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NPCs and their Role in Combat

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NPCs and their Role in Combat

Postby BoogtehWoog » Wed Feb 12, 2014 10:09 pm

One of the foremost issues with combat in old SOI was NPC usage. Towards the end, they became a significant headache for both staff and players alike. Battles were often decided by who could bring the most NPCs or who could manipulate commands, like guard, to best effect. Some massacres even occurred because of people abusing NPCs, like in Moria.

What will the approach be to NPCs in this incarnation of SOI? This will have to be as much of a staff solution as it is a player solution.
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Re: NPCs and their Role in Combat

Postby Zargen » Wed Feb 12, 2014 11:23 pm

I vote no npcs outside of shopkeeps and flavor npcs. At least in alpha. There wouldnt be enough people in utterby or the orc warren to warrant that.

Though it also brings up the question on mounts. If orcs are breeding wargs(argueably combat npcs in their own right) will humans be breeding their own horses or dogs?
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Re: NPCs and their Role in Combat

Postby Matt » Thu Feb 13, 2014 12:01 am

I vote no npcs outside towns.
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Re: NPCs and their Role in Combat

Postby Letters » Thu Feb 13, 2014 5:07 am

NPCs should be reacting to incidents at areas settled by vNPCs. Probably with overwhelming force, but with a delay depending on how far out it is and stuff. They should probably be staff-controlled, though, not PC-controlled or automated.
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Re: NPCs and their Role in Combat

Postby Brian » Thu Feb 13, 2014 5:40 am

No PC controlled NPCs in a combat scenario. NPCs resulted in endless rezzes, headaches, and a general increase in the difficulty of combat because you had to try and reign in all the NPCs, which made it very difficult to emote. Aside from all that, I don't feel that NPCs actually added anything to any combat scenario, except for combat spam, which is something I would like less of :p
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Re: NPCs and their Role in Combat

Postby Emilio » Thu Feb 13, 2014 6:59 am

No PC-controlled npc's in combat roles.
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Re: NPCs and their Role in Combat

Postby BoogtehWoog » Thu Feb 13, 2014 9:43 am

I am also for forbidding PC control of NPCs in combat scenarios. It is probably the best solution because enforcement is such a tricky thing. A blanket ban works best.
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Re: NPCs and their Role in Combat

Postby Letters » Thu Feb 13, 2014 9:55 am

I would add the caveat that if any PC goes and engages in utterly moronic behaviour within sight of NPCs, or in a situation where NPCs should really react but don't because they're dumb, without telling staff beforehand to ensure an appropriate NPC reaction, they can be retconned into having bad things happen to them.

Also, perhaps permit PC control of NPCs within towns for self-defense? Armageddon's playerbase has managed to be perfectly (well, mostly?) mature about this, with nobility, templars, and some Merchant Family receiving NPC escorts that they can have tag along in civilized regions. I'm pretty sure anyone but a templar using their NPCs to instigate a fight is subject to forced retirement, though, so people, you know, don't do that sort of thing. On the other hand, that is a totally different game.
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Re: NPCs and their Role in Combat

Postby BoogtehWoog » Thu Feb 13, 2014 10:10 am

Yes, I think exceptions could be made in areas like towns and such. I think the main issue was with taking NPCs out in the field to engage.
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Re: NPCs and their Role in Combat

Postby Dero » Thu Feb 13, 2014 10:35 am

NPCs are going to be necessary, we all know that. Combat NPCs should, in my opinion, only be allowed to be controlled by high ranking PCs. For example, the highest rank Guard member MIGHT (staff rules here likely apply) could take ONE other combat NPC, like a city guard, to investigate something. Could he take him out into the wilderness to go hunting? No, only on official business within the city itself. Now this is a leader role in a clan, someone that has proven to staff they are responsible for such things.

Otherwise, City Guards that are on a crim code is a must, I don't think anyone denies that. Merchant NPCs, flavor NPCs (commoners, dock workers, etc), and then lastly personal bodyguards (IF feasible with in-game structure) for Nobility or Major Roles.

With the darker environment that Laketown is going to be, assassination by inside or outside people I could see as possible. The Master likely always had a bodyguard of some sort around him while walking around, I could see a high end merchant having the same. Now this could also be a PC role, but walking around as a bodyguard is one of the most boring roles to play.
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Re: NPCs and their Role in Combat

Postby Emilio » Thu Feb 13, 2014 12:10 pm

High ranking PCs? That depends on how high a PC can rank and how dangerous it is for the PC's life to have that rank. If someone is so ambitious for power, he should accept the dangers that follows having such power.

I would say "No" to that. Hire other PCs to be your escort guards. Using NPC guards just take jobs that PCs could do.
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Re: NPCs and their Role in Combat

Postby Dero » Thu Feb 13, 2014 12:33 pm

Yes. I am going to use another MUD as an example, Armageddon or example has Sponsored Roles for high positions that PCs can play. In particular you have a Templar, this is a very high ranking character that would walk around with a soldier as a guard. There are also Nobles that might have a bodyguard that walks around with them. Now they do this by choice, but Arm is a very ruthless game and an assassination attempt is much more likely to happen.
Now Laketown is a place I could see some darker game play happening. I could see a sneaky goblin getting in and trying to assassinate someone, or even a PC trying to assassinate another PC. Laketown is corrupt and dark now with the time that has passed since it was the great town it was prior.

PC Guards are unreliable and are a pain in the ass to play. I could see PC guard supplementing, but they are one of the most boring roles to play ever. What happens when that player doesn't show up for a dangerous point where you would need your guard? Are you just SOL? You'd have to rely on the players playtime for your extra paid protection.
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Re: NPCs and their Role in Combat

Postby Matt » Thu Feb 13, 2014 1:12 pm

I think the first question is how dangerous is the town going to be.
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Re: NPCs and their Role in Combat

Postby Dero » Thu Feb 13, 2014 1:38 pm

Very good question there. Very very good question.

It will be interesting to see such things.
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Re: NPCs and their Role in Combat

Postby Throttle » Thu Feb 13, 2014 1:42 pm

I can't imagine it'll be that dangerous. Probably on par with Angost. NPC law enforcement is always more of a defense against newbies who go around randomly attacking things than any real defense against the enemy. On the rare occasions that people might actually attack a town, it's better to disable the NPC guards during the RPT as they'll otherwise cause all sorts of problems. I don't even think there'll be much reason for NPC bodyguards for sponsored roles -- the reason these are needed on Armageddon (and they barely are, honestly) is that some PCs are tantamount to royalty.
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Re: NPCs and their Role in Combat

Postby Octavius » Thu Feb 13, 2014 2:17 pm

PC vs NPC combat is key to game design.

Each side will have the ability to use their communal resources to field NPC locations to face the enemy. NPCs will man watchposts that alert the PC-locales to encroaching enemies. NPCs will watch key points and cover them with missile fire. NPCs will walk patrol routes via AI.

Any outpost will have a mechanism that allows it to be attacked and removed by a sizeable force of the enemy.

Smaller groups or individuals will be able to join with the AI patrol to go into the wilderness with back-up, rather than commanding them.

PCs against PCs with NPCs in the fight.

This will ultimately be decided by Icarus and the RPAs rather than by us as builders.

From a building perspective, I could see breeding of wolves/dogs by either side, but these would be relatively fragile creatures that would not be suitable as "shields" - it would be a lot of work to breed them only to have them killed so easily.

Humanoid armed and armored NPCs... I'd prefer to see them act on their own orders/AI without the ability to command them. But they will exist. The game can't run on PvP alone, and giving PC vs NPC options is key to making this fun.
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Re: NPCs and their Role in Combat

Postby Brian » Thu Feb 13, 2014 5:03 pm

Octavius wrote:PC vs NPC combat is key to game design.

Each side will have the ability to use their communal resources to field NPC locations to face the enemy. NPCs will man watchposts that alert the PC-locales to encroaching enemies. NPCs will watch key points and cover them with missile fire. NPCs will walk patrol routes via AI.

Any outpost will have a mechanism that allows it to be attacked and removed by a sizeable force of the enemy.

Smaller groups or individuals will be able to join with the AI patrol to go into the wilderness with back-up, rather than commanding them.


Hmmm...I'll reserve judgement until I've seen it in action, but what I've noticed is that, general, NPCs that are acting on their own are pretty much waiting to be slaughtered. If we look at the way the mini-forts happened in SoI2 there was consistent wholesale slaughter of the NPCs. I hated seeing it, because I couldn't imagine what kind of incompetent commander would be happy to send more and more soldiers off to the slaughter. Can you imagine, as a PC, being told that you were going off to garrison the fort that your side had just taken back, that had gone back and forth between both sides four times in the last two months, with no survivors of the garrison that had been stationed there each time? I think if you didn't have a nerve of steel it'd be cause for desertion, cause you would know what was coming.

Unless NPCs are animated, it's just an unfortunate truth that they can't fight well. This doesn't matter for wilderness creatures, but when NPCs are supposed to be treated as characters in the game it does. We're supposed to look at NPCs as if they are just as real and just as much a person in the game. So if I go out on patrol to an area that is manned by my troops and there are 10 NPC corpses, that is 10 soldiers that have been killed in the line of duty. It makes me wary of making regular combat against NPCs a thing.

This has inspired me to a new topic where I expand on my thoughts about combat, so I'd welcome people to combat on combat in the grander scale there.
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Re: NPCs and their Role in Combat

Postby Zargen » Thu Feb 13, 2014 5:23 pm

I think I would like to see it in action before making any judgement. NPC AI has come a long way since SOI
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Re: NPCs and their Role in Combat

Postby radioactivejesus » Tue Mar 04, 2014 7:37 pm

I'd like war-dog/wolf npcs to be trainable with the appropriate crafts and then used in the wilderness. I think I heard a proposal in another forum topic to give them terrible armour and health to prevent players from 'shieldhorsing'. If actual controllable soldier npc's do go ingame, there should be a hardcoded cap of only like 2 being able to follow a group at a time to prevent the team with the most npc's from winning... Although if staff plan on not giving orcs access to the same crafts as the human sphere, giving orcs more goblin npc followers would be a good way to balance things and give the humans a larger sense of badassness as they slaughter our minions.
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Re: NPCs and their Role in Combat

Postby Icarus » Wed Mar 05, 2014 3:08 pm

I personally will be using Alpha as a bit of experiment with AI and such. If we can pull it off well, then wohoo AI! If not... then sorry, nope.

What there will not be:
A room where your Commander can go, get 10 NPCs, outfit them, and charge out the gates with them spamwalking across the map to the battle currently happening, then spam arrowfire on the forces, killing people before they can react. Basically, if there are NPCs, I don't imagine that they will be entirely player controllable. There might be a few "NPC" locations, such as a watchtower that orcs can burn down that generates a frightened soldier set to flee to some safe location, and visa versa, but we will see.
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Re: NPCs and their Role in Combat

Postby Nimrod » Wed Mar 05, 2014 4:20 pm

This topic is extremely important to me because I am a huge fan of pvp when playing a character. Trying to outsmart real people and developing a long-term rivalry is something that pleases me. The trick is maintaining the tension for as long as possible without removing all hope of resolution for either side.

Some of the most immersive roleplay I've witnessed and participated in was pvp. The problem is that we're human. We want to achieve our goal so badly that sometimes we inadvertently get what we want at the expense of good play. It's human nature, and it's made exponentially worse by the number of humans involved in the scene and when NPCs are involved the problems are multiplied ten-fold.

Without doubt some of the best scenes I've ever witnessed as an RPA included 3 specific individuals. These three individuals have all made huge mistakes as well. One of these fantastic players made a mistake which involved NPCs and is still refered to and each time I see it mentioned I grit my teeth with anger over the fickle nature of humans and how hurtful we can be without realizing it. This player is forever gone from our ranks. It is a loss for our community. I hope they come back some day.

I'm not a fan of player-run npcs, excluding mounts, being involved in combat. If it were up to me, I would ban all use of player-run npcs, but allow mounts. I would also drastically change how mounts and riders fight by considering them both a single unit and only allowing one to make an offensive move each combat tick instead of both. It's a very simple model that allows horse and rider to absorb twice as much damage but limit offense so it's not 2 vs. 1.

e.g.

an orc hits horse
horse bites orc
orc misses horse
rider misses orc
orc hits horse
horse stomps orc

This scheme more realistically represents mounted combat to me and allows the lone orc more opportunity to be rescued by his mates or run off to fight another day compared to being ganked by horse and rider by taking two hits for every one he deals out.

The success of the mount's attacks should also be based on the rider's ability to handle it and a rider should also face the possibility that their horse may spook and buck them off, maybe knocking them unconscious for a bit. Falling off of a horse in battle is very BAD. It should reflect that in code.

BTW, these are all -my- thoughts. It's up to Frigga and Icarus to determine how we want to handle things in code.
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Re: NPCs and their Role in Combat

Postby Letters » Wed Mar 05, 2014 4:44 pm

I don't really see the environment as being friendly to horses, or the culture one which puts them to use except as draught animals, or perhaps to be used to take a person to battle, but not to fight from.

As for falling off a horse: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WMuNXWFPewg

Player characters fighting each other, at least in the context of two opposing "spheres", has never really been a good thing, when all the ups and downs are weighed against each other. If there must be two spheres, then they should be ideally given stuff to do that involves as little interaction as possible with the other side.
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