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Wavinator

What are friends for???

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Maybe we can give a new spin on an old topic? What are some ways we can represent NPCs as friends in a game? How would an NPC prove himself your friend? How do you give the player the feeling that the NPC and he or she are "in this together." To prevent this from spiraling off into a hairpulling and unrealistic AI issue, I''ve been thinking more along the lines of "cheap tricks." IOW, things that we as designers might actually achieve . Remember, it''s only necessary that the NPCs seem like friends! Here''s a couple of things I''ve been thinking about: The starting factors (pls add others) -Building a Relationship- Who the NPC is, his familiarity with you, and his opinion of you based on your past interactions determines whether you''re just a stranger, considered a trusted friend-- or even a hated foe. * Familiarity - The number of times you''ve encountered one another and interacted. Affects how the NPC addresses you. Maybe also affects whether or not they can give information about you to others (great for stuff w/ enemies and the law ) * Opinion of You - Made up of the average quality of the interactions. This assumes that interactions can be quantified, say as in "Attacks are bad," "Gifts are good." Tough to do when player actions are complex, but I may have some ways to work around this. * Personality - There''s room to add some interesting personality stuff here, too: NPCs could value / devalue you based on your race, your alignment / repuation, your wealth, or social status. (These would filter the effects of interactions). But how do they express this? I''ve got lots of ideas, but I want to give people a chance to jump in and add their own. I''m thinking of things like aid, assistance with challenges, and dialog. Also, I''m wondering how we can set up a relationship that can ebb and flow between the player and the NPC based on deeds, time that has passed, and the state of the game universe. Thoughts??? -------------------- Just waiting for the mothership...

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I think this is very important. The "we" feeling can add much to a game. I liked the way it was done in DeusEx. The most complex approach I''ve seen so far in an FPS.

Resident Evil does this only in cut scenes. YOur friends disappear very fast, but you still have the feeling they are fighting on your side.

Most games were you directly act with your "friends" like Daikatana fail hopeless. I still think we need all those tricks since the real thing can''t be done, only faked.

Tim

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glvelocity.gamedev.net
www.gamedev.net/hosted/glvelocity

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How do NPC''s express their personality and opinion of you? Through dialog..... I have the feeling that isn''t what you meant.


-Forcas


"Elvis is alive. He is Barney the purple dinosaur. He is the pied piper that leads our children into the wages of sin and eternal damnation."

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You need a random smalltalk generator

Ok, a couple of cheap tricks (and I''m sure these have been used before):

Use family, mentors, childhood friends - an implied history can go a long way.

Use fade out/fade in on video and audio to imply that time has passed while the characters are having some sort of social interaction. (unless you really want to write that idle chatter AI)


Some things that a person/friend living a "normal" life could provide to the adventurous player run character: information, lunch, a place to sleep, a place to hide, introduction to other npcs (with a possible bonus or penalty to the interaction), other things based on their profession (are they a doctor, a bartender, a noble/politician, a fence?) - these could be dialog driven (the player could have a dialogue option to ask the npc if he/she can spend the night, etc), and sucess or failure could be determined by the factors you mentioned, and how often the player has requested favors. NPCs with the implied histories would be more likely to provide some of these favors.

Why would the NPC befriend the player? You could have a basic alignment/karma/personality/motivation/whatever system, which could determine whether characters are compatible - modified by player actions, whether tangible or through dialog (perhaps you could have various dialogue options which would inspire different reactions from different characters {the same thing said in different ways, hostile, nice, etc}). You could use story triggers to give the player an opportunity to befriend an npc (saving their life, helping them if they fall, returning a stolen possession, etc.)

-pwd

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You mean NPCs can be used?! I just kept selling them to the slavers!!

Excuse the obscure FO2 reference....


-Ryan "Run_The_Shadows"
-Run_The_Shadows@excite.com
"Doubt Everything. Find your own light." -Dying words of Gautama

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I am wondering what you guys consider as "cheap tricks".
Why ?

And as well, I know we are supposed to stay in the context of Game Design, but why extend the question to a more general level : what are friends ? Why do we have them or not, etc

Then once you have answered those basic questions you can start focusing on what parts should be taken into account in the games.

For instance, you refer to smalltalk as a cheap trick ??? WTF, I have friends because I TALK to them. Small talk or not, it doesnt matter. The talking is a way to keep in touch, to just show that there is a connection, it''s a pleasure I share, something I need in order to keep the bonds alive with them.

There is nothing worse than a game where you share an entire adventure with mute NPCs following you around, ready to sacrifice their lives for you, but that wont utter a word unless it is a necessary part of the scenario.
On the other hand, I loved the Ultima series for the recurring characters, their distinct personalities, their interesting interruptions during dialogs to give their opinions, etc.

So, rather than start rambling on and on on the different things I have already thought about, let''s answer this simple question : what are friends ? And why on earth would they follow us in our adventures (the same question applies to enemies, BTW).

youpla :-P

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quote:
Original post by ahw

So, rather than start rambling on and on on the different things I have already thought about, let's answer this simple question : what are friends ? And why on earth would they follow us in our adventures (the same question applies to enemies, BTW).




Well, firstly I think it's important to note that I don't think NPCs need to accompany the player to be a friend. Just a shopkeeper showing that he/she remembers the player by making a reference to a previous interaction they had or something could be a step in the right direction.

The answer to why this is important. Humans are generally a social species. We, in life, don't want to be alone all the time (although we game programmers tend to like solitude more than most ).

In the sense of the game, we find it immersive to have the illusion that we are part of a complex world. We like the feeling that we and the NPCs are not just another group of stats. It's about what I think Neitzche referred to as alienation...feeling like just another number in society.

http://www15.brinkster.com/nazrix/main.html

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


Edited by - Nazrix on January 27, 2001 1:44:44 PM

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quote:

For instance, you refer to smalltalk as a cheap trick ??? WTF, I have friends because I TALK to them. Small talk or not, it doesnt matter.



Real smalltalk would not be a cheap trick. It would be really difficult to make. A small section of code that pulls some random small talkish comments from a database (perhaps modified by personality traits), that''s a cheap trick How could we tell whether the NPC is thinking about the weather or not? It''s trying to give the illusion of something that we cannot possibly hope to simulate just yet. Smoke and mirrors...

It could potentially help when combined with other systems.

quote:

There is nothing worse than a game where you share an entire adventure with mute NPCs following you around, ready to sacrifice their lives for you, but that wont utter a word unless it is a necessary part of the scenario.



I propose that they stay at home and lead normal lives Maybe you could crash on their coach every once in a while...

-pwd

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Okay, just to alter course here slightly

The reason why I favor cheap tricks is twofold:

1) Our CPU/software/algorithms suck when it comes to doing game AI in all but the most constrained cases. Dedicated cases where the game is built on an AI technique (Creatures, or Galapagos, for example) are a different story.

2) For game purposes, probably 80% of what relationships are about are irrelevant. Our avatars and NPCs don''t have the kind of nuance that it would take to value all the ways that we express friendship. So I''m trying to keep this simple in the hopes that we aspiring and indie designers might actually GET somewhere

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

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pwd, you come closest to what I was thinking could actually be feasible and realistic.

quote:
Original post by pwd

Use family, mentors, childhood friends - an implied history can go a long way.



How do you make them mean something in game terms? If your friend or mentor is killed or kidnapped, why does it mean something? Normally a story / mission game will just order you to go get them.

I''m looking for an alternative. The nearest thing that I can find is to make NPCs useful. We can''t guarantee the player will be motivated by pregenerated relationships or affinity alone.

So if the NPC is lost, it must cost the player something: reputation, or services, etc.

quote:

Use fade out/fade in on video and audio to imply that time has passed while the characters are having some sort of social interaction. (unless you really want to write that idle chatter AI)



Yeah, I''m a fan of summarizing interactions. Instead of a bunch of dialog, you get "Sir Dane finally confesses to the location of the Theives Guild."

quote:

Some things that a person/friend living a "normal" life could provide to the adventurous player run character: information, lunch, a place to sleep, a place to hide, introduction to other npcs (with a possible bonus or penalty to the interaction), other things based on their profession (are they a doctor, a bartender, a noble/politician, a fence?)



EXACTLY!!!! EXACTLY!!!! EXACTLY!!!!

This I think is how you make friends mean something in a world where you are practically mute and emotionless. With a bazillion frames of animation, or real-time rendered faces with realistic muscles, etc. etc. etc. This seems much more realistic!

Now if we can just work out how these would actually work.

quote:

- these could be dialog driven (the player could have a dialogue option to ask the npc if he/she can spend the night, etc), and sucess or failure could be determined by the factors you mentioned, and how often the player has requested favors. NPCs with the implied histories would be more likely to provide some of these favors.



Okay, I jumped the gun on the implied history. Now I see that as adding so much more!

quote:

Why would the NPC befriend the player? You could have a basic alignment/karma/personality/motivation/whatever system, which could determine whether characters are compatible - modified by player actions, whether tangible or through dialog (perhaps you could have various dialogue options which would inspire different reactions from different characters {the same thing said in different ways, hostile, nice, etc}). You could use story triggers to give the player an opportunity to befriend an npc (saving their life, helping them if they fall, returning a stolen possession, etc.)



You and I are of the exactly the same mind.

I also am thinking about how to reverse the above, so that you would also be proving your friendship to an NPC. NPCs could ask for favors, or help, or a place to crash , and the player would be proving their worth as a friend by providing it or not.

I''m going to try to squeeze this all into a somewhat generic system of rules...



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

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