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Making smart-seeming NPCs

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Hi all,

I was just pondering on what aspects of a humanoid NPC make them seem smart/dumb. Personally I find that the moment an NPC loses believeability I stop treating them like a character and start treating them like an obstacle, a puzzle or a resource to be mined. It also becomes frustrating because I tend to lose my suspension of disbelief. What aspects do you think make the most difference? I have a few examples below:

  • Bad pathfinding
  • Lack obvious abilities, e.g. climbing stairs or fighting
  • "Forget" that they know you
  • Completely predictable
  • Repeatedly fall for the same moves
  • Bad/no gaze tracking, including talking to where you were when you walk away
  • Lack of context, e.g. will talk to you about the weather when in danger
  • Keep to script even when it makes no sense, e.g. talking to a dead comrade

    Look forward to hearing your responses.

    JT

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A big one for me is repeating the same canned phrases too often, especially if those phrases are shared by multiple characters.

A lot of this comes down to simply adding more content to the game, or designing systems such that the content can be varied slightly and used only when it is appropriate to do so.

I'm not sure if this is really a question for the AI forum -- although it involves both NPCs and path-finding, it seems more of a design topic -- but as I'm not sure at this point I'll leave it here for now and the AI forum mod can move it if appropriate.

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Designers can come up with all sorts of things on their wish list... that's not the problem. The issue becomes how implementable are these wishes and, of course, how do we do it?

Let's leave it here for now.

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This article had really good information. It's applied to open world NPCs but I don't see why you couldn't learn from it for other genres.
http://gamasutra.com/view/news/174231/5_tips_for_making_more_believable_open_world_cities.php#.UFYbG41lRX8

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Dave, I'm a bit astonished at your reply. What I heard was "there's a bunch of tools in the toolbox, but let's not discuss what any of those tools are or how easy they are to use". You have been in the industry a long time. I have not. I literally don't know what half the tools are. I only read about gaze tracking quite recently. I could ask game designers to dream up something random that they want, but that would be ignoring (what I hope is) a wealth of existing techniques. Bang for buck I'd rather look into existing fields than strike out alone.

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Dave, I'm a bit astonished at your reply. What I heard was "there's a bunch of tools in the toolbox, but let's not discuss what any of those tools are or how easy they are to use". You have been in the industry a long time. I have not. I literally don't know what half the tools are. I only read about gaze tracking quite recently. I could ask game designers to dream up something random that they want, but that would be ignoring (what I hope is) a wealth of existing techniques. Bang for buck I'd rather look into existing fields than strike out alone.


You completely misread/misinterpreted my reply. The discussion was whether or not we should kick this thread over to the design forum or leave it here. Reread my reply in that context.

Designers can come up with all sorts of things on their wish list... that's not the problem. The issue becomes how implementable are these wishes and, of course, how do we do it?
Let's leave it here for now.[/quote]

Makes a little more sense now, eh?

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Dave, I'm a bit astonished at your reply. What I heard was "there's a bunch of tools in the toolbox, but let's not discuss what any of those tools are or how easy they are to use".

I think you might have interpreted Dave saying "let's leave it there" as dismissing the topic, but I believe he was responding to me and electing to keep the topic here in the AI forum rather than moving it to game design.

I think it might currently be a bit open-ended though: it's hard to suggest appropriate techniques when such a wide variety of problems are being discussed all together - it might help to choose and focus on one problem at a time.

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Apologies, I did indeed misinterpret Dave's statement. I thought it was directed at me.

Let me rephrase the question: What techniques are there, and what is the bang for buck? I think there's no need to drill down into the individual details (although any linked papers would be appreciated). If I don't understand the details I can post a more specific question.

Thanks.

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Each of the bullets you mentioned in the OP has many different solutions to them. Without writing a treatise on the entire subject, it is a little hard to handle.

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