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  #1  
Old 11-19-2011, 08:13 PM
Bluddy Bluddy is offline
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Default NPC communication via status effects

Shadow, I think probably the weakest area in DC is the NPCs. Actually, they're extremely cool, but the main problem with them is that it's not clear what they're up to. They're crafting all these intricate stories, but because a) the player isn't there to see what's happening all the time, b) the feedback is often in the form of text that appears briefly on-screen, and c) there are many NPCs, the player misses all this stuff, thinking it's just random, and not realizing for example when an NPC lost a loved one and is therefore unhappy.

What's needed is an ability to convey messages to the player about what happened. Normally, this would require a complicated mechanism and a lot of extra programming. What I figured out, however, is that you already have that system in place: it's called status effects.

Rather than having activities and events affect NPCs directly, they should create StatusEffects that become attached to target NPCs for durations around 2-5 minutes. Then, all a player has to do is check the status effects on NPCs to figure out what their story is. For example, an NPC could have a 'marriage bliss' status effect. Or a 'mourning' status effect when losing a family member. Or a Jealous status effect that lowers the NPC's happiness. Being available for 2 minutes or so would be much better than the current 'Jealous' word that pops up. These status effects would change reputation, happiness and money as the case may be. When you think about it, 'Donation Bliss' is already a step in that direction. It should just be duplicated for all NPC interactions.

You could keep the direct feedback of text messages for the times the player is watching, but suddenly we'll have so much more feedback about what happened to the NPC rather than just seeing a happiness number and a reputation number. This also makes sense narrative-wise: if we're the hero of the town, the NPC is going to tell us everything that troubles him/her. They won't just show us a happy/sad face and tell us the status of their bank account. In fact, it might be better to hide the NPCs' bank account. This isn't something they're going to share so openly. It'd be just as clear from their quest/status effects what their financial situation is like.

In terms of the work involved to do this, you really need only two images: a happy face and a sad face. And perhaps a money image for things like NPCs losing money at gambling. I don't think you'd need to do too much programming to make this work, and in terms of the payoff, it would be huge. It would turn the main part of the expansion, which you worked so hard on, from being an element most people don't understand/ignore (NPC interactions), to being one of the coolest things available, because suddenly all the connections and stories the NPCs weave will be clear.
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Old 11-20-2011, 06:29 AM
Chumpy Chumpy is offline
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I agree with all of this.

The moments when a clear narrative is visible from NPC interactions are some of the best in the game. I just wish I could see them more often. I wonder if there could even be a few more alerts, like the one that happens when NPCs get divorced. A friend of mine saw that one after several fights between them, and cracked up for a solid ten minutes.
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Old 11-20-2011, 01:55 PM
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Castruccio Castruccio is offline
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I agree with all of this. If it's not implemented in DC (which may have reached the end of the life cycle in terms of its development) then I hope it can be implemented future Soldak games.
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Old 11-21-2011, 09:57 AM
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That is a pretty cool idea Bluddy.
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  #5  
Old 11-21-2011, 02:36 PM
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Hannes-Erich Hannes-Erich is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Castruccio View Post
I agree with all of this. If it's not implemented in DC (which may have reached the end of the life cycle in terms of its development) then I hope it can be implemented future Soldak games.
I would actually love to see another major update or expansion for Din's Curse, and I think it could be sold to people. The thing is, Din's Curse is right on the doorstep of the holy grail of computer RPGs.

When I first picked it up, I had to find ways around some of its less shining aspects (easily rectified by Heron's UI mod, Ebarstad's NPC black outlines mod, the Demon War expansion, and a couple of other smaller mods). But later, I realized why I'd stuck with it.

This game nearly, almost epitomizes the "living world" ideal that many CRPGs have tried and failed to grasp ever since Richard Garriot dared to dream about it. Underneath its hack-n-slash surface, there's a kind of "dungeon crawler meets the Sims" thing going on; but like Bluddy explained, some design elements make it very hard to get good, detailed looks beneath that hack-n-slash surface.

And the NPCs, though immensely impressive, could probably be designed to accomplish more tasks for (or against) the player and for (or against) each other: town governments, NPC factions and faction standings, continued relations with previously visited towns (i.e. the ability to establish and grow trade networks over the western plains of Aleria), town improvements (the ability to add functional buildings to the map), and so on.

I don't know how much more is possible within the constraints of the code. My point is that this game comes very close to accomplishing a major milestone in the genre, a hair's width away. I would even argue that it has already accomplished this, somewhat (there have been several moments during play when I certainly felt like it has); but I don't know that the genre's wider audience would fully agree.

Last edited by Hannes-Erich : 11-21-2011 at 02:40 PM.
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  #6  
Old 11-21-2011, 03:08 PM
Bluddy Bluddy is offline
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I agree with everyone's reaction, and while I'm also hoping for an eventual, additional expansion to DC, that's up to Shadow to decide based on interest, financial estimations etc.

My point was that this functionality could be added with a minimum of effort to the current code/data files -- I imagine it to be a day or two of work -- but the payoff in terms of the gameplay would be enormous. So much so, that it might even be worth submitting the expansion to review sites again (Just kidding -- I'm sure hounding review sites for Drox is not something Shadow's looking forward to).

I'm pretty sure Shadow got what I was saying, I just wanted to clarify so we don't get sidetracked on to other ideas -- all of which are good, but they involve a lot of extra work and planning.
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  #7  
Old 11-21-2011, 04:58 PM
jureidinim jureidinim is offline
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Would it only be the last status that would show though?
Does the game keep a history of the various "effects" NPC's undergo? If so, maybe a tootip popup if right click on NPC to show the last few status changes to give a sort of "story" of the NPC.
Example: "Jealous; Fight;" .. which could explain to the player why that NPC opened gates in the town and eventually went rogue :-)
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Old 11-21-2011, 06:22 PM
Bluddy Bluddy is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jureidinim View Post
Would it only be the last status that would show though?
Does the game keep a history of the various "effects" NPC's undergo? If so, maybe a tootip popup if right click on NPC to show the last few status changes to give a sort of "story" of the NPC.
Example: "Jealous; Fight;" .. which could explain to the player why that NPC opened gates in the town and eventually went rogue :-)
There's no such mechanism in the game, and implementing it would require extra effort -- in this case, adding logging for every NPC. The key in what I'm suggesting is that the pieces are all there -- there's only a small bit of programming glue needed to make it work.

If every interaction-related status effect lasts for 2-5 minutes, you'd have time to see the recent history of each NPC. It wouldn't be a full history, but a full history is a bit of overkill anyway. What you'd see is what's currently affecting the well-being of the NPC and by extension, what the NPC has recently been up to.
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  #9  
Old 11-21-2011, 07:34 PM
jureidinim jureidinim is offline
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No problem. If its not there already then yeah - no sense doing that extra work.
:-)
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