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kingy

Realworld names on enemies

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If enemies in a roleplay game all had individual real world names, e.g. Thomas Smith or Bob Colins, would that affect the way the player approached the game at all?

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this is something that you just as easily could rephrase and ask yourself:

"if every NPC in the game had an individual name and identity, would my behavior towards them change"

my personal answer to this would be: "it depends". for many gamers, it is one of the ways in which a game increases immersion. many rpg's already have this feature, Richard Garriot's Ultima series being a famous case point. in most cases, in the least it will be ignored, and in the best case it will make your characters individually memorable. this is usually also a fairly easy things to implement.

in games that are wildly big, you can actually overwhelm players with information. in role playing games, much of the immersion is actually "not important", for instance, various books with back history and character backgrounds that are located around the maps. this allows people that need that level of immersion to have it, but to not get in the way of other information. if you are requiring the user to memorize the names of too many characters to understand what is going on, it may be difficult for the average player. the only other reason I can think of that could be prohibitive is if used in combination with voice acting. if todd,james,clark,wood,spongebobsquarepants all sounded identical, it would probably be noticeable and distract from the immersive qualities, and it might be prohibitably expensive in both cost and storage to do seperate voice acting for each entity. no one really cares when "Wood Elf Warrior" sounds the same as "Wood Elf Warrior". hopefully that made some sense.

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I played a castle-building game about a decade ago where the NPCs had peacetime and wartime roles, and you could ring the big bell and everyone would gird themselves for battle. Farm workers and hunters would grab spears and axes and line up on the field. After the battle, everyone trades in their swords for plowshares and gets back to making the community fiscally viable, and that's where the losses start to hurt. Your bakery isn't making any bread, and you think, "What's up with that bakery?" Turns out your baker, the proprieter of the establishment, fell on the field of battle and never came home. His kids aren't old enough to pick up the slack, so you've got to train a new baker to fill that void in your infrastructure. Everyone had a name, so James Wilson the cooper becomes James Wilson the archer becomes Captain James Wilson becomes the late James Wilson, and your brewer's got no barrels for his ale.

So you wind up putting the homeless and the expendible on the front lines, and the pillars of the community get cushy support roles in combat. It was a neat dynamic, although the game was ridiculously hard for me and I never successfully conquered anything.

If the enemies you fought in the game were real people, with real jobs, and killing them changed the way the world worked, it would change the way the player viewed killing dudes, I think.

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Damn, Chef, what game was it that you played? It sounds like something I want to try.

To answer the question, I don't think simply displaying names will do anything significant. However, having the ability to identify specific individuals who continuously return to battle with you would certainly change things.

This is something that will happen in my game with Freestar officer bots. They're human-size police mechs, controlled through a neural interface. There are six of them, each controlled by a single pilot in an office building somewhere. Each pilot will have their own traits and tactics, and each will have a constant name. The player is always wanted by law enforcement, so these guys will always be after him. Since the mechs can be replaced, the policemen never die, and so the player will get to know them all very well throughout the game.

So if the enemy keeps returning, I think names can make an impact. But if the player will likely never meet them again, then learning their names won't do much for the experience.

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I love the Total War games for this. All of your hero characters are uniquely named, and their title changes as their reputation / deeds are established.

It was much more satisfying to command "Hubert of Nottingham's cavalry" to fight off a horde of 200 French crossbowmen, rather than commanding "Anon. cavalry unit #4", especially when after the battle he becomes known as "Hubert the chivalrous" ;)

[Edit] Off-topic, but another thing about total war that changes the way that I approach the RPG-elements, is that all characters have a natural life-span. Characters start no younger than 16, and are usually dead by 60.
This means that when "Henry the conqueror" turns 55, I really want to send him out on one last crusade before his time is up. Or when Henry dies in battle, I won't feel as bad as if it was his 25yr old that had died.

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It's worth considering why a character should have a name at all. As Kest pointed out, important characters you meet over and over or characters whose role is distinct are worth having names. Characters that are filler in most ways and do not need to be remembered do not need names, and perhaps shouldn't have them at all.

If there were a mix of characters with names and characters with general labels then the player instantly knows if a person is important and is worth talking to. If their only function is to sell you items then give them a label for that, if they are important to the plot, give them a name.

Mixing it up like that allows the player to not only be immersed but also to gain useful information from the names.

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I agree with JasRonq (although I'm not really sure he answered the actual question).

If fighting an enemy named Thomas Smith looks or feels exactly like fighting an enemy named Bob Colins, then who really cares that they have a name at all beyond something like "Evil Knight" (unless their names are important to the story).

Those are my two cents. This idea seems like something that could be mocked up in a day though, so why not give it a try (even on pen and paper if you aren't prepared to try it in video game format).

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You don't hate Fargoth because he's named Fargoth, you hate him for every aspect of his existence (including his name).

Names do not create significant or memorable NPCs, but they do allow people to easily reference memorable NPCs. "Fargoth" is easier to reference than "The ugly and annoying wood elf that you first meet outside the Census office," so when you want to discuss the game with someone, it's easier (which is much more important in multiplayer games).

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As I was trying to point out, the first step is to figure out if the character should even have a name. giving the character a name should indicate importance and signal the player that the character is worth treating as more than just filler.

What that name is then is something that again should signal the player about the nature of the character. Using names from the real world gives the player a sense that the game world is in some form the real world. Other sorts of names, such as names meant to sound similar to real words, are meant to invoke emotions. Some names are just meant to sound pretty though. How ever you name characters, those names you give are a reflection of importance in the character, a reflection of what sort of personality the character is, and a reflection of the cultural feel the world should have.

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I don't know about you - but if I'm about to press my sword through someones chest, I don't stop to introduce myself. All I know is that he's a big wierd looking guy in really dark polished armor.

I'm also quite blunt. If I just lost the princess and was asking around for information, I'd save the customary hand-shakes until after I found her. It's rude, I know, but it's just the way I am.

In short, I don't normally pay much attention to character names.

-Xy

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