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MMO without NPCs

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I've found this topic, and since I had some thought about the subject, I decided to post something. But I couldn't post a reply - I got redirected to the main forum page each time I tried that - so I started this topic. I think NPCs are still pretty discussable today, so I hope this topic would not be a burden to the forum. So I am having an idea, completely theoretical at the moment, about an MMO (most probably RPG) with absolutely no NPCs, apart from mobs. The fundament behind it is giving players complete or almost complete freedom and create a player-run universe. Let's outline some points: 1. Current NPCs role in MMOs. Those are basically: vendors (buyers and sellers), repairers, quest givers, craft/skill trainers and guards. If those are gone, then, as it was mentioned, there is a problem of a) world being empty and b) people wouldn't know where to give away their junk etc. Some suggested to have NPCs in the beginning and then design some event whichwill remove them. But is it possible to have no NPCs from the beginning? If you have a players-run world, then you need much less developers. You still need technical developers, but not event, storyline, quest etc designers. Instead you can have a payed crew, which will in shifts play as NPCs. This will really inroduce non-linearity and non-scripting in such actions. Note that the crew is really necessary only in the beginning, since after that they can recruit real players to be among their positions. 2. So let's say we have a world with vendors, guards etc being players and the crew mixed. Now we have to keep the players interested in their job. There have to be incentive for players spending some of their time in making weapons and armor, than going off adventuring. 3. Quest givers and craft trainers. Well, as we can't have any NPCs, then certainly players fill such roles. Players would create their own quests and teach each other in crafting. So, what do you think about an NPC-free universe? Could this idea be developed further or is it bound to fail?

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The idea is possible but would probably require a large playerbase for the world to be interesting enough for people to play there. Also, knowing that so many players in online game are very rude and immature, there would be problems with griefers.

There is at least one MMO already without NPCs though, you can check it out at:
http://www.secondlife.com

And Second Life seems pretty popular so a MMO can be done without NPCs, it just requires the game to have enough other interesting points to keep the players occupied.

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well some of your writing reminded me of Shadowbane which has like no content but fighting other players/guilds

one real big flaw in that idea is that people play these games to have fun

lots of the jobs NPCs have would bore a PLayer to death if he or she had to do them

another problem would be the availability of needed features

lets say a player takes the role of a banker
if this person is not online how would i get the stuff i banked?
and who said that banker person is ever going to coe back?

Nothing wrong with your ideas i just think there a lot of things to think about

if you can come up with a fun environment that doesnt need NPCs fine but i doubt thats possible

Like i said it reminded me of Shadowbane(which has NPCs) which really lacks content when you have to play it(because of the timezone) with hardly any player on

So in an environment without NPCs you would have to make sure there are always enough people around to play with which you cant cause you cant force people to play:)

Well just my thoughts on the subject:)

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Guest Anonymous Poster
i dont understand what the point is, why would you want to make a player sit in a shop all day to sell junk to other players, why not something npc like, say a vending machine

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Guest Anonymous Poster
I like the idea, I have often thought about it. But I have to say that I agree with some of the points people have made. It reminds me a lot of Asheron's Call 2, where there were only quest NPC's and mobs. The player just converted items into gold, and crafting took care of the rest. It wasn't really that much fun.

And the point about someone standing in a shop waiting to sell stuff to people. There are ways around boring the player. People like different kinds of games, so an idea would be to make the vendor part of the game be more like a tycoon/sim type of game by adding various mini-games and business related aspects to it. Just a thought.

The same ideas can also be applied throughout all other current NPC tasks.

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Quote:
Sandman
Whats the difference between a monster and an NPC?


a monster must be a NPC, but a NPC doesn't have to be a monster.

Reply to OP:
A NPC free world is a good idea for the future or near future. But according to our current technology, this is still not possible because of the amount of work load demanded to the server.

The part you said about quests given by player is possible. Since all the quests found in today's RPG is one or a mix these types:
1) Search and destroy either someone or something.
2) Gather materials or informations either from a monster, NPC, or mining(for materials).
3) Deliver and/or talk to another NPC.

All 3 of these types of quest can be given out by another player.

No idea in game design is perfect. Same goes with this one. One major problem I see with quest given by players is the motivation or reward after completing a quest. However, I never complain about something unless I can offer a solution to it and here it is...

Quests rewarded by NPC of today's RPG are either item, gold or currency, or experience poionts. The solution is fairly simple if you think about it. Just having both side trade item and currency. But trading experience points can be the most rewarding, but we don't want to call it "trade" experience points, let's call it "personal training". To be fair, do have one side actually lose experience points.

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We pulled this off on a player-run Ultima Online server I played on for a couple years. The economy was entirely player-driven. Raw materials were usually collected by warriors or miners. They gave up the materials to the crafters, who would provide goods and services for more materials. And since gold was somewhat of a scarcity (unless you liked spending a LOT of time in dungeons), gold was worthless relative to things like animal hides, wood, and metal ore.

It was really a great system, but unfortunately it seemed to also promote excessive collectionism, packratting, and widespread fauna genocide. Rabbits rued the day the admins made their skins worth more than coin!

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OK, let's assemble points you guys made:

* Players being in the store and selling/buying stuff.
Well, the players don't need to sell stuff like a vendor would. They don't need to stand there and wait for customers. First of all, why would we need players to be able to sell/buy anyway?
Players are selling things because 1) they need to get rid of them and 2) they need to make money. Certain items would not sell well, for example very abundunt items or items noone needs, this is natural. So items which player is most likely is going to sell are his craft - armor, weapons, crafted details for other items - and those will give a player his income. So that's the first incentive to be a vendor.

Then why do we need people to buy stuff (as a vendor)? Well, vendors (with vendors being crafters at the same time) need materials to make their craft. Also we must allow other player to exchange their unneeded items for money, so that's another reason we introduce the ability to player-vendors.

So, the main priority in game designing is to develop some kind of an incentive for player to take a vendor profession. The case with banker is a bit of a challenge, so it might need a replacement.

* Why have a player-vendor and not just an NPC.
One of the biggest part is realism. When you vendor something to an NPC - you item just disappears and your money just appears. In a player-vendor environment though, you could only sell items which other players need - like materials. We could use it to create other gameplay features - for example, make some items needed in one geographic region and not the other, so player could make a choice - throw it away, carry it to other region and sell it, or sell it to traveling merchant for a low price.

Think about EVE Online - it has a similar system - no NPC vendors.

* Having fun.
Apart from vending, covered in the 1st point, there are certainly needed things to keep players in game. So content is also needed. But it should be build so as to encourage players to make more content.
For example in Shadowbane the main goal is leading the world interaction, like kingdoms relationships, guild relationships etc. In World of Warcraft the main goal is to being able to beat major endgame mobs. In EVE, it's - similar to Shadowbane - it's to control territory and universe pseudo-politics. I think in an NPC-free world the emphasis should also be on player interaction, but environmental issues should also be present.


The thing which is lacking in many MMOs is an ability to decide things in the world. Being the best or having the best items alone cannot be counted as such.
This is a fundament I mentioned - freedom and being able to impact world's condition.

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Well, I think it is feasible. Rather than try and explain it straightout, I will give an imaginary experience in the NONPCMMORPG:

-----
Log on. Ha, I see rabbit fur handled greatswords of jubilation are currently in demand through my merchant guild network. I also see a demand to make more things have prices in silver, as gold is losing value fast on account of that new dungeon outside town. I guess I will go down to the storeroom and dig up some stuff I have purchased/bartered from past adventurers. Good thing this lock from the lockmaker has a magical charm so that it cannot be cracked by small-time theives.

Lets see, rabbit fur: check, steel: check, magical weapon handbook, check. Ok lets start this. I put on my ring of concentration I got from the jewlers last week and boost my crafting stat. I choose greatsword from the template book and then enter the rabbit fur and steel, and finish by entering in a spell of +1 jubilation. It gives me a raw cost, a maximum number of swords I can make, and a suggested cost based purely on functional value. I choose to make 5 swords, as it will cost a decent bit and I won't get too many adventurers in here who will have it. I inflate the price a bit and start selling. Hm, half an hour later and no customers. I guess I will advertise my wares.

I walk over to my friend who works on the newspaper. He is currently logged out, so I just buy the small ad space set by him yesterday. I enter my item, and automatically my current price and store location goes into the ad. I walk back into the shop and find that two small swords were bought at the price I set before I left by Teraneous small. He left a comment that my rabbit swords were too expensive. I ignore him and wait ten minutes before a distinguished looking warrior walks in and asks to see my wares. After seeing the rabbit swords he asks if he can give me 100 gp less than I asked for. I concede and simultaneously lower the cost on the remaining 4.

The two thousand jingling in my pocket makes me wary so I head over to the bank, making a quick look-over of my item prices. Satisfied I head over to the bank. My usual clerk is offline, so I use the standard deposit function and head back home. I walk upstairs and cook dinner for myself with the meat I got yesterday from a hunter.

After dinner I feel a bit adventurous so I head out to the local dungeon and kill a couple goblins. However my health is significantly low so I head to a chapel in town. There a priest heals me for several silvers and I head to the local magic store. The price on healing potions is a bit high so I leave a note that he should lower prices to match the other stores. I head to the one across town and buy several potions from a vendor who lowers the price for me after some debating.

After returning home and playing with the prices some more, I ask an adventurer who steps in if he can get me an erwald-scale, as it is the new thing. He agrees and we set up a quest form. When he returns 10 scales to me or my offline service, I will give him one of my rabbit swords and 500 gp. It determines that he will deserve 100 xp based on the difficulty. We both hit agree on the form and it goes into the belly of the server. Hmm, not too much happened today, though I suppose it is a monday. Tomorrow should be more active. Log off.
----------
Well that was a bit longer than I meant it to be, but it contained the basic way I think it could work. Between offline services and multiple people working on any one job, you would not have to worry about whether or not someone is online. Obviously you could not steal from the offline service, but you could still buy stuff.

As far as people wanting to do stuff like this, I think they would. You could maintain a shop and be an adventurer. Basically selling your exploits by setting the prizes while you go off and collect more. Or you could specilize in a craft and make a little niche for yourself. Also you could go back and forth depending on your mood. If you feel more like traveling this month, then you can do it free of hassle. You could maybe even set up a friend as a temporary merchant in your store.

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I don't remember seeing any NPC's in A Tale in the Desert. But then there was no fighting either.

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Guest Anonymous Poster
planetside has no npcs.

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In my opinion, npc's exist only to do jobs that players can't/don't want to do. So yes you can make a game where the only merchants are players (and I do love a free market economy), but then you are limited in ways of regulating it. EVE Online, and others, have shown us the these do work well.

In the MMO I am conceptually designing, as a thought process mostly, I would make nearly everything run by players. Npc's are only there for things that no one wants to do, like sit around and hand out missions all day. Npc's would still be in cities, but in limited numbers. Say a city has anywhere between 300 and 600 people walking around in it depending on the time of day. So when no players are on, these are all npc's, just so the one player wandering around doesn't get lonely. But then when 200 players are on, the city still has around the same population, just 1/3 are player instead of being 100% npc. So I use them as graphic cannon-fodder in this instance.

You can have players come up with missions, or some kind of automated system that you say isn't a npc. You would have to have a very well thought out system that allowed players to do their jobs while offline so the rest of the economy could function. But then what would be the point of playing the game if it didn't require your input?

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Guest Anonymous Poster
Another example of this system is Face of Mankind. It has NPCs, but they're just for looks; they don't do anything. The exception to this are police drones that were put in half way through beta. They are stationary cannons that kill anyone that fires a weapon within view of them. These were kind of a bummer, but they are destroyable and are only placeable by the police faction. Most player enforcement happens via the police faction, which can arrest people that commit murder and are reported.

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I know I'm going to cover something I've covered in MANY occasions in these boards, but... heck with it...

As you all mentionned, NPCs cover four different functions.
1) They are vendors/buyers
2) They are quest givers
3) They are crafters
4) They are general background (and act as food provider, and easebucket emptiers in inns...)

The way I see it, none of the above-mentionned are all that exciting for the average thrill-seeking MMORPG-player. Noone of them would like to sit in a store for hours on end, while other people roam dungeons. No one would appreciate to farm, and get no chance to whack those pesky goblins and wolves. No one would accept to train Horses, or graze cattle. No one would accept to play a silly mini-game in order to craft a sword, a piece of armor, or even tailor a shirt. No one is interested in becoming the most successful salesman in an MMORPG.

Only...

Only some people are not only happy with these activities, but actually DO play them on Online games. They are not MMORPGs, but are called (maybe it's a new concept to some of you... I still doubt it, though...) MMOGs. I have PERSONALLY played a farmer on one of those games for more than two years. I then left because, as most games out there, it was still a grind, but something should be done to happily exploit all those players, and give them an experience they haven't had yet.

Yes. My advice is: remove NPCs in MMORPGs and replace them by PCs in MMOGs.

That is, of course, if you could create a database which would be shared by more than two games existing at once on the same server. This could give rise to some nice and exciting experiences for everyone around... Haggling, bartering, and for the most industrious MMOG players, the chance to develop a REAL commerce, with people going to find them EXCLUSIVELY. (yes, some people are prepared to go the extra fifty miles to find a particular tailor, restaurant, or craftsman. Don't ask me why...)

Anyway, I still recommand to explore this way of thinking, and try to combine more than one type of game around a single database. What if the adventurers had to go and try to sell their goods to vendor-buyer types who know perfectly well that what they are presented with is crap? How much would that improve your gaming experience in MMORPGs? What if, as in real life, adventurers actually had to buy their food, and seek shelter from other players? What if adventurers had to take their "missions" from farmers pissed off with said pesky goblins regularly raiding their fields?

And yet a scarier thought:

"What if players enjoying building armies and puting them up against other players, created armies of monsters (Goblins? Orcs? Trolls? whatever...) and moved them across a map which was that of your basic MMORPG? What if the monsters as a group were given orders?" Everybody would compete and give rise to some nice interactions. Adventurers would strain to find mobs, while MMOG players would do their best to protect their population and possibly raid some nearby town in order to retrieve some useables...


So what do you say? Would that be interesting?

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Guest Anonymous Poster
mmorpgs, can defiantly do without npc's and most established mmorpgs, could prob afford to loose them, but at the start, when there is not enough people to keep the world occupied, then it can get boring

and hey ive sat in one place selling things to players, not all of us needed to be grinding away on monsters or traveling ^.^

Although i dont mind the alternative, everyone is a npc and they can choose to login and directly control, or leave the npc with some orders and do stuff in rl

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Thanks for feedback, everyone. I will think about this idea further...

You could still post thoughts, maybe something interesting will come up.

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Fournicolas, I have thought about system like this too. I called them Multi Layers Games. They would be a single database (or related databases with other software changeing each depending on the state of the others - but a single DB would be easier to code).

My first attempt at this kind of design was a Space Combat game, where players would control massive starship in combat, but they could also take on a FPS game and be troops sent to defend their ship (or another) or assult another ship (or ground instalation). Damage done to the ships would effect the FPS maps (eg if a section of the ship got destroyed, then the people in the FPS would see that section destroyed too).

Another attempt was a game that had a RTS game where players could not only fight on a map, but would also be able to add those won territories to their domain. The second layer was a God type game where you could grant miracles and such and gain power from your followers (your power and miracles cast would change what would happen in the RTS games and the outcome of the RTS games could effect the number of followers you have). In the God game you could have followers in multiple RTS players maps.


In an MMORPG game you could have players be able to hire NPC to take over the mundane tasks, but this would cost resources (gold, food, whatever...). this would allow players to do these tasks (and be able to adapt quicker to the situations, like under selling a competitor) or hire an NPC at a slight cost, but it would allow you to do other things (or be offline) at the same time.

This would not be much more intesive (player or proccessor) then curently done for MMOGs as they already have NPC in these roles (and PCs interact with them) and all they have to do is be able to have values (prices, quantity, etc) set by the player.

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Just wanted to say, if you want to remove npc's, you have to go about it right. Don't say, how do I remove npc's from mmorpg, instead reimagine the whole mmorpg without ever using npcs. Will this work? I don't know, but I think its worth a try. If you don't 'patch up' the npc's places good enough, players will think, why the heck didn't they put npcs in. If you imagine the whole game from the ground up without a place for npc's, and make sure you don't need them, you will probably be better off.

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The "standing around selling stuff to people" problem could be solved by having merchants not be simple shop owners, but rather traveling traders. Certain resources or items may be common in one place, but rare in another. A trader can buy stuff where it's cheap and transport it to somewhere where it will fetch a high price. Whenever a trader (or anyone else)enters a city and wants to sell something, he goes to a designated market area and starts advertising. Traders are now also adventurers as they must face the dangers of the road, but they're trying to make a profit rather than complete quests. They may band with other traders and fighters to form caravans for protection. They may work alone or for a company. They may buy wagons or boats to carry more. If done right this could enhance gameplay. It would be best in a game where travel takes a while (and no instant travel of course) and where the world is dynamic so the journey between two cities isn't always exactly the same.

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