Escorts Aren't Free

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And here I thought this was going to be a topic about the sex industry.

Ico was one of the few games where escort missions was done right. It was actually gratifying to protect Yorda because the game was built around being able to protect her. Ico is a nimble character capable of quickly reaching Yorda and fending off enemies when she is in trouble and when she is off screen, you could hear a cry for help and a change in music when she is in danger. It was not tacked on but rather well thought of and planned into the game.

Kwil:

rollerfox88:
I think the worst example of escort quest Ive had recently was on Skyrim, the guy from Kyraneths (?) temple that asks to come with you to the magic tree. If you attempt to walk there and not fast travel, he will die, no question. He will either go all macho on a dragon (this guy who gets up in arms about you hurting nature when you try harvesting sap from a tree) or decide to take a different path from you and slide down a cliff never to be seen again.

When the only way to succeed at an escort mission is to teleport to the end of the job, you have a bad escort mission...

The trick to that mission is to walk the path yourself first, using clairvoyance. This takes you along the same route dumbass will take, and lets you set off all the monsters that happen to be in range. Once you've done that, sprint/voice yourself back to him as fast as you can, and then sprint as much as you can back to the tree. This should get you back there before anything respawns.

Lvl 65.. haven't fast traveled yet.

OT: NPC support that doesn't die = Skyrim Housecarls = You go Fight those Deathlords while I admire the architecture, would you?

After the sixth time I had to reload to save his ass, I just let him die. I could no longer stand him (and I don't fast travel either).

Also, Housecarls CAN die. They usually don't because as soon as they're out of health, enemies immediately stop attacking them, but they're still vulnerable to area damage (spells etc.) My Lydia died against her first dragon, and I let her go without a tear, the annoying bitch. Now I'm with Aela, the coolest character in the game. She's wife, companion, shopkeeper and quest giver at the same time, and she's a hell of an archer.

Huh. On reviewing the qualities of an escort mission (weaker NPC, doesn't/can't really fight back, sometimes used as weighted object for puzzles), don't the Earth and Wind Temples from Wind Waker count? I'll admit, Makar seemed pretty annoying, particularly with getting kidnapped in cutscene mode, but the Earth Temple was genuinely enjoyable. Something about the way the puzzles were designed made Medli feel like a character you were working with, rather than a weight to make things tougher.

Well Skyrim's was clever enough to ensure your companion won't die... unless YOU kill them. I liked having a companion but some of them were a serious hinderance. I was a destruction magic user. I was from the start and for hours of questing with Lydia by my side. I'm more powerful than her and clearly she should let me lead the attack.

So why the f*** did she run in front of me in every f***ing engagement? Worse still, I'd deliberately see which side she was going for and attempt to move the other way so I had a clear shot at the enemey AND SHE'D MOVE AGAIN, DIRECTLY INTO THE PATH OF MY FIREBALL! Dead. And as I didn't want her dead I'd have to reload.

Now you could say "then don't bring her along?" Well, due to the clever gameplay design as Yahtzee pointed out in his review, of having low-level, easily killed enemies, then a brutual boss that can literally death trap you if you pick you save points wrong, I needed her to tank for me ...SOMETIMES... I don't know why they didn't include the Fallout 3/New Vegas method of giving them guidelines, like "passive (don't attack unless attacked, or I attack). And USE RANGED WEAPON PRIMARILY.

I've ditched Lydia for some orc lady who strangely has the sense to hang back a bit, and I've now reach the point where I can safely quest alone so will probably give her the heave-ho as well.

Memorable Escorts:
1) Fallout 3: teen thrown out of a town populated by kids only. Get him to a grown up community.
2) Uncharted 2: had to help a wounded reporter
3) Does driving a tiger in Saints Row 3 count?

So far, I've really enjoyed such missions.

There was that one escort mission in Just Cause 2 and it's just such a cliche escort mission. And that's probably why it's in there. You start on a mountain top. The whole army of the island in your back. Escorting a NPC with the same AI as the generic island inhabitants. And the whole thing with a freaking limousine. F*ck yeah! It's frustrating for the first two times you try, but it gets incredibly hilarious soon, jumping from cliffs with the limo, trying to drive through the jungle and getting crazy because your escort stays in the soon to explode car. I had fun.

Worst Escort mission ever:
Trying to save a kind in Fable one.
With the most annoying voice you EVER HEARD.

Who runs right into every enemy and who dies very easy.
But the mechanics screwed you even worse:

If he dies: INSTANT RELOAD you cant just fail.
The game locks onto him and in the middle of a melee you cant be sure where he is.

It took me so many times to finish that quest.

I'm not entirely sure where this fits but:

This looks like it's got the formula right so far. Liz helps out by giving you extra stuff if you need it and she can also be left for extended periods of time (like that whole skyline trip) and take care of herself (if you look really closely, you can see Liz kick a guy in the nuts).

She doesn't seem to get in the way and I think there's a real effort made here to try and make her seem like someone you want to care about and want to help, but also she seems like someone that you can feel sympathy for. I think I read somewhere that 2K knows that escort missions generally suck, so they've made an effort to try to rectify that, otherwise they probably wouldn't even include Liz in the game at all.

The parts with Alyx in HL2 were escort missions. Except that SHE was escorting YOU. Alyx was the badass warrior babe who could take on Combine soldiers like nobody's business, and you're just a nerdy physicist with a crowbar.

In theory there's nothing wrong with adding in somebody to protect, as long as they don't act like a suicidal PCP addict. I don't know why game designers felt the need to have unarmed, unarmored morons charge face-first into combat.

Based on your article, I thought of a more concise rule for companion design:

The companion should contribute to the game's objective.

Good support companions contribute to the game's objective by actively helping the player achieve the objective. They kill zombies, maybe give the player health, etc..

Good escort companions contribute to the game's objective by taking actions to aid in their own survival. They stay out of harm's way and do what they're told to do.

Note that escort companion being able to die does follow this rule. If the escort companion cannot be harmed, then there is no objective. Ergo, an escort companion being vulnerable contributes to the objective.

However, a support having game-ending death does not contribute to the objective, because then they become a burden, which is contradicts the rule.

The rule has other consequences that can bring about new gameplay.

With this, escort companions can be helpful as long as they don't put themselves in harm's way. For example, consider Amy. A better way of implementing Amy's support features would have been to have her give the player items and say she found them inside whatever place she was hiding. Or, she might mention she noticed something that may lead to a secret. This way, she's helpful while still contributing to the game's objective: keeping her alive.

Hat Man:
Escorts asside, I think Star Wars Republic Commando is the example of NPC support done right.

You don't have to worry about them dying, but they aren't invulnerable. You don't have to worry about their ammo, but they'll only use their best weapons in specially designated positions. And best of all you can actually rely on them.

Damn, what a great game. I've never seen squad combat done as well as this before, or after.

A shame it was really short, I loved that you can destroy certain parts of the enemy robots to get different results, that level of detail was great.

Zydrate:
And yet, couldn't do it alone. I of course handle the bulk of the DPS but they handle aggro mitigation as well, so all the fire is not on me.

When they followed orders, I stuck them behind crates. Unlike mine, their biotic and tech powers aren't hampered by a lack of line of sight. Of course after using a power they sometimes got it in to their heads that it was then o.k to run out in the middle of the area and shoot the floor while they got torn apart by enemy fire.

Skyrim is actually worse, when I charge up a spell or take aim with a bow, the NPC moves in front of me. I circle around and the NPC keeps moving to block my line of sight.

Hat Man:
Escorts asside, I think Star Wars Republic Commando is the example of NPC support done right.

You don't have to worry about them dying, but they aren't invulnerable. You don't have to worry about their ammo, but they'll only use their best weapons in specially designated positions. And best of all you can actually rely on them.

Great game reference. I agree about the game being a prime example of NPC support.

I thought the squad members were invulnerable in that both you and the members of the squad could be revived and none could be outright killed. You only lost when everyone in the squad was down. I loved the fact that you could be revived just like your squad mates if you happen to catch an unlucky rocket. That mechanic really reinforced the squad mentality because it meant that the entire mission didn't revolve around the player alone.

ZiggySt:

Kwil:

rollerfox88:
I think the worst example of escort quest Ive had recently was on Skyrim, the guy from Kyraneths (?) temple that asks to come with you to the magic tree. If you attempt to walk there and not fast travel, he will die, no question. He will either go all macho on a dragon (this guy who gets up in arms about you hurting nature when you try harvesting sap from a tree) or decide to take a different path from you and slide down a cliff never to be seen again.

When the only way to succeed at an escort mission is to teleport to the end of the job, you have a bad escort mission...

The trick to that mission is to walk the path yourself first, using clairvoyance. This takes you along the same route dumbass will take, and lets you set off all the monsters that happen to be in range. Once you've done that, sprint/voice yourself back to him as fast as you can, and then sprint as much as you can back to the tree. This should get you back there before anything respawns.

Lvl 65.. haven't fast traveled yet.

OT: NPC support that doesn't die = Skyrim Housecarls = You go Fight those Deathlords while I admire the architecture, would you?

After the sixth time I had to reload to save his ass, I just let him die. I could no longer stand him (and I don't fast travel either).

Also, Housecarls CAN die. They usually don't because as soon as they're out of health, enemies immediately stop attacking them, but they're still vulnerable to area damage (spells etc.) My Lydia died against her first dragon, and I let her go without a tear, the annoying bitch. Now I'm with Aela, the coolest character in the game. She's wife, companion, shopkeeper and quest giver at the same time, and she's a hell of an archer.

I've shouted Lydia to death more than once by accident because she jumped in front of my attack myself. The nice thing is though, that if I didn't find Lydia so useful for setting off those swinging spike wall traps to kill the meaner of the dragaur I could just let her stay dead with no negative repercussions.

Without having my fate tied to my followers I tend to be a lot more forgiving of their failure to keep all their blood inside their bodies and heads attached to their necks. Reloading so Lyds McTrapchecks is less dead pisses me off waaaay less than gameovering because Alyx died on that last bit in HL2:1.

Oh yeah. She can die on normal and hard difficulty, and it does game over you. Only comes up maybe once on normal, more so on hard, but it seriously kills flow if for no other reason than it totally takes you by surprise. The first time it happened I actually couldn't figure out what had happened that I GOed, because I was seriously under the impression plot critical NPCs couldn't die. And on hard mode learning how to protect an NPC that is totally certain she can do it all herself and all you got is a surprisingly pimping, but short-medium ranged, gravity gun feels a little unfair.

I feel Fallout: New Vegas did NPC support really damn well. They're non-intrusive, they only occasionally get stuck on foot-high walls, and they're genuinely helpful, not least because of the unique perk they give you whilst active. And if you ever screw up and get them killed, they die (in hardcore mode, anyway), and you get to mourn your lost comrade and kick yourself in the head over your own stupidity.

Other than that, Prince of Persia: Sands of Time is an excellent example as well. As always.

tmande2nd:
Worst Escort mission ever:
Trying to save a kind in Fable one.
With the most annoying voice you EVER HEARD.

Who runs right into every enemy and who dies very easy.
But the mechanics screwed you even worse:

If he dies: INSTANT RELOAD you cant just fail.
The game locks onto him and in the middle of a melee you cant be sure where he is.

It took me so many times to finish that quest.

I remember that quest. I was so pissed off when i had finished it, i gave the kid to the evil bandits that wanted to molest him, instead of to his father. Serves him right.

Marik Bentusi:
SNIP

The silent/voiced thing had me seriously puzzled too. It was just beyond bizarre, as a design decision, especially as I already didn't like the voice from the cut-scenes - you've killed the character for me already, so you might as well at least let the game make sense (although I figured - I'm wearing a closed gas-mask - without radio maybe kid couldn't hear? ALSO WHY WAS KID NOT WEARING MASK IN POISON GAS AREAS?!)

I dunno - I found him pretty useful in that section, because those damn albino monsters kept disappearing down one hole and popping up behind me double quick. They always seemed to be behind me, but at least when he gave me warning I could have a look round.

No actually escort missions ARE a bad idea... Regardless of their potential to link you to a particular character in the storyline or offer more of a challenge they just spoil the game.

People have enough time trying to deal with cover systems, extremely limited ammo, endless enemy re spawning and attack spamming to have to try and make sure their escort doesnt go off a cliff.

The plain and simple reason escort missions are still about the place in gaming is because devs either think to hard or not enough when trying to add variety in the games they make.

It's a typically used option to use escorting instead of a lvling system, ability/weapon unlocking system or just take some time to design some solid levels with defining characteristics and different settings to keep gamers playing.

But hey it's not as bad as quicktime events... which still wont go away. D:

Escort are fine, but most are dumb. You have to protect someone who runs blindly into all enemies. That annoys me. All you need is options to tell them when to wait and when to follow while you clear the way ahead. Most escort turn into a race between you killing everything before your dumb ass escortee reaches all the enemies. Whats the point in hiring a person to protect you when you acting like a suicidal maniac attracted to every dangerous persons or mines in front of you?

The escort mission in Saints Row 3 was great, mostly because you punched the guy out and carried him. lol

UnrealCanine:
Alyx from Half Life 2 ... [Cut for Context]

All in all she was more of a partner than an escort really.

Which is an example of it done right.

Although I realize I'm kind of missing the point. Escort quests are to force players to change tactics in an otherwise steamrolling playthrough.
Still, hard to make it NOT annoying.

Edit: Another good example was AC:Brotherhood. Escorting a certain political-based love interesting because she had a broken leg.
And in the same mission, taking one woman hostage which sent a set amount of waves of guards at you, while elbowing you in the face and fleeing. The good part is, it wasn't an instant-fail if she ran away.

this article did not make me hate escort missions or poor AI associated with it any less. fail , ben. FAIL.

XDravond:
Well as long as the one I'm supposed doesn't do anything stupid. Like "help" me shoot bad guys by walking in front of me whilst I'm shooting... Or set up a surprise mess for me to clean up. Or die when I don't know where they are. Or worst of all when they are "hard" an pushes you around bu you can't make them move...
Had to many times where I'm in cover and then a friendly NPC I'm supposed to escort gets up to my cover and pushes me out in the free where, well I usually die... A big thank you to the game studios makes those "it can push you around, bu you can no push them around" NPC by he way....

Didn't really consider the companion cube an escort mission but now when I read it yea that was a escort mission. But if you somehow manged to screw up it was your own fault and not that some programmer made a "bad" NPC so it's hard to get annoyed at anything else than your self...

And can Alyx in HL2 actually die? I haven't managed to get her killed so far...(that I can remember anyhow)

She has ridiculous regenerating health. Same goes for Barney. If you leave them to fight a room of soldiers on their own, they'll die reasonably quickly if you're nowhere to be found and not redirecting their fire.

Edit: Oh, and I wonder about the people who hate escort missions without exception. RE4 did it really well. Ashley hides behind you if your gun is out. She'll duck if she's in your line of fire. She waits whenever you tell her to, no matter what. Those people say that RE4 is still one long, horrible escort mission. Did they play the game or is their bias that far up that they can't see it no matter what?

For me me the most memorabl escort mission was that of MGS2 two, of course that is only because you could skip the tedius chore of scaring away bugs with a freeze spray by just knocking out the girl you were escorting and then just dragging her in the right direction.

In my opinion, the games that NPC escort missions are the most annoying to be found are MMORPGs because they are actually one third of the core gameplay (along with fetch quests and "slayer" quests, which are annoying in their own right). In those cases, my basic complaint is that they are usually made for "meat shield" classes to do solo while the other classes can either go ghug themselves or find a party with the same quest.

As for Alyx from HL1 and escorting the boy from Metro 2033 - for Alyx, you are that boy!

Escorts need to serve a function. What that function is, is up to the developer. For example: putting a time-limit on the current mission or level (the important person is poisoned, and you need to get them out fast). Secondly a developer should facilitate the player by changing the map and game focus for the escort. Say the baddies are only interested in the escort, so turn the focus of the game to keep away. for example: the escort is put on a conveyer belt so baddies run after him, and you shoot em down as they climb up to him, while getting to the other end of the belt first. So now its a race and keep away and the player gets to blow up what ever ladders and stuff there are to stop anyone but him from winning.

Consider Arcade Gannon of Fallout: NV. If you want the Enclave Remnant's help in the last fight you need to get buddy-buddy with him, and that means NPC support from the lab coat wearing smarmy Confirmed Bachelor as you drag him around and do things to impress him. Playing on Hardcore mode lets him die permanently, so not giving him armour very much makes it very escort quest-ish. Still, it's not game over if he dies.

As for worst NPC support EVER: "Hot stuff, coming your way!" X10^9001 ~Aeris: Shining Force ... Excell? Unlimited? Whatever that beat-em-up that didn't really have a damn thing to do with Shining Force was called.

hermes200:

Or if you're leaning more towards NPC support, have them attack, but just don't let them die.

The problem with that idea, is that it leaves you open to let the NPC do all the work. Its what happened with Uncharted 3 in the final mission, once I realized Sully not only didn't die, but was quite capable and had an infinite amount of ammo.

And if you make it so they don't push forwards, you get criticised for being the only person capable of leading the advance despite being surrounded by allies.

I liked the escort/NPC support in the King Kong video game. Ann does the typical door-opening thing for you, but also (I think) can throw spears and mildly damage enemies, and I don't think I ever had her die on me for stupid reasons. The other NPC support characters had guns, could use guns and weren't too squishy, usually they only died if I didn't support them. It helped that if they were injured, they just got incapped rather than dying outright in most cases.

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