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Reader Comments (21)

Posted: Mar 10th 2011 1:21PM Stuxatte said

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This is one of the funniest columns I've ever read on here. Particularly the part about "the lovers." Bravo!

Speaking of NPCs not moving around... I've noticed that in Rift, the NPCs actually exhibit signs of life if you just watch them. Some of them will walk around, stop to chat with each other, check inside a tent or behind a box, light a torch when it gets dark, et cetera. Made me smile!

Posted: Mar 11th 2011 6:24AM Shadowhawke said

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@Stuxatte "I've noticed that in Rift, the NPCs actually exhibit signs of life if you just watch them."


Some older games do subtle things as well. In Star Wars Galaxies, NPC's will 'become aware' of your attention and turn to face you when targeted. In City of Heroes I've learned to 'brush' hostile mobs with my cursor to get a con; not target them directly. Doing so will often get them to react by moving about, potentially spoiling my intended attack.
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Posted: Mar 10th 2011 1:24PM ScottishViking said

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EVE online has some unusual relationships with their NPCs. Their agents, for example, have particular and changing attitudes towards you depending on how much work you do for them and how often you refuse (or fail) their missions. But the more interesting question, and one which Hjalti Danielsson attempted (not very well in my opinion) to answer in his novel The Burning Life, is, what about all those people who the agents contract you to kill? An average ship you kill -- say, a cruiser -- could have over 100 people on board. An average mission might have you killing 10 of those ships (among others). It's the old Death Star chestnut: what about all the janitors and independent contractors working on its construction? What are the repercussions for your actions? The average EVE pilot doesn't consider themselves a mass-murderer, but over a few hours of missioning, you can easily rack up tens of thousands of deaths on your hands. Every time you undock your ship, in essence, you are party to war crimes.

Posted: Mar 10th 2011 2:04PM Xilmar said

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@ScottishViking

it's war, it's space, it's dark. lorewise capsuleers are expected to do missions for an agent for standings (and LP-loyality points) and ISK. the whole idea is that you don't do it because youre good...you do it because you want standings, isk or loot. that's why you can do missions for any faction, any group, almost any anything NPC. it's basically kill or be killed.

But now that you mentioned EVE, that game has some of the most awesome quests texts ever written. you probably need to like space/scifi/whatever to be into, but some are just amazing. usually start reading them about 4 hours in the missioning session and it's so worth it.

idk if you realized, but you get changing text even when decline missions (drone missions for me)
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Posted: Mar 10th 2011 2:14PM ScottishViking said

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@Xilmar Oh I'm aware of how amoral the NPC and agent world is. I just find the raw SCALE of the amorality interesting. How many innocents can a 3-year old pilot assumed to have killed? Millions and millions.
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Posted: Mar 10th 2011 1:25PM Space Cobra said

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You forgot "the lazy".

"The one that sits/stands 50 feet from a cave/castle/condo with a broken foot/arm/toenail and pleads with you to go inside and retrieve something for them. Many times it is a personal item they lost, sometimes it is alive, sometimes they are fooling you (as you discover later on in the quest chain.)

These could be anyone, not just adventurers, but farm workers from another country or other types.

Posted: Mar 10th 2011 1:53PM Xilmar said

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"Take out my garbage... that's, er, 500 XP!" kinda reminds me of going back home to visit my mom :-s...

Anyway, npcs could very well be replaced with "wanted" boards...have a light close to it, a few birds, some other insects, maybe a parrot or an owl or something sit on top of it, a gun in one corner and a rainbow in the other, and it's just as well. Colour, light, movement, XP, that's as much and even more than the average games expects or wants from a generic quest giver.

But seriously, it's the gamers that made it so. who reads at least 75% of the quest texts in any MMO? might as well be no one. because like the retired bum knows, XP and maybe an item or some coins matter, and that's it. People don't care why Mary wants you to kill 10 puppies and bring some bits back to her. I actually found myself thinking "common love, there are 6 other people waiting to give me XP for doing chores, don't have all day to listen to you complain about some nonsense"

It's sad that the bartender NPC means little more than food/drinks and maybe some sort of rest. playing D&D, those are my favourite NPCs, coz they always have some insightful words, a funny story or a bit of information. but that happens only when NPCs have something important to say.

In what i consider the perfect MMO, there will be no highlights, no tl;dr, nothing. you would have to read a little bit of text and see what you have to do, and where you have to do it. That's the reason so many things are meaningless when you compare them to XP or loot...developers thinking that quantity>quality. Sure, it might make more money, but it makes the game shit. questing hubs with 10 quest givers, each with 5-10 quests...are you kidding me? the janitor from which company came up with that idea? coz it wasn't anyone who actually likes RPGs, i can tell you that

Posted: Mar 10th 2011 1:55PM Lenn said

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I would add The Questionable Cook as category. The one who sends you to get X of animal part Y.

The question "what does he do with all those parts?" answers the question "where does the supplier in this quest hub get all his food and beverages?"

Here's a nice article discussing the two-dimensionality (if that's a word) of NPCs: http://www.eldergame.com/2008/01/2d-is-state-of-the-art-for-npcs/

Posted: Mar 10th 2011 1:58PM Khorrax said

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That was a nice read, thank you.

Slightly unrelated, but what MMOs are the pictures 3 and 5 taken from? I identified the rest, so this is bugging me a bit :)

Posted: Mar 10th 2011 2:02PM Lenn said

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@Khorrax 3 looks Warhammerish. 5 is probably from Backpain Online.
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Posted: Mar 10th 2011 2:08PM Xilmar said

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@Khorrax

3 is from warhammer, in the emperor's palace in Altdorf. the dwarf in the background is where the flight master is.

5 has huge tits...all i have to contribute...
srsly, never played final fantasy, but for some reason that's where my mind takes me.
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Posted: Mar 10th 2011 2:25PM Khorrax said

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@Khorrax

Haha, thanks for both replies.
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Posted: Mar 10th 2011 2:08PM Suplyndmnd said

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The thing that I always found amusing in FFXI is that the shops would close after certain hours and take entire "days" off for holidays but alas, they NEVER left. Even when closed they stood there. It's like "You even come in on your day off but you still refuse to sell me things I desperately need. What's up with that?".

Or when you're waiting for a NM to pop (again, FFXI) you can just imagine he's down there watching you kill all the friends of his. His friends saying "GO! POP! He's going to kill us all!" and he's down there saying "Um, you know, i'll go in about 30 minutes" hoping we will give up.

Posted: Mar 10th 2011 2:15PM Magnux said

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Very nice! Ah NPC's without you the world would be so dull, some of you make me laugh, some make me cry, others make the monster in me come out and destroy hundreds or thousand of poor defenseless animals. I love thee so!

Posted: Mar 10th 2011 3:23PM Valdamar said

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Planetside had no NPCs at all - we didn't miss them ;)

Rift at least lets its NPCs walk around the camps they are in and occasionally sit down. Just having NPCs move about occasionally and not be totally static makes the world feel more alive than WoW/EQ. Some quest NPCs are rare and not always up - others you have to spawn by activating their ancient wardstone - others walk the same path, back and forth, so you have to travel the road to find them - it doesn't add any extra hassle but it does make the world feel a little less static than every other MMO of the last ten years. Though when you hit the cities it is still static NPCs everywhere, so ironically the wilderness outpost camps feel more busy and filled with life than the main city for each faction.

Posted: Mar 10th 2011 10:18PM Haldurson said

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Some of my favorite npcs are from Fallen Earth -- they are sometimes so entertaining that its fun to just stand around and listen to their banter. CoV had some interesting npcs as well, like the guy always bouncing around with his feet encased in cement.

Rift has some interesting npcs, but for the most part, they are pretty generic.

Posted: Mar 10th 2011 11:58PM Araxes said

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There is probably not a week of gaming that goes by when I don't stop and think to myself, at least once, "These people lead the MOST boring lives, ever."

Posted: Mar 11th 2011 4:55AM Marekh said

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I think that Vanguard, with its diplomacy sphere, really gave meaning to NPCs (and to bartenders, who played it knows what i mean). I think Vanguard diplomacy is a brilliant way to put lore in a game. It's deep, it's optional and it helps making the game world feel alive.

Posted: Mar 11th 2011 6:27AM Shadowhawke said

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Actually the funniest NPC's are probably in Star Wars Galaxies. They're indifferent to downright rude, basically telling you they aren't waiting for you and to go away. I think that's a direct reaction to tons of quest NPCs in EverQuest who tell you they're "waiting for someone else to arrive."

Posted: Mar 11th 2011 6:46AM Shadowhawke said

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I'm ROFL at #2. Hoarders: The NPC Edition. :P

"No sorry, you can just keep one rusty sword, a cracked staff and a shissar scale."

To be followed by Hoarders: Dragon Lairs.
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