[MUD-Dev] Respecting NPCs

John Buehler johnbue at msn.com
Thu Oct 25 17:00:15 New Zealand Daylight Time 2001

Sami Kosonen writes:
> From: J C Lawrence

>> I don't find talking to doors, mail boxes, or cars rewarding and
>> I find "talking" to NPCs in games even less so, especially when
>> that NPC exposes interfaces which mock humanity via speech
>> patterns.  Am I the only one who played things like Galactic
>> Civilisations (Stardock) and found the text spat back by the
>> various opponents both distracting and unappealing?  The mumble
>> words, posturing and adjectival overload were just annoying.  I
>> kept wanting a mode for, "Tell me yes, no, or how much in no more
>> words than that, and then shut up."

>> Cruel mockeries of sapience.

> Has anyone tryed to use chatbots to give more humanlike speaking
> experience when dealing with NPCs? I'm not sure, but you could
> maybe do different kinds of personalities by modifying what words
> they use, how they response (agressive, passive, nervous etc.),
> how broad their voculabulary is and so on. There are some free
> bots to use and with right modifications they might be useful.

I've been assuming that a good treatment of 'talking to' NPCs is one
that stylizes the interaction.  They mumblespeak at each other, and
a narrator might say something every now and again to indicate
what's happening.  Characters wave their arms, voices rise and fall,
laughter can be heard, auras flash red for anger and blue for
friendship, the mumblespeak can get harsher or softer, characters
stomp off unhappily, etc.  The *impression* of communication is the
important thing, not the actual words.  I only say this because
repeating the same words over and over again turns the words into a
completely uninteresting interaction.

Initiating interactions with NPCs is through old-fashioned menus and
commands, but voice input to originate those commands would be a
wonderful addition to a game.  "Buy that sword" with a sword on a
table selected would get my character to begin haggling with the
shopkeeper.  They do the haggling and I watch the progress through
various audio and graphical indicators.  I might give additional
commands such as "pay minimum price" while they're haggling.  The
goal is that the activity is entertaining - ideally, engaging.  Not
unlike battle chess.  Instead of a move just being a clinical move,
you get a canned animation that is more entertaining to watch.  Done
sufficiently well, purchasing items will involve many varied
animations, keeping the process entertaining.

Personally, I'm not interested in the literal 'fiction' that game
developers throw at me.  Quest text is completely boring to me and
once I learn that an NPC keeps saying the same thing, I want to shut
it up because it's just pushing prior messages off the screen.  I'm
playing a graphical game and I want to see interesting things
happening.  If I want to read a book, I'll go do that.  Myst comes
to mind as a game that presented fiction in a way that was
entertaining to me.


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