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Preview Chris Avellone Talks About NPC Interaction

Sol Invictus

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Tags: Chris Avellone; Obsidian Entertainment; Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic 2: The Sith Lords

Chris Avellone discusses the NPC interaction in his upcoming title Knights of the Old Republic 2 at the <a href=http://forums.obsidianent.com/index.php?showtopic=25704>Obsidian Forums</a>. He talks about some of the changes Obsidian has implemented into KOTOR 2 that differ from how NPC interaction was handled in the previous game.
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<blockquote>
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More designer ramblings, this time on Influence.
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In K1, you would have the options to speak to your companions about their past or current problems, and these would usually be governed by a pop-up message ([Carth looks worried, perhaps you should speak to him]) or by leveling up.
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In K2, we removed the leveling and "so and so looks worried" triggers and incorporated the same mechanic into Influence - instead of pop-up triggers, we've given you a few choices:
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1. The amount you can learn about a companion's past, present, or even future problems depends on how much Influence you have with them, not level. So the more time you spend with a companion either crushing their spirit or helping them, the more options this will open in dialogues with them.
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2. Influence is not gained simply by doing good and evil acts - it depends on the companion's personality. Some respond better to displays of strength, loyalty, betrayal, or other personality traits that don't always fall neatly into good or evil categories.
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3. Influence markers will appear in companion dialogues when you make certain choices - these will be marked as [Influence: Failure] and [Influence: Success], and they'll let you know when you either have or don't have enough Influence to get an answer about a specific question about a companion.
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4. The more influence you have with a companion will also begin to have an effect on their alignment (this also depends on the companion - some companions, no matter what your influence is, will not be subject to this alignment shift). In some cases, it will also begin to have an effect on OTHER companions, and they may start getting pissed off in a major way.
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5. Some companions are very hard to Influence, and it is difficult to gain maximum Influence with all companions over the course of the game. This is done for replayability reasons.
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6. You can only gain Influence with companions who are in your party.
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7. And lastly, because some people just hate this crap, you don't ever have to speak to your companions at ALL and your Influence with them will never matter - whether you want to plumb the depths of their personality is solely your choice, and the game will not force it on you.
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However...
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8. If you do, almost every character has rewards for completing their internal or external Influence companion quests, and it can prove worthwhile in the long run.</blockquote>
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Discuss!
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IGN also makes a report on it, but with less detail. You can read that <a href=http://xbox.ign.com/articles/569/569213p1.html>here</a>.
 

suibhne

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This strikes me as a good model for gaging NPC interaction, approaching each one as an individual personality with distinct interests and triggers, yet it's also dandy that Obsidian basically made it optional. It could also be a good mechanism for NPC character development, making it more dependent on more complex player input than on scripting. I'm eager to see how this plays out, once we finally get the game in goddamn February.

It doesn't seem radically different from previous RPGs, but it's at least an evolution. If nothing else, it's great to see Obsidian putting so much thought into their NPCs as characters rather than mere combat henchmen.
 

kumquatq3

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I think that NPCs will still stop to talk to each other (and in doing so stop you), just not stop you with (carth seems worried)
 
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dojoteef

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I think it sounds very interesting. I think Planscape:Torment was the first game to have such in depth party interactions and I guess Chris and the team at Obsidian have decided to help evlove that paradigm even more. I just hope it turns out well.
 

Spazmo

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I really like all these ideas for NPC interaction the Obsidian team is floating. If it all works, I wouldn't be surprised if the game sets a new standard for party members in RPGs.
 

Mendoza

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It does all sound very good. I guess [cliche phrase of the day] the proof is in the pudding though [/cliche phrase of the day].
 

Deacdo

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I think it is a shame these guys are wasted doing multiplatformed licensed stuff.

Even though they have decidedly different views than me in regards to some features, I'd like to see what they can do with a property of their own.

Seems like most of the interesting developers are being handled by their balls through less than stellar publishers.
 

Jora

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errorcode said:
wasn't avellone one of the guys responsible for the NPC interactions in PS:T?
Yes, IIRC. In addition to Fortress of Regrets and the Mortuary he also designed the companions.
 
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dojoteef

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Well you have to understand for publishers it's less about the quality of a game and more about the marketability of the game.
 

errorcode

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Jora said:
errorcode said:
wasn't avellone one of the guys responsible for the NPC interactions in PS:T?
Yes, IIRC. In addition to Fortress of Regrets and the Mortuary he also designed the companions.
well, if he brings the same level of depth and interaction to the NPCs as PS:T showed, then i'll be thrilled.

too bad they went with a question and answer way to start the game instead of letting the game read your save from KOTOR, but thats a different ball of wax.
 

coaxmetal

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errorcode said:
well, if he brings the same level of depth and interaction to the NPCs as PS:T showed, then i'll be thrilled.

He won't. Apparently not to this dialogue thingie he found, at least. This time maybe the superficial players who don't want the kind of anal dialogue and npc interraction presented in Torment can at least bypass it. It will, at least, give KOTOR II some chances at sales that Torment never really had.
But "sshhh!!1" let's not tell them this feature even exists. :)
 

FireWolf

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Deacdo said:
I think it is a shame these guys are wasted doing multiplatformed licensed stuff.

Yeah it's a real shame that they've been given a title which pretty much guarantees they'll sell big and get critical acclaim and subsequently a wad of cash to create their own titles.

Perhaps if NPC development is highlighted as a great way to improve games we'll see more of it in titles? Producers love imitations of successful titles.
 

Saint_Proverbius

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coaxmetal said:
He won't. Apparently not to this dialogue thingie he found, at least. This time maybe the superficial players who don't want the kind of anal dialogue and npc interraction presented in Torment can at least bypass it. It will, at least, give KOTOR II some chances at sales that Torment never really had.

The problem with PS:T's NPC backstory stuff was that it was about as interactive as UNIX's "more" command. You'd get a page of text followed by the choice of having him continue or stopping right there. You didn't have much in the way to offer or guide the story you were getting. It was merely, "Okay, shut up already!" or "Keep going, I'm immortal anyway."

At least NPCs won't be interrupting me in the middle of something important to tell me why they don't like kittens because their parents sold their kitten to a fur coat manufacturer when they were children. That's one thing that bugged me about a lot of BioWare's games, including the original KotOR. You'd be in the middle of some heavy fortified Sith base, and Carth would want to explain his trust issues.
 

coaxmetal

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yes, although there was a high degree o choice to be made right there, in the PST npc backstory stuff. Yeah, it didn't happen as often as i wanted and yeah it was pretty much linear but at least it wasn't Neverwinter "listen the fuck to me or you won't get the +3 ring".
As long as they do this right, they can right-on give me all the plethora, i can handle it... :)
whether you want to plumb the depths of their personality is solely your choice, and the game will not force it on you.

...and the casual player can go right through if offended by more than one page of dialogue per npc.
 

kumquatq3

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Another recent MCA post that kinda sort relates to the above, but more about the games ending:

/Begin Rambling

I don't know if you've ever played Fallout, but if you haven't, you should. One of the best role-playing games ever made.

In any event, one of the many cool things about Fallout (which may have been done in previous games that I am ignorant of) is that the choices you made with each city you visited in the game caused a different splash screen at the end of the game, describing what happened to the locale in the future as a result of your actions.

The same sort of effect is present in Kotor2, though it does not only apply to planets and their people, but it also extends to your companions as well, depending on how you treated them or how horribly you broke them to your will - if they survived at all.

Splash screens didn't mesh with the Star Wars aesthetic though, so we had to pick a different means of displaying the information within the genre aesthetics. In any event, I wanted to let you guys know so that aside from: Your character's gender, your character's light side/dark side leanings, the 4 different answers to your questions about what happened in K1, you ALSO get variations based on how you solved each planet and how you dealt with each of your companions, so the permutations can get extensive.

In any event, it's all done in the name of replayability - hopefully, each person who plays the game should have some key experiences that are different, and get a different perspective on the story (and beyond).

/End Rambling
 

DemonKing

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Saint_Proverbius said:
You'd be in the middle of some heavy fortified Sith base, and Carth would want to explain his trust issues.

Agreed..."(insert NPC's name here) looks worried" was pretty damn lame IMHO...and even more so if it was the pathetic Carth wanting to whine.

I'll be looking forward to see how it all works out in KOTOR2.
 

geminito

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Yawn. But will Kotor2 still feel like a pinball game? Exploration will still mean bouncing off the walls of tiny maps? Now we can skip the dialogue and focus just on the pathetic exploration? Wow! Can't WAIT!

Once Obsidian gets the cash from this hybrid adventure game, I hope we see a real RPG from them that we can sink our teeth into.
 

Sol Invictus

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While I am looking forward to KOTOR 2, I'm more interested in seeing what Bioware has come up with in Dragon Age.
 

Jora

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More ramblings:
/Begin Romance Thread

Romances are a little different in Kotor2, I just wanted to warn you guys. We provided more romance options in K2 (you can choose who you want to romance, and sometimes the romance problems don’t even involve you and your companions at all - this'll become clearer in the game).

Not only that, but there will be instances where the influence you have with one romantic rival may cause unpleasant repercussions with another, and the jealousy wars will begin, because let’s face it, your character is the hottest, coolest, most badass ex-Jedi in the galaxy. What’s even better, is that because your character is a tortured soul with a tortured past, that just makes your character even more interesting to those of the opposite sex.

Of course, you COULD be a shallow, manipulative, evil monster, but hey, nobody else needs to realize that until too late – Padme sure didn’t.

Anyway, all that said, we’ve played the romances in K2 a little closer to the chest. This is not because I am not a romantic, but I feel that not only is the game darker than Feargus’ soul, but also because life is fundamentally unfair, unrequited, and that Cheers, Moonlighting and any other series where romance was brought into the picture was ultimately devastated by consummating that relationship. So expect a more Terry Pratchett approach to romances, and a lot more subtle innuendos and off-stage battling.

Anyway, just wanted to make sure we were all on the same page and dash your “I’m going to have a 5 year relationship with X companion, marry that companion, and have children with him or her” hopes before they raised their heads.

Besides, let’s face it, love stinks.

/End Romance Thread
 

errorcode

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i'm glad there taking that approach to romance. I hated the ham-fisted romances that've come before.
 

DrattedTin

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Am I the only person who finds the prospect of another sterile Star Wars RPG in the vein of KOTR dismally boring?
 

errorcode

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If bioware was doing it, then yes. But I think Obsidian will make it enjoyable. I like starwars, but KOTOR left me feeling pretty bored and with no desire to replay it.

Just from what i've seen of how Avellone is approaching fundamental aspects of the game, it sounds like it will offer more replayability and be a more exciting game overall.
 

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