Escort quests are the one type of quest guaranteed to fill me with frustration. Thus it was with interest I noticed a blue post on the subject.
Escort quests will still be present in Cataclysm to a degree, but you’ll find that they’ve evolved. Our quest designers have worked very hard to improve the overall gameplay, incorporating new mechanics to bring that goal to fruition. As a result, players will not only get to experience different kinds of escort quests, but the quests themselves should also feel much more intuitive and better paced.
Taken from here. The key phrase for me is of course “better paced”. Too many of the escort quests currently found in-game involve sauntering slowly through a pack of heavily armed enemies, whilst the person you are attempting to rescue complains about the pace despite stopping every two yards to make sure they have aggroed every possible mob. “Better paced” suggests shorter and faster, which would be a definite improvement on some of the existing escorts.
The idea of whole new set of different types of escort quest is also very interesting. At the moment most quests involving escorts follow the same basic pattern. Someone is either lost somewhere (think Tooga the Turtle in Tanaris) or being held prisoner and they need you to come along and save the day. The actual mechanics of the quest might differ slightly but the end result is usually the same. So let’s consider the nitty gritty.
- Type 1 is the standard escort quest. Whilst levelling you either encounter some unfortunate in need of help or you have to escort the quest giver on a mission of great importance. More often than not the former are in a cage and the latter are suicidal lunatics. This type of quest follows a set path and it tends to involve you following them as they lurch from mob to mob.
- The second type is basically type 1 with a slight twist. This time the rescuee will come with a special item which every so often they will require you to use on them. Examples of this include Shay Leafrunner and her bell as well as Ringo and his canteen in Un’goro Crater. In the case of Shay, she gets distracted once in a while and wanders off to look at something new. When this happens you need to ring her bell to pull her back into the straight and narrow. If you aren’t paying attention, it’s fairly easy to fail these quests especially the first time you do them.
- Type 3 is has to be my favourite. Here the NPC follows you. No wandering off to look at flowers, no picking a direct path through as many mobs as possible. Where you go they follow. Think Tooga here, he only wants to get home and therefore will take whichever path across Tanaris you decide. I suppose that makes sense from a story perspective since he supposedly doesn’t know where he is (although if you listen to the dialogue at the end of the quest, I bet he didn’t really want to go home at all).
- The final type of escort is sort of 3 in reverse. Rather than the NPC follow you, you have to follow them usually through some sort of vehicle mechanic like the horse chase in Grizzly Hills.
So what are the problems with these current escort quest models?
Speed: In many cases the NPCs walk slightly faster than we do, but they run (if they run at all) slower than us. Personally having been ganked three times in a row (3 different Horde) in a roughly 25 minute period attempting to rescue Corporal Keeshan, I’d love to see them speed up all escort quests.
Distance required to escort them: Traversing the entire length and breadth of Tanaris with a whiny Turtle asking “are we there yet?” and complaining about the sand is not fun. That particular quest would work fine if it was half as along.
Aggro Radius: If we as players can stand in a particular spot and not aggro a single mob, how come our new NPC friend stands in the same place and pulls an army? (This might be perception or possibly lower level NPCs but I’m well known for my ability to pull stuff from miles away and yet some of these escort types get more adds than I do).
What I would like to see in the future
- NPCs who follow you. After all, in most cases we are doing the rescuing.
- A sense of urgency. Perhaps timers on certain quests so we feel like we are actually rescuing someone from peril rather than being out for a nice walk.
- A choice between brute force or sneakiness. There is an escort quest in Darkshore where you can either fight your way out with the NPC at your side or they can stealth to freedom. More choices like this would be good. Maybe we could pick between creating diversions, planting bombs perhaps or yelling insults at a few enemy guards whilst their prisoner sneaks off and killing everything that moves. Offering multiple completion methods would prevent the quests from going stale as you level more characters through the same zones.
- A tribute to my favourite escort quest of all time, Jail Break. Marshall Windsor might have needed letting out of his cell but once the door was open, he was going to set the pace and it’s just tough if the healer couldn’t keep up (I was usually the healer and I loved frantically chasing after him as he pulled every mob in the zone).
- Some quirky mechanics like the “Escape from Silverbrook” but not too many. I love this quest because of the way I felt the first time around. I really wasn’t expecting to have throw oil and flames at Worgen whilst galloping blindly through a forest and when the quest started, my first response was something like “eek, what’s happening, help”. However part of it’s appeal comes from the fact that it’s fairly unique. If every escort quest involved running away from an enemy on the back of some sort of vehicle, the novelty would soon wear off.
All in all, I’m fairly excited about the direction questing seems to be taking in Cataclysm.