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It's Always Personal

Agree or disagree if you will, but regardless of your choice, it's always personal!

Author: 56KModem

NPCs and Things

Posted by 56KModem Friday February 1 2008 at 10:11AM
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Greetings, and welcome to my blog. Last time, I seemed to hit a little close to home with my ideas; however, this time around I may be able to provide a slightly different outlook. I will be discussing the nature and the behavior of the “bad” NPCs in video games. I will start by analyzing the three genres where the NPCs may need improvement and what I think such an improvement should be. As many of you have found out, read my blogs with a pinch of salt. Today the targets shall be: First Person Shooter (FPS), Massive Multiplayer Online Role Playing  Game (MMORPG), and lastly Sports. I understand that this is an MMORPG site; however, I think that to create a good game of such genre, one must understand that in many instances, NPCs should work the same way.
FPS titles are to this date, home to some of the most unorganized and stupid artificial intelligence (AI) maps known to mankind. The enemies seem to literally be uncoordinated and not care about anything relating to anything but directly them. Examples include such things as: “Two soldiers are walking; one gets shot and killed. The other continues walking uninterrupted.” There have been many games that improve on the AI of FPS over the years, but generally speaking, they are still just about as clumsy as ever. I personally think that the NPCs in this genre should be just as what they would seemingly be in real life. Terrorists should go crazy trying to shoot everywhere and hopefully hit the sniper that just killed his friend. Enemy snipers should be well hidden just as though they were players. The smarter the game AI gets, the harder it is to win; therefore, in coalition with the above examples, I think that the difficulty settings should change the intellect of the enemy not the physical statistics.
MMORPG titles tend to introduce the monotony to the lives of the AI. Not only are they bound to wonder around aimlessly, but they cannot attack even though they are seemingly only a few feet away. Such a design of NPCs is fairly well done due to the simplicity of finding them for players. If every kobold knew that some warrior will come by and kill him to collect his whiskers, then the entire clan would hide or run. The main thing that I would like to see happen to the AI in MMORPGs is more teamwork and if that means increase the power of the players, then be it. If an enemy is “pulled”, such an enemy can bring his entire surroundings with him. In many instances, (Murlocks) that would be very bad for the player; however, if such players were stronger and would fight the enemies, the victory would go a lot higher. In the MMORPG genre, scripted events can make certain enemies seem to be much more intelligent then they actually are. I am talking about normal “mobs” in the middle of nowhere using some of their own tactics to take down an adventurer. I believe that both sides of the conflict should be given a chance; nevertheless, the player should have at least a slight advantage in order to come out on top.
Sports titles seem to have a fairly descent AI. The main reason for this is due to the fact that the goals are so simple and repeatable. In a racing game, the pursuit to the finish line is the only thing in mind of the enemy racer. The paths are scripted and determined with the NPC not being able to deter from such fate. Some sports titles have strategy involved, while others have reflexes and quick analysis. In the end, the enemy is determined to win no matter the costs. The AI in these instances could be modified to allow some random factor. Exactly how far is an enemy going to go to try to win? The players should be able to find that out first hand. All are things to consider while creating sports NPC are equally important as any other genre. A lot of developers seem to forget that.
The above are some of the things that I see how they are now. Also I would love to see the next top MMORPG of my choice feature some of the characteristics of the NPCs that make them distinguishable and challenging. AI should be the character that is played by a computer, not a dumb terminal (my puns suck). There is a line that has to be drawn as well when it comes to the actual intellect and scripting that goes into the game. The players are always number one and should be kept that way in all hierarchies of power in relation to the environment. If done correctly, the enemies will apply tactics, attempt to flank the opponent, and otherwise try their hardest to win; however, the hero being heroic and all should be able to dispatch of them all and get a great feeling of satisfaction out of conquering an enemy that actually “tried” to kill him. A smart enemy conquered is much better than dominating an idiot, just as long as there is the ability to accomplish such tasks. From the technical point, I believe that there are not that many limitations. The scripts and codes will all equal out to more space used on the hard drive or CD. Current technologies should have no problem supporting something that is so trivial.
I know that this topic has been brought up many times in the past. I apologize for the repetition, but I think that I am shining a different light on things. Stating my opinion in a slightly different way is what I love to do.  I believe that many may agree on this, “Nothing worth while is easy.”
Discuss if interested.

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