Motivated characters

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Dave Donat

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Nov 20, 1990, 6:53:09 PM11/20/90
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I have just begun to start perusing Brenda Laurel's "Toward the Design of a
Computer-Based Fantasy System" thesis. I have not read everything, and I kinda
started in the middle, and it got me to thinking.

When we speak of plot generation/creating a (hopefully interesting) story from
scratch, I have gotten the following idea. I am not exactly sure whether this
is precisely what she is saying at one point, or whether I have made this up to
an extent, but I think it bears discussion.

"All you need to make a good characters are a set of characters with
goals/motivations, and the means for them to achieve those goals"

Basically, this means that if you have a bunch of characters who want to do
something, and they know how to do it, then having them do it will make a
decent story-line. The story will be interactive if these goals happen to have
to do with the player-character. Now, of course, you can put more objects in
the scenario (these add either more means to the characters' ends, or they can
be obstacle's the character's will need to plan to overcome), and the more
interesting you make the goals, the better. Does this sound like a healthy
basis from which to proceed? It does seem to tie in with my long-running
theory that:

"What is wrong with adventure games today is that the NPC's are boring"

It seems to me that this is because they really should be central to the
plotline, but they very rarely are. Usually your player is just wandering
around the universe by himself.

What do y'all think?


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Fuzzy Fox

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Nov 21, 1990, 1:30:17 AM11/21/90
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In article <1990Nov20.2...@cec1.wustl.edu> d...@cec2.wustl.edu (Dave Donat) writes:
>Basically, this means that if you have a bunch of characters who want to do
>something, and they know how to do it, then having them do it will make a
>decent story-line. The story will be interactive if these goals happen to have
>to do with the player-character. Now, of course, you can put more objects in
>the scenario (these add either more means to the characters' ends, or they can
>be obstacle's the character's will need to plan to overcome), and the more
>interesting you make the goals, the better. Does this sound like a healthy
>basis from which to proceed?

Yes, it definitely sounds like an approach to adventure game design that
has not been heavily explored before. It seems to me that the skill
level of the game could be varied by selectively adding or subtracting
the different means that would allow characters to achieve their goals.
Example: A man needs money to save his farm from the evil IRS agents.
He can get money by finding treasure in various places, but he needs the
player character's help to get to these treasures, and if some of them
are removed, the game is made harder for the player to locate the
remaining ones.

Characters with wants/goals/desires of their own are not prevalent in
current games, and in fact they are usually tied to only one or two
segments of the game. A possible exception might be Floyd the Droid
from Infocom's "Planetfall."

>It does seem to tie in with my long-running theory that:
>
>"What is wrong with adventure games today is that the NPC's are boring"
>

Undoubtedly.

Stephen M. Smith

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Nov 25, 1990, 3:57:15 PM11/25/90
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Dave Donat writes:
>
>"What is wrong with adventure games today is that the NPC's are boring"
>
>It seems to me that this is because they really should be central to the
>plotline, but they very rarely are. Usually your player is just wandering
>around the universe by himself.

There was much discussion on this subject in comp.sys.mac.games a
couple weeks ago. The trouble with enhancing NPC's is that things
get complicated real fast. Do you have them performing actions
when you are elsewhere? Are they limited to only a certain sphere
of actions or only a limited geographical area? Does the DM (computer
or human) keep track of their accomplishments and shifting motivations
based on what you are doing and where you are? It sounds to me
like we need some type of AI here.

One might simply control the NPC's by fixed time intervals. For
example, Mr. X will be the same for every player whose characters
first meet him. After that point he changes (statistically,
geographically, motivationally, etc.) each week times x (random
number) that the time in the game passes. Ms. Y would also be
the same for anyone playing this game the first time you meet her,
but she also changes in some way over time. This way the game
is different for each person playing it since they would meet the
various NPC's at different times, which in turn would set the play
of the game differently for each player. And it would (or should)
never feel "contrived" or "fixed" since the player had no idea
that the NPC's weren't changing *before* the characters met them.

You could even have NPC's interconnected with each other or with
other events. Scenario:

You walk along a road and meet Mr. X. He tells you that he is
coming from a fair that he attended in a nearby town the previous
day. [this would then automatically set the events in that town
to be "post fair" time] Mr. X then tells you that he is going
to such and such a town and that if they ever need a place to
stay there to drop in. [computer sets time for Mr. X to arrive
home the next day, and to be there for the next 6 months or so
until his house is burnt down/he is killed/he moves away/he finds
treasure--anything you want]

********or you could do it this way*********

You walk into a town and find that you just missed the local fair
by one day. Someone in the town tells you about Mr. X and that
he has object Y or info Z and that he left the day before to return
to his house in another town.


Of course this is very simplistic--you could make things a lot
more involved by including possible branching of the subplots
based upon who you met when and how you treated people.

Anybody else have suggestions for better NPC interaction?

S. "Stevie" Smith \ + /
<smsmith@hpuxa. \+++++/ " #*&<-[89s]*(k#$@-_=//a2$]'+=.(2_&*%>,,@
ircc.ohio-state. \ + / {7%*@,..":27g)-=,#*:.#,/6&1*.4-,l@#9:-) "
edu> \ + /
BTW, WYSInaWYG \ + / --witty.saying.ARC

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