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Kest

Simulated NPC lives

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Am I the only person who finds simulated NPC lives really annoying? In typical games, important NPCs just piddle, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. They don't eat, they don't sleep, they don't get exercise. They often don't even close shop after hours. Sometimes, they'll wander around their little area, interacting with the local environment or nearby people, but they don't wander off to do essential things. This is apparently highly unrealistic, and it seems that open ended games are moving away from this to simulate more realistic behavior. One person might go somewhere to eat lunch at 9 or 10 or 12, then go read a book at 6 or 7, then go to bed at 7 or 8 or 12. Is all of this really necessary? Does it really cost that much immersion to make them stay put? I can't seem to memorize who does what, where, and at what time for hundreds of random people. There are countless cases where I meet someone on their lunch break, or during their trip to home or work, get a quest from them, then never find them again. It's also somewhat of a pain to wander into a village at 12:am and have to wait in one spot for 10 hours for the shop to open. Do you think games will continue to move in this direction? Are there solutions to all of the problems that come with this? What do we gain with it? Is it worth the hassle? Also, I've only mentioned a handful of the associated problems. Feel free to bring up any that have annoyed you in the past.

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Shopkeepers ought to have apprentices to run their shops while they're away or at least send them to do their everyday errands. Waking up to serve a customer shouldn't be that bad either if they're compensated well enough.

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Certainly not the only one to be annoyed by it.

Most recently I had a few choice words to say about trying to sell things in Fallout 3 in the middle of the night. Not only did it seem annoyingly pedantic, it was compounded by the fact that alternatives existed but had been made useless - I could rest until day... but the only place nearby to rest would cost me money, which defeated the purpose of trying to sell things. Or I could get high lockpicking and break in... but again defeats the purpose of trading if Im stealing.


I think the problem is that its kind of an uncanny valley for AI. Yes technically its more realistic, but all it really serves to do is call attention to the unrealistic parts which previously could have been dismissed as "Its just a game". What really needs to be done is to pick and choose the realistic touches that will actually add to gameplay or the overall experience, or at the very least if you're introducing problems like stores being closed - introduce other realistic touches to solve those problems. Real life tends to be organic... where something is inconvenient, somebody usually comes up with a solution. For example, in any city of sufficient size it will become a problem that stores arent open all the time and somebody somewhere will capitalise by setting up an after-hours store.

I think thats the key... make sure the new "features" arent designed in a vacuum. When introducing things some thought needs to go into the players' needs, and in a setting that is supposed to be internally consistant, some thought needs to go into the NPCs' needs. (I suspect that often NPC and PC needs wont actually be too far apart, barring some meta-game activites)

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Original post by caffieneNot only did it seem annoyingly pedantic, it was compounded by the fact that alternatives existed but had been made useless - I could rest until day... but the only place nearby to rest would cost me money, which defeated the purpose of trying to sell things. Or I could get high lockpicking and break in... but again defeats the purpose of trading if Im stealing.
Learning how to play the game might help out a bit. ;-P
The "wait" function would have solved your problem in about 20 seconds.

As for my personal preferences ... I like the concept of simulated NPC lives a great deal. I enjoy the fact that NPC's aren't standing in one place all day. Just as long as the game gives the player tools to manage. The wait function in many of Bethesda's games being a perfect example. Quest markers, to show you where the person you're looking for has run off to. Etc.


I only take exception to it when the implementation falls short or is inconsistent. As Bethesda's games are wont to do.

If you're going to have simulated NPC lives ... then you should simulate all of the NPC's lives. Don't tell me Moria Brown has to close up shop to go to bed, while the crazy preacher in the center of Megaton stands in one spot 24/7. Don't just simulate people with names and then have unsleeping generic characters wandering around aimlessly ... Breaking consistency breaks immersion.


To the OP, if I might ask, what game is it you were referring to? What game prompted this post? Examples are always helpful.

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Original post by brent_w
Don't tell me Moria Brown has to close up shop to go to bed, while the crazy preacher in the center of Megaton stands in one spot 24/7.

Iirc, the preacher isn't preaching all the time, he's just out there at any given hour. I feel his character is served well by the fact that no matter when you swing by, he'll probably be there telling you how great atomization in a nuclear explosion would be.

I like simulated NPC lives as a concept, but I agree that the application is often flawed in games.

Quote:
Original post by kest
There are countless cases where I meet someone on their lunch break, or during their trip to home or work, get a quest from them, then never find them again. It's also somewhat of a pain to wander into a village at 12:am and have to wait in one spot for 10 hours for the shop to open.

This is annoying when it isn't done well, but there are simple solutions, as brent_w has already pointed out.

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Do you think games will continue to move in this direction?

Yes, as RPGs stress role-playing, which is improved greatly as game worlds get more realistic. Your role is a person in a world, not necessarily the center of everything.
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Are there solutions to all of the problems that come with this?

As demonstrated so far, yes. However, if there are further issues, please bring them up. I can't think of any unsolvable problems, but taht doesn't mean there are none.
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What do we gain with it?

Immersion, which is crucial in getting players to identify with their character.
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Is it worth the hassle?

Hopefully, it's not too much of a hassle. If you're talking about the difficulty of implementing it, I would say yes.

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I think the problem with most "life simulations" are that nobody does anything particularly interesting. I stand around in Oblivion during some of the quests and am forced to watch some moronic NPC repeat his "use hoe" animation a few thousand times. No jokes, no conversation, nothing.

In RL people get off on meddling in others affairs, like the soap Days Of Our Lives, or even Battlestar Galactica, watching all the personal relationships, lies, and general back-stabbery/insanity unfold is quite entertaining. By contrast NPCs have all the amusement of watching paint dry.

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Original post by brent_w
I enjoy the fact that NPC's aren't standing in one place all day. Just as long as the game gives the player tools to manage. The wait function in many of Bethesda's games being a perfect example.

Here's how that adds up:

Y is a problem.
A fixes Y, but causes X.
B fixes X, but causes Y.

Y = Unrealistic behavior
A = Realistic behavior
X = Gameplay holdups, annoyances
B = The wait feature

Quote:
To the OP, if I might ask, what game is it you were referring to? What game prompted this post? Examples are always helpful.

My own. I'm trying to decide how my civilian and shop characters should behave.

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I wouldn't say the wait feature is an overly unrealistic behavior. A good portion of real life is waiting around doing nothing. Having a button that skips it seems just fine to me.

In other words, I see the wait feature as unrealistic in the same way that quick traveling is. Sure, real life would include hours of down time, but it's not a terrible loss of realism. The gain (not breaking up gameplay with meaningless downtime) far outweigh the cost of realism.

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Firstly, waiting isn't unrealistic. I've definitely seen people waiting outside of shops IRL. Secondly, if they didn't have day/night cycles, then it would be harder to be a thief character. Some people in those games enjoy creeping around at night while the shopkeeper is asleep and stealing all their stock.

Without quest markers and a wait command it would be annoying, but I don't think it's annoying with those mechanics in place.

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I see the player character standing around as unrealistic as NPCs standing around.

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