NPC/OPC abilities

I guess it’s best to put the tl;dr first: what should NPCs/OPCs be able to do?

Recently I stubled across a post from 2015 in which Caspain asked which talents players wished for their characters. The fact that even now new ideas are being posted proves how much potential we see in our character’s abilities and talents, how many expectations and wishes we have. Often we see our character’s talents as options what they (and therefore we) can do/achieve later on in the game! And that’s great fun! I, too, replied to the post with my idea of which talents could be fun to have.

However, afterwards I noticed that something was bugging me. I noticed that the overall idea of having certain “special” talents and therefore special characters – in what way ever – results in a character-centered approach to the game. Most (MMO)RPGs do this: there are player-characters and NPCs and their connection and interaction is a rather one sided one. Simply put: NPCs exist for the sole purpose of player-characters being able to interact with them. They may have their own day-and-night circles but usually they are reduced to a certain kind of function (giving quests, telling us something, helping OUR story progress, being killed by us, providing an option to hide in the crowd etc…) There’s nothing bad about this but for a MEOW in contrast to a MMORPG I’d actually hope for more! The world and their inhabitants – as they are evolving – shouldn’t just exist for the purpose of being explored or interacted with by the players. As a virtual reality they should just exist by themselves! (As an example many strategy games have this: in city building games the citizens do not exist for us the players/city-mayors but rather we kind of exist for them: when we see they don’t get to work properly because of a traffic problem we (hopefully) feel obliged to help them achieve this. Not because they give us the quest to help them but just because they are there…!)

So I felt equally important as what talents we wish for our characters is the question of what talents we wish OPCs/NPCs and what they should be able to do!

Is it enough if they stand or walk around? Maybe eat, hunt, work on the field and go to bed? Or does a MEOW need more?

I personally think apart from waiting for us to interact with them they should also act by themselves and this means they need to interact amongst themselves and with player-characters (especially as unlike other in MMORPGs in CoE every inhabitant of Elyria can be both PC+NPC=OPC). Of course we don’t know how the soulbound engine works but in older statements and dev journals it was mentioned that it tracks what happens in the world and pays attention to it. And I’m pretty sure that as with every other engine the things to happen have to be defined/scripted at some point in the AI.

So what scripts (options to act, abilities) do you have in mind for NPCs/OPCs.

And also the other way around: what don’t you expect them to do? (Would it annoy you if your mentor-blacksmith in your town suddenly decided to travel and live somewhere else?)

11/29/2018 6:16:35 PM #1

They are supposed to be lesser ppl, doing what they need to survive and be happy.

All I want is for contracted soldiers to properly soldier via the contract and training. A soldier and a guard are two different things, a soldier can guard things yet a guard is not a soldier. A soldiers jobs include deployments, guard duty, training, going on patrol, fighting etc...Without the ability to micro manage NPCs it is intriguing as to HOW we military leaders will command troops.../Yell ? Raising flags? Drums? The NPCs ability to learn and become more than just useful is exciting...but I dont know of any games where this works or has been done.

11/29/2018 6:16:55 PM #2

Your question is a good one, I for one am hoping for an extremely complex AI for the NPCs to meet the goals intended by the devs.

NPCs can do anything and everything that a player character can do. They can run towns, they can go adventuring, they can bake bread, they might simply lack the reasons we as players have for some of the more adventurous things, so expect the local blacksmith to remain the local blacksmith unless extenuating circumstances happen.

I expect if there was a heroic NPC he would need one hell of a backstory to explain why he left his job at the mill to go hunt pteroguins in the north.

OPCs, like NPCs, can do anything a player can also (except gain skill in their craft, must be online and playing for that) and are limited by what we script them to do, or pick out of a lineup of preformed scripts and that is it. Well that and real world constraints like food, water, shelter, sleep.

Also yes, it would annoy me if the local blacksmith went and joined the militia, or moved to the big city and left our town with his shoddy apprentice. But I would be more annoyed if I found him in the same spot everyday, and he greeted me the same way everyday, asking about sweet rolls and telling stories about arrows in his knee, and generally showed 0 depth.

11/29/2018 9:56:45 PM #3


Just remember the more complex something is, it’s usually that much easier to break.

Keeping the AI simple as, “can I eat it, should I run from it, or should I ... it” is likely the best option to prevent people from purposely breaking NPCs like guards and such.

My opinion of course.

11/30/2018 5:15:33 PM #4

I like this question. But if I understand your concern, this is not really about talents, but more about NPC behaviors in general. Maybe another way to put this is to ask: what behaviors we want to see that could surprise us and make them lively companions to play with?

Then I think we can approach this through two perspectives:

A systemic one: how do the populations react to the management of their lands; how do they impact the game state and how complex we want their reactions to be? But... I guess the dev team already has a lot on its shoulders with the current plans.

And a more visual one: what fun anecdotic behavior can be triggered by the evolution of a community or a character?

I have a few exemples in mind, first with the sytemic perspective :

  • From labor supply migration to criminality: during the middle age in Europe, starvation often led to criminality. Bandit groups on the roads prevented free circulation between the cities and slowed down the tradings. The cause of starvation was not always war or bad weather; it was also the instability of the labor supply. A large part of the population was very poor and unqualified, and almost no laws regulated work. So for instance, if mines were recruiting at one side of the country, or if many churches were built at the same time in a specific region, it could drain the labor supply necessary to harvest the regions that used to fed a large part of the country... (A fun anecdote about that is nobles bypassing the law and overtaxing the merchants, preventing them to travel in other regions. The nobles didn't want them to share their food surplus. Scared of being hungry, they let starve their neighbours!)

And for behaviors with no big consequences on the world:

  • Reputation: when someone famous enters a place or a city, NPC can acclaim or boo this person.

  • Celebrations: each tribe has a few celebrations days every year, and as their player population grows, kings can declare new national days. During these periods, when night falls, people gather at the center of their city to drink and dance until morning. It may impact their productivity in positive or negative ways :p

  • Rituals and religions: if an NPC work at the church you built in your city, you can sometimes see it surrounded by people, doing a ritual specific to this tribe.

  • Reputation and gift: according to your reputation, "good" or "bad," NPC can occasionally offer you a service for free: a beer, a ride to a city, a night in their hostel, or even a marriage...

Barony of Kern’s gate

12/2/2018 2:31:14 PM #5

Posted By Terham at 6:15 PM - Fri Nov 30 2018

I like this question. But if I understand your concern, this is not really about talents, but more about NPC behaviors in general. Maybe another way to put this is to ask: what behaviors we want to see that could surprise us and make them lively companions to play with?

Yes, you're right. It's actually more about NPC's/OPC's behaviors. The talent discussion was just the reason i startet thinking about this as I felt something was wrong with (O)PCs being "different" because they have talents other characters don't have. And if one reads the other post many proposed talents could as well work for NPCs to "surprise us and make them lively companions to play with". Nice rephrasing btw! :)

Posted By Terham at 6:15 PM - Fri Nov 30 2018

  • Reputation and gift: according to your reputation, "good" or "bad," NPC can occasionally offer you a service for free: a beer, a ride to a city, a night in their hostel, or even a marriage...

I like this. Also even if it is uncomfortable it'd be quite interesting if NPCs judged you not only because you are "good" or "bad" but just depending on weather they like you. In reality we, too, like some people more than others and actually this leads to strong bonds. We don't (only) surround us with / avoid other people that are(n't) "useful" to us but mostly because we (dis)like them and they (dis)like us. NPCs/OPCs being able to (dis)like other NPCs/(O)PCs would add alot to the feeling they are actually alive...

12/4/2018 9:37:35 AM #6

Basically it comes down to the question in how far NPCs should ACT instead of just REacting.

Usually in games NPCs react to the players' actions because the games are about the players' experience. It wouldn't be fun if you couldn't at least to some point anticipate their behavior because it'd feel random. But there are examples when it feels like NPCs actually act independently because of this seem-to-be randomness. Everyone who remembers the unexpected nightly Assassin's visit in TES: Oblivion after you killed someone knows what I'm talking about... Of course this, too, was a reaction of the player killing someone but if you didn't expect it, it felt like you were the one REacting to whatever the Assassins had in mind.

In COE we have to keep in mind that OPCs kind of can be both: players and NPCs. If you kill a player he can spiritwalk back to his corpse and will remember that you killed him. He might seek revenge or avoid you. I think this should apply to NPCs too. If they only avoided you they'd feel to passive and boring... But if they seek revenge, wouldn't they maybe set up a contract and ask others to kill the person who murdered them? Would it be only players who could accept this contract or could also other NPCs decide to do this to earn some money to buy food etc.?

When it comes to talents they obviously influence your play style! I believe it'd be logical if strong Elyrians (regardless if they are (O)PCs or NPCs) tried to make use of their strength same as Elyrians with a certain talent woul make use of this... Smiths, people with the ability to tame animals of see other people's pasts...

This leads me to one last thought: As i understood with the gossip system information can be spread/traded kind of like (metaphysical) items. So if you are being killed btw. you get this information and can give it to other Elyrians to let them know who killed you. (Keep in mind that these information can be manipulated with deviant arts.) So you could basically amend for your deeds by buying the original of your "crime information" so that the owner (if he hasn't already spread it) couldn't tell/give it to anyone else. In this sense "erasing" other peoples memories/information could be a fun talent for both players and NPCs!

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