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Article - 'NPC`s' by Logan

An item about Plots/Characters posted on Jan 14, 2004

Blurb

An article concerning efficient application of non-player characters to enrich your game world.

Body

Hey hey! Logan here. I’m bored as hell, watching Paradise Hotel on Fox, (Sigh, I’ve sunk so low) so I decided to try my hand at another article. This has gotta be around my tenth article, and I hope they improve with every edition. Now, onto the meaningless crap!

It was the best of times; it was the worst of times. The point of that sentence? Read the article and somewhere in there it’ll explain it, along with the meaning of life. Huzzah.

Some people may not know what an NPC is. Though this is probably rare, perhaps only 10 people out of the ten thousand at GW won’t know, but I still will explain it. NPC is short for Non-Playable Character, and this usually refers to the random townspeople, the villains, and anyone else in the game that doesn’t join the hero’s party at some point.

Non-Playable Characters, or NPCs, are often used to paint a more vivid portrait of the world the characters inhabit, or relay information, or simply brighten the mood with humorous anecdotes. Nonetheless, they are a very important aspect in every RPG. There is not a successful RPG out there that does not make use of NPCs.

Just because NPCs do not join the hero’s party does no mean they must be bland and lifeless. Character development is not restricted to PCs, (Playable Characters) and though it may happen on a smaller scale, it should be present in every NPC you create.

Personally, I use NPCs to describe the world the game is set in. They can complain about the terrible economy of the city they live in, congratulate the King on the Princess’s marriage, etc. This really helps the game seem more realistic. Not all NPCs must leak information. However, this often-useful way of describing the world can be overdone, and underdone. An example of ‘overdone’ would have to be Phylomortis 2. The NPCs of that game were numerous, but they all talked exactly the same. They went on for four or five dialogue boxes (at least) about the world. I’m not trying to bash Phylo 2; in fact I liked that game, but the NPCs were bland. An example of ‘underdone’ would have to be my new game the Simians (patent pending). We used almost no NPCs, and when we did, they were useless people that existed for nothing more than to say funny things.

NPCs are also a popular source for information. For now, never mind how they got the information, just go with it. You don’t want to make NPCs seem too intelligent about the location of billions of dollars, because then they’d want to go get it themselves, wouldn’t they? Anyway, try doing something like ‘I’ll bet that old legend of treasure on the mountain is false.’ You, the player, know it has to be true, but it lets you know the location of the treasure discreetly. NPCs are used for information in almost every RPG, because if they don’t tell you where to go, who will? JESUS? What’s he done for me lately? They can reveal the location of your next quest, a secret item, the King’s stash, anything. Experiment. (Not with drugs, kiddies. Stay in school.)

Then there’s the ever-popular Joker NPC. Take the Simians for example. The NPCs there exist only for your entertainment. Not a bad use for an NPC, I’d say. Not nearly as common as the two types listed above, but still a worthy addition to any game. Not much can be said here.

NPCs must have personality to really come to life and fool the player into thinking that it’s a real person. Well, not so much, as real people aren’t 32 pixels high and 256 colors, but you know what I mean. My mind drifts back to the game Grandia. The NPCs in that game were sensational. They talked like real people but retained their NPC-ish charm. The best part had to be that the heroes interacted BACK, though. You can’t beat a real conversation. Face it, how many times have you walked up to someone on the street, initiated a conversation, listened to what they had to say, and simply walked away? If this situation ever arose, which it probably shouldn’t, (never talk to strangers =P) you still wouldn’t just walk away after they finished what they said.

Like I said before, NPCs mustn’t be as bland as the tree they’re walking near! If they just say ‘Hello.’ What is the point in them being there at all? In my opinion, the author just wasted his time creating the NPC, and the player for talking to them. How is a person saying ‘Hello’ going to help with the plot movement? No, seriously. I want to know. If it’s possible, why am I wasting time making good NPCs?

I mentioned above about character development on a smaller scale with NPCs. Think of each NPC interaction event as a major storyline event that would happen between party members. Of course, don’t put that much effort into it, but consider that event as something like it. Now, develop that NPC’s personality. Is it a man, a woman, a child? A peasant, a farmer, a royal knight? Each of these people would speak differently, so they would interact with the hero differently. Giving NPCs random names helps this.

Another thing I personally like, though it takes hundreds of variables and switches, would be to have each NPC have something like a tolerance meter. You can’t actually see it, but if you talk to the NPC enough times, you begin to bother them, and they react differently. On the other hand, if you flatter them, they may even give you a present. This requires a lot of time spent coding, but it is time well spent. Or, as Comedy Central likes to put it, ‘time well wasted’.

Well, I think that’s all I have to say about that… At least, for now. If I think of any more to add to this article, I may make a Part 2 to it, but as of now, this is all. Also, I realize that the statement I made at the beginning of this article hasn’t been explained yet, nor will it. Also, the meaning of life is not contained within this article. But stay tuned for my next article: the Meaning of Life!

Well, this is the Master Ape signing off – Oh wait, I mean this is Logan signing off. (Help! He keeps me locked in the basement, writing articles all day long, and then he puts his name on them and calls them his own! I need to eat some time, help me!)

Until next time, this is Logan saying ‘The bravest guy ever has to have been the guy that decided to eat an egg’ for some reason. G’Night!