[MUD-Dev] Respecting NPCs

gamaiun at yahoo.com gamaiun at yahoo.com
Thu Oct 25 09:13:26 New Zealand Daylight Time 2001


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Original message: http://www.kanga.nu/archives/MUD-Dev-L/2001Q4/msg00345.php

Lee Sheldon:

> My first step is to identify the various roles NPCs play in current
> MMORPGs. 

Several thoughts.

One -- if we want _really_ broad categories for NPC roles, it would
be something like this: A) To Entertain the players, and B) To
entertain the creators or to provide 'subjects' of study.  In A, any
and all roles that will entertain the players fit: target, flavorful
background, comic relief, game mechanics, whatever.  B is more rare,
but I thought I should mention it, for completeness. Sometimes,
creators/admins will create NPCs for their own uses or amusement, as
inside jokes, or to use as tools to punish (in-game) transgressing
PCs, or even as A-Life or AI experiments (think SimLife - tho the
orgs where not exactly NPCs, I hope you see what I'm getting
at). Think about it -- NPCs created just for their own sake, to
'live' and to affect the game world. I might be crazy, but I find
this image compelling.

Two, it seems to me the roles NPCs play in current games depend
directly on what options players have for interacting with the game
world.

For example, in a Quake-like game, the primary mode for players
interacting with the world is combat. Not surprisingly, the primary
role of NPCs in it is as targets. If cinematic scenes are present,
NPCs can provide some information and various 'flavoring'.

Add an economic system to the game, and the number of roles jumps:
you have merchants, job providers, thieves, etc.

If you have a quest system, then all those roles previously
mentioned come into play: quest-givers and participants, informants,
mis-informants, more targets, and so on.

The more options players have for interacting with the world, and
the better our AI technology is, the more roles we'll see --
hirelings, friends, archenemies, tempters, thieves, random faceless
people on the street, sexual and love interests, faceless
bureaucrats, and so on.

Thirdly, I would like to mention another role for NPCs -- Enforcers.
I suppose this would fit into JC's 'mechanical translation points',
but I thought this subcategory was distinct enough to be worth
mentioning.  By these I mean NPCs who enforce political, social (and
even ecological) laws of a particular in-game community. Examples
would include the ever-popular NPC town guards to track down and
punish wayward players, or a king's rangers who hunt poachers in the
royal woods.

Dmitri Z

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