[MUD-Dev] DESIGN: Personal NPCs

cruise cruise at casual-tempest.net
Sat Nov 19 02:14:43 New Zealand Daylight Time 2005

CHRISTOPHER LLOYD spake thusly...

> Very important points. It often bothers me that many quests which
> seem very heroic (rescue the girl, recover the magic item,
> whatever) seem very important, but happen several times every day.

> What's more, because players don't care about the NPCs, they don't
> care what happens to them. I remember a particular quest in one
> MUD, which would started by meeting an old man on the
> roadside. He's looking for an adventurer to rescue his daughter,
> who has been captured and taken into the local beast-infested
> cavern. After venturing into the cavern, killing beasts, weakening
> the beast leader by stealing his crown, killing him and finally
> finding the girl, the player could guide his character back to the
> old man for a reward. It was then quite the norm (especially for
> 'neutral' characters who wanted their alignment neither good nor
> evil) to then kill the pair of helpless NPCs for a bit more
> experience and gold, knowing that in 20 minutes they will have
> respawned and the whole process can begin again.

> Players aren't exactly loyal when it comes to NPCs.  This
> disloyalty also encourages 'farming' NPCs for their loot. Log in
> to a new MMORPG, and gain a few levels and ask people for
> advice. They'll happily tell you that if you're level 10, you
> should make sure you go and kill the goblin servant in a
> particular room in a particular castle, because you'll get a cool
> mace+1.

Surely the problem here is that the player was rewarded for slaying
these NPC's?  The fact that there was no downside to slaying the
NPC's simply encourages players to, as you say, get that bit more xp
and gold. The alignment system would be one way of doing this - if
it wasn't a simple +5, -9, +4 sum of deeds - in reality such an act
should take a lifetime of virtuousness to cancel out, if you ever
could. And naturally the NPC's shouldn't provide any xp and gold,
either. Of course, I'm siding with the view that XP in general is
just a bad system that should have died a long time ago, but hey.

> If you have a list of 10 NPCs (old man, old woman, small boy,
> shadowy figure, etc), then as the player base gets larger, the
> players will come to recognise them.

>    "Oh, you're level 15? Has your quest NPC turned up yet? Mine
>    was an old man."

>    "Yeah, it was a penniless bard for me. I had to collect berries
>    for him."

>    "Berries? You're lucky - I had to kill a troll"

>    etc

> Perhaps (and I know this would take a lot more work), a system
> could be made so that the NPCs turned up at different times, and
> with large differences in quests.  i.e., Some people have an old
> lady turn up at level 5 and ask them to collect berried, but
> others don't get anyone turn up until level 30, but have to
> collect dragon heads.

One of the many projects I fill my time with is developing a
"personality" system for NPC's - that can produce characters with
varying wants, needs and desires, that respond to each other's
personalities and the world state in appropriate ways. So rather
than having preset NPC characters, you simply generate an NPC wh
automatically reacts to the player based on their actions - and
selects among various actions (marry, kidnap, assassinate) based on
their wants and opinions of the player.

I've reached the stage of NPC's deciding whom they like - accurately
describing enough actions to have their choices believable is the
current sticking point.

[ cruise / casual-tempest.net / transference.org ]
   "quantam sufficit"
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