A game devs thoughts on skyrim NPCs December 27, 2011 cliffski I bought skyrim, partly because I did enjoy oblivion, partly because skyrim got great reviews and any decent game dev should know what people are buying and enjoying. So far, It’s pretty good, but I’m not bowled over. I don’t see it as any major (or even minor) change or improvement from Oblivion. Maybe I haven’t played it enough yet? There are a number of minor things that make me smile, more than disappoint, such as all of the guards sounding like schwarzenegger, and all the women assuming I want to sleep with them. That’s my normal expression, I swear! More seriously, the game does not seem to have moved on at all, in the field of interaction with NPC’s, which is a big surprise. It’s 2011 now (nearly 2012), so we still need almost static NPC’s that act pretty much like ‘gossip+quest+lifestory vending machines’. Coding a much more adaptive and context sensitive system shouldn’t be hard. I find it very unlikely that there is a major problem from either a game design or code POV, in having every NPC store some data abut their attitude to you, plus a list of recent events, plus reaction to your appearance. Almost all games have NPC’s that are staggeringly stupid. You can sneak up to them at midnight, having never met them, with your sword drawn, wearing a black cloak and holding a two handed sword, and as long as you press ‘E’, they will say something like “My name is zarg, I’ve been farming here all my life, things aren’t so bad really.” WTF? We *can* do better than this. On an indie game, with a tiny budget and one coder, we can do better, so why a game with the budget of skyrim cannot, is beyond me. Unless…. It’s voice acting isn’t it? Lets be honest. We cannot afford to have 500 different lines fo dialog for that character, because the assumption is that all games need to be ‘fully voiced’. This is CRIPPLING to AI. I bet the AI coders on skyrim grind their teeth like maniacs, knowing that the simplest and cheapest text adventures can have twenty times more immersive character interaction that the trillion dollar AAA hit game skyrim. Is it *really* so vital to have voice acting for all NPC’s? I find most acting in movies to be tragic, let alone acting in games. I would be much happier if ‘lesser’ NPCs had just text, (maybe some simlish mumbling?) but they actually said something relevant and believable. Immersion is NOT just graphics and sounds. If it was, who would buy books? Sometimes dialog really matters, and in an epic RPG it is vital. Skyrim has (like most games) prioritised screenshots & trailer clips over actual immersion, at least when it comes to AI. You probably all thing I’m wrong, the game scored massively highly and sold by the crateload. What do you think? Is it just me that wants to smack the NPC’s and say “I only just met you, you f**king robot!”.