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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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