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Silvermyst

NPC-less world

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What would a world without NPCs look like? And why would a world be without NPCs in the first place? What would be the benefits of not having NPCs around? And what would be the problems? (just to start this, later more thoughts... all fun no work makes Silver a poor man)

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Quickly responding to my own rambling to beat you all to the punch...

With all the problems NPC AI causes (mainly communication-wise), why not create some form of world where we don''t need NPCs at all?

Players would simply deal with eachother instead of with computer controlled merchants, guards etc.

But, how would we explain that the world is made up out of
a) evil monsters
b) good (or evil) players who just bleep in every now and then only to bleep out later (log in, log out)

Well, let''s come up with a reason.

-the players are all gods who merely ''beam'' down onto this ''evil'' planet every now and then to fight evil (face it, technology will leave us with mainly combat-rpgs for a while)

-the world is a virtual world (how creative ) where the monsters are bugs. Just see it as Earth somewhere in the future, where the entire world evolves only with the aid of computers, but where a mishap has caused the computer to be infested by bugs. The players are hackers who have to cleanse the virtual world.

I seem to have woken up with only half my mind it seems, but maybe this is making sense to at least someone out there

Silvermyst

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NPC''s are all computer controled characters anyway, so as you say Silvermyst, a world of just Player Characters is what you''d get... Which restricts it to an Multi-player game ( or something like tetris or bolderdash... unless you wish to count falling blocks as NPC''s of course )

Some games, like "Starfleet Command" function very well without NPC''s its just two player controled spaceships trying to blow each other up, thats (basically) it, last one standing wins...

In fact something like that would work very well, even if the players were not constrained to one "map" and could run into each other (not literally ramming each other... unless that was the players intention) where ever they wanted to.

Players can only ''leave'' the world if they (for exapmle) landed on a planet... planet bombardment does nothing.



The benifits of not having NPC''s arround of course is that the programmer doesnt need to waste resources (memory) with NPC''s and any AI (depending on the control system, you may have some pathfinding AI) which means a BIGGER and or MORE DIVERSE world with more treasure, etc... (woohoo)

The biggest problem is having some system that prevents the bigger and stronger players picking off the newbies...




Thats all of my thoughts for the moment.... more to come.. maybe!

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Guest Anonymous Poster
well I have a design doc for a political RPG that I designed but probably will never make. The only NPCs are these big hive mind apes that work for you, you put them in shops and they make stuff and then people just grab what they want. The whole game is based around trying to control resources. There is no leveling based on time played or fighting, but there are powerups produced by sites which the territorial leaders can distribute to followers. The whole system is designed to encourage all types of gameplay: combat, spying, trade, political, and so on. Once I took the NPCs out of the game it all came together.

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quote:
Original post by Silvermyst

What would a world without NPCs look like?



Doesn''t this depend heavily on what you do in the game world? If you only kill things (not a value judgement, btw) then you''ve got 4 player Diablo in the dungeons, right? PvP or PvComp deathmatch interaction.

One of the problems I''ve found is that designing a SF RPG-like game at the starship interaction level is the problem of personality. There''s a sort of boring numbness when humans are removed. If you''ve ever played the Star Wars flight sim games (X-Wing, Tie Fighter) you''ll notice that they have this problem, as you only go after machines. Total Annihilation, the RTS where machines slug it out, also had this problem. It''s hard to describe, but there''s definitely something missing.

quote:

And why would a world be without NPCs in the first place?



It''s an abandoned, alien infested colony and the players are the surviving colonists. Or it''s a dark, accursed land, and the players, blessed by the High Templar, have traveled across the sea to rid the land of evil. Or the Sea Gods have chosen you all as champions.

quote:

What would be the benefits of not having NPCs around?



Likely several design and tech benefits. Fewer network messages, more simple interaction paradigms (probably kill stuff), more streamlined interface (no tree based or parser dialog methods).

quote:

And what would be the problems?



The biggest problem would be the Lord of the Flies rampant PKer effect if PvP combat is possible. You could cure that by not allowing players to fight each other, or forcing them to choose clans.

The next big problem would be lack of depth. What''s to keep you playing? Once you''ve killed Storm Elementals and Multidimensional Ramblers, homicidal depression sets in. There''s no more challenge.

If you were to allow players to do everything that NPCs could do, then you could get interesting interactions in terms of trade and cooperation. But you''d have to design things so that players actually NEED each other.

You would also need to find a way to protect newbies (the Clan concept could work). I''d personally have a problem in this environment with people playing out of character: CoolDood the Dwarf would break my immersion, but then, that''s why I don''t play MM games as a rule anyway.

--------------------
Just waiting for the mothership...

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Note that a world without NPC''s does not neccessarily mean a world with lots of PCs. I can solve the world of evil guys and player characters bleeping in and out with 3 words.

No other characters

I''ll give one example of a world without characters

How about you are the lone survivor on a world decimated by an asteriod? Your goal might be to try and find your way to a spaceship, launch it with you inside, and head for a colony. There would be absolutely no fighting. Some might consider that a benefit. Also, you''d be free to explore the world as long as you like. No nasty guards to tell you not to step on the roses The problems would be the game might seem kinda lonely. Also, games without challenges aren''t fun, so you''d need some kind of challenge. Logically things like.

The world would sorta break down without other people. Any available machinery still working would grind to a hold or be destroyed.

Maybe their are now sharp cliffs and hole where ground use to be, so walking is dangerous.

Don''t forget lava pits.

Now, one question might be, why would you survive and no one else. Well, if you were on a spaceship coming back from the moon, and a really big asteriod hit while you were in space, everyone would die, and you''d be alive. Launching a rocket may be a little difficult, maybe that would be the challenge of the game?

I''ll leave you guys there.

Another example of a world without characters would be, say the world was destroyed by a mutated virus, then promptly died off without anything to infect, while you were protected some how? You''re goal would be to
a) Find another human
b) Fly off to a colony, assuming there is one
c) Try to survive
d) If it is a sci-fi game, go back in time and stop the virus

-Blackstream

I''m feeling creative today

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WAVINATOR:

Well, I was thinking along the lines of an online ''rpg'' world (ala Everquest and Ultima Online) but where players would take on the tasks of the NPCs.

I wish we could think even further, to a game where each and every living being is player controlled (read: NPC and MOB alike would not be there).

You''re right, there has to be a NEED for players to work together... and a REASON for them to not work together.

The problem with ''players'' is that they can''t play 24/7. You have to count (hope) on about 1 or two hours per day. That I think is a nice target to aim for. So then, what kind of world would it be, where entities are only there for about 5-10% of the day?

I think to create a game like this, we have to drop most of the ''rpg'' conventions. But I think there''s a possibility out there to create something. Something that works. Something that makes sense.

I think that the ''virtual world'' idea might work. Throw in a lot of Gibson (I hope that''s him... the guy that wrote Neuromancer) and really keep in mind the fact that players will only be online for a short part of the day... and that players will control everything that goes on (except for ''events etc)

You''re right in that one of the benefits would be that designers wouldn''t have to spend time/money on creating NPC structures etc.

One thing that might help to avoid the player-time problem is to let players set up auto-tasks that their characters can perform online while the players themselves are offline (which would in game terms make the character an NPC).

Silvermyst

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Hmmm, you post a topic like this and would not expect me to challenge it? Me! The NPC activist! . Anyway... I say that worlds at the moment pretty much have no NPC''s anyway... They just have a few pixels and a couple of comments. But without these, the world would seem empty. They actually REALLY need to advance NPC''s before people can consider whether or not to remove them. Anyway... I say that you could remove NPC''s altogether in MMO[ex-]RPG[-ish], but only if you could give the players the ability to roleplay the blacksmith and the shopkeeper etc... Otherwise your game WILL be empty...

-Chris Bennett of Dwarfsoft - Site:"The Philosophers' Stone of Programming Alchemy" - IOL
The future of RPGs - Thanks to all the goblins over in our little Game Design Corner niche
          

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Yeah, I agree w/ dwarf. NPCs are practically non-existant as it is.


"All you touch and all you see is all your life will ever be --Pink Floyd
Need help? Well, go FAQ yourself.

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Well, as they are practically non-existant...

And as it seems out of our reach to let NPCs become a real part of interaction (communication and response), why don''t we see if we can come up with a game where we don''t need NPCs.

NOT a game where we scrap NPCs, but a game where we design from a standpoint that does not NEED NPCs.

And I guess we should aim for a game that will let the player choices about what to do with his or her time while playing in the virtual world that the game will provide (which almost makes it into a rpg, although rpg is VERY broad in my views).

Basically, the game would have to let/force the players to take care of all the things that NPCs take care of now. This actually might prove a more difficult task than to let the NPCs do them, as NPCs can be programmer controlled and easily adjusted, but player characters might prove harder to keep in control.

Silvermyst

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