Give some meaningful existence to the NPCs.

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Post » Thu Apr 16, 2009 4:37 am

[quote="rogerty":1lsx4qiq]NPC's in Oblivion and Fallout 3 have their own routines. They sleep at night (go in their homes) and wander around in daytime.
They exist for you to talk with, to get mission-objectives, or to let you believe you are not alone (although in Oblivion I always feel alone^^).

NPC's in GTA 4 wander around, or say one liners to other NPC's. :)
They exist to populate the city and to be splattered.

In fable 2, NPC's are sitting on the ground sometimes, so you can surprise-attack them.
Sometimes they are just standing, doing nothing, waiting for you to come.
Sometimes they jump out of a tree (scripted).

Are these NPC's having a meaningful existence?[/quote:1lsx4qiq]

Yes, technology has come a long way since mario.
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Post » Thu Apr 16, 2009 7:17 am

It certainly has. But are our NPCs really that much smarter now? In Mario, their AI was based on a simple loop - walk, if you hit a wall, turn around and walk some more, Repeat.

In Oblivion, each character has certain tasks that he's been given based on the time in the game - and you can talk to them, so they'll tell you different things. If you attack them and drain a certain amount of their hp, they'll attack you. But is that it?

I can take Oblivion as a good example of how AI can utterly fail:

In the Dark Brotherhood storyline, there's a quest where you have to kill all your comrades. They're all in a multi-room cave, separated by doors. So, I started the quest and did this: One guy was at the lunch table, eating an apple.

So I thought this'd be a good time to kill him off. Nobody else was around and that guy was peacefully chomping his apple, which meant that it would've taken him at least a couple of seconds to get into his combat mode to fight back - enough time to let a shitstorm of fireballs rain on his head. That's exactly what I did and it worked beautifully. He was still eating his apple as I started to firefuck his brains, dealing major damage. A couple of seconds later he lay dead on the table.

Nice, I thought! One man down - Only three more to go.

At that second, another comrade came in - apparently he was hungry, too. My first thought was: "Shit, now he's gonna see what I just did to his buddy and he's gonna kill me" (I'm talking about the fat, armored Orc) - But, thankfully, he didn't care much about the corpse and his fried brain being splattered across the table. So he went to the cupboard, took out a piece of cheese and rested his arse at the table as well, peacefully eating it while his buddies brain was still smoking.

That's the problem with open world games - as a developer, it's impossible to create events for every single situation that might happen in the game that the player might do - You already need dozens of events for each character to make them believable, it's currently impossible to keep the believability if you have a couple of hundred NPCs to deal with.

I believe we'll have AI Engines in the future - just like Physics engines like Havoc became mighty popular, having an engine that'd somehow deal with that shit and that could be implemented into various other engines while not losing a ton of performance would be great. But right now, all of the open world games are filled with puppets, mindless idiots instead of something that could fool me as human beings.

Fable 2 is another great example, cause it's a game that was just released. The population there just doesn't cut it. I'd rather center the game around one little town with 10 citizens that really could be believable rather than simulating a whole country with 500 citizens that are all stupid as shit.
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Post » Thu Apr 16, 2009 8:31 am

Fable 2 NPC's (villagers) are quite stupid. :)

Then what would be the smartest character you can see or meet now? Perhaps the (N)PC's in Sims 2? Or soldiers in Metal Gear Solid?
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Post » Thu Apr 16, 2009 9:40 am

All I ask is to make NPCs more than game tokens, I want them to invoke an emotion in the player.

An idle animation - a monster scratching its bum or farting or drilling its nose - would invoke a laugh and keep you entertaining as you progress, wondering what idle animations other types of monsters have.

That is just one example.
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Post » Thu Apr 16, 2009 10:18 am

[quote="Mipey":2zfwelh4]All I ask is to make NPCs more than game tokens, I want them to invoke an emotion in the player.

An idle animation - a monster scratching its bum or farting or drilling its nose - would invoke a laugh and keep you entertaining as you progress, wondering what idle animations other types of monsters have.

That is just one example.[/quote:2zfwelh4]

Precisely! This is what makes a lot of games more fun, than just NPC's doing nothing.
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Post » Fri Apr 17, 2009 9:28 am

This is something the people in the interactive fiction scene ("text adventures") scene have spent a lot of time worrying about. See some of their discussion here.

Farsimconcerned, a "good NPC" needs to:

[list=1:2c5v9aky][*:2c5v9aky]be implemented well. You as the game designer have to figure out what you need this NPC to do as a game element, and make it do exactly that. It doesn't really matter at this point how "simple" your NPC's role in the game is: there are legitimate uses for characters that function as locked doors, information dispensers or kill-on-touch platform enemies. The point is that you need to make sure they actually perform that function, because anything else means that your game is broken.[/*:2c5v9aky]
[*:2c5v9aky]be characterised well. This is a complex (and hard) matter of tweaking the art, animation, sound design and possibly writing if there's text interaction between PC and NPC. In a way, you have to become a director and actor in one, and make the NPC feel "right" and believable (within the game's setting), rather than, say, "the 50-hitpoint version of the generic monster". Mipey's point about "idle animations" has a lot to do with this issue, I think; but it needn't be limited to animation -- think e.g. No One Lives Forever and its H.A.R.M. grunts discussing which evil organization has the best health benefits. Consider the environment as well: Does your character have any believable in-game-world reason for hanging around where you put it?[/*:2c5v9aky]
[*:2c5v9aky]be overimplemented. Not an issue with the instakill monster, but if there's any real PC-NPC interaction you'll have to step back and look at it from a player's perspective (or get independent tester feedback). This is particularly important if the PC-NPC interaction is a puzzle that the player has to solve in order to make progress in the game: Apart from the "solution", i.e. the one interaction you've planned out as the "successful" one, what else could the player plausibly try? Implement a few specific "fun failure" responses for interactions that make sense but happen not to be the ones on your map for Successful Outcome. This greatly redcuces frustration in a player who gets sidetracked while trying to work out the "solution". On the other hand, no need to go overboard -- you don't really need to implement a response for the PC trying to wall-jump off the village elder. The player who tries that is already having fun :) [/*:2c5v9aky]
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