Love, Loathing and Escort Quests

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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).
  4. 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.

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9 Responses

  1. Oh, escort quests how I loathe you.. I find it interesting (and immensely annoying) how you’re rescuing someone and they WALK SLOWLY away. Seriously, they should be running as fast as they can surely? Get as much space between them and their captors as they possibly can.

    Every now and then you come across someone who does run and you’re so pleasantly surprised.

    If they make different escort quests in Cataclysm that’d be good. Tooga wouldn’t have been so bad if the distance was less, or if at least he’d adjust his speed according to yours (in which case you could mount).

    The Grizzly Hills quest escape is pretty neat. While obviously too many of those would make them less neat, I wouldn’t mind seeing another one or two. There’s a similar one in Storm Peaks as well when you’re being chased by dark iron dwarves. It’s just much more fun than running or walking next to someone who’s likely to pull half the zone before reaching your destination.

    • Well I suppose running away from people with weapons is a bad idea, they might get nervous and hurt you. So technically sauntering might be the way to go, but ….. I’m firmly in the RUN camp.

  2. Oh hang on, they’re not dark iron dwarves are they? hahaha Well, those stone dwarves in Storm Peaks at least.. For some reason I always just call all the “bad dorfs” dark iron ones 😛

  3. The one that also made me laugh a bit was in Felwood, where you needed the blood red key to unlock the cage (I can’t for the life of me remember her name now), and she MUST hurry!

    15 minutes later – you are finally to the top of the tunnel.

    The story line for that quest is fantastic, the final quest itself, not so much.

    • I must admit, I always imagined if some demons were keeping me in a cage, I’d be so grateful to be let out I wouldn’t make my rescuers spend 10 minutes collecting my gear. I’d be running for the hills as fast as my legs would carry me. That might make for a boring quest though.

  4. I remember the horror of pre nerf robot chicken escorts. 10minutes escorting a chicken that liked to pull every mob around it and failing at the end by a 5mob spawn gorilla ambush. Not nice.

    • We actually stopped doing the escort chicken ones for a while, meeting Horde in the last few seconds or whilst dealing with the final ambush tended to take the fun out of it. Then on a whim recently, whilst levelling in Feralas we got the drop whilst killing yetis and thought we’d try again. The nerf was a pleasant surprise.

  5. I loathe escort quests. Loathe them and despise them.

    Weirdly, I thought the chicken (although infuriating) was cute enough that I actually managed to put myself through all three – I just loved the weird chicken attack pattern alpha dialogue.

    The worst escort quest, and I remember it vividly, is a guy you rescue from the Alliance fortress near Ratchett – I still remember the bloody fool weaving drunkenly through every pirate mob between the Keep and Ratchett, shrieking continually about how he was under attack!

    I think the idea of having an NPC along for the ride is interesting, but in practice it’s a pain in the arse.

    • I would like a dialogue box with your rescuee. If you are alone or lower level, sure he can take his time a bit. But for groups, higher levels or the adventurous I’d love a speeded up mode where you don’t have to wait around for them to finish talking or walking very slowly.

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