Thursday, May 4, 2006

Toward More Plausible Mob Behavior

For me, changing the appearance of mobs isn't enough to give me the perception of a well-realized animal ecosystem in a game world. For whatever reason, the appearance of a thing is less interesting to me than the behavior of that thing. Sure, I prefer pretty over ugly; it's just not what matters most to me.

So I don't get too excited by the occasional developer suggestion for changing the appearance of a mob (whether a creature or an NPC) based on that mob's age. It would be a minor addition to the worldiness of the game, so I wouldn't object to it, but it wouldn't excite me.

What would excite me would be if the behavior of a mob changed according to the maturity of an individual mob, the normal intelligence level for that type of mob, and the environmental conditions.

Assuming a world with Juvenile, Mature, and Aged versions of a mob, it's fun to imagine them displaying different behaviors in different circumstances. Maybe something like:

Juvenileplayrun to parentdefendescape
Juvenileinvestigateattackrun to parentescape
Juvenileplayinvestigaterun to parentescape

(Note that this is primarily for combat interactions. For other kinds of activities, semi-intelligent and intelligent mobs -- NPCs -- would have other tables for generating other kinds of reactions in other situations.)

If distinctive behaviors like these were implemented (especially with a little bit of randomness, and with the ability for members of groups to signal their states to each other), the game world would feel vastly more dynamic.

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