Another Torture Quest

| Monday, August 20, 2012
Maybe Blizzard learned from the torture quest in Borean Tundra.  For context, it was a quest in which you're tasked by some mages, who are themselves not allowed to use torture, with torturing information out of a prisoner.  Some people were not happy with this quest, giving us no choices or options, only requiring us to go ahead with the torture, or abandon the quest and the many that followed.

There is another torture quest, added with Cataclysm in the Northern Barrens.  Though that's not the right term.  It's an interrogation quest.  Note the word choice.  Interrogate. The goal of the quest is to get information and it can be done by means which do not involve the use of a neural needler.

Here are the summaries, if you hate clicking on links:
Librarian Normantis on Amber Ledge wants you to use the Neural Needler on the Imprisoned Beryl Sorcerer until he reveals the location of Lady Evanor.
- Prisoner Interrogated
 Question the nearby Razormane prisoner. If he's not there or unconscious, Togrik can revive him for you.
 - Razormane Prisoner Interrogated


Both use interrogated in the quest completion part, but the brief descriptions have a different way of phrasing it.  The Borean Tundra quest only mentions, specifically mentions, the torture device.  In contrast, the Barrens quest gives the more general word of question.  And it means it.

You get five options at first.  One is the predictably ineffective choice of demanding to know who is leading the Quilboar.  Second and third options are punching and kicking.  Fourth is to give food and the fifth is tickling.  All of these options work.  In fact, the last two options, the non-violent ones, work faster.  Apparently no one can resist tickling or criticizing food.  You even get a buff based on the actions you take, though the 'nice' buff isn't very useful.

I wonder what the extra development effort is for this compared to a few jabs of a neural needler.  I suspect it's not a terrible increase in effort.  Enough to not do it for every quest, but I think not so much that it cannot be done more often.  It's only a small change, with no impact on the quest text or rewards.  But small changes, small choices, are important to players, especially when we've got a neural needler and a willfully blind mage.

11 comments:

rimecat said...

The problem with the torture quest in Wrath has more to do with the naive insistence that torture is safe and effective. Why, the prisoner isn't hurt at all in the process and he just turns over the information after some slight discomfort. While I appreciate the ten-ton commentary on US detention policy for suspected terrorists this quest is so far out of bounds that blasts right through shame. It also lands on the incorrect 'torture is good' side of the debate.

First, since when is damage only physical? Mental trauma is often the more dangerous to suffer and more difficult to cure. That this is presented as a clean, safe, and effective method of interrogation is vile.

Second, why did it work the way it did? The prisoner immediately surrenders full information. No disinformation, no distortions, not lies, and no generalized spewing just to make us stop using our, ah, enhanced interrogation techniques. This means that we somehow captured the exactly correct person, he was weak enough to break immediately, but still coherent enough to provide the precise data required. Not even worth a put-down.

Finally, there are no consequences. If Dalaran does not endorse torture surely there should have a follow-on where the player and the Mage answer charges? But no, it seems that rules are really not all that important - provided you get the goods.

I can't say anything on the Barrens quest, I've not run a Horde character through the area since Vanilla. That the decent options have the worst rewards is not encouraging.

Kring said...

> Some people were not happy with this quest, giving
> us no choices or options, only requiring us to go
> ahead with the torture, or abandon the quest and
> the many that followed.

Actually, some people were not happy with this quest because it implied that torture works. Which it doesn't. These day most people know that torture is not a useful way for obtaining information.

Anonymous said...

Another quest to bring up in this context is the mock execution quest in Deepholm.

Klepsacovic said...

I wonder how much would have been fixed if they'd made in a mind-reading device instead, so it has to do some needling to get through the barriers in the mind, but there isn't the absurd "I'll tell you everything!" moment because the device pulls the information out itself.


@rimecat: I may have overstated the "worst rewards" aspect; if you're nice you get health regen which would be useful if health regen at that level wasn't so high anyway while the mean actions give an AP/SP buff. Neither are game-changers.

@Kring: I was not attempting to create a list of all reasons to dislike the quest.

@Anonymous: I just did that one again today. It seemed even stupider this time, since I realized that the ogre was more afraid of his masters than death, and yet, death was enough to make him give information.

Azuriel said...

Does no one feel the slight cognitive dissonance between this quest and the 1-85 slaughter of humanoids, wildlife, and general mayhem across Azeroth and beyond? I mean, I guess torture is worse than premeditated murder in cold blood, but how often is this quest brought up compared to the "poison the village" quests for Forsaken and the like?

I mean this:

Second, why did it work the way it did? The prisoner immediately surrenders full information. No disinformation, no distortions, not lies, and no generalized spewing just to make us stop using our, ah, enhanced interrogation techniques. This means that we somehow captured the exactly correct person, he was weak enough to break immediately, but still coherent enough to provide the precise data required. Not even worth a put-down.

...is just a silly concern when you probably spent the previous hour slaughtering poachers for their ears. Especially when you turned around and help Nesingwary three zones later!

The torture worked for the same reason mental illness invariably leads to evil and how killing everyone involved solves problems: it's cartoonish game logic. I get that people see a line between one and the other (torture vs kill 10 humans), but sometimes it all seems terribly arbitrary.

Killing good, hurting bad. Got it.

Azuriel said...

I must not have done the link correctly. It's the "Can't Get Ear-nough..." quest.

http://www.wowhead.com/quest=11867

Anonymous said...

People who have problems with this quest in wrath are a-holes, they are oke with killing people and beasts but no torture... haha. Looks to me that they trying to be importent by have a statement by not to agree with torture, but killing is oke.

Kring said...

> I mean, I guess torture is worse than premeditated
> murder in cold blood

I have no problem with torture. My main is a warlock which curses the enemy with pain and casts searing pain on them. I'm fine with that. Torture is fun if you do it to let the foe suffer.

But I do have a problem with the game telling me that torture is an effective way of interrogation.

Kring said...

Curses with agony, of course...

Hyperian said...

I've gotten information out of Insurgents in Afghanistan by offering them Tropical flavored Skittles. Just saying maybe all the dragonkin in Borean needed to spill the beans was some fruity goodness

rimecat said...

Azuriel (and Anon):

Addressing the quote you selected, that is a concern in reality. It is known (in the interrogation community) that torture is ineffective and often counterproductive. Yet it works flawlessly in WoW. There is a clear message there and if you decide not to see it I am not going to be able to convince you that this is a very poor decision by Blizzard. There was more consequence in killing the first of the Mages at the portal, with the note saying she was kidnapped and was working to sabotage what she could.

There is a fundamental difference between killing, murder, and torture. Basic ethics that we have held true for thousands of years across most cultures. The average quest is set in a war environment in which the killing is considered to be a justified action in defense of the individual or the state. You can argue with that, I have, but that is the ethical framework.

This was going far too long, so in summary - to suggest that there is moral equivalency in killing in what is presented as an active conflict and the torture of a helpless prisoner is inane.

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