Ah, NPCs. They are such a staple in our MMOs that we not only take them for granted, but we can also ignore them. I always make an attempt to appreciate an MMO’s details, and NPCs are often some of most well-designed aspects of many of our favorite titles.
Some NPCs are ugly, some are hideous and cruel-looking. Others are funny or gross or disturbing to look at. And some are cute. No, not as in hubba, hubba, weirdo. As in adorable, d’aawwww, hee hee! That sort of cute. Here’s my top nine.
What about you? Do you have a favorite? Anyway, don’t blame me if your head pops when it is presented with so much cute. Fair warning.
“There is an area of Nagrand hidden high in the mountains and only reachable with flight, where someone named Challe runs a daycare center called 'Challe's Home For Little Tykes'. The daycare center can be found north of the Laughing Skull Ruins in a small valley in the mountain range.”
There is a small group of lalafells in Final Fantasy XIV who seem to spend all of their time going “muhahaha” and otherwise attempting to look evil. It doesn’t work, unless evil means super-cute. And why are they holding their hands out like that? Do evil people walk around like their looking for a towel to dry their hands on?
Pirate101 features orphaned kittens who are being forced to do work. They are featured in a quest called “Overworked Orphans” (as though there is some normal level of work orphaned kittens should be doing) and you will instantly hear that Sarah Mclachlan song when you see these Marleybone cuties.
The baby troll from RuneScape is so cute that you just want to smoosh him into the ground. I am not sure how much he has to eat to grow into a full sized troll, but I have a feeling that pacifier will not last long. You can feed it and name it and get your own in the “Challenges” section of the Paths system.
If you ever wondered what would happen if developers gave an NPC dog-like, realistic behaviors (included sniffing and investigating strangers and even peeing on them) then look no further than Ryzom’s common Yubo. You can kill ‘em, skin ‘em or even shoot ‘em with magic zaps, but you cannot deny their powers of adorabilitiness.
The Asura in Guild Wars 2 are an obvious choice for a list of cute NPCs, but if you come across one of the Asura younglings… well, you’d know why I specified them instead of their parents. These kids are cute, sassy and smart but also a little scary. They sort of remind me of the troll from Cat’s Eye, which was damn cute as well.
The yeti in MapleStory, the kadrillion-player hit from Nexon, are sort of sad looking monsters that just make you want to hug them if you weren’t so busy attacking them. Why do they have a little horn on their head? Why? Who cares, it’s adorbs.
I was running around Trove, Trion’s awesomely fun open-world voxel adventure title, when I realized that the entire world I was in was cute. I decided then and there to get a long-term player to give me some advice and within minutes I was standing next to the “cutest thing in Trove.” That’s right, that’s a Corgi mount. As in dog. As in made of voxels. Holy crap.
Why have I never come across Kit Brinny from WildStar? Probably because I have only played the game for several hours through beta and a free weekend (and really want to get back into it!) but when I saw Kit in a series of videos on YouTube I was reminded about just how much incredible work the team did on the game. Kit is in game as well, but her true calling comes from telling viewers about the game on the popular video-sharing site. She makes me think of a Disney princess who finally broke out of her sexist trope of an existence to pursue a career in galactic ass-kicking. And, yes, she’s super cute.
To be serious for a moment, “cute” can be so hard to pull off, especially in a genre that is often populated with “serious” or “hardcore” gamers. Cute can sometimes feel silly or even juvenile. So, how does a designer get past the problems that cute often presents? In my experience, a good design can make players forget about the fact that what they’re seeing is goofy or silly. A well-designed, polished character is never just kiddie fluff; it’s art.
I hope the examples I gave you encourage you to check them out in their respective games. Yes, your head will explode from the cute, but then you’ll be happy you made the effort.
See you next week.