[MUD-Dev] Respecting NPCs

Adam Martin ya_hoo_com at yahoo.com
Fri Nov 2 11:55:30 New Zealand Daylight Time 2001


----- Original Message -----
From: "Michael Tresca" <talien at toast.net>
> Adam Martin posted on Sunday, October 28, 2001 10:20 AM:

I think this attribution would probably have been clearer if it had
immediately preceded some quoted text; I suspect you accidentally
deleted text you intended to quote? For clarification only the
double-quoted stuff below is mine.

<EdNote: I trim what I consider are overly long quotes.
Occasionally I miss>

>> I mentioned I'd seen a lot of people come away from Alicebots
>> deeply unimpressed and disappointed by them - how is that
>> behavior going to translate in a game where people are investing
>> a lot more of themselves in the experience, where they care a lot
>> more about the conversation than mere mild academic interest?

> I've seen a lot of people come away from the silly AI Alicebot
> with stars in their eyes.  Why?  Because they didn't know for SURE
> it was a chatbot.

> I can put a disclaimer on a MUD that says, "Warning!  At any time,
> NPC may be controlled by a human being."  Then put in a chatbot
> and never actually interfere with the NPCs.  The illusion is all a
> matter of the PCs conversational tolerance -- they might not ever
> be sure if they're talking to an intelligent being or not.

> This practically BEGS NPC to be treated like non-living drones,
> worth only the exp from murdering them.  People should be full of
> information and have value if you talk to them.

> Imagine: NPCs begging for their lives, screaming in horror,
> weeping over the death of their loved ones.

> Not particularly effective if you made no other effort to give
> NPCs personalities.  Much more effective if you've already
> invested in Talien, who has a wife and two kids, will tell you
> about them, and is fond of strong ale.

Erm, yes, as I said (but you ommitted to quote) I see your point,
and I agree with it. But you seem to have ignored (misunderstood?) 
the point I was making about expectations. I suspect this is a
misunderstanding, given that your quoting omits my actual statement
of the point!

To reiterate, what concerns me is that the anecdotes and study of
grief players (by many others - I'm only going on what I've read
here and elsewhere, not having significant experience of it myself)
seemed to show that, in the frequent situation where a grief-player
was originally a happy non-grief player, the change was brought
about (or perhaps catalysed) by the player's expectation of a game
falling far short at some point.

In fact I think your point about your early attempts at conversation
- and most importantly the conclusion you think many people draw
from that - bears this point out. By setting up the expectation that
an NPC is indeed a conversational creature, if the reality falls far
short then many (but certainly not *all*) players tend to respond to
the disappointment (loss of willing suspension of disbelief) by no
longer treating the NPC as an NPC but as an object either to be
gamed, or ignored. As a personal anecdote/corollary, I've even seen
people "stuck" in quests, where they had to perform some implied
(but not explicit) interaction with an NPC. The problem was that
they'd come to assume that NPC's could do nothing of any
use/interest because - in general - they couldn't. At least some
people stopped playing when they found out what the solution to that
part was - they were just so fed up at this inconsistency. Indeed,
I've even done this myself in many single-player text-adventure
games, bearing in mind there was a lot of dross, my tolerance for
any particular product was only finite. For example, a cardinal sin
is an action that *always* gains the "I don't understand" response,
except for one single point in the game where that command actually
works.

Adam M
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