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[Ideas] Mission Structures

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Redlynne
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[Ideas] Mission Structures

Back in City of Heroes/Villains/Praetorians there were a number of stock mission structures that tended to get reused over and over again, like ordering off a menu of options.
If other people participate in this thread with mission structures that I've not included, I'll edit them in later after making sure they aren't duplicates of ones I've already got on the list.

  • Defeat All
  • Defeat All within Z
  • Defeat X of Y
  • Defeat X of Y within Z
  • Defeat Boss and Minions at B location
  • Defeat X of Y in B
  • Interact with A at B
  • Interact with A at B within Z
  • Interact with NPCs at B
  • Interact with NPCs at B within Z
  • Protect NPCs while they interact with A
  • Protect NPCs while escorting them to B

As far as this list is concerned, these are the variables used.

  • A = Glowies quantity
  • B = Locations quantity or a specified Location B point
  • X = Quantity, such as "10" or "30"
  • Y = Faction NPCs, usually hostile, such as "Rooks"
  • Z = Time Limit, such as "30 minutes"

The Defeat X of Y structure was often used in street sweeping missions, such as Defeat 100 Skulls or Defeat 100 Hellions and the like.
Sometimes a Defeat X of Y type mission would also include a location boundary, such as Defeat 100 Skulls in the Boneyard.

For instanced missions inside of mission doors, Defeat All were quite common (and also potentially annoying when you can't find that LAST Minion to defeat!).
There were also a number of indoor missions that followed the Defeat Boss an Minions (at location B) ... which usually wound up being the "end room" of the map and you simply needed to "empty" that last room of all hostile NPCs (so a "Defeat All In Room" deal, rather than a "Defeat All In Mission" assignment).

Now, I want everyone to look at the above listing I've made and ask yourself ... why was the Player always being given Things To DO™ in their missions (like Defeat All) ... while so rarely being given Things To Avoid (Doing)™ ...?
Point that I'm wanting to make here is that when there is only a single victory condition, and that victory condition depends upon the Player actively using their character's powers as the path to success (as opposed to their brains?) it becomes almost impossible to set up "Thief"-like game where a Stalker-ish/Assassin style of gameplay that relies on stealth, cunning and avoidance gets rewarded, as opposed to the more traditional brute force approach (of the Defeat All).

One of the things I found myself doing a lot while playing my Mind Controller in City of Statues was trying to clear Defeat All missions without drawing aggro, which technically wasn't possible with the way the aggro engine worked, so instead I settled for the alternative of Take No Damage while still achieving a Mission Complete. This style of gameplay offered a very different and unique style of interacting with the game, in which my Mind Controller was essentially able to "ghost" her way through missions without anyone in them realizing who they had been defeated by (because they never got a good look at or even a shot off against her). In other words, the lockdown potential of sleep, hold, confuse, telekinetics, etc. was so great, and the "surprise" with which I attacked and dismantled entire groups of hostiles was so surgical, that I like to think that even though I didn't have any Stealth powers, no one that my Mind Controller defeated would recognize that *I* was the ultimate cause of the NPC defeats.

But you'll notice that such a mission structure is not included in the above listing.
There is no "Defeat All while taking No Damage" structure for missions.
There is no "Interact with 20 Glowies without drawing any aggro" structure for what amount to stealth/camouflage missions, where the idea is to get in, do your thing/hack, and then get out with no one the wiser that you've done anything (or were even there at all).

In other words, the mission structures I've enumerated above do not really enable or reward a [url=https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hitman_(franchise)]Hitman[/url] style of gameplay ... where the name of the game is to AVOID combat (where possible), rather than to actively seek it out (and revel in it).
If the mission structures are all "clobber these to interact with those" for mission complete awards, there's not a whole lot of room left for gameplay that deliberately avoids combat (because, in a superhero game, who would ever want to avoid combat?).

Also note that "Interact with A at B" can also quite literally amount to a Capture the Flag scenario (where the Flag is the Glowie, found at location B). Adding a time limit to that then becomes "Interact with A at B within Z" instead, where Z is the time limit for the mission (such as "exit the mission door before the bombs explode!").
At the same time, "interact with A at B" can also be things like "empty the vault of cash" or "make/answer a telephone call from a specific office in a building" or even "pull the fire alarm once you're HERE" kinds of objectives. Even something as simple as "find the hidden entrance" qualifies as a "interact with A at B" type of mission structure element.

Now where all of this starts getting REALLY INTERESTING is if missions can be structured in a way where there's more than a single way to achieve a mission complete. The mission isn't programmed to "care" all that much as to which mission objective has to be completed (any/either will do) so as to give alternative means of achieving largely similar ends.
That way, you can have either a Defeat All OR Defeat Boss and Minions at B type of objective for a mission, with the former being the "full clear" option, while the latter is more of the "decapitation strike" style option ... both of which can be valid strategies depending on the type of character being played (either the "Here I Come To Save The Day!" type or the "You're already dead, you just haven't gotten the memo yet" type).

And then there's the otherwise bizarre option of having a Defeat All EXCEPT Boss and Minions type of mission objective, where the purpose is to discredit and undermine rather than to simply defeat and destroy directly ... yielding a continuing story arc type of situation in which there are Too Many Chiefs And Not Enough Indians because the leaders of an organization (Elite Bosses and up) keep losing their supporters (Underlings, Minions, Lieutenants, Bosses) en masse leaving the Elite Bosses as the "only survivors" of a "scourge" that is repeatedly decimating the faction (otherwise known as the PC). When the army keeps losing battles, but the leadership is "fine" every time, that can sap the morale and loyalty of the troops being led ... in ways that can result in desertion, betrayal, turncoats, intrigue and all kinds of crumbling in discipline and order that leaves the leadership isolated and friendless (without followers or cannon fodder). In such a story arc, you would be looking at waging not only "physical warfare" but also "psychological warfare" that can take on a variety of interesting features.

Perhaps the best example of the sort of thing I'm talking about here with isolating leaders to undermine them is perhaps exemplified by ... Number 6 in the episode Hammer Into Anvil (which if you've never seen, you really should!).


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You can't have stealth only

You can't have stealth only missions unless every class in the game gets stealth.

Or unless you make missions specific to certain classes, like SWTOR.

That's why the missions are generic "click the object". Any class can do that, whether they fight or stealth their way to it. How you accomplish it is up to you.

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warlocc wrote:
warlocc wrote:

You can't have stealth only missions unless every class in the game gets stealth.

Correct.
You can't have Stealth ONLY missions ... unless every archetype has a way to succeed at them.

However ...
You should be able to have Stealth OPTIONAL missions ... where there are two mission objectives and the first one completed counts as a Mission Complete.
Do it DIRECT ... or do it STEALTH.

That way, you don't railroad everyone into the stereotypical Defeat All style of gameplay that "negates" the value of Stealth (avoid combat, rather than engage in it).

warlocc wrote:

Or unless you make missions specific to certain classes, like SWTOR.

That is another option.
Everyone EXCEPT the Stalker archetype gets a Defeat All mission.
The Stalker archetype gets a "surgical strike" Defeat Boss and Minions mission as an OPTIONAL Alternative pathway to Mission Complete.
Commonality between the two "missions" is relatively high (just add an extra victory condition) allowing for some flexibility in HOW the Players choose to engage with the content.

Alternatively, you can just do a main objective and a bonus objective.
The main objective is to Defeat Boss and Minions.
There is also a --> bonus <-- objective to Defeat All.
Obviously, if you Defeat All that will also include the Defeat Boss and Minions within the Defeat All completion.

warlocc wrote:

That's why the missions are generic "click the object". Any class can do that, whether they fight or stealth their way to it. How you accomplish it is up to you.

It's also why they tend to be unimaginative to the point of being boring in how they're structured.
There's a reason why Defeat 10 Clockworks or Answer 5 Public Phones make for remarkably dull narrative/story content as a part of a mission sequence ... because they are dull (in and of themselves) and it just feels a bit lazy in the writing department.

There's a reason why we characterized the "race around town to answer the phones" quests in City of Heroes as being "pizza runs" ... because that's all they really were (some people called the FedEx quests). The missions were structured to simply waste your time running around town pretty pointlessly (all things considered). It was just click the Glowie And Move On (as fast as possible). There was no rhyme or reason to it because it was just about making your PC pinball around the map in an effort to drag out how long the mission took. At best, the "next Glowie" sent you someplace it might be difficult for you to hang around in (hostile NPC aggro), but that was pretty much the extent of it.

To be honest, I'm amazed that no one on staff at Cryptic or Paragon Studios ever used answering the Glowie Phone Box as the key to spawn an ambush of Sniper(s) on high places near the Phone Box ... so your PC answers the phone, tipping off the Sniper(s) on overwatch of that public phone that the PC is their target (orders: shoot anyone who answers the phone after it rings). Because it's an Ambush situation, the Snipers ARE NOT THERE to be attacked before the phone is answered by the PC ... they only spawn in and aggro the PC answering the phone BECAUSE the PC answered THAT phone when it was ringing (the civilians just walk right on by and don't answer the phone). With that kind of writing, the "pizza run" of answering phone boxes in the street then becomes a trail of breadcrumbs leading to an ambush situation ... and then the last Sniper you defeat out of that ambush then drops the key breadcrumb leading you on to the NEXT link in the chain (probably a mission door, for example). THAT would have been much more interesting to play through!

Similar situations can be orchestrated without using a public phone box.
Go to a specific picnic table in the park. When you sit down, a call will come in on your cell phone. Answer your cell phone.
Again, you have a constraint of doing a specific thing (in this case, a couple of emotes, sitting at a picnic table and talking on your cell phone) which can be visually interpreted through a Sniper's scope as their cue to attack a PC in an ambush style fashion (spawn in to attack when the PC clicks the Glowie picnic table).

In other words, I'm expecting MORE from the MWM writing team than what we received from Cryptic and Paragon Studios when it comes to writing missions and story arcs.
Is it fair of me to expect more from MWM?
Why yes ... I think it's quite fair ... ^_~


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One thing that always

One thing that always bothered me with "do it your way" mission design is that that the experience and loot from defeated enemies makes it so that only the brute force playstyle is really rewarded. The stealth and subterfuge playstyle is penalized in that way.

But in CoT:

Tannim222 wrote:

We have this system of Challenge[s] and Ahcievements which affect reward bonuses. Someone who completes defeats all the spawns in a mission gets a bonus for that.

Someone who avoids detection (except for objec[tive]) gets a bonus for that.

Then there is what to do when instead of requiring a kill count to find the macguffin, someone uses different powers to detect who/where it is and zeroed on that one guy. Which may go to the stealth bonus if they stealth to him, but if they don’t...

Personally, I would want to avoid the kill X of y missions as a design crutch because it limits alternate methods of play. I don’t have the authority to dictate that to the mission writers however.

That quote was taken from This thread.

The Challenges and Achievements system has been hinted at a number of times. Just perform a search for the words and you'll see what I mean. I realize this is a bit of a tangent from the OP, but it does address one of the biggest concerns about repetitiveness in missions and the penalty most MMO levy against stealth and control characters.


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Huckleberry has it correct. I

Huckleberry has it correct. I should note that not all achievements may make it to launch.

I should also note that games that reward stealth play vs combat play as alternatives are specifically designed that way. Everything about the content structure has to take both play styles into consideration AMD ensure they become possible.

Or you need up with boss fights like in the Deus Ex HE first released where you could have a stealth build and end up screwed when it came to boss fights. But everything is considered, from map design to build load outs for alternatives to “you” being counted as the attacker (hacking turrets).

I do want to reward alternative ways to play, and hope to be able to do that in some manner with the Achievements and Challenges system at some point. But I do have to within the current scope of design which is a combat-based game.


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Tannim222 wrote:
Tannim222 wrote:

I do want to reward alternative ways to play, and hope to be able to do that in some manner with the Achievements and Challenges system at some point. But I do have to within the current scope of design which is a combat-based game.

  • Defeat X% of Y using Confused Y

So in a Mind/Illusion Controller context, if 50% of the Freakshow inside of a mission are defeated by Confused Freakshow ... that becomes an alternative Mission Complete.
That way, you as the PC do not need to Defeat All ... you can simply have 1/2 defeat the other 1/2 for you (and your PC just mops up the weakened 1/2 that survived).
Again, this would be an optional alternative way to complete a mission, or you could just Defeat All if you really wanted to (I mean, who's going to stop you?).

Note that a Defeat X% of Y while Controlled (if such things are being tracked by the game) would then enable alternative branching storylines within a mission (things play out differently inside the mission) or enable a different story arc path to be taken after Mission Complete due to HOW you completed the mission (merely damage or control+damage, for example).

Also note that such a formulation would even permit Defeat 100% of Y while Controlled as a backdoor way to combining Defeat All while Controlled as a bonus victory condition.
I mean ... there's Winning The Hard Way™ ... and Winning The Lockdown Way™ ...


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I fully support the most

I fully support the most ingenious, sadistic, tortuous, and entertaining challenges a creative team can imagine.

I can even imagine some challenges would be absolutely impossible to some character builds. Challenges like "Use only Exotic type damage for this mission," or "Once an opponent is attacked, it must be defeated before any other opponent takes damage" would make every mission a unique experience. Provide a random challenge like these with each mission in addition to the standard challenges that shold always be available you've already been mentioning.

The games Dofus and Wakfu have been implementing this style of combat challenges since the naughties.
Here is a list of the various combat challenges they've implemented:
https://dofuswiki.fandom.com/wiki/Fighting_Challenge (keep in mind their combat is turn-based, so some challenges would not be applicable to real-time combat.)


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This has been at before and I

This has been at before and I will mention it again. I would like to see missions wherein we can collect clues to the next mission or even to side missions.

Also, when we collect clues, don't number them (i.e. 4/6 ). For coding purposes you may need to do that, but not for the player. Instead give statements like: "You think you've gathered enough information to act on it." Of course internally that might only equate to an 80% success rate, but . . . That's what its all about sometimes. A good hero needs to take chances on success/failure sometimes. He might lose but in the process reveal to everyone else that there is a new threat out there.

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StellarAgent wrote:
StellarAgent wrote:

This has been at before and I will mention it again. I would like to see missions wherein we can collect clues to the next mission or even to side missions.

Also, when we collect clues, don't number them (i.e. 4/6 ). For coding purposes you may need to do that, but not for the player. Instead give statements like: "You think you've gathered enough information to act on it." Of course internally that might only equate to an 80% success rate, but . . . That's what its all about sometimes. A good hero needs to take chances on success/failure sometimes. He might lose but in the process reveal to everyone else that there is a new threat out there.

One of our ideas for a system sometime later in the game is called Schemes and Investigations.

The idea is a “mad lib” style of content creation. Whereby you obtain clues and use them to put a scheme together or uncover an investigation using a “clue board”.


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Or to put it another way ...

Or to put it another way ... Clues drop kind of like salvage.
Get enough Clues of the right variety together and you unlock the opportunity for a side mission of some sort, dependent upon what Clues you spend to obtain that side mission.

Sounds like that's the generic idea.
Mix 'n' match the parts and pieces so as to Choose Your Own Adventure.


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Redlynne wrote:
Redlynne wrote:

One of the things I found myself doing a lot while playing my Mind Controller in City of Statues was trying to clear Defeat All missions without drawing aggro, which technically wasn't possible with the way the aggro engine worked, so instead I settled for the alternative of Take No Damage while still achieving a Mission Complete.

Yeah, when I completed missions with my Mind/Storm Controller, I always imagined the after-action investigators saying, "As near as I can tell. They all went nuts and started 'Arresting' each other. The security cameras got nothing? Nah, just shifting shadows and strange mists. Had to be a Mind Controller, then. The poor beggars never saw a thing. Brr!"

One mission type that I had and hated, was a 'Stop the Boss from Escaping' and the boss was 'hardened', so all of my Tanker's attacks just could not finish it. I recycled that one 3 times, before I could recruit a Controller to help me lock him down. Also, any 'Protect the NPC' or Escort mission could be a horror-show. Especially if the NPC was aggressive, or simply stuck at 'Walk' speed. I always wanted to tell'em, "Here, jump into my bag of holding and I'll get you to the 'Mission Complete'".

I can't tell you how many times I've stealthed past Lady Jane, so that I could completely clear the map before 'rescuing' her. No-no! Don't shoot ghosts with your Pistol!

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Fireheart wrote:
Fireheart wrote:

Also, any 'Protect the NPC' or Escort mission could be a horror-show. Especially if the NPC was aggressive, or simply stuck at 'Walk' speed. I always wanted to tell'em, "Here, jump into my bag of holding and I'll get you to the 'Mission Complete'".

Verily. For extra fun, do them as a stalker.

"Aww, lookit the adorable widdle stalker. Ha-ha! They think they're invisible."

ETA: And let's not forget that the only one who couldn't see a stealthed PC was the NPC you were escorting.

At least the NPCs fought or cowered, rather than simply continue walking. It's so fun if, by the time you finished the one ambush, the NPC has already triggered the next one halfway across the map. And naturally they'd only have something like 5 HP.

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Escort Missions ... better

Escort Missions ... better known as Suicidal NPC makes life harder for their PC rescuer.

There were so many missions and quests in games (not just City of Heroes) where the only reason for the NPC to exist was to act as a liability for the PC.
This liability factor got compounded in games with world PvP, where griefers knew to kill the NPC just before they reached the end of their Death March (so you would have to do the quest all over again for maximum waste of your time and frustration factor).

It was always the lack of "self-preservation instinct" these NPCs were programmed to have that I found most contemptuous.
In World of Warcraft, there was an early level NPC escort quest with the Defias Traitor on the Alliance side that was part of the quest chain leading up to the first dungeon in Westfall.
The Defias Traitor tells you that his former comrades in the Defias WANT HIM DEAD and that he will need you to protect him as he shows you the way to the Defias' hideout (the Deadmines dungeon).

So ... you've basically got a ruined town, filled with criminal elements ... all of whom want to kill the Traitor NPC you're supposed to be escorting.
Does the NPC follow you, the PC, so as to avoid any unnecessary combat or complications?
OH HELL NO!!
Instead, the Defias Traitor runs down the road from Sentinel Hill to Moonbrook (and if he gets too far away from you he despawns, so someone needs to follow him!) and then on the outskirts of Moonbrook (where all the Defias are, ready to kill him) guess what the Traitor does?

He casually strolls down the middle of the street AGGROING EVERYTHING ALONG THE WAY.

And I'm not talking "Help! They're going to kill me, save me PC! {cowering in fear}" kind of behavior.
No, I'm talking about charging TOWARDS the hostile NPC(s) so as to punch them in the face and draw EVEN MORE AGGRO from all around the Traitor.

Did I mention this ruined town was populated by Defias who all want to kill the Traitor?
Did I mention that the Traitor, who "theoretically" wants to stay alive (yeah, right...), INSISTS on walking a path RIGHT DOWN THE MIDDLE OF THE ROAD so as to attract the aggro of all the hostile NPCs lining the street?
Did I mention that some of those hostile NPCs are mages who throw fireballs, which when they hit the Traitor make him run towards the mage who cast the fireball ... aggroing EVEN MORE MAGES to throw even MORE FIREBALLS at this suicidal idiot?

What's worse is that there was a perfectly clear "back way" towards where the Traitor needed to take you that would have aggroed all of maybe 3-4 NPCs total ... rather than 20 of them by walking down the middle of the street like the suicidal MORON liability he was programmed to be.

And best of all, the time it took this idiot to run all the way from Sentinel Hill to Moonbrook meant that by the time you reached the ruined town of Moonbrook, if you had pre-cleared Moonbrook before starting the escort quest, the dead NPCs had enough time to respawn ... and kill the Defias Traitor you needed to be escorting.
It was just such a total clusterFORK of an escort quest that it was nearly impossible to solo, but relatively easy to duo team (1 PC stayed with the Idiot Traitor while the other PC pre-cleared Moonbrook without the Traitor rushing in to aggro everything in sight like a brain dead moron).


Amusingly enough, this wasn't the only low level escort quest available at low levels on the Alliance side. There was also ... The Absent Minded Propsector ... which was kind of the same thing, but at least it was better written.
A Dwarf Archaeologist has been digging in some ruins, which now have a bunch of Stone Golems patrolling around in them, and his assistant has sent the PC to retrieve a fossil they found.
Naturally, as the quest title says, the Dwarf you're escorting is completely oblivious to everything around him ... until he aggroes something (anything!) and charges in face first to punch the Stone Golems like a brain dead idiot.
The absent minded nature of his character "excuses" this behavior though.
At 3 different points during the escort quest, ambushes of Troggs spawn in to attack, all caused by the (literally) Absent Minded Prospector poking around and telling you trivial slice of life stuff that is completely useless because (of course) he is so wrapped up in his work that he doesn't notice anything else (like your exasperation with his dithering and pointless side tangents in his running monologue).

Again, a very frustrating quest to try and complete, mainly because the NPC being escorted is an oblivious derp ... but here it's actually a major point of his character, so it works.


Perhaps the most amusing variety of NPC escort quest in World of Warcraft that I encountered was The Sleeper Has Awakened ... of needing to get a Bear Form Druid from Point A to Point B in order to complete the quest, and the NPC follows you, rather than dragging you around along on a pre-defined route between Points A and B. The quest also has a timer for completion (25 minutes).

What makes this quest so hilarious, from a writing perspective, is that Druids "sleep" to enter the Emerald Dream realm ... but this NPC Druid (in Bear Form) seemingly has narcolepsy and keeps falling asleep at random intervals (the things he says when he stops to drop off to sleep are just TOO FUNNY!). So whenever the NPC falls asleep (wherever he was), the PC needs to be nearby and use the Horn of Awakening (which makes a wonderful horn blowing sound while the PC does a Shout emote) and the Bear Druid wakes up and resumes following you (and again, the lines he has to say when this happens are just TOO FUNNY!).

So you've got a sleep prone BEAR Druid, who is prone to falling asleep anywhere (and everywhere) along the way at random times ... and if the PC doesn't notice and moves too far away from the Sleeping Bear Druid then the NPC will despawn and you won't be able to complete the quest. So what you have to do is stop your forward movement when the NPC falls asleep, double back to him, use the Horn of Awakening (which has a casting time, that can be interrupted/pushed back in combat) to wake the NPC up and resume your trek from Point A to Point B ... until the NPC stops to fall asleep again. The Bear Druid NPC will also aggro hostiles (when awake, definitely not while asleep) so it's up to the PC to pick a safe(r) route from Point A to Point B that avoids combat as much as is desirable.

Even though you're given 25 minutes to complete the quest, it can often times be finished in about 10 minutes, so not much of a time crunch on the timer.
In fact, there are even some side quests along the way that you can drag the Bear Druid NPC along with you into, allowing him to act as a kind of (sleep prone) henchman to help you out with completing those side quests ... so the extra padding on the duration of the quest timer could come in handy if you wanted to make use of the Bear Druid NPC as a sort of combat ally (prone to falling asleep) in some other quests at the same time.

I often times felt that this was one of the best escort quests written ... and not just because of the Dune reference (The Sleeper Has Awakened!).
It had the PC honestly helping an NPC (who needed the help) on what amounted to something of a "pizza run" type of mission, but because the NPC followed the PC (and needed the PC to stay awake!) it meant that the Player was in control of what happened and the route that would be taken between Points A and B. That sense of being in control of the action felt so much better than the alternative of the NPC dragging the PC around along a pre-defined route into obvious ambush is obvious situations where the PC would be expected to "save" the NPC from the NPC's own suicidal tendencies.
The fact that the Bear Druid NPC kept falling asleep (and needed to be woken up by the PC) made for an almost perfect blend of complication (so it wasn't a "pure pizza run" quest) and opportunity for added humor value along the way.

So I would definitely rate The Sleeper Has Awakened as one of the BEST examples of how to do an open world escort quest that isn't "running on rails" simply because the NPC follows the PC (except when asleep) ... rather than the PC being dragged around by the NPC (into lots of aggro and ambushes because the NPC is a suicidal moron).


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Oh yeah ... totally ... this

Oh yeah ... totally ... this is EXACTLY what writing missions/quests/NPCs feels like at times ...


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