Non-player character

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A non-player character (NPC) is any character in a game which is not controlled by a player. [1] The term originated in traditional tabletop role-playing games where it applies to characters controlled by the gamemaster or referee rather than another player. In video games, this usually means a character controlled by the computer (instead of the player) that has a predetermined set of behaviors that potentially will impact gameplay, but will not necessarily be true artificial intelligence.

Contents

Role-playing games

In a traditional tabletop role-playing game such as Dungeons & Dragons , an NPC is a character portrayed by the gamemaster. [2] If player characters form the narrative's protagonists, non-player characters can be thought of as the "supporting cast" or "extras" of a roleplaying narrative. Non-player characters populate the fictional world of the game, and can fill any role not occupied by a player character (PC). Non-player characters might be allies, bystanders or competitors to the PCs. NPCs can also be traders that trade currency for things such as equipment or gear. NPCs thus vary in their level of detail. Some may be only a brief description ("You see a man in a corner of the tavern"), while others may have complete game statistics and backstories of their own.

There is some debate about how much work a gamemaster should put into an important NPC's statistics; some players prefer to have every NPC completely defined with stats, skills, and gear, while others define only what is immediately necessary and fill in the rest as the game proceeds. There is also some discussion as to just how important fully defined NPCs are in any given RPG, but it is general consensus that the more "real" the NPCs feel, the more fun players will have interacting with them in character.

Playability

In some games and in some circumstances, a player who is without a player character of their own can temporarily take control of an NPC. Reasons for this vary, but often arise from the player not maintaining a PC within the group and playing the NPC for a session or from the player's PC being unable to act for some time (for example, because they are injured or in another location). Although these characters are still designed and normally controlled by the gamemaster, when players are given the opportunity to temporarily control these non-player characters it gives them another perspective on the plot of the game. Some systems, such as Nobilis , encourage this in their rules.

In less traditional RPGs, narrative control is less strictly separated between gamemaster and players. In this case, the line between PC and NPC can be vague.

Dependents

Many game systems have rules for characters sustaining positive allies in the form of NPC followers; hired hands, or other dependent stature to the PC. Characters may sometimes help in the design, recruitment, or development of NPCs.

In the Champions game (and related games using the Hero System), a character may have a DNPC, or "dependent non-player character". This is a character controlled by the GM, but for which the player character is responsible in some way, and who may be put in harm's way by the PC's choices.

Video games

The term non-player character is also used in video games to describe entities not under the direct control of a player. The term carries a connotation that the character is not hostile towards players; hostile characters are referred to as enemies, mobs, or creeps. In video games, NPC is sometimes also used to mean "non-playable character" or "non-player class".[ citation needed ]

NPC behavior in computer games is usually scripted and automatic, triggered by certain actions or dialogue with the player characters. In certain multi-player games ( Neverwinter Nights and Vampire: the Masquerade series, for example) a player that acts as the GM can "possess" both player and non-player characters, controlling their actions in order to further the storyline. More complex games, such as the aforementioned Neverwinter Nights, allow the player to customize the NPCs' behavior by modifying their default scripts or creating entirely new ones.

In some online games, such as MMORPGs, NPCs may be entirely unscripted, and are essentially regular character avatars controlled by employees of the game company. These "non-players" are often distinguished from player characters by avatar appearance or other visual designation, and often serve as in-game support for new players. In other cases, these "live" NPCs are virtual actors, playing regular characters which drive a continuing storyline (as in Myst Online: Uru Live ).

In early and less advanced RPGs, NPCs only had monologue. Code directs the appearance of a dialogue box, floating text, cutscene, or other means of displaying the NPCs' speech or reaction to the player.[ citation needed ] NPC speeches of this kind are often designed to give an instant impression of the character of the speaker, providing character vignettes, but they may also advance the story or illuminate the world around the PC. Similar to this is the most common form of storytelling, non-branching dialogue, in which the means of displaying NPC speech are the same as above, but the player character or avatar responds to or initiates speech with NPCs. In addition to the purposes listed above, this enables development of the player character.

More advanced RPGs feature interactive dialogue, or branching dialogue (dialogue trees). [3] A good example are the games produced by Black Isle Studios and White Wolf, Inc.; every one of their games is multiple-choice roleplaying. When talking to an NPC, the player is presented with a list of dialogue options, and may choose between them. Each choice may result in a different response from the NPC. These choices may affect the course of the game, as well as the conversation. At the least, they provide a reference point to the player of their character's relationship with the game world.

Ultima is an example of a game series that has advanced from non-branching ( Ultima III and earlier) to branching dialogue (from Ultima IV and on). Other role-playing games with branching dialogues include Cosmic Soldier , Megami Tensei , Fire Emblem , Metal Max , Langrisser , SaGa , Ogre Battle , Chrono , Star Ocean , Sakura Wars , Mass Effect , Dragon Age , Radiant Historia , and several Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy games.

Certain video game genres revolve almost entirely around interactions with non-player characters, including visual novels such as Ace Attorney and dating sims such as Tokimeki Memorial , usually featuring complex branching dialogues and often presenting the player's possible responses word-for-word as the player character would say them. Games revolving around relationship-building, including visual novels, dating sims such as Tokimeki Memorial, and some role-playing games such as Shin Megami Tensei: Persona , often give choices that have a different number of associated "mood points" which influence a player character's relationship and future conversations with a non-player character. These games often feature a day-night cycle with a time scheduling system that provides context and relevance to character interactions, allowing players to choose when and if to interact with certain characters, which in turn influences their responses during later conversations. [4]

Insult

On the Internet, NPC is often used as an insult to suggest that some people are unable to form thoughts or opinions of their own. Such people are often characterized as being similar to NPC Wojak, who is a grey-faced, expressionless internet meme. [5] [6]

See also

Related Research Articles

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<i>Neverwinter Nights 2</i> Role-playing video game by Obsidian Entertainment

Neverwinter Nights 2 is a role-playing video game developed by Obsidian Entertainment and published by Atari. It is the sequel to BioWare's Neverwinter Nights, based on the Dungeons & Dragons pencil and paper fantasy role-playing game. Neverwinter Nights 2 utilizes an adaptation of the Dungeons & Dragons 3.5 edition rules. Players create player characters to represent themselves in the game, using the same character creation rules as found in the Dungeons & Dragons game. They may gain the assistance of additional party members, and they eventually acquire a keep that can be used as a base of operations. Neverwinter Nights 2 is set in the Forgotten Realms campaign setting—in and around the city of Neverwinter. The story is mostly unrelated to Neverwinter Nights and follows the journey of an orphaned adventurer investigating a group of mysterious artifacts known as "silver shards" and their connection to an ancient, evil spirit known as the King of Shadows.

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Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne is a post-apocalyptic role-playing video game developed by Atlus for the PlayStation 2. It was published by Atlus in Japan and North America, and by Ghostlight in Europe. It is the third entry in the Shin Megami Tensei series, the central series in the Megami Tensei franchise. Multiple versions of the game have been published: the original version was published in Japan by Atlus in 2003, while a director's cut was released in 2004 in Japan. The director's cut was localized and released in North America in 2004 as Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne and in Europe in 2005 as Shin Megami Tensei: Lucifer's Call. A high-definition remaster was released for the Nintendo Switch and PlayStation 4 in Japan in 2020, and was internationally released in 2021 on those consoles and Microsoft Windows.

<i>Shin Megami Tensei: Digital Devil Saga</i> Role-playing game series

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<i>Neverwinter Nights 2: Mask of the Betrayer</i>

Neverwinter Nights 2: Mask of the Betrayer is a role-playing video game developed by Obsidian Entertainment and published by Atari. It is an expansion pack for Neverwinter Nights 2. It was released in Autumn 2007 for the PC in North America, Europe, and Australia. Like the first game, Mask of the Betrayer is set in the Forgotten Realms campaign setting of the paper and pencil role-playing game Dungeons & Dragons and employs the 3.5 edition rules.

Dialogue tree

A dialogue tree, or conversation tree, is a gameplay mechanic that is used throughout many adventure games and role-playing video games. When interacting with a non-player character, the player is given a choice of what to say and makes subsequent choices until the conversation ends. Certain video game genres, such as visual novels and dating sims, revolve almost entirely around these character interactions and branching dialogues.

<i>Neverwinter Nights</i> Dungeons & Dragons-based video game series

Neverwinter Nights is a series of video games developed by BioWare and Obsidian Entertainment, based on the Forgotten Realms campaign setting of the Dungeons & Dragons role-playing game. It is unrelated to the 1991 Neverwinter Nights online game hosted by AOL.

Western role-playing video games are role-playing video games developed in the Western world, including The Americas and Europe. They originated on mainframe university computer systems in the 1970s, were later popularized by titles such as Ultima and Wizardry in the early- to mid-1980s, and continue to be produced for modern home computer and video game console systems. The genre's "Golden Age" occurred in the mid- to late-1980s, and its popularity suffered a downturn in the mid-1990s as developers struggled to keep up with changing fashion, hardware evolution and increasing development costs. A later series of isometric role-playing games, published by Interplay Productions and Blizzard Entertainment, was developed over a longer time period and set new standards of production quality.

Eastern role-playing video games (RPGs) are RPGs developed in East Asia. Most Eastern RPGs are Japanese role-playing video games (JRPGs), developed in Japan. RPGs are also developed in South Korea and in China.

References

  1. "The Next Generation 1996 Lexicon A to Z: NPC (Nonplayer Character)". Next Generation . No. 15. Imagine Media. March 1996. p. 38.
  2. Slavicsek, Bill; Baker, Richard (April 8, 2005). Dungeons & Dragons For Dummies . John Wiley & Sons. p.  73. ISBN   9780764599248.
  3. Jay Collins; William Hisrt; Wen Tang; Colin Luu; Peter Smith; Andrew Watson; Reza Sahandi. "EDTree: Emotional Dialogue Trees for Game Based Training" (PDF). Spirits.bournemouth.ac.uk. Retrieved 10 October 2017.
  4. Brent Ellison (July 8, 2008). "Defining Dialogue Systems". Gamasutra . Retrieved 2011-03-30.
  5. "What is NPC, the new favourite insult used by Trump fans?". The Independent. October 17, 2018.
  6. "How The 'NPC' Meme Tries To Dehumanize 'SJWs'". Kotaku.