Things Looters Say

I continued work on NPC conversations today, and spent a good chunk of time on a conversation tree with a looter. Using the encounter system, they can be as complex or as simple as any other encounter in the game, once they kick-off.

For my first test, I just had a looter tell me to go away, and that seemed to work. However, if I wanted to let the player say anything, that would mean more than one-liners.

So I drafted a slightly longer chain of conversation, with a few choices. It's a bit more work, but it also lets me add things like the player asking about the swamp, and other background info. I may also have the opportunity to add a few chances for the player to use items and skills in conversation (like any other encounter).

One obstacle I ran into was making the conversation seem to have permanence. As you've probably noticed, I like to do conversations where certain paths close when you make a choice. And in most cases, this is easy. Encounters usually happen in specific places and times, so it's easy to control.

With NPCs, however, the encounter trigger is moving around the map. And in most cases, there are many copies of the same trigger moving around the map. This means that conversations with looters have two options:

1 - Anything you say to looter #1 is also true when talking to looter #2, like a hive mind.
2 - Everything you say to looter #1 is immediately forgotten by looter #1, so you can keep having the same conversation.

Option 1 isn't appealing, because of the hive-mind feel to it. And option 2 drives me crazy in computer RPGS. NPCs in many games feel like they're just info vending machines with no memory nor personality. I usually try to avoid such conversational design in the game.

I thought about this a bit, and I think I've got a trick that will work. I'll just create a handful of looter creatures, and each launches a different conversation. There will still be hive-mind duplicates roaming the map, but if I can do enough of them, maybe players won't encounter them in the same session.

In theory, this works. In practice, it'll depend on how many I can create. If I can pull it off, though, it'll hopefully feel like there are at least a few different personalities out there roaming the map. E.g. the "jaded" looter, the "angry" looter, the "tired but friendly" looter, etc. In longer games, one will probably exhaust them all and start seeing duplicates. But I think that beats hearing shallow one-liners and never being able to converse.

Work on that continues tomorrow. Have a good night, all!