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Wavinator

But what if the NPCs ARE telepathic?

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Here's a case where world fiction clashes with gameplay expectations... A common complaint players have about NPCs is that, in certain situations, they act like some vast groupmind. If, for instance, you wack the barkeep in one room, the patrons automatically know about it in the next. But what if the NPCs are hooked up to a cybernetic network which WOULD report murders and misdeeds to others? Having everyone know about a crime would be expected. Just as there are most wanted alerts now that travel TV and cell phones, a society whose citizens have implants should also be able to get updated messages instantly. The problem is that this isn't too original in gameplay terms. For an RPG, which would you err in favor of: The story expectation that drives suspension of disbelief, or the gameplay expectation for a more complex crime/justice/communication system?

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The danger of such a system lies when you do not need it. What when this vast overmind hinders the plot. You can use a crime-reporting system as long as you don't send the player on a murder investigation three minutes later.

The canonical example of this in "OH SHIT, I beat up twenty-five dragons just to find that goddamn boulder blocking my path". Here, the hero has the extraordinary power to kill dragons with the hit of a sword, but can't move a rock. (Bonus points if the character can fly).

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Frankly, I don't particular care that much if there's a level of unrealistic behaviour, such as every NPC being informed of world events instantaneously. I certainly can understand it from an algorithmic design consideration point of view, as implementing a full information flow system would be overly complex.

What I do mind if is this system makes the game world unrealistic. Common problems in RPGs include NPCs who will attack you on sight if you pick up one of their items (never mind that the NPC is an unarmed peasant and you are a walking tank), or where the game hard codes an instant death penalty to someone who steals a slice of bread (Ultima 8 is the example that springs to mind for me). Or if whatever penalty applies to the PC doesn't seem to apply to the thieves, muggers and murderes NPCs in your game world (worst example I can think of is in Arcanum, where if an assassin attacks you in a bar the town guards inexplicably come after you).

So Wavinator, if you include a reason for why all your NPCs know things instantaneously, then I'll be happy. If your game was less high-tech then having wanted posters plastered over the town would also have the same effect. I'm happy to believe that every NPC is an insatiable gossip and that information of the players misdeeds spreads very quickly. Just make sure that you integrate your system into the rest of the game world so that all information flows as quickly, and it will be good.

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Guest Anonymous Poster
I'd prefer the above poster's method - wanted posters probably won't blow holes in your plot - or better yet...the NPCs aren't telepathic and you just don't get found it if there's no witnesses/there's no proof it was you. Probably awful difficult to implement, but it would be neat to A) get away with murdering someone every once in a while and B) killing someone and getting in deep crap for it. :)

Might not be the kind of game you want; I just thought it'd be nifty.

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The notion of direct mind-to-mind communication on any scale brings with it a lot of baggage, and if you're going to hive up a whole community or civilization, you need to be concerned about far more than just their investigative techniques. In fact, I doubt such a society would have criminal laws, or any distinct governmental body. Since the tech/superpower/whatever allows their minds to be in rapport, there would be no real need for any other communication, and every individual in the network would effectively serve as little more than an appendage of the communal being.

Heinlein's short story Lost Legacy has an instance in which three people have telepathically joined and are performing some task with only one of their bodies. The other two sit in chairs across the room. That's the sort of thing you might see in such a society.

What's more, it might reduce individuality, so that the population is little more than a pack of drones, controlled by the mental sum of their minds. I can only imagine how efficient such a group could be in terms of military tactics, directed research and technical operations.

On the other hand, if it's just a brain-phone that you have to consciously use, the effects would be more slight. If that's the case, just tell the player about it, and make an NPC stop and close his eyes for a moment, or have his pupils emit blue light or something when he "jacks in" to report you. It would be the functional equivalent of a guard reaching for his radio, and you'd have the same opportunity to interrupt the operation.

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Okay, reading over this post, I got some very distinct mental impressions.

First and foremost, the Borg of course. We all know and love the Borg! "Resistance is futile!"

Secondly, agents in "The Matrix". Regular "people" being turned into agents for no better reason than their close proximity to the perputrator(sp?).

Finally, what about... "Minority Report" game? While we're creating hive minds that allow NPC's to instantaneously know that you've killed another NPC, why not just arrest you (or attempt to) before you even commit the crime based upon the fac that the "pre-cogs" have seen it.

Anyway, I didn't really have anything beneficial outside of that scope to offer, so I'll shut up now.

Vopisk

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Guest Anonymous Poster
Stephen Baxter and Arthur Clarke's "The Light of Other Days", while not the same, has a similar theme. Starts with a future Earth where "brain phones" exist (with the minimal change that ICC suggests). Then a technological break through allows instant communication across any distance (which leads to telepathy) and the ability to see the past.

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I'd be in favor of the game play expectation for a more complex crime/justice/communication system. I generally expect things to be explained, but I do believe that the spread of gossip could be factored into game play very well.

For example, a witness is tagged, if that witness escapes the player for more than a certain amount of time, then the gossip begins to randomly spread through the populous, increasing in occurrence over a certain amount of time. At first, only one in a hundred might know about it, but after a while, depending on the severity of the crime and the size of the total population, one in ten might know about it, and scream for guards when they see you- at the far end of the spectrum, wanted posters could begin to be put up, and expand the knowledge even more.

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I don't think it'd work. Just how many criminals do you expect them to be able to recognize just like that? It's one thing to be told (whether on TV or through cybernetic implant) that a guy looking like this is a criminal. But actually *remembering* the face at the point (much later), when the player actually drops in, is tricky.

I'd still have the same problem. Only instead of it being "How does he know I killed that barkeep", it becomes "Ok, so how come everyone can recognize *me* in particular? Am I the only damn criminal they've been warned about?"

I'd have thought that if the system warns everyone of everything, then they'd have to remember hundreds, thousands of faces of criminals. And then it'd really surprise me if they can pick out the player in particular.

And as others said, it might just hinder the plot too.

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Guest Anonymous Poster
Quote:
Original post by Spoonbender
I don't think it'd work. Just how many criminals do you expect them to be able to recognize just like that? It's one thing to be told (whether on TV or through cybernetic implant) that a guy looking like this is a criminal. But actually *remembering* the face at the point (much later), when the player actually drops in, is tricky.

I'd still have the same problem. Only instead of it being "How does he know I killed that barkeep", it becomes "Ok, so how come everyone can recognize *me* in particular? Am I the only damn criminal they've been warned about?"


Does anybody else find the descriptions of criminals (e.g. murderers, rapists, etc.) on the news completely useless?

"The suspect is a white male with brown hair, 5'10" and about 180lbs."

Makes me think, "Damn... just what did I do last night?"

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