[MUD-Dev] Chatbot

Travis Casey efindel at earthlink.net
Fri Jul 6 15:52:21 New Zealand Standard Time 2001


Thursday, July 05, 2001, 5:36:59 PM, John Buehler wrote:
> 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.

There are quite a few paper RPGs which do this -- having social skills
that PCs can use on NPCs (and even that NPCs can use on PCs).  In most
such RPGs, social skills are handled mechanically through a simple
skill check, making them less involved mechanically than combat, but
in some social skill use can be fairly complex.

On the entertainment end, the GM and the player often act out the
encounter, with the GM rolling as needed.  Many GMs will give a player
a bonus or penalty to their roll for handling the role-playing part of
it well.

> 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.

Paper RPG scenarios will often do things along those lines -- e.g.,
telling the GM that if the players just ask the old boatman where the
hidden island is, he'll brush them off, but if they instead engage him
in conversation and then work their way around to the topic, he'll be
much more likely to share that information with them.

> 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.

I'm not too sure about that last part.  My experience in paper RPGs is
that role-players tend to dislike rolling for social skills, while
gamists and simulationists (who would tend to be more on the GoP end
of things) tend to like it.  Gamists because it allows social
interaction to be analyzed and played as a game, simulationists
because it makes it easier to separate a character's social skills
from a player's.

Of course, that's with a GM to talk to for the character, so things
could well be different without one.

--
Travis Casey
efindel at earthlink.net

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