Sunday, April 22, 2007

The Role of Non-Player Characters

Friendly NPCs in MMORPGs nowadays are usually one of two things: either they're super-humans who send the player on quests they can't be bothered to complete themselves, or, more commonly, they're there to perform repetitive tasks that explicitly serve the players.

The problem with that is that NPCs don't have a purpose, a reason for doing what they do. That NPC vendor will buy any crap you send their way, no matter how useless it might be, and with only indication of price the level of the creature which dropped it. That is wrong on many, many levels.

Non-player characters should have their own purpose, which serves their own interest. They will not buy items that the players don't want, because they can only do what players can do.
NPC vendors should not be used as trash cans for players to dump their unwanted loot to. They don't need bear gallbladder. They need iron, wood, cloth, sugar and herbs, for which they will compete with the players. Should players run NPCs out of business, they will attempt to start over again, perhaps in another city, or they might offer their services for more menial tasks (Such as vendors for lazy players).

NPCs should follow the same rules that dictate the actions of players; they should have the same skill system, stats, equipment, and be governed by the same rules that govern players; NPCs simply don't pay monthly fees, so they don't mind being used for menial tasks.

When that mentality of NPCs-like-players is achieved, we can see a MMORPG that achieves a reasonable amount of immersiveness.

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