Gw Temp

Menu

Tutorial - 'Npc's 101' by Marcus

An item about General posted on

Blurb

Bakusan's basic but very good tutorial on how to create good NPCs for your game.

Body

While they are not generally the most important characters in a story, the NPC is the bread and butter that keeps a game going. Normally neglected, many designers, even professional developers, seem to not realize the overall potential of the NPC. While they may not hold a story together, they are what hold a world together. Because without people, the world is just... empty.

For those who don't know yet, NPC stands for non-player character. But just because you don't play as them, does not mean they are not important. My biggest complaint with npc's is that people don't know how to give them depth. They are not just walking signposts for you to gather useless information from; they should be living, breathing people in your digital world. In this tutorial I will explain the most common forms of npc's and how to improve them in your game.

All npc's fall into two categories; the townsperson, and the VIP.

Townsperson: they don't always have to be in a civilization, but the townsperson is just a npc that does nothing but live. They walk around in their environment, they enjoy life, and they provide information to the player characters. Remember that each npc has there own personality, but more important is there reactions to the situation. A townsperson is not going to talk to the player character for no reason. Are you going to talk to a perfect stranger if he just pops out of nowhere and asks where to find the evil crystal of doom? Probably not. You must also realize Npc's are not going to take kindly to someone who walks into his or her house uninvited. Would you like it if someone barged into your house and cleaned out your treasure box? Probably not.

Reactions: as I stated earlier, npc's react to a situation in four general ways; Surprised, Interested, Afraid (scared), Angered, or Happy. Use these in combination with the events that are happening around your game to form the base conversation for the npc. If the world is going to blow up, some npc's might be angered at there deity or something, or some might be surprised or afraid. Use your imagination to create several good topics for your npc's to talk about.

Conversations and ways of living: Don't make pointless one-liners. The point of the npc is to increase the believability of your world. Have npc's be the center of knowledge outside your story. Make them hint at legends or secret items. In fact, one way you could make your game is to have the npc's be the glue that holds your story together. For those that played Xenosaga, you should know that speaking to the npc's is vital for understanding the information about your surroundings. Don't just have a npc speak the same thing over and over again; use switches to change the topic. I have not seen a game yet that has used all of the switches provided to them (over 30,000 I know that) so don't be afraid to use an extra switch or variable to create a string of random topics. This is what gets most people interested, knowing that your game has more to its world than what they can find on a set path.

Another thing involved with npc's is how they live. Don't just make them wander around aimlessly in a village, give them a path to follow. Make them walk around, admire the landscape, enter buildings, and just stand still and watch the sky. Even if you don't plan on making extra poses for your sprites, just having the npc's enter buildings is enough to add to the realism of your world. Use your imagination of course, but don't forget the power of the thousands of switches you are given. Using switches won't slow the game down, remember that.

Now to end the townsfolk portion, I will give a few mock conversations with a npc and the npc's reaction type.

Setting: the world is about to be destroyed by a giant meteor

Npc Surprised: "could it really end like this! All the holy said that it would end in flood but I never expected something like this."

Npc angered: "I blame the city officials for this. If they can send a probe to Uranus I'm sure they can nuke that thing."

Npc scared: "I had so much to live for, I can't die like this!"

Npc happy: "In some ways I'm glad the world will be destroyed. Cleansed, I would call it. My god will take into paradise and I will enjoy my after life while this sinners will burn in hell."

Npc interested: "yes, its just like my cult preaches. One will rise into the meteor and embrace its power and become the supreme ruler of the planet."

Setting: the hero has just freed a town from a group of marauding bandits..

Npc angered: "Oh nice job rescuing us. You destroyed half my house in the process!"

Npc scared: "you may have drove them off, but what if they come back?"

Npc interested: "Hmmm, I'm certain if I sold products with your face on it I could make some real money."

Npc Happy: "well, now that they are gone we can finally get back to our lives. I thank your warrior, and I'm sure the rest of the town appreciates your deed."

Npc Surprised: "Well that was fast! First I remembered being a slave to those pigs, now I'm going to have to be a slave to the government!"

As you can see, you can easily turn a npc into an interesting, living character by simply following the reaction rules. But please, don't be bound by these simple rulings. As I have said earlier, USE YOUR IMAGINATION, because like Einstein once said "Imagination is more important than knowledge."

VIP: the VIP, or very important person, is a npc that does not need much coverage but I felt as if it should have been mentioned. The VIP is the glue that holds the story together (the townsperson is the glue that holds the world together, don't mix them up). These are the people who play a role almost (and probably more) as big as the main characters. They are the guys in the background who dictate where the player characters goes or what they do or seek.

When making a VIP, give them a backstory and a reason to do what they do. A common VIP is a city official or a powerful person who knows his/her way around the world. The only REAL tips I can give you on these guys are to make them like you would your main characters. They have their own personalities but don't forget about there reactions (because reactions can apply to any character). I wish I could provide more help on their persona, but it's a real matter of trial and error. Make what seems right to you.

I hope you enjoyed this somewhat long tutorial and I hope that you can improve the npc's in your game. Remember that the npc is what holds the world together (and sometimes story) together, and without them, your world would be void of life.