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Norman Barrows

the dreaded "escort" quest

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so quest generator #25 in caveman is the dreaded "escort NPC" quest.

 

escort missions - all games have them - we all hate them. 

 

so what does it take to do an escort mission right?

 

things that jump out at me:

 

the player should be able to control the pace and direction of travel.

 

the player should be able to tell the NPC to do things (like flee from danger).

 

the player should not be able to simply have the NPC follow them forever like just another follower.

 

are there other things required?    or other things to be avoided?

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Everything you're talking about there are minor mechanical tweaks. They can help (especially as some of them imply broader gameplay choices that can be re-used elsewhere), but you might instead want to think about something more broad and more outside the box. For example, what if the players are being escorted (and NPCs are defending them from significantly higher-level foes) for some reason? Depending on the context and the method of storytelling you're using, this can offer a significantly different perspective on the quest to the player while still fundamentally being the same thing, code-wise.

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For tactical-style games when I'm the one doing the protecting, I prefer to give some direction to the NPC even if I cannot control them directly.  "Run to location", "stay by me", "wait", and similar.  It stinks when I need to keep a character nearby but they keep running off, or when they stick to me like glue and I need to get in close to the enemy.

 

Those options might also be disabled or even ignored in certain situations where it makes sense for the game flow or story. A procession might continue on their path at a steady rate even if you request they wait or reroute, and requesting those things might even harm the mission. Animals or non-speaking creatures may not understand but the shouting may trigger fear-based behaviors.  Defending someone who is panicking might not obey, or may only have a small chance of obeying the instruction.

 

I think these types of features should be implemented as broader mechanics, not just for a specific quest or mission.  I feel like players should always be able to shout to an NPC for them to do something, although the consequences for doing so may not be what is expected. It can even allow for misdirection of enemies (shout to your well-armored paladin to keep the goods safe when they're really being protected by the weak mage in the corner.)

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NPCs escort player is an interesting new type of quest - i should add it to the list. might be hard to come up with a fitting backstory though, as to why the player is being escorted. its not the kind of thing that usually happens in games, unless you're being escorted to jail. <g>.

 

but right now i'm just trying to idenitfy the no-no's for the basic "player escorts NPC to location" type quest.

 

stuff like:

 

NPC only moves at walk speed.

 

NPC engages in suicidal combat at the drop of a hat.

 

NPC insists on going through badguys, not around them.

 

and so on.

 

are there any others?

 

giving the player control of the pace and direction of travel, and the ability to give the NPC orders should take care of all that, right? and all you'd really need in the way of orders would be "wait here" and "follow me".     "avoid / don't avoid combat" might be nice too. but technically speaking, wait/follow could do it all.  the downside of wait/follow is having to go back and get them once you've cleared the danger ahead. then having them wait while you clear the next threat, then having to going back and get them yet again and having them follow you yet again. "follow me" combined with "avoid combat" might prevent having to stop and start them up again all the time.

 

what would be a good rule or condition check for "player is just using the NPC as a follower, not taking them to the destination - IE not trying to complete the quest in goof faith". a (long) time limit? travelling ridiculously far from the destination? both?

Edited by Norman Barrows

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I played Guild Wars 2 yesterday (for the first time in years) and one of the things I noticed about the escort quests there than I immediately liked was the NPC does not die completely. It can still go down but people could revive them just like they can revive other players. The only issue with that is the lack of failure so that would be more a design choice.

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Maybe the ability to arm and armour your escort to some degree and otherwise have them be able to use other items you might equip them with. And also the ability to get your stuff back at the end of the mission.

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Strongly suggest flipping the question around before you implement a gameplay feature. Asking "What could make X fun or better" is kind of an awkward way to go about designing a feature. 

 

"Why would doing this be fun?" If you can't answer this, then maybe the feature doesn't belong in your game?

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@[member='Nanoha'], makes a great point Guild Wars 2 made a lot of changes to the basic WoW formula and had very good results. Reviewing some of the games that made improvements to the standard setup would help a ton. 

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An early prototype of goblinson crusoe was "Goblin Wizard: The Escort Quest". In fact, my original vision for GC was as a game centered fully around escort quests. GC was to be an apprentice wizard whose master is suffering from rapidly advancing dementia, charging from adventure to adventure while his hapless student frantically tries to keep him out of danger.

Something I have noticed about escort quests as a result of this experiment is that, in the context of a different game they kinda suck. If I'm raiding a bandit camp, thrashing dudes and looting corpses, then I spring a captive from a cage and have to follow her at snail's pace through a string of scripted ambushes, it's a change of context that is actually kinda painful. But I don't think that really speaks to the escort quest itself being bad, just the juxtaposition of a slower-paced string of ambushes against the gore-splattered free-for-all that preceded it. It's jarring.

What I found in that early prototype of GC is that when approached with the right assumptions and frame of mind, an escort quest (even one of the traditionally 'bad' ones like a slow walker) isn't as bad as you might think. Certainly, my test audience (consisting of friends and family) found it enjoyable. The things such as slow pace and tendency to careen crazily into obvious ambushes were part of the core gameplay rather than a distraction from the core gameplay.

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I played Guild Wars 2 yesterday (for the first time in years) and one of the things I noticed about the escort quests there than I immediately liked was the NPC does not die completely. It can still go down but people could revive them just like they can revive other players. The only issue with that is the lack of failure so that would be more a design choice.

 

hmm....   un-fail-able quests aren't much of a challenge... 

 

if i implement the NPC as some sort of temporary follower, the player would gain all the follower interactions such as giving them medicinal herbs, and staunching their wounds. along with all kinds of orders like wait, goto, follow, use missile/melee weapons, attack, target selection, use/don't use sneak mode, flee, maintain distance, etc.


Maybe the ability to arm and armour your escort to some degree and otherwise have them be able to use other items you might equip them with. And also the ability to get your stuff back at the end of the mission.

 

all that would come for free if they are a temporary follower, just have to get your stuff back before the quest ends, that's all.

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