A series of articles about a few things that can add a little more depth to RPGs.


Hello everyone, Digital Koifish here. So I don't do very much game design because I'm quite inept at programming or at least can't find the motivation to plow through it like everyone else. I'm more of a concept guy, throw out ideas and maybe inspire people.

Anyway I want to share some ideas that I recently thought of that I may have seen in the past in existing games or whatever about how to create a little more depth to amateur RPGs. After all, most of us here are amateur RPG enthusiasts or designers. If I get some good response from this article, or even constructive criticism, I may continue to add some more of this series.

The idea is to give your game world a little bit of substance, not literally but a figurative basis of intangible things that draw the player in and engulf them in the existence of that world. This can be any thing from great history or story telling to the logical way things move in that world. Physics, the citizens and their plight, the way the land is shaped, everything is important in giving depth to your game.



For this first article, I will cover some things about NPCs that a lot of people neglect. I've played many RPGs in the past and I've come across quite a few gems and quite a few pieces of crap and I say that about even the professional games. I notice that when creators push a game out and concentrate on all these new systems and creative story telling that they forget one of the most integral things: the NPC (Non-player Character).

The NPC is important to RPGs because they are all around. A lot of times, NPCs will stand still or walk in randomized patterns and say one thing over and over again. Why not switch it up?

We can't expect the same person to be in the same spot all the time. Imagine walking around a busy city and seeing the same couple eating food on the boardwalk 24 hours a day seven days a week talking about how sunny it is all the time. It's not realistic is it? At least it's not very interesting.

Try adding different people into the mix. Aside from the NPCs that have to be in one spot to be interacted with by the Player Character in order to move the plot along, why not randomize which NPCs show up and which ones don't? Try this: when a character teleports to a new area, roll a variable between say 1 and 5. Have different NPCs appear for the character to talk to in different spots with different walking patterns depending on which variable is rolled at the start of the screen.

Try mixing up their speech. Roll another variable between maybe between 1 and 10 on the first event page when talking to an NPC and have different event pages with different things to be said for each result. The idea is to try and give the NPC more to do than stand around or walk around in one spot and say the same old things.

Try to customize NPC graphics so that they're doing random actions and make them not look like clones of each other. No two people in the world look exactly alike except for identical twins or triplets or whatever. Try not to make it a habit to recycle NPC graphics simply because you're too lazy to find new ones or make some yourself.

Making towns or roads or whatever it is in your game seem more alive begins with making your NPCs a little more interactive or at least a little more 'human'. Allow them to do more than one thing and maybe you'll be on the fast track to drawing the player into your game. This seems like a lot of work for such a menial part of the game but trust me, it adds way more player interest to walk onto a screen, walk off and walk back on and see that not everything is the same.

That's all I have for now. If you think I have some good points, leave a comment. If you have more ideas to add, leave a comment. If you hate me, think my ideas are stupid, or have good criticisms, leave a comment. Just leave a comment and I will try to address all concerns or points as logically as possible.

Until next time!


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I thought this would be an article about NPCs and their overall impact on RPGs and going into the basics like what they're for, then going into how to make them more interesting. But it turns out to be more like "How to make your NPC realistic!!" idk if I were writing the article id mention shit like:

One thing I know for sure about NPCs is that if their dialogue is not even 1 of these things:

A. Information about the story
B. Game mechanic tips
C. Humorous/entertaining (and i dont mean uttering random lines that make no sense)

Then they should just be cut out completely. Good NPCs can sometimes combine 2 of those options or all 3. But this:

The NPC is important to RPGs because they are all around.

Isn't good enough to describe the purpose of NPCs. WHY are they all around? What are the general evolutions of NPCs? etc.

Anyway ultra AI realism is nice but sometimes I think of NPC realism as their culture, does this town have enough houses to fit all the residents? What are these residents likely to wear depending on the backstory and setting? There's only so much you can do with KILLER CUSTOM PATTERN!!! Because games like Oblivion have their NPCs in a very realistic schedule where they wander around town, talk to their neighbors, go to sleep, etc. but when you talk to them they're so fucking bland and contribute nothing at all unless they're some shopkeeper/questdude or something, it gets to the point where even simple dragon quest NPCs are more useful despite their repeatable dialogue and predictable placements. You do not have to chase after typical JRPG npcs you do not have to guess what time they'll be up or where they'll be at a specific place, they simply fill their role.

I am just rambling but those are generally my thoughts on what you missed in the article.
I have to agree with Darken here. An NPC having one interesting thing to say is IMO far better than the NPC having ten uninteresting things to say.

NPCs can be used to give a place life and flair. For example, imagine you have a town that's relative rich, but a lot of the income comes from shady/illegal businesses. As a consequence, people living there are usually richer than people living in other places, but has to deal with having a lot of shady neighbors as well a shady visitors. A good way to portray this is via the NPCs and ideally not in a blatant way like having them say "This town is fairly rich, but we have a lot of shady people here" or something like that. You can think of what problems (real and imagined) the shady people may bring and have some NPCs talk about those problems. Done right the NPCs can add a lot of flair and immersion, without needing a ton of different things to say.

Mind you, I don't think your idea is bad. However it looks to me more like a specific mechanic that can be of a great use to some games rather than a general tip for giving your game more dept. Meanwhile, I think spending at least a token effort towards giving your NPCs something useful/interesting to say would help just about any game with a sizable amount of NPCs.

Begin using the format x,y,z instead of x,y for your coordinates.
Sweet, constructive feedback! Anyway you guys have brought up some good points about the article. In my defense I was hoping that this article would be more of a hook to get people interested in the series of articles. I agree that NPCs being all around isn't a good enough reason to focus on them, but because NPCs exist in every single game, there needs to be something more about them to give the game a more engrossing feeling. People tend to lose the illusion if one guy keeps telling you, "Pressing the X button allows you to talk to or interact with people" every time you talk to him.

The reason why I didn't discuss what kind of dialogue to give the NPC is because I wanted to save that kind of stuff for maybe a part 2- The Typical Town/City, or part 3 - World History or something. Talking about town design and layout as well as history and such are topics that need to be developed beyond a simple article about how to make an NPC slightly more interesting. I do agree that it is a specific mechanic that may work only on some games but not all games are going for that classic feeling of talking to two guards standing outside the gate who constantly tell you to have a good day.

Again though, I can't stress enough that dialogue, motivation, history, town layout, monster design, dungeon design, geography, all that stuff needs to developed on its own with individual ideas within those topics that may need to be discussed even further.

I love the feedback, and I agree with you guys so I will add those things to other articles in the series.

Begin using the format x,y,z instead of x,y for your coordinates.

Oh I forgot to mention this one. Yes. Absolutely true.
I completely agree with this tutorial. I find it very important to make NPCs say things that are important or relevant, and not spout off drivel like "Welcome to Town!" or "I like cookies! Yay!" I don't get why people bother making the event if it's useless, but they won't take that same three seconds to create an NPC that's useful.

One other pet peeve: Houses with doors that you can never get into. Lazy creators! :D

Good tutorial.
A game I think people can really learn from when it comes to NPCs is Dragon Quest IX. Every time you talk to an important character, do a quest or even come back to a town after moving forwards in the game, every person in a town has something entirely different to say. That kind of attention to detail is the sort of thing that more game creators should be striving for.

Thanks guys, I'll definitely be adding that stuff to the dialogue tutorial as well as town design.
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