it and your tools are literally in your own hands. You can mark objectives on your map or search for clues on the towers and so on. The map does not tell you where to go but you can use it to your advantage to know where you want to go.
Or some games manage to make the side-quests interesting by adding a sense taste like humor like in the Borderlands series. Not only you are motivated to gain a new reward, but you also get a laugh or two.
Honestly, side-quests are often there as a must to make you feel like you have more content but really do not. Many games fall for this trap and it makes the games feel less dense than what they might appear or just shallow. It really sucks that there are a few ideas on how to make side-quests and even main quests more interesting but many games, especially open world games, fall for the same pitfalls.
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