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Wavinator

Making people more interesting than monsters

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What kind of gameplay would it take to draw you into a world where it was just as interesting or even more interesting to encounter different people as it would be to encounter hordes of different monsters. I know you can make NPCs pretty engaging via scripted quests and story hooks, but what about a more freeform system similar to combat? What would make you eager to go into some kind of hall, or park, or train terminal or just wander the streets, looking forward to finding people to interact with? Let's use monster hunting as a starting point: often, you have strategic positioning, risk of resources (health especially), different actions with different consequences (fast attack vs. heavy attack; gun vs. knife) and various rewards as a result of success. I not sure you can match the adrenaline rush that a good monster hunting game gives (unless you're under a time pressure), but can the others be matched? What options would you have? How would you keep it interesting without having to come up with thousands of hours of dialog?
I've can imagine some possibilities, but I'll shut up (for a change[smile]) and see where you guys take this. Oh, and I'm not saying exclude either monsters or combat, just that interacting with different people would be just as fun.

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Maybe letting the npcs level up aswell, then they could tag along with us, and the potencial deep and long story behind the character could just slowly unfold as we both kick ass.

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My answer! --- *drumroll*







Less reading. If I know, for a fact, that when I talk to some random person on the street, that they're A.) Going to talk back and B.) Not have much to say, then I'm less likely to stop and waste my time.

Now, think about the question for a sec: why do players encounter new enemies (in RPGs) anyway? Is it because they're actively searching for new challenges? Probably not. Conventional RPGs include random battles -- I think that's where the key lies. Random battles may be annoying, but they get your attention. You know, as soon as that battle music starts running and the screen does its cool warp effect that it's a battle, that it's time to start thinking in combat mode as opposed to player mode.

So, I'd recommend having NPCs that A.) Read dialogue aloud and B.) Talk to *you*. If someone hails me from across the street because, at some point in his normal, NPC existence, he saw a wanted poster that looked like a character in my party and I have to convince him that it wasn't us...yeah, that'd be more interesting.

Just between you and me and the other users from all around the world...I love your posts. Always have content and thought. PointZ.

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I think one thing that really attracts players to monsters is the violence. Lets all admit it, people like violence. Its fun. They cant have violence in their personal life, but in books, movies, tv, music, video games, etc, they can. Its in our nature to want to hurt people for pissing you off or marking territory, or whatever.

We're Creatures of Violence.


We're also Social Creatures. When it comes to media, Violence is easy. Anyone could tell you an example of it. Emulating that Social aspect of our nature seems to be a little harder. I think the problem is that since the social aspect in video games is so unrealistic and unconvincing that they'd rather just give into our inherent desire for logic, violence, or creativity.
Thats why Talking to NPCs is less enjoyable than killing monsters.
Ive never played a game where NPCs treated me how they would treat me in real life. I think the key would be to figure out all those detailed differences between NPCs and people and start to find ways around them. for example, write some scripts to NPCs to help them figure out what 'normal' is and so that when things are in a state of 'unnormal', they react. By Normal, I mean that the NPC knows how to gage situations. Normal is people walking to work, cars on the road, the sun is out, open doors mean businesses are open, etc.. when something happens in the vicinity of them that compimises the normality of the situation, they draw imediate attention to it. They first assess how far from normality to situation is and then, draws an emotion from it (Does it make them happy, afraid, confused, apathy). Based on what emotion it is, and how far from normality it is, the NPC would react differently. More realistic. In real life, if you were running through a church or a grociery store, people would look at you and react differently.. especially depending on how you were dressed while doing so.

also, NPCs shoudl have wants and needs. If I were to stop someone on the street and start a conversation, that NPC should have a certain amount of desire not to talk to you. Based on his needs (needs to get to work, needs to get breakfast, etc), he would either stay and talk, leave, or ask you to stop talking to him for some reason.

In anycase, to appeal to the social aspect of humans, you'd have to have a system that emulates as much humanity as it can. Even if its not perfect, you dont expect the NPCs to write novels or anything. Just enough to hold a conversation as if they were a stranger.

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Not sure I understand the question. Or more precisely I don't follow your line of thinking.

What draws me to monster fights is the simplistic variety of encounters, how one must change up thier stratigy for victory...course I'm talking about games like Metroid, Mario and Zelda...I find the battles in FF type games to be dull, droll, and pointless.

now because humans all can generaly perform simular feats in combat, they largely don't intrest me for gameing perposes...too little scope for encounters and very limiting variety...if strictly sticking to raw human performance (cyber/magic/DNA enhancements need not apply).

But of course this is only takeing into account the arena of combat as far as conflict resolution is concerned...which is why I don't follow your line of thinking given that humans have developed billions of ways to resolve conflict, physical violence is just one way.

So if you open the scope of conflict resolution to include diplomacy, mind games, sex, and all sorts of other methods...humans as opponets become much more interesting and monsters much less so.




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I think the key is really social development. Most NPCs in video games are static, simply there to spew thinly veiled comments about the character's predicament. For example:

"Hey, did you hear about [important plot event]?"

"I think I just saw [important plot NPC] heading towards the docks."

"I heard Mr Monotoli sells the best [important plot item]."

NPCs should be less cardboard. Is the main character the only human being in the world that can invoke change? Picture this.

The main character encounters a homeless man on the street. He has a few options: give the man money, harass him or ignore him.

Giving the man money helps get him back on his feet and start a business as a merchant. Next time the main chaacter meets him he returns the favour by handing out a prime item.

Harassing the man makes him bitter, and turn to a life of crime. Later in the game when the main character is breaking up a thieves guild he finds the homeless man among their ranks, adding one more opponent to the already difficult brawl.

Ignoring him doesn't instigate any change.

It's not a terrible revolutionary thing to do, but giving NPCs some development is a nice touch.

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I think what NPC's ingame are really lacking is personality, i've never known an NPC to wander around the battlefield healing people for the hell of it, or doing those odd behaviors that people can think up (as i often do ;D). Most games where NPC's do have personality have entirely static storylines (such as Xenosaga), and don't really interact with the player at all.

As for the need for violence, somehow i think the instinct within humans is something more than just the need for violence itself, more of a need to improve and test ones mettle in combat. Law of the fittest/evolution kindof stuff. A person will think more of his self worth if he can take down a Cyberdemon with a knife than a guy who uses the BFG9000 (which anyone could use to win). I suppose i can't speak for everyone about this, some people might just like the gore. ;D

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Some ideas,

1. keep the player coming back to see some more each time they see a character something new can come up.

2. Expand ways of interacting with them think of Mortal Kombat 3, which had "humiliations". In this the victor character would do something other than kill the character, one of them would cut out a chain of paper dollies, another would blow them a kiss, one would give them a present, etc. These pre-scripted animations had a small comedy element to them that made them fun to watch.
So I'd like to see more ways of interacting with the characters. 1. non-swearing type insults. 2. farting in their presence (how do they react prudishly? or by saying better out than in?) 3. giving them cool gifts, are they pleased?.

3. NPCs have different states, one day they might have a cold that you could catch from them, or some would smell.

4. Characters that don't immediately like you. But grow to like you.

5. Jobs such as wearing a teddy-bear costume and giving out fliers. Characters that react differently when they are at work. "Not now Gordon, buy you a beer later!". Bouncers that won't let you in because you aren't on the guest list.

6. NPCs with their own things to do, whether that be doing little tasks (such as house-work), or shopping, or going to the cinema.

7. The more you get to know them, the more content they open up, they can open up mini-games like playing tennis with them, or shuffle-puck, or going to the cinema, or entering rapping contests.
>Special events like inviting you to their birthday.

8. Well-written dialogue.

9. If you make them monsters (Goblins etc), or animals then you can interact with them or fight them! (What a cop out).

10. Allies and enemies.

11. Dating.

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I think the problem lies in that scripted dialogue is inherently unrealistic.
An interesting solution would be to make dialogue more dynamic, to generate it in some fashion according to an NPC's preset characteristics.

Of course you would have to be very careful with this in order to ensure that the dialogue seems natural, and at least does not appear to be scripted words jumbled together.

The characters themselves should be dynamic also, in that conversations with the PC or other NPCs can change the preset attributes of that character. For example, a shopkeeper may have certain preset opinions on a neighbouring shopkeeper, but after a lengthy conversation with the player on the virtues of said shopkeeper, his opinion is changed for the better, subtly altering the dynamics of the local economy.

Also, it is important that every NPC can be seen to have a purpose. In far too many games you see the NPCs aimlessly wandering around, simply to comment on the weather to you. All the NPCs should be engaged in some activity or another.

But having dynamic conversations would be interesting, of course each NPC would be limited to conversation in the areas where opinions have been formed, but the style of conversation would be different, and the player should be able to introduce new characteristics into NPCs, unscripted.

Toipot

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I think that interacting with NPC's could be very similar to battle. For example:

You are a politician. You must talk to your constituents. When you find out that they will vote in the opposite direction, you use your massive debate powers and illogics to make their head explode. When you walk up to others they then see the gore covering your body and are more likely to vote for you.

or something.
No, forget that. That is a very bad idea.

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Quote:
Original post by Wavinator
What kind of gameplay would it take to draw you into a world where it was just as interesting or even more interesting to encounter different people as it would be to encounter hordes of different monsters.

Monster encounters appeal to people because they provide opportunity to experience something one cannot do in real life, at least without significant risk. In addition, 'combat' in games is often very different from 'grim reality' because the reality is simply not "fun".

Since human interaction is something one can experience relatively easily pretty much anywhere, having it in game isn't anything special nor appealing. For the same reason, making the NPC more 'real life-like' isn't imo going to make this aspect of the game any more interesting -- if one was finding entertainment in lifelike interaction with real human beings, they would be doing exactly *that* instead of playing the game. After all it's not something like flying a plane or racing in expensive cars which is beyond reach of most people (and forces them to look for games as poor substitute)

From what i can see, if there's one thing about NPC's that can appeal to some people it's some sort of story associated with the NPC. be it their background or something evolving dynamically as the game develops, if the player is able to learn it and/or track the progress, some people might find interest in it. Also, borrowing a page from the 'monster fighting' part, giving the player ability to interact with the kind of "people" and situations they normally wouldn't be able to experience can generate some interest (the dance minigame in _Sid Meier's Pirates!_ comes to mind here, since 17th century dancing complete with setting, music etc isn't something one is very likely to practice in real life)

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How about having the central character posess mind-control and mind-reading powers.

Firstly, they can 'read' the character's minds and see pictures of the things that they are concerned about ie. their enemies, things they need done.

Secondly, Force-style brainwashing, where you can control their responses to certain things.

Perhaps this could be balanced with a 'mental fatigue' guage where using these abilities has negative side-effects if over-used without resting or recuperating.

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BattleAngel

In the near future, a new kind of gambling will be born. Minds of innocent citizens will be connected through a wave amplifier to engage in deathmatches in an arena. Each combatant is represented by spectacular avatars whose attributes are proportional to their emotional attributes, and the battle will be fought subconsciously through the wills of the combatants. When an avatar is killed in battle, so is the corresponding host.

The player is a recruiter for such gambling company. During the day, the player will go to various places to locate individuals with strong emotions. Using a handheld wave scanner, the player can check what avatar each target will be represented. When the player has identified a desirable target, the player will make an impression to the target such that the wave amplifier might recognize and bring the target's mind to the arena. There are many ways to make an impression, some methods maybe more dangerous to the recruiter than the other.

As a recruiter, the player will use the scanner to find targets to compose a team, and further unscannable but powerful emotions through observations and interactions. The player will compete against rivaling recruiters on powerful subjects. The player is also responsible for renewing the impression, and to promote or alter the emotion of the subjects, and to disrupt the emotion of the rivaling subjects. The player will also avoid the FBI that are busting the operations.






Fanfic Outline 1
Example of a related story based on the setting. This is not explicitly tailored to be a game story because it does not show all the choices and variations involved.

Metaphors:
Recruiter - Prophet
Combatants with positive emotions - Angels
Combatants with negative emotions - Devils
Impression - Seals
Companies - Heavens and Hells
Arena - Middle Earth

Just as there are people who are keen to music, there are people who are keen to emotion.

You are X. You were born different, with a heightened perception of emotion--a deafening sense of emotion. Since childhood, you had been condemning human emotion and human contact. However, as you grew, your preception seemed to dampen. You met your first friend, a girl, who was also a loner. The two of you became very close, but one day an accident took her life before your eyes.

You cried in agony, as your emotion brought back your tormenting gift.

Your hope and dreams were shattered, until the light of Heaven shone on you. Heaven told you that only by connecting with other individuals could your pain be lessened. For the following days, you had approached various strangers, and shared with them. Your pain was lessend. But you realized that the strangers you talked to mysteriously died, one by one. You asked Heaven. Heaven said:

You feel better, isn't that all that matters

Heaven disclosed to you their cause, and your fate as a Prophet. You emotionlessly agreed.

As a Prophet, you recruited and trained individuals to fight at MiddleEarth. Souls fought. Souls died. Everything was going well. One day you noticed your arch Prophet from Hell was trying to seal a powerful piece. You intercepted it and sealed the piece yourself, beating your arch Prophet. Then you noticed that the piece was very like what the first soul you met, a lonely heart scarred and abandoned, yet filled with hope and faith in the goodness of human.

That night, the most beautiful avatar apeared on MiddleEarth.

As you continued to train her, her healing hand reached your distant past. In MiddleEarth, you saw her transform by the security she got from you, and by her commitment to heal you and love you. She told you about the dreams she had as an Angel. You assured her cause to cleanse the Devils in her dreams.

Since then, your team had never lost. It became apparent to both Heaven and Hell that something needed to be done.

Harassment from the other Prophets never stopped, as they became more and more desperate to destroy her physically and emotionally, while you continued to defeat their plans. She asked you what was going on around her. You realized that you no longer know for which reason you stood by her.

The commotion got the attention of the FBI. As the FBI got closer, you tried to tell her what she couldn't know. The FBI arrested you before her eyes.

She wept in shock before the deepest betrayal.

The FBI made up a different criminal story to explain what you were. But you knew that it wasn't enough to save her. For the battle was still going on as scheduled, against the arch Prophet, jealous and desperate to destroy the piece you stole from him. There was nothing that could stop the battle from happening, for the FBI couldn't begin tracing the wave amplifier until it is activated, until the battle begins.


Behind the bars, you asked for a mirror.



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Quote:
Original post by Wavinator
What would make you eager to go into some kind of hall, or park, or train terminal or just wander the streets, looking forward to finding people to interact with?

I don't think this is necessarily a reasonable goal. In real life, a person doesn't go around generically looking for people to interact with.

But I could see NPC-interaction being quite interesting if the player has something specific to gain from it. Something from the NPC -- information, or black market merchandise -- or the NPC themselves, as a new crewmember or maybe a romantic interest.

The only character types I could see being interested in interacting with people at any opportunity would be pickpockets, salespeople, or members of a proselytising religion.

As for hours of dialog... I don't know much about it, but I think procedural generation of dialog seems fairly plausible. Not from scratch, obviously, but from templates. Throw in some simple personality/mood AI and let the player try to figure out how to best approach their "target" -- will they respond well to flattery, or reject it? Should you ask direct questions or tangental ones? How about reverse psychology? Threats or bribes? And if you're going to bribe them, what's the optimum amount -- or can you offer them something that isn't quite so blatant as cash? Etc., etc.

As someone else mentioned, having characters initiate interactions -- with objectives of their own -- could also be very interesting.

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Quote:
Original post by Wavinator
What kind of gameplay would it take to draw you into a world where it was just as interesting or even more interesting to encounter different people as it would be to encounter hordes of different monsters.


The rewards for fighting monsters in a typical game are obvious: experience and loot. The rewards for talking to random people are usually not obvious and not as directly helpful; information is usually the only reward. Perhaps there should be more direct rewards for "successfully" interacting with people, like how you get rewards for "successfully" interacting with monsters (ie killing them). Quick example: if you convince person X to tell you the location of person Y then you get experience. Similar things happen in current games but only to a very limited extent, and it's usually scripted.

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