Non-player character

Last updated

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 via algorithmic, predetermined or responsive behavior, but not necessarily true artificial intelligence.

A character is a person or other being in a narrative. The character may be entirely fictional or based on a real-life person, in which case the distinction of a "fictional" versus "real" character may be made. Derived from the ancient Greek word χαρακτήρ, the English word dates from the Restoration, although it became widely used after its appearance in Tom Jones in 1749. From this, the sense of "a part played by an actor" developed. Character, particularly when enacted by an actor in the theatre or cinema, involves "the illusion of being a human person". In literature, characters guide readers through their stories, helping them to understand plots and ponder themes. Since the end of the 18th century, the phrase "in character" has been used to describe an effective impersonation by an actor. Since the 19th century, the art of creating characters, as practiced by actors or writers, has been called characterisation.

Tabletop role-playing game form of role-playing game

A tabletop role-playing game is a form of role-playing game (RPG) in which the participants describe their characters' actions through speech. Participants determine the actions of their characters based on their characterization, and the actions succeed or fail according to a set formal system of rules and guidelines. Within the rules, players have the freedom to improvise; their choices shape the direction and outcome of the game.

A gamemaster is a person who acts as an organizer, officiant for regarding rules, arbitrator, and moderator for a multiplayer role-playing game. They are more common in co-operative games in which players work together than in competitive games in which players oppose each other. The act performed by a gamemaster is sometimes referred to as "Gamemastering" or simply "GM-ing".

Contents

Role-playing games

In a traditional tabletop role-playing game such as Dungeons & Dragons , an NPC is a fictional 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. [3] [ unreliable source? ] 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. [4] [ unreliable source? ]

<i>Dungeons & Dragons</i> Fantasy role-playing game

Dungeons & Dragons is a fantasy tabletop role-playing game (RPG) originally designed by Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson. It was first published in 1974 by Tactical Studies Rules, Inc. (TSR). The game has been published by Wizards of the Coast since 1997. It was derived from miniature wargames, with a variation of the 1971 game Chainmail serving as the initial rule system. D&D's publication is commonly recognized as the beginning of modern role-playing games and the role-playing game industry.

Fiction any story or setting that is derived from imagination, can be conveyed through any medium (films, books, audio plays, games, etc.)

Fiction broadly refers to any narrative that is derived from the imagination—in other words, not based strictly on history or fact. It can also refer, more narrowly, to narratives written only in prose, and is often used as a synonym for the novel. In cinema it corresponds to narrative film in opposition to documentary as far as novel to feature film and short story to short film.

Player character fictional character in a role-playing or video game that can be played or controlled by a real-world person

A player character is a fictional character in a role-playing game or video game whose actions are directly controlled by a player of the game rather than the rules of the game. The characters that are not controlled by a player are called non-player characters (NPCs). The actions of non-player characters are typically handled by the game itself in video games, or according to rules followed by a gamemaster refereeing tabletop role-playing games. The player character functions as a fictional, alternate body for the player controlling the character.

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.

Nobilis Fantasy roleplaying game

Nobilis is a contemporary fantasy role-playing game created by Jenna K. Moran, writing under the name R. Sean Borgstrom. The player characters are "Sovereign Powers" called the Nobilis; each Noble is the personification of an abstract concept or class of things such as Time, Death, cars, or communication. Unlike most role-playing games, Nobilis does not use dice or other random elements to determine the outcome of characters' actions, but instead uses a point-based system for task resolution.

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.

<i>Champions</i> (role-playing game) role-playing game

Champions is a role-playing game published by Hero Games designed to simulate and function in a four-color superhero comic book world. It was originally created by George MacDonald and Steve Peterson in collaboration with Rob Bell, Bruce Harlick and Ray Greer.

Hero System role-playing game system

The Hero System is a generic role-playing game system that was developed from the superhero RPG Champions. After Champions fourth edition was released in 1989, a stripped-down version of its ruleset with no superhero or other genre elements was released as The Hero System Rulesbook in 1990. As a spinoff of Champions, the Hero System is considered to have started with 4th edition, rather than on its own with a 1st edition. However, the first three editions of the game are typically referred to as Champions, rather than the Hero System, as the game for its first three editions was not sold as a universal toolkit, instead largely focusing on superheroes.

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 expanded as "non-playable character" or "non-player class".[ citation needed ]

Video game electronic game that involves interaction with a user interface to generate visual feedback on a video device such as a TV screen or computer monitor

A video game is an electronic game that involves interaction with a user interface to generate visual feedback on a two- or three-dimensional video display device such as a TV screen, virtual reality headset or computer monitor. Since the 1980s, video games have become an increasingly important part of the entertainment industry, and whether they are also a form of art is a matter of dispute.

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). [5] 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 his or her 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. [6]

See also

Related Research Articles

<i>Neverwinter Nights</i> 2002 role-playing video game

Neverwinter Nights is a third-person role-playing video game developed by BioWare. Interplay Entertainment was originally set to publish the game, but financial difficulties led to it being taken over by Infogrames, who released the game under their Atari range of titles. It was released for Microsoft Windows on June 18, 2002. BioWare later released a Linux client in June 2003, requiring a purchased copy of the game to play. MacSoft released a Mac OS X port in August 2003.

A role-playing video game is a video game genre where the player controls the actions of a character immersed in some well-defined world. Many role-playing video games have origins in tabletop role-playing games and use much of the same terminology, settings and game mechanics. Other major similarities with pen-and-paper games include developed story-telling and narrative elements, player character development, complexity, as well as replayability and immersion. The electronic medium removes the necessity for a gamemaster and increases combat resolution speed. RPGs have evolved from simple text-based console-window games into visually rich 3D experiences.

Avatar (<i>Ultima</i>) Ultima series of video games

The Avatar is the main player character and protagonist in the Ultima series of video games by Origin Systems. The character was first introduced as "The Stranger" in the 1981 role-playing video game Ultima I: The First Age of Darkness.

Megami Tensei, marketed internationally as Shin Megami Tensei, is a Japanese media franchise created by Kouji "Cozy" Okada, Ginichiro Suzuki, and Kazunari Suzuki. Primarily developed by Atlus and currently owned by Sega, the franchise consists of multiple subseries and covers multiple role-playing genres including tactical role-playing, action role-playing, and massively multiplayer online role-playing. The first two titles in the series were published by Bandai Namco, but have been almost always published by Atlus in Japan and North America since the release of Shin Megami Tensei. For Europe, Atlus publishes the games through third-party companies.

<i>Shin Megami Tensei</i> 1992 role-playing video game

Shin Megami Tensei is a post-apocalyptic role-playing video game developed and published by Atlus. Originally released for the Super Famicom in 1992 in Japan, it has been ported to multiple systems and eventually released in the West for iOS in 2014. It is the third game in the Megami Tensei series and the first in the central Shin Megami Tensei series. The gameplay uses first-person navigation of dungeons and turn-based battles against demons. The player can recruit demons as allies by talking to them rather than fighting them, and two to three demons can be fused to create new demons.

Dating sims, or romance simulation games, are a video game subgenre of simulation games, usually Japanese, with romantic elements. They are also sometimes put under the category of neoromance. The most common objective of dating sims is to date, usually choosing from among several characters, and to achieve a romantic relationship.

A visual novel is an interactive game genre, which originated in Japan, featuring text-based story with narrative style of literature and interactivity aided by static or sprite-based visuals, most often using anime-style art or occasionally live-action stills. As the name might suggest, they resemble mixed-media novels.

<i>Ultima IV: Quest of the Avatar</i> video game

Ultima IV: Quest of the Avatar, first released in 1985 for the Apple II, is the fourth in the series of Ultima role-playing video games. It is the first in the "Age of Enlightenment" trilogy, shifting the series from the hack and slash, dungeon crawl gameplay of its "Age of Darkness" predecessors towards an ethically-nuanced, story-driven approach. Ultima IV has a much larger game world than its predecessors, with an overworld map sixteen times the size of Ultima III and puzzle-filled dungeon rooms to explore. Ultima IV further advances the franchise with dialog improvements, new means of travel and exploration, and world interactivity.

<i>Ultima VI: The False Prophet</i> 1990 video game

Ultima VI: The False Prophet, released by Origin Systems Inc. in 1990, is the sixth part in the role-playing video game series of Ultima. It is the third and final game in the "Age of Enlightenment" trilogy. Ultima VI sees the player return to Britannia, at war with a race of gargoyles from another land, struggling to stop a prophecy from ending their race. The player must help defend Britannia against these gargoyles, and ultimately discover the secrets about both lands and its peoples.

<i>Ultima VII: The Black Gate</i> 1992 video game

Ultima VII: The Black Gate is the seventh installment of the Ultima series of role-playing video games, released on April 16, 1992. In it the player returns as The Avatar, a would-be paragon of moral virtue who faces down many dangers and deceptions in order to cleanse the medieval fantasy world of Britannia of assorted plots and schemes, monster infestations, and the undermining of crown authority.

<i>Ultima VIII: Pagan</i> video game

Ultima VIII: Pagan is a video game, the eighth part of the role-playing video game series Ultima. It was not as well-received as its predecessors, Ultima VII and Ultima VII Part Two: Serpent Isle. Developed in 1994, it is a DOS-only title and is also the first game in the series to be rated M in North America.

<i>Neverwinter Nights 2</i> video game

Neverwinter Nights 2 is a role-playing video game developed by Obsidian Entertainment and published by Atari, Inc. 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.

<i>Shin Megami Tensei: Digital Devil Saga</i> video game

Shin Megami Tensei: Digital Devil Saga is a duology of role-playing video games developed by Atlus for the PlayStation 2. They are a spin-off of the Megami Tensei series. The first Digital Devil Saga was released in Japan in 2004, North America in 2005, and Europe in 2006. Its direct sequel, Shin Megami Tensei: Digital Devil Saga 2, released in 2005 in Japan and North America, and 2007 in Europe. The games were published in Europe by Ghostlight and in other regions by Atlus and its North American subsidiary Atlus USA.

<i>Neverwinter Nights 2: Mask of the Betrayer</i> 2007 video game

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 2: Mysteries of Westgate</i> video game

Neverwinter Nights 2: Mysteries of Westgate (NWN2:MoW) is an expansion pack for the role-playing video game Neverwinter Nights 2. It was developed by Ossian Studios and published by Atari on April 29, 2009. The player creates a character and controls it, along with a group of three pre-designed companions, journeying through the game world. The gameplay is very similar to that of the base game. Mysteries of Westgate also includes new monsters, music, and other tools, which can be used by players to create their own Neverwinter Nights 2 levels.

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 hardware changes 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. "Non-Player Companion". Tvtropes.org. Retrieved 10 October 2017.
  4. "Non-Player Character". Tvtropes.org. Retrieved 13 October 2017.
  5. 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.
  6. Brent Ellison (July 8, 2008). "Defining Dialogue Systems". Gamasutra . Retrieved 2011-03-30.