[MUD-Dev] Chatbot

John Buehler johnbue at email.msn.com
Thu Jul 5 17:36:59 New Zealand Standard Time 2001


Michael Tresca writes:

> I'd love to make our NPCs that believable.  I suspect the audience
> has something to do with it (e.g., mundanes not used to chatting
> to programs).

This reminds me of an alternate approach to dealing with NPC
conversations: don't have them converse in player-understandable
language.  Use 'mumblespeak', and have the player character and NPC
get into as animated an interchange as is appropriate to the
circumstances.  The interactions would go much like combat, except
that everything has to do with 'people skills' instead of 'combat
skills'.  So soothing an upset NPC is a skill.  But it's not magic
that you throw at an NPC.  It is a skill that your character
posesses that it uses when interacting with the NPC.  And the
portrayal of the interaction is entertaining.  I'm thinking in terms
of two characters talking in mumblespeak, one waving its arms
around, shouting and carrying on, while the other is listening,
pleading and doing whatever else is appropriate to the skill level
of the player character and the animosity level of the NPC.

Naturally, everything has to eventually return to something that the
player understands, so the inputs to the situation would require
either menus or straight button presses to get the player character
to approach a situation in a way that the player desires.  The
outputs need to be presented to the player in an understandable way
as well.  But the interaction between the player character and the
NPC happens in a language that only those two characters understand:
mumblespeak.

I see the exchanges going on for longer than just a single keypress.
Just as a combat scenario shouldn't be Target, Kill, an interaction
with an NPC should offer a greater opportunity for entertainment
than Target, Soothe.  Think of all the ways that a player character
could interact with an NPC from a social standpoint.  Working
through advantage and disadvantage, insults, telling jokes, etc.
All with an aim of producing an NPC with a specific social attitute.

I'm not suggesting that this be the primary social entertainment for
players.  However, if we want to spice up the players' interactions
with NPCs, this might be an interesting way to go.

This system assumes a certain way of interacting with NPCs in
general, such that the better a player character's faction is with a
specific NPC, the greater the favors that can be obtained.  If I am
from the Slimeball organization and I visit town, I may be told in
no uncertain terms to leave the town.  This is when I can try to use
my social skills to be permitted to at least hang out near the edge
of town.  Or to actually gain entry.

If I am considered a prominent citizen, but the mayor isn't seeing
anyone today, I may have to cajole or threaten or use other tactics
to get past the head guard at the mayor's residence.

I suspect I'm just presenting some things taken straight out of The
Sims, but I think that it would be more interesting to do this style
of NPC interaction than anything that I've seen in EverQuest or
Asheron's Call.  The socializers would enjoy it, I think, while the
goal oriented players might be less inclined to.

JB

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