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Article - 'Combating NPC-Fakosis' by Mateui

An item about Game Design posted on Aug 8, 2003

Blurb

A great article on making NPCs in your games more lively like

Body

“Hello. I just love walking beside this river!.”

Haven’t we all heard something like this in other RPGs? Yes, fake-sounding NPCs are a plague that are invading many games. Hopefully this article will stop this disease dead in its tracks.

What disease? You may ask. Being widespread as it is, I have decided to give it a name: “NPC-Fakosis.” The definition? The problem of fake NPCs. In any way possible, either in appearance, manner of speaking, or in activity.

Now that we all have the problem in our mind, it is safe to assume that we would want a cure to this.

Let us begin.


Appearance:

Appearance is important as it is the first impression of a particular NPC. In what way? Let’s do an activity, and you will see by yourself.

I will give you a description of two different NPCs. You will have to think, or envision on what type of people they are just by the appearance of their clothes.

NPC1:
He wears a raggy old sack-cloth shirt and some dirty brown stained pants. He has messed up hair, and is overall dirty in appearance.

NPC2:
She is wearing a bright green shirt with buttons, along with a matching green dress. Around her neck is a gold necklace, and her hair is proper and neatly combed.

Ok. What impressions did you gather about those 2 NPCs? What kind of lifestyle do you think they lead?


The Answers:

NPC1: You should have the impression that this NPC is a poor man because of his rugged clothes.

NPC2: The impression this time is that this woman is well better of financially than NPC1. She is most likely to of noble birth, or an adequately rich middle-class person.

Hasn’t this exercise taught you the importance of NPC appearance? Just by looking at someone in an RPG, you should probably be able to guess correctly on what type of person they are without even speaking to them! That is, unless the maker of the game had acquired NPC-Fakosis.

The end of this section leads up to our next point...


Activity & Movement:

“The NPC walked back and forth aimlessly throughout the entire game.”

If you haven’t seen this, then you must have not played enough amateur RPG games. In many of them the NPC just walks up and down, up and down, up and down...

How Boring!

Let us suggest that each of us would be to become an NPC. How would you walk and act? Would you walk up and down, back and forth, like many real NPCs in games? Surely, you wouldn’t. This activity is not closely related to human algorithms. (Unless someone is pacing back and forth because they are thinking about a problem that they must solve.)

A good example of NPC activity, or algorithm, is found in Final Fanatasy IX. If you played it, do you remember Alexandria? How did the children there behave? How did the old men behave?

Age factors into NPC activity a lot. Children and Adults are different in many ways. In manner of speaking, acting, behaving and in manner of maturity.

So how did the Alexandrian children walk? Walk? They didn’t! They ran! What was so smart about their algorithms was that they would run around the whole city, going from screen to screen, chasing after one another.

What about the old men? One of them would also walk around the town, but what was special about him was that he would walk much more slowly, giving evidence of his old age.

Do you know have ideas on how to make your NPCs act more humanlike? You do? Good. If not, then I will provide you with some. You can find them below.

-The kids running through the whole town.
(You can achieve this with the use of variables or switches on 2 or more maps.)

-People sitting on park benches
(Easy, no movement required.)

-People playing sports
(Requires simultaneous movement. Must be timed very well to achieve a good look.)

-And anything else that a normal human would do.

Let’s go on to our last section.


Manner of Speaking:

“And I was like, whatever!”

Speech. We all have it, and we all use it. (Well, I would hope so.) Our speech is also another factor that determines how others may view us, and will give us detail into the upbringing and roots of an NPC. Linguistics is the study of speech behavior, and it would be really advisable to study it a little to give you a more professional game. It is too broad of a subject to cover in just one article, maybe another time.

What I will teach you though is ways to give an NPC a more human sounding voice through the use of an activity.

Tell me what kind of people these NPCs are after listening to them talk.

NPC 1:

“I ain’t gonna do what you says! Yous just gotta get out of me trailer! Ye hear?!”

NPC 2:

“Oh, I am must be pardoned for my inexcusable behavior. Well you sincerely forgive me?

NPC 3:

“Oh, ok,... I’ll go now.”


Let’s go check your answers.

NPC 1: Most likely you should have the impression that they are a country folk, living in a trailer.
NPC 2: A very educated NPC.
NPC 3: A shy, agreeing to everyone, NPC.

Basically, to create a well done NPC voice, you must have experience with a variety of different people. After you do, you can just use their way of speaking and implement that into an NPC.


The Conclusion:

Well, my work is done for today. I hope my diagnosis and treatment have helped you to cure NPC-Fakosis. If it did, then I am pleased, and I believe that my work was not in vain. If I didn’t help you, well, then you can just go to...

*BEEP* (Portions of this text were edited because of inappropriate material and language.)

Just kidding! Farewell!