Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Making NPC Behaviors More Plausible

Earlier today I actually worked up a short hierarchy of internal characteristics which, if used to drive NPC behavior, could help NPCs seem more plausible:

  • Emotions - lizard-brain reactions to environmental stimuli
  • Perception - awareness of environmental features
  • Communication - ability to transmit state information or knowledge to other NPCs
  • Memory - awareness of previous encounters as positive or negative toward the NPC's plans
  • World-knowledge - understanding of thing-behavior and people-behavior in the world (as in Doug Lenat's Cyc project)
  • Planning - ability to propose actions to achieve low-level, immediate goals and high-level, long-term purpose
  • Self-reasoning - ability to effectively describe internal states and knowledge
It's not certain that giving NPCs these features would make a game more fun. It's not even clear that a gameworld populated with creatures whose behavior is more appropriate for their type (animal or NPC) would get us past the "uncanny valley" problem.

But it would, I think, lead to a very different gameworld than the kind we see in MMORPGs currently. Fully simulating intelligent actors and an adaptive ecosystem is probably a little too much to ask, but wouldn't MMORPG gameworlds be more interesting if we could move a little closer to those goals?

Do we really need another game where mobs are either invulnerable quest-dispensers or loot-bags existing only to be popped?

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