[MUD-Dev] Respecting NPCs

Ola Fosheim Grøstad <olag@ifi.uio.no> Ola Fosheim Grøstad <olag@ifi.uio.no>
Thu Oct 25 15:40:08 New Zealand Daylight Time 2001


J C Lawrence wrote:
> I view NPCs as falling into four roles:
 
>   0) Backdrop
>   1) Targets
>   2) player props

Is this meant to cover pets?  I think of pets and pets as two
different things. One the one side you have pets as a functionality
extension (a ROV). On the other hand you have pets as a source for
emotional transference and attachment. Very close to being
opposites. The disposable versus the priceless, an aspect which is
cluelessly abused in many MUDs by not having persistent and
customized instances of pets.  Even worse, it is not uncommon to
make players harvest-killing cute babymonsters, thus forcing a
dissociation...

To me the NPC is primarily a "personified" fixation point and a
source for identification and intent. That's what it basically
affords.  One may of course ignore that and use it more or less
cluelessly for covering just about any function one might think of
(resource, tool, container, glorified boulders...), but then I
wonder if one really covers the "true" roles of the NPCs. I.e. those
that cannot be played by other parts of the system.

(That said, Myst proves that eliminating the NPC bodies (of humans)
is a good idea. Characters are much more believable when you don't
have to witness their sorry behaviour and responsiveness.)

>   3) Mechanical translation points (*)

>   4) Incidental outgrowth

I like the incidental outgrowth one, but I somehow feel that I have
made an misinterpretation of your intended definition...

I guess deploying NPCs into other regions can be used for tying
different user-created zones to each other, i.e. reducing the rather
weird spatial stratification that is so typical in MUDs (many
totally independent worlds, rather than one world). A small problem;
it is usually against norms to let one's NPCs wander off into other
people's creations.  I personally found it quite satisfactory to do
so anyway, i.e. launching recursively traversing NPC that annoy or
seduce whoever they meet on their way, thus extending my presence
into the whole spatial domain. Add a little bit of co-operative
NPC-NPC interaction and it could prove to be very cool
indeed. (Brings us back to the era of minimalist
what-if-all-objects-have-the-same-mechanics all-objects-are-NPCs-etc
discussions)

  Note: I think you can arrive at a large number of different
  breakdowns, all depending on what the purpose of the breakdown is.
  Just look at all the stuff that is being written on character,
  actor, actant, agents etc.  Models such as Greimas' actant model
  for stories: subject, object, sender, receiver, helper, opponent,
  or Ewen's three dimensions for character classification
  (complexity in personality traits, static/developing, penetration
  into 'inner self'), or even Propp's 31 functions for fairy
  tales...

One might as well ask "what kind of perceived storylines" are NPCs
involved in? How do they obtain their position?  What kind of
actions are they involved in as seen by the user?  What kind of
_perceived_ possibilities are they opening up for?  And so on...

--
Ola  -  http://folk.uio.no/olag/

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