Moo Tang Clan: Shaping community behaviour via NPC interactions

Friday, January 15, 2010

Shaping community behaviour via NPC interactions

There have been multiple games where a quest-giving NPC is interacted with via a dialog tree. It would be a safe bet that virtually all of them presented fully immersive RP dialog options. If only the devs put in a dialog option for what the player is really thinking ("Yo! Quest .. gimme now! And skip the life story twaddle!") ... of course many players would choose it, especially if it did skip an interaction step or two.

Let them do that a few times, and then have the NPC offer only measly rewards to quests, or give false information, or send you on a quest which is much more dangerous than apparent .. that is, have the NPC learn from these interactions and treat these jerks as, well, jerks.

If the player wants better quests and better rewards they'd soon enough learn that the jerk-option is non-optimal. When you come down to it, the actual dialog in the options is as irrelevant to the NPC as it is to the player - the player is simply choosing option J over option A, B, or C.

Now ... what might be the knock-on effect in the rest of the game, especially with the player's interactions with other players? Will they take out their frustrated meanness and jerkwadness by being jerks to other players, or will the "be nice = optimum route to loot" lesson be unconsciously ingrained and applied onto other players? Will players, when confronted with jerk behaviour, model their response on how the game treats such behaviour (ie. disdainfully unforgiving) - if NPCs punish players for being jerks, is this not permission for players to punish jerks too?

1 comment:

Glyph, the Architect said...

I'd had an idea similar to this, i.e. "Have an option where you can say 'Get down to business. Where do I go and what do I do?' ", but it occurred to me that some players should be allowed to be jerks. I had the idea that this option would cause different NPCs to react differently. The wise old magister, like Deckard Cain would want you to stay a while and listen and become fairly angry when you told him to piss off. On the other hand, the Haggard old military general would regard such as a request with respect. "You like to get straight to business. I like that. Here's the mission:"

Of course, any given tree would have different questions which would come up at different times, and how players interacted with the choices would determine what information the players were given and what rewards were given out for the quest. Deckard Cain might give you outright wrong information ("the monsters are weak against poison", while the monsters turn out to be made out of pure poison and thus immune.) while the Old General would say "Here's a box containing unlimited Poison Neutralization grenades. Good luck!"

My point being that I do think that the NPCs reacting differently can be used to mold player behavior, but I think it can have more uses than just that. It can be used to orchestrate a more living story in which players are actually involved instead of just the usual follow the bread crumbs to max level style that most games do now. They can be used to instigate PvP style rivalries in which instead of having to fight NPC villains, the player could fight a player villain who has been molded to take that role.