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Idea Troll: A 'living' blacksmith?

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ATTN: This thread was inspired by TechnoGoth's "A man walking through the forest! A quest!" thread. The blacksmith is probably the most staple profession to the "role playing" games that we see everywhere, but they don't seem to do anything but stand there in an apron with a forge and anvil in the background, offering swords and axes to sell. Nobody seems to really know what a blacksmith would actually *do* (except heat and pound steel). A bit of background for the windup. A blacksmith fashioned every single piece of metal that was used "back in the day", including shovels and trowels, forks, knives for vegetables, skinning, or butchering, axes for felling wood, wedges for splitting logs, lumber, and stone, plowshares, horseshoes, nails (well, when people w/ fireplaces didn't pound them out), hinges, fireplace hangers, coat hangers, laddles, pots, pans, kettles, lantern frames and reflectors, candlebras ... all sorts of things. Not to mention forge-welding broken pieces back together; those broken weapons in Baldur's Gate would take an hour or two tops and a few silver to put back together. Also, smiths were rather common in all places, sometimes one for every fourty or fifty people, meaning about one to every wide spot with a dozen houses. The idea of making a more alive-feeling game world ("living world" or "living game"?) came up, but for that, you need to give characters a clear idea of what they feel that they need to do. So what does a blacksmith need to do his or her job and feed themselves and their family? At the very least, they need tools -- a LOT of tools. An easy sample would include four hammers, six tongs, an anvil on a good stump, likely a brick forge, bellows, punches, fullers, a die plate, chisels, a twisting bar, and a myriad of little hardies (you know that square hole in the back of an anvil?). Most of these are put together over time, hammered into a more refined shape (steel was always at a premium), and saw handles replaced repeatedly. A smith also needed a good supply of coal and water, some sand for welding, some wood for starting fires and leaving them to burn slowly overnight, and what spare steel they could afford for making new things. Coincidentally, they also need to eat. So a blacksmith has the following needs: * lots of tools in good shape * lots of coal to ply his trade * spare iron/steel to smith * food, water, shelter * some wood for handles and forgetending A smith also fulfills the following needs: * makes tools, household goods, and weapons * repairs *anything* metal * stitches leather or carves wood in a pinch Further thoughts?

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why is it that balck smiths in later towns are much more skilled than they are in earlier ones? looking from a linear RPG perspecitve of course.

Town A will have bronze daggers, while Town W will have Fiery Swords of Hurt and Lasers(tm).

I'm not entirely sure what you are asking in this post, but this is something i felt should be mentioned.

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The point of the other thread is to highlight how it's annoying to no end how NPCs are either painfully generic or there to offer a quest of some sort. Or get pasted against the nearest hard object.

This thread takes the blacksmith, a very common and very stereotyped role, and tries to figure out how to make them more interesting by giving them something to do, by giving them needs. Like an RPG needs quests, these presumes that NPCs need something to do or something done for them.

I'm asking how we can make one class of NPCs more interesting, so that we can take a template to other NPC classes.

The difference between a bronze knife and a steel knife is merely in materials, whereas 90% of the method remains the same. It's all just names to make the players believe that a given weapon with higher numbers deserves those higher numbers. Coincidentally, I have *no* clue as to how you're going to be needing a blacksmith to be forging a mineral (ruby/diamond swords, anyone?)...
Linear "RP"Gs don't involve any role playing either, IMO, so I don't want to count them. This isn't the thread to complain about the bastardization of the genre so much as how to extend it.

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You should take a look at World of Warcraft. Forging weapons requires that multiple items (minerals, etc) be taken to the blacksmith. Some of the materials used to forge weapons even need to be forged by combining other materials... etc, etc.


Ryan

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It's been the sort of week to make me terse, so my preemptive apologies.

Item generation systems have *what* to do with NPC behavior? Blizzard, if anything, has only lowered the standards of NPC behavior and originality. They make some wonderfully addictive games in the "navel gazer" and "action" departments, but nothing that ranks inquiry for design inspirations.

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Some general thoughts:


-May have to make house calls to deliver specific items to specific places by a specific time. This could find him travelling, using a courier for newly made goods or sending an apprentice

-May need to drum up new business, which could see him standing in the town square boasting or showing off wares on a slow day; or getting notices posted. Especially relevant if he's not the only one in town.

-Trips to the bank to store profits (so on some routes he's loaded with goods, some with gold, some he's empty)

-Arguing with and/or berating subordinates; training them; talking with them to get a job right


Once you've finished the career needs which give behaviors, there's personality, which could give unique behaviors like drunkeness or laziness; and history, which could give overlays on behavior like a fear of the forest after sundown.

I think these areas are going to be more challenging because they offer a wider variety of things to impel behavior.

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Some Smiths where highly specialized in their particular trade. Take the Japanize Sword smiths, some of their swords were of exquisite craftsmanship and detail, taking months to forge as well as some luck during some of the final steps since if the blade didn't cool just right, it might warp or break the blade. Some blades achieved a fame all their own, and their owners took great care in maintaining them, often drawing them only if they intended to shed blood.

But on a more relevant note, as a profession Smiths did indeed do just about all the metal work in their regions. But if there's say, only 1 smith in an entire town then it would stand to reason that he could get alot of favors done for him, accumulating alot of influence with other people. Smiths could also work in the same building with Craftsman, working on fine machinery like Clocks, Doorlocks, lockpicks, Compasses, and other devices.

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First, I think we should seperate some of the games that fall under 'rpg'.
There Fantasy RPGs and theres Realistic RPGs.
Fantasy RPGs are games like Final Fantasy, Warcraft, MarioRPG. They focus on telling you a story and creating a story-like world, and then spicing up the game with some action and sometimes a little character customization (like equipment or job classes).
Then theres more Realistic RPGs like Morrowind. Instead of giving you a story to follow, you're given the chance to create your own story based on what quests you do and how you act in the world.
Theres also some games like Fable and Baulders Gate that are sort of a mix between the two.

Since fantasy games lean towards fantasy, we dont NEED to know the details. A Blacksmith is only an equipment shop. A gyrocopter flies because of dwarvish mechanic skills, regardless that the design would fail in real life.
The game design doesnt really lean towards making a super interactive and 'complete' world. Alot of these games actually seem to have alot of elements that are intended to BREAK UP the story and interactivity with the world. They throw in battle segments, puzzles, interesting miniplots, and sometimes a some sort of customization to your party that you can play with.
They have more of an arcade feel to them.

They also have a more in depth and controlled story than Realistic RPGs. Having a free and open world means that its hard to catch the main plot. Instead, your story is pretty much a collection of the quests you've done while performing one main quest. The rest of the story is sort of made up in the player's head. They get the chance to fill in the blanks with thier own ideas.


I like the ideas about a blacksmith having a life, instead of just a purpose. To make a fully interactive and living world, every NPC in the game has to have a realistic story, reason, purpose, and conflict. That would take a while to do.
You'd would have to have a whole life story for every NPC and family unit. Lets say we have a house of 4 people living in it. You'd have to code in AI intelligent enough that each family member knows its role in the family, and does that role. For example, the Father knows who his children are, who his wife is, where he lives, where he works, how to perform that job, what to do while at home, etc. Then, when the player talks to that NPC, a more realistic conversation can take place.
It takes away from the realism when an NPC says the same thing twice. Also, its sort of unrealistic to run up to a complete stranger and they tell you some random tidbit of lore. Imagine going to the grocery store, and some lady looks over at you and says "You can only reach Hawaii by boat. Talk to the man at the dock if you want to go".
Also, when poeple are just milling around in town, What are they doing?! follow them, and they just walk along a path around the town. they never actually go anywhere.
You'd have to make sure every NPC knows where to buy goods, where its house is, when it needs goods, where its job is, when it goes to work, what it does there, etc etc. That way, when they are doing things, they have mini missions.
I dont think doing that would be too tough. Sort of give every NPC a schedule of events, and then give it enough AI to do random things like sit on a bench to watch birds, buy a snack from the store, go visit a friend, head to the bar, light a ciggarette, stand in one place looking around, wait for a friend to meet them, etc etc. I really dont think a database of these actions would be really that difficult to structure. I already have a sort of basic concept of how to do that.
Then, they would have to have social AI. They would have to be able to tell what is or isnt appropriate to say based on where they are at the time and some random stimulants such as fires, your fame, your appearance, their fame, their appearance, their current mission, etc.
When talking to a random NPC, conversation should be something like "Hey", "Whats up". Passing greets. To add to the realism, the player should be allowed to start a conversation based on some lore (There should be a list of things you've heard about in your questing that you can talk to people about), an item, or their current quest, and then an bar where you choose how nice or how mean you say it.
The player shoudl also be able to ask for things like directions to somewhere within town like an inn, or to somewhere out of town like a forest.

Now, the PLAYER needs a plot. Everything in the game is alive and breathing. A fully interactive world.

Now, creating a player plot is pretty much made up of creating NPC plots that randomly interact with the player.
Here's a short plot idea:
Your player is walking down the main street of town, and some guy runs up to you excitedly saying that you're his idol (this would be late in the game when you have alot of fame). Then he asks if you can train him. Then you find out that he needs training because some gang members in town are fuckin with him, and he wants to defend himself. You help him and in the mean time you find out that one of the 'bullies' is someone you went to school with.
Both people become characters in your life. When you interact with him later, he should be more friendly. Maybe you can ask him to go on a quest with you.
To create a player's story, there should be alot of interaction with NPCs that the player had an effect on. Depending on wether or not you do certain quests or how you do them, you get a different story. The world lives without the player. If the player had chosen not to help the guy, then the guy would have probably left town and moved somewhere else or ended up dead. If that random encounter plot didnt happen, then the game would have turned out differently.

Since NPC interaction is really important to creating a realistic game, NPCs MUST be unique. Thats really all there is to it.
To make unique NPCs, a Tony Hawk character customization could be used. Have X amoutn of hair styles. X colors. X face types. X facial hair. etc. Even, a certain amount of personality types.
Then, each blank NPC entered into the game editor would have a list of information and variables and data. This would include their physical make up, their personalities, their jobs, all that shit i mentioned ealier.
Now that NPCs are unique, the player should be able to tell the difference between them so that he can meet up with people from earlier quests and interact with them.
It should be possible to ask the guy you saved if he wants to join you on a quest. That sort of thing.

With the players personal story being made up as you go, and each NPC has a story, there needs to be a game story. A series of events that happen no matter what.
Events can be Time-based, or Event-based. Most of the events should be time based, and only the really important ones event based.
For example, the evil warlord (yes, a generic plot again) sends bad guys to burn down a town at 6pm on sunday. Your character may or may not have heard about the news. This event will happen at the same time regardless of the players interaction.
Other Events wont happen untill another event has happened, and should happen withing a set amount of time after that first event. For example, you walk into town, and the guy runs up to you. That guy wouldnt be there unless you entered the town.

Now, you have uber realism, three levels of plot, character customization (If the NPCs can be unique, so can the player), and a fully free RPG.

Hopefully we'll get to play a game like that within 10 years of development.

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Don't forget that just because you're a blacksmith, it doesn't mean you're also automagically a swordsmith and an armorer. Your local village "smith" probably won't be able to make swords and armor, and if he does he probably won't be able to do more than make knives and repair leather. It takes a lot of skill (and time) to make functional swords and/or metal armor, especially chain and plate armors.

What Garmichael said cracked me up: 'Imagine going to the grocery store, and some lady looks over at you and says "You can only reach Hawaii by boat. Talk to the man at the dock if you want to go".'

Heh.

Lot of good ideas here. I think some sort of behind the scenes system needs to be implemented to take care of what/where/how the NPCs exist when the player is not near them, like when he's in the next city or whatnot. I can't imagine trying to process every NPC to that level of detail all of the time. There needs to be a way to determine like, where the NPC is at a given time, or what he's doing. So when the player arrives in a town their relative positions and tasks can be generated on the fly.

Anyway, yeah. Lots of good ideas!

Take care.

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Im doing this in a limited sense for a NWN Mod Im working on. The problem is that your NPCs CANNOT have complete lives outside of when the Player characters are in a given area- sure, you can code it so the NPCs do stuff when the players are elsewhere .... and then watch as your server performance lags to the point where none of the players can even move.

The trick is not to give the NPCs a 'life' as such, but to make it appear so to those playing the game. Meaning that they only act a section of their lives when the players are around: and it must be a different section at different points in the game, otherwise its ceases to be convincing. Thats a little more tricky.

Im also aiming to make the plot as non-linear as possible. This is also tricky to do, and without good design runs the risk of leaving PCs meandering about with no direction, wondering what they are supposed to do next. One compromise is to give the player one or more long-term goals which have multiple paths for completion - but then thats more work for the developers because each and every path must be explicitly tested.

If anyone has any further comments on this subject Id love to hear their point of view.

EDIT:
Quote:
For example, the evil warlord (yes, a generic plot again) sends bad guys to burn down a town at 6pm on sunday. Your character may or may not have heard about the news. This event will happen at the same time regardless of the players interaction.
Other Events wont happen untill another event has happened, and should happen withing a set amount of time after that first event. For example, you walk into town, and the guy runs up to you. That guy wouldnt be there unless you entered the town.


Yes. This is exactly what I'm attempting to do. One of the main let downs of NWN (apart from the EXTREMELY linear plot) was that if you were offered an urgent quest, you could leave it until later, come back after a week or so, and the quest would STILL be there in exactly the same form. Events would not have moved on without you.

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