The Impact of Killing NPC's

This topic came up in another thread created by Takeda_Shinukage, and I thought this subset of the discussion could use its own thread, based on the legitimate concerns it brings up. I am going to repost my original response:


I appreciate you taking the time for a detailed response - I always enjoy discussion with you. I may not always agree, but at least I can expect a thought out explanation.

The reason I listed the various "underlying issues" that have been generated in this discussion about "zerg prevention" is that I think, based on how this thread has meandered, is that the core issue at hand is not whether large gaming communities will have too much impact, or that "zerging" will be an issue, but rather that the impact of killing NPCs in a town, and that death is permanent for them, may be too harsh.

I don't believe community size, or "zerging" is the issue is because this (i.e killing all the NPCs in a town) does not necessarily need a large community to accomplish.

If it is a small settlement, this might be done with 10 players that know what they are doing. If it is a larger, or better protected settlement, it might take more.

This entire discussion about "zerging", supply lines, logistics, whether or not people will choose a "scorched earth" style of combat, the "reward for inequalities", etc. are all secondary to the core issue:

Should players be able to destroy a town - NPC's included?

This is a very complex issue (in my opinion), and almost warrants its own thread.

  • On one hand, it plays into the realism of the game. As Caspian has described it, he fully intends this to be a game of risk vs reward, with real consequences, and no guarantees in regards to lands/titles/possessions. In this light, being able to wipe out all the NPCs and burn a town to the ground makes sense.

  • On the flip side, as @Takeda has pointed out, it may be entirely too easy for zergs/suicide squads/trolls/griefers/strategic players/whatever you want to call them to accomplish. What if a dedicated team of 10 assassins simply decided to sneak into a down with the sole purpose of killing all the NPCs? You wouldn't even need to kill all of them. In an NPC heavy town, simply sneaking in and killing all the farmers in their sleep would be enough to cripple a town.

The questions lies in "how much is enough" to fulfill the overall vision of the game, without having the penalties be too harsh for those on the losing side.

Keep in mind, this type of warfare could actually impact the overall game as a whole.

What if all Kingdoms decided to wage this type of war?

Eventually, after a few months of specifically targeting NPCs, there won't be any NPCs left. What if a group specifically targeted women? Can't have kids with no women. Can't have heirs with no kids. Can't have new lives as a PC with no heirs.

This is an extreme example, and I doubt it would ever happen unless is was committed to on a large scale, but it COULD happen. Hell, there may be covert teams forming with the sole purpose of eliminating a town/county/duchy/kingdom's ability to have children.

"If we can't wipe them out, we'll breed them out".

So, despite semantics, @Takeda brings a very relevant issue to light.

How easy/viable/possible should it be to permanently kill NPCs?

  • Should only NPC soldiers have combat flags?

  • Should NPCs have "souls" similar to PCs with a respawn time?

  • Should NPC's only be able to be killed when an "official war" has been declared?

  • Should we just let the world burn and to hell with the fine print?

Head Archivist, Marovec V'Ralt - The Enclave - Chair of the Bardic Institute

8/11/2017 7:27:05 PM #1

Fair enough. You don't need a zerg or even large group to invoke the consequences of killing too many NPCs. You're right.

Currently with the designed ratios of 30/70 PC to NPC, NPCs will automatically hold a lot of a servers infrastructure initially. Along with the sheer imbalance in the ratio, it is safe to assume NPCs will likely be the ones that do the "boring but needed" jobs of the settlement over the flashy optional roles players might pick. Tactically, it seems like the most effective way to deal with a settlement is to kill off it's NPCs and presumably watch it's town fold in on itself after losing over half of it's population. Whether your a village, hamlet, town, city or capital. Losing the majority of your population imo will most likely cause collapse. This also largely circumnavigates the CB system. While you can't use this method to directly gain their title, you can get the other outcomes of the CB system with it as well as make it much easier to actually hold for 28 if you wanted to CB. Aside from CB, I don't think it's good game-play for a settlement leader to have his settlement basically erased because of a design flaw in NPCs. No one wants to invest 250+ and then lose their settlement because their NPCs got themselves killed.

I do think a group that can take on and CDG so many NPCs in a sitting should have some sort of reward for their skill and effort, however, to me that comes in the form of pillaging the town for resources and the shiny things you pick up to sell. You get the massive loot, the name branding, and the glory. The loot allows you to reinvest into your group and grow as a player or organization, the name branding allows member growth as well as additional mercenary opportunity and the glory is bread and butter to why people fight for fun. As a merc, the word of mouth fear mongering is key to your growth, although you need to balance it to make sure you aren't a target but an asset.

CB should be the method of razing a town or taking leadership, not using NPC vulnerability to force a "guaranteed" CB. To me personally, that is just exploitation of their mechanics and NOT something you should punish a player for by taking their settlement because the NPC design.

My solution would be to only enable one death NPC during a CB, the one time this method of taking out the infrastructure should preferably be used because of the hoops to acquire a CB, while still a deadly tactic this allows the defending settlement some counter-play around the CB and trying to stop them from achieving a CB. The only CB condition that a settlement leader has arguably no counter-play for is wealth but even then, this is where you can use intelligence gathering to keep track of wealth of your citizens and the people around you. If someone looks like they are bill gates living in your settlement, be on the alarm until you can clear suspicion.

To me, that provides equal opportunity for both sides to attack and defend, instead of the possibilities leaving NPCs all-time 1 death has.

Don't mistake passion and tenacity for toxicity and anger. If I want to hurt you, I will.

8/11/2017 7:44:56 PM #2

Short of making NPCs invulnerably to perma death and only allow them to be knocked out for extended periods of time.

I see no way to get around this easily exploitable mechanic.

So I agree, NPCs should use a spirit mechanic like players, and should I think; have a longer cool down between when deaths which cause spirit loss. (if player cooldown timer is 2 hours, then make NPCs 6-8)

Though I think they should also have a longer re spawn time.

say 2-4 times the amount time it takes the average PC to follow their cord back to their body.

i would say randomize it in that range, So one time you kill them it make take 2x the normal human time to re-spawn. but the next time that Ai experiences some bad luck on the rng and it takes 3.62578 longer than the player average before they can follow their cord back and re spawn \ revive.

maybe even make it longer like they take 6 IRL hours to respawn. (if 1 IRL week = 1 in game yr,and assuming in game year is also 365 days, then 6 IRL hours would correspond, to 2 weeks in game time aproximately)

using the comments about farmers, 2 weeks of in game time if done at the correct time could be the difference between a crop being planted or harvested at the correct time.

Which could still case major short term issues without potentially causing long term annihilation.

this still allows NPC killing to be a viable short term tactic, and doesn't completely remove the possibility of wiping them out completely Since they would still have a spirit bar for perma death.

but adds some safe guards to make it much much harder to do so. You would really have to put in conserted effort to kill the npcs over and over and over and over on the span of weeks to whittle down their spirit.

Also if you can't protect your npcs from dieing, they would likely pack up and move to somewhere safer based on what we know of how the AI will work.

So you could still empty a town of NPCs without actually lowering the total server population of available NPCS

they would just concentrate in to cities and\or maybe even form new towns that offer safer living conditions.

Just my .0125 cents

Alt text - can be left blank

8/11/2017 8:39:11 PM #3

How about the impact of taking out just one NPC if that NPC is the tavern owner, or the inn owner in a small town. Does that wipe out the starvation protection if nobody owns the tavern anymore?

The game quickly devolves into a game of who can kill the most NPCs to cripple their opponents if the NPC can't respawn, because the number of citizens you have is the most critical component of success.

8/11/2017 9:09:25 PM #4

All great points and feedback.

Another thought I had was that this could be an intentional mechanic to encourage players to form communities and gather together, as opposed to having hundreds of little despots ruling their NPC towns with reckless abandon.

Personally, this makes me nervous since, as a Magistrate pledge, I was hoping to have a small town with just me, 2 family members, and 2 or 3 friends of the family involved to begin with. Obviously, new players could end up starting there, or new players could migrate in.

However, with this "mechanic" in-place, towns like mine would be EXTREMELY vulnerable to this kind of attack - even if my town is a "productive member" of my county/duchy/kingdom.

I don't mind the risk inherent in "owning" a town. However, as Takeda pointed out, I don't like that risk being geometrically compounded simply because I play with a small group.

Head Archivist, Marovec V'Ralt - The Enclave - Chair of the Bardic Institute

8/11/2017 9:15:14 PM #5

Children under 15 years are unkillable, so empting a whole town of NPC in one fell swoop is unluckily. You will need at least two XD

Spirit mechanic for NPC sounds good. Some kind of alarm for NPC like tocsin would be nice too. A ringing of a bell signals the non-combandant NPC to hide in celler or leave the town via an underground tunnel.

PS: Does actually AI distinguish between an NPC and OPC?

8/11/2017 9:23:57 PM #6

I am sure there is some indication that differentiates between the 2.

I do like the idea of an "inaccessible area" or "safe house" that non-combatant NPCs can go to in the event of an attack.

However, in the effort of full transparency, I do think completely removing the ability to "cripple" an enemy's economic development/trade/crafting/research/etc. is going to far (as much as I might wish for the safer path).

Maybe "meeting half-way" is the answer. You can kill off all the NPCs, but they respawn in 3 days (or a week, or whatever is determined to be reasonable).

As BlankWindow pointed out, this way you still cause "damage" to the enemy, but also leave player the ability to rebuild without being completely out of luck.

Head Archivist, Marovec V'Ralt - The Enclave - Chair of the Bardic Institute

8/11/2017 9:38:29 PM #7

No, no! Not completly removing, just lessening the chance of being killed. Hidding in the house and pulling the bar down, or something like that. It would be eternally possible to take the door down, if the invaders got the equipment on them. There were tocsin bells in the middle ages, why not in CoE?

It might depend on the personality whether the NPC hears the bell and hides or flees, or being a hot-headed moron rushes into the battle despite being a cobbler and dies. Seeing as NPC have personalities, why not employ them in this case?

8/12/2017 2:20:20 AM #8

I think people are underestimating the NPCs as well as their own personal consequences. For example, sacking an entire village with a large band of people would probably cause the entire kingdom and possibly neighboring kingdoms to label you barbarians, effectively shutting you out from assistance from other towns.

Not only that, the NPCs are likely going to be quite capable of combat as well. It wouldn't surprise me if the town guard and trained merchants would be able to fend off bands of even dozens of people.

I don't think it's that much of a concern.

"Griffith Did Nothing Wrong"

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8/12/2017 2:30:59 AM #9

The personal consequence in this game isn't punishing. You lose some spirit and move on with your life. if you get caught. Tbh, unless your a crafter/gatherer even permadying shouldn't be too punishing using their design model for combat. Also important to note they estimated a warrior type risky player to live ~4 months on average. Meaning they are designing the combat tiers likely for that time-frame because if you design your game so soldiers only last 4 months but their is 6 months worth of training to be viable it's wasted mechanics.

My point being even if I perma-die I will be able to get back up to a viable skillset rather soon using that information. So the only consequence is do I have 30 bucks?

As for the NPCs....I would almost gift you a king tier if you could name a single game that had NPCs that outplayed dozens of players....NOT having hyper-inflated stats like raid bosses and campaign difficulty modes, but outplaying them because NPCs in CoE will not have hyper-inflated stats to give the illusion of good enemy AI.

While it's an okay dream to have, it's unrealistic. I'm not sure where in the design it even hints at NPCs doing that. The only talk about NPCs so in 2017 has been in non-combat related AI so I'm not sure where this idea is from.

Don't mistake passion and tenacity for toxicity and anger. If I want to hurt you, I will.

8/12/2017 3:25:22 AM #10

Posted By Takeda_Shinukage at 9:30 PM - Fri Aug 11 2017

As for the NPCs....I would almost gift you a king tier if you could name a single game that had NPCs that outplayed dozens of players....NOT having hyper-inflated stats like raid bosses and campaign difficulty modes, but outplaying them because NPCs in CoE will not have hyper-inflated stats to give the illusion of good enemy AI.

While it's an okay dream to have, it's unrealistic. I'm not sure where in the design it even hints at NPCs doing that. The only talk about NPCs so in 2017 has been in non-combat related AI so I'm not sure where this idea is from.

Here's one way that it can be done. we know that this game will have locational damage, there could be some kind of mechanic where if a town is under attack and many npc's are dying then the ai could be altered to start making the npcs attack vital points with %100 accuracy. keep in mind that the way ai's work is that they are designed to purposely miss some of their attacks. It would be a bit unrealistic but they could make the npcs attack and block with higher accuracy in order to help reduce the chance of populations dwindling too far.

i played a first person shooter called arma a long time ago and in that game i could set things like the average accuracy of the ai enemies. and i can say right now that when an ai doesn't hold back by purposely missing their attacks or by hitting less vital spots then they will completely dominate any human player.

COE isn't a first person shooter but it would be easy to have an AI block at the perfect moments and always attack vital spots. I don't think SBS would artificially make the AI more skillful just to avoid letting a town get destroyed, but if it becomes a serous problem then this is one solution.

8/12/2017 4:13:43 AM #11

I really do like the idea of NPC's being able to be killed permanently. It adds great value to them for the leaders of those towns/cities they reside in. Not only makes the leaders want to put a decent amount of their resources into fortifications/guards....I mean...seriously...if you look at a medieval town...the ones with guards were the ones that had a better survival chance. The more people, the more guards, the more fortifications, the better they survived. Randomly governing some village like it's a SIM, without consequences from this sort of warfare shouldn't be allowed in this game. And yes, I realize that might mean some towns may fail due to insufficient protection of their NPC citizens...but that would be no different than a town failing because of insufficient resource investment into trade, or town upkeep or repair ect and having those same NPC's move out to another town, or county, or kingdom, because it's no longer viable for their life goals to live in such a bad environment. That would kill the town just as quickly. So yes, I think NPC's should be able to die a permanent death when killed the first time.

Edit: I do however think the idea of NPC safe houses and NPC reactions to an alert to run to those safe houses should be a very valid thing. No reason to make the protection of those NPC's just PC job, especially when NPC's do have their own life goal...presumably survival being a major one of them.

lol...Pronounced Dare-EE-us ACK-mar...for the many people that have asked and those yet to.
-The largest cause of war is selfishness. The hardest thing to achieve in life is mutual selflessness.

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8/12/2017 4:46:00 AM #12

Another solution could be, combined with NPCs hiding and barring their doors, trying to make NPC guards OP, and making NPCs wary of anyone heavily-armed that isn't a guard.

So, if anyone walks into town kitted out like it's a battlefield, and they aren't part of the local guard/aristocracy/nobility/etc, NPCs should already start hiding, and guards should ready their weapons and approach the stranger. It shouldn't be an issue because it's still not attacking random players on sight, and they should be wearing normal clothes when they're not looking for a fight.

Basically it shouldn't be one of those games where nobody bats an eye at the guy running around in a full suit of armor in the middle of a city.

1 on 1, a guard should be able to be about as tough as your average PVPer in full kit- even if that means AI h4X. Of course they'll also swarm to make sure the odds are well in the favor of the guards.

If a strange player isn't well-enough armed to arouse suspicion, then they should be easy for the guards to kill.

Not a perfect solution, but the best I can think of when players are effectively immortal.

Beans for the bean god

8/12/2017 4:52:06 AM #13

+1 to you Scheneighnay. I really do like that idea. As I am in favor of NPC's being able to be killed permanently the first time, NPC's having a survival mechanism of that form is fabulous.

lol...Pronounced Dare-EE-us ACK-mar...for the many people that have asked and those yet to.
-The largest cause of war is selfishness. The hardest thing to achieve in life is mutual selflessness.

Friend Code CD4DE7

8/12/2017 5:02:29 AM #14

If we are talking purely physical death (as social and economical death can occur), then I think the devs would have plenty of tools to prevent mass killings.

How I see the sequence of events:

  1. Preparations - Contacting helpers, getting resources, coordinating etc. ~ Couple days at minimum*
    *assumes all individuals are within close proximity, ample stores of weapons, food, possibly safe houses/havens already existing etc.

  2. Action - Day of the attack: you set up your party in key strategic positions with reliable maps and start the assault ~ prob a 1-2 hours as people would run away, fight back, etc. and the AIs should be able to mount some defense

  3. Resolution - Ideally it would be successful in that everyone was killed as no children existed and nobody escaped (this of course would not happen as I don't believe 100% success rate is possible each time, so failure to contain will happen leading to rumors about your party to accelerate). ~ 1-2 hours to leave area and etc.

  4. Aftermath, the NPCs would mount a manhunt as you would all be infamous to a considerable degree and bardic skills can find you (degree of difficulty is there, but repeated town killings would reveal more and more) ~ LONG lasting consequences prob for rest of that lifetime

Now, I am using the above sequence to construct why I think it won't be viable in the long run, unless you focus on hamlets and villages (even then, only for so long).

  1. Rest of the game exists - Assuming you commit the deed and manage to get away, you will still bear the infamy that comes with killing an entire town. You will have to be paranoid. Also, the PC rulers will not be happy, so you would have to deal with their ire and methods along with the NPCs on your own (staying together in a group makes you an easier target).

  2. NPCs would make fighting challenging - The strength of NPCs hasn't really been touched on, but for the most part seem to hint at being equals (whether this is true or not is separate). Assuming this, a player with a great skill in combat would be able to take on at MOST 2 people as any more would be "unrealistic," especially since it will be a mob of random attacks. You can use an entire group of SUPER elite PCs, but then time would be an issue as you would need to attack a distance a ways from your abode and also make all these elite come together, etc (more rare something is, the more likely that it is sparsely distributed).

  3. Logistics - To be able to carry such an act repeatedly over and over again, privately, would be very difficult and put a strain on such an organization over time. If a king were to sanction, then this would fall under "Rules of War" and an issue that they would need to deal with as to whether it is allowed to slaughter towns in times of war.

  4. Reproduction - I previously assumed that it would take a week (minimum) for the entire cycle to be gone through. Assuming that the group of people had the resources to constantly commit these attacks, then I would say that at most it could occur once/twice a month on average (gathering/employing manpower, armor, weapons, food, transport). If the devs see that this is a real problem affecting other players' experiences, then they can simple increase the birthing rates of the ENTIRE world to compensate.

DISCLAIMER: These are brief thoughts off the top of my head and probably have holes.

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8/12/2017 5:12:34 AM #15

@LukeSpyro +1. I do like your post. Just to add in one thing. Having elite or super elite PC's running around doing what you've mentioned wouldn't happen for the first 3 or 4 years of the game anyway, since Caspian has said that it would take that long to become exalted or legendary, so the likelyhood of that sort of thing would be exceptionally rare and limited in how long it could continue before they were hunted down or hit a town that had some hidden defenses prepared for that sort of thing.

lol...Pronounced Dare-EE-us ACK-mar...for the many people that have asked and those yet to.
-The largest cause of war is selfishness. The hardest thing to achieve in life is mutual selflessness.

Friend Code CD4DE7