[MUD-Dev] Respecting NPCs

Ola Fosheim Grøstad <olag@ifi.uio.no> Ola Fosheim Grøstad <olag@ifi.uio.no>
Fri Oct 26 09:26:12 New Zealand Daylight Time 2001

J C Lawrence wrote:
> On Thu, 25 Oct 2001 15:40:08 +0200
> Ola Fosheim <=?iso-8859-1?Q?Gr=F8stad?= <olag at ifi.uio.no>> wrote:
>> J C Lawrence wrote:

>>> I view NPCs as falling into four roles:

>>> 0) Backdrop 1) Targets 2) player props

>> 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.

> The latter case I see as incidental outgrowths.  The extra value
> assigned to them (emotionally etc) is a player creation, not a
> game creation.

Maybe you could define "incidental outgrowths"...? :)

> Or the pet as a remote and low-feedback weapon (its stat losses
> don't reflect on you).

Isn't that what EQ and AO does?  Multiple embodiment may be more fun
though, spawning secondary bodies from the primary...

>> To me the NPC is primarily a "personified" fixation point and a
>> source for identification and intent. That's what it basically
>> affords.

> Yup, except that those features are not unique to NPC: any in-game
> object can (and regularly do) satisfy those requirements -- such
> as a vending machine, billboard, or wanted poster.  The critical
> difference in regard to NPCs is that they attempt to fake life.

I think you misinterpreted "identification and intent".  NPCs (at
their best) allude to personalities and agency (or maybe perceived
fate is better), but they are also present (there may also be more
fuzzily abstracted non-present entities with similar properties).  I
guess they fake life too, but then again, you could have "alife",
without a singular fixation point, distributed into the environment,
emergence etc.

Hmmm... I would consider a mechanic walking bomb as a NPC, but
without life... A mindless creature, with a personality and destiny,
you can almost feel sorry for it (so you get identification), and
the intent is to commit suicide...

Maybe "a perceived possibility of a bounded object having a soul" is

>> (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.)

> Ooo!  You wound me sirrah!  (Damn, I was hoping to spring that
> parallel when then thread had evolved a bit more in relation to
> the advantages of NPCless implementations).

I think that NPCs can be used with success if they insist on keeping
a distance and/or are pretending to be agile and stealthy assassins,
agents etc. That is, when you cannot expect them to respond with
intelligent communication, beyond running away or rushing forward to
get you once you've spotted them. (In the shadows, behind the
bushes) Or desperately trying to escape, a suicidal madman who will
eventually jump off a cliff if he is being followed. I think the
robots in AO work fairly well too, though. The clue is to not have a
dissonance between expected and perceived responsiveness.

Some recent, albeit fairly arbitrary, web-board quotes that
illustrates some perceived aspects of MOB and NPC:


    Evac156 ( )
    «captwalker writes: "a HammerBrooding agro'd me last night for
    know reason at all."  Umm...it was hungry. What more reason does
    it need? I think they've always been aggressive. Many levels
    ago, when they were fearsome red monsters to me and my mates, I
    remember various times running down the road, tryin' to loosin'
    my load, with a hammer broodling on my mind... No, wait, where
    was I? Oh yes, running down the road in Mutant Domain and having
    a broodling spawn near me/us and attack.
    In short, I don't think that's new behavior. They weren't as bad
    as Virulent Minibulls, but they aren't always passive, either.»
    Evac156 ( )
    «[...]It seems weird to me that "boss" or "unique" monsters
    would be the result of random spawns. They should be the sort of
    thing you find in missions -- "Bring me the head of the Reet
    named Cutey!"»
    elrong ( )
    «[...] I got some info i killed a tree in 20k wich was about lvl
    200 (im 40) and I didnt get any xp for it but quite some
    money. So I wonders if you will get any xp for the bosses.»
    urinal ( )
    «As I posted earlier in the forum, I ran into Txxx last night
    who said he saw a MOB in VW called "Leg-Chopper" and when he
    went to speak to it (thinking it was an NPC) he was promptly hit
    for 3500.  Dead. Hope he pops in later to share his personal
    experiences...  lol, Leg-Chopper! I'll bet!»

Funcom has added a somewhat amusing twist by providing amnesty for
those that are not Omni-tek, and if you kill an Omni-tek NPC you
will find a message on an item on the body stating *YOU HAVE JUST
MADE A MISTAKE* and then some propaganda trying to convince you to
switch sides.  «After-death NPC interaction»

> cf TrashCollectors and the original Orc Breeder scenario with
> wandering queens.

Ah yes, trashcanrabbits, I don't remember the orcs though...

> Verily.  Lee's original breakdown was simple and clear, but not I
> felt terribly useful in revealing interesting mechanics, or
> profitable mining areas.  I'm not entirely happy with my proposed
> breakdown as its fixated on a very specific quality of NPCs and
> grades them on that in ignorance of all other aspects.

What I miss in particular is the complexity and connotations of the

Anyway, one could aim for completeness by trying to go for
dichotomies, I guess. Involves hard work though. Something along the
lines of:

  Background / Foreground
  Subject / Object

    backdrop => background + object
    target => foreground + object
    incidental outgrowth => foreground + subject

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

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