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  1. Click here to go to the next staff post in this thread. #1

    Default "My trust in him is marrow deep!" Persistant Characters in Elite: Dangerous

    Hi DDFers,

    This weeks topic discusses persistant NPC characters. Many characters in the Elite: Dangerous universe are public figures, and will be consistent with all players (e.g. the Emperor will be the same character in everyone's game). Many characters players will encounter are generated as part of a players encounters and missions. Where possible the game will attempt to re-use NPC characters where appropriate, and share characters between connected players, leading to persistent NPCs with developing stories.

    Goals
    • Provide consistent characters for player’s to interact with
    • Provide a sense of history for the galaxy
    • Provide the opportunity for casual encounters to become longer running threads


    Character Tiers
    Character tiers are used to identify the characters, their significance and permanence in the game world.

    Tier 1 Characters
    Tier 1 characters are major characters within the game world, for example Planetary Presidents, Major Corporation CEO’s and top ranking crime bosses. Typically the player will interact with tier 2 characters associated with the tier 1 character rather than directly with the tier 1 character.

    There is a global list of tier 1 characters.

    They are identified by the following characteristics:
    • Players do not interact with these characters directly.
    • The character is common to all online players.
    • The character is created via an in-game invent – typically manually.
    • The character can only be killed by an in-game event.
    • A tier 2 character can be promoted to tier 1, but only by an event.


    Tier 1 Character Examples
    • Faction leaders
    • Regional persons of note
    • Engineering specialists (enhanced weapons and modules)
    • Station based characters such as traders
    • Characters providing missions


    Tier 2 Characters
    Tier 2 characters are characters that persist for players, but can be interacted with directly. They will usually be specific to the player, rather than across all players.

    There is a per player list of tier 2 characters. There is an upper limit (TBD) of how many tier 2 characters can be tracked per player.

    They are identified by the following characteristics:
    • Players can interact with the character directly.
    • Character can be killed by players or by events
    • Character can be created via an event, by the game or promoted from tier 3
    • Characters can issue missions


    Tier 2 Character Examples
    • Faction leader underlings that the player deals directly with
    • Mission targets
    • Mission providers
    • Pilots of NPC vessels that the player has previously interacted with


    Tier 3 Characters
    Tier 3 characters are transient characters that are created when traffic is generated, these are typically pilots for NPC ships. Tier 3 character s are randomly generated from a global pool as needed.

    If the player interacts with a tier 3 character then the character may be promoted to a tier 2 so they can be encountered again.

    They are identified by the following characteristics:
    • They are not persistent
    • They can be promoted to tier 2 (and thus become persistent)
    • They are randomly created according to the required archetype


    Tier 3 Character Examples
    • Pilots for generated traffic
    • Passengers


    Newsfeeds
    Characters (particularly tier 1 types) can be used as named people in news items.

    Required Data
    Each persistent character has two sets of data:
    1. Core information
    2. Character log


    Core Information
    The core information defines the character and how they interact with the world and the players. The required data includes:
    • Name
    • Archetype – this is used to manage events the character is attached to. It also defines what missions or behaviour the character has.
    • Location – this is where the character is currently based.


    Character Log
    Like players the character’s (tiers 1 and 2) generate an event log to track their history. There will be a separate design discussion on the player’s log, but for the characters the following information needs to be recorded for each entry:
    • Timestamp
    • Character
    • Event type
    • Other parties


    Discussion Points
    How far should generated characters be shared. With friends, with the general public, with those in your current session etc.?
    How long should an NPC be remembered. If a character isn't used within 3 months, should it be assumed that the player will have forgotten about them, and won't benefit from a character appearing saying "remember me?"
    Should we limit how galactically important NPCs generated by player events can ultimately become
    Last edited by Sandro Sammarco; 05/08/2013 at 6:39 PM.

  2. #2
    I like this a lot - I'd love to see this deeply integrated with the fiction (the books), and the newsfeeds.

    I presume there would be multiple non-specific characters (maybe procedurally named) such that all players could come across them regularly (eg, station controllers, police characters, etc.).

    Linked to that, I would like to avoid that named characters appear simultaneously to different players in different ways or in different places. That would destroy immersion for me.

  3. #3
    I really like this proposal..

    The promotion idea is great as it will allow for events to make new important people from NPC..

    for example.. You have been doing missions for an NPC, assassinating political opponents, he then is elected into an elevated state... no longer deals with you but becomes a part of canon and history.

    EQUALLY though, those untouchable players should be demote-able to allow for assassinations in time. And stories to develop.

    I like the idea of people forgetting you over time too, and I see the need for random char creations at tier 3 and they should have a short life/memory than tier 2

    Should be no limit on how these NPC's develop from lowly pirate to work his way up to a HUGE pirate leader... or independent president.
    IT gives a lot of scope for story lines...and therefore to create a RICH developing universe...

    And you can then get real rivalries between specific NPC's pitching players against player..

    I love it.

  4. #4
    Overall I like the proposal but will mull over in more detail later.

    My thoughts at the moment relate to how the NPCs will be named and where the names will come from. For instance we need to be careful not to have those names of people that are being honoured in E : D (Douglas Adams for example - if he gets a mention) do not end up being associated with the more undesirable elements in-game (e.g. terrorists, corporate Mafiosi etc.)

    The other issue stems from the names submitted by backers at the 'Name your NPC' level... Do these names appear throughout the game to all players or are they player limited like the Tier 2 NPCs. This leads me onto the next point as to whether Tier 1 and 2 NPCs are going to be randomly generated names that are persistent.

    Beyond those two points I rather like the proposal so far but will think further

  5. #5
    If tier 3 and 2 characters are specific to players how will group interaction work - eg a bunch of players fight an NPC, and he gets promoted to persistent, is there any consistency between the version of the NPC for different players?
    Lots of other examples spring to mind but the above illustrates the point I think.

  6. #6
    First off, awesome proposal!

    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Kewell View Post
    Discussion Points
    How far should generated characters be shared. With friends, with the general public, with those in your current session etc.?
    How long should an NPC be remembered. If a character isn't used within 3 months, should it be assumed that the player will have forgotten about them, and won't benefit from a character appearing saying "remember me?"
    Should we limit how galactically important NPCs generated by player events can ultimately become
    You could make an archetype that affects the way NPCs develop. Every time a Tier 2 NPC is generated, the game can randomly assign them as an average (common) or exceptional (rare) character.

    If an average NPC survives a long time in the player's world (months), they don't really progress all that much. The average trader will remain an average trader, always flying the same old ship, or they may fall on hard-times. But the exceptional NPC will gradually rise in power (e.g. better ship, more escorts) and rank, becoming a powerful ally, or dangerous enemy.

    Exceptional NPCs would persist a lot longer than average ones, and the player would generally be made aware of their death - either by being there in person, or from a newsfeed. The likelihood of a character dying when the player isn't there (i.e. death by random number) should be low, but still possible. Hopefully though, this process would whittle down the numbers of truly exceptional NPCs, and once they cross some kind of threshold, there could be the chance of them crossing over into Tier 1.

    For sharing, I think that between friends is fine, and even then only if there's significant interaction. Obviously if an NPC crosses over into Tier 1 then they become public.

  7. #7
    Gut reaction is that it's a shame Tier 1 can only be killed by an in-game event. A little more openness would be nice, although I would suggest that opportunity to kill them other than by event would be rare and take time and planning.
    Also, don't forget the option of having Tier 1 demoted to tier 2 or demotion in general.
    Last edited by Crash_Happy; 19/07/2013 at 6:14 PM.

  8. #8
    As characters progress in the Elite universe, they will presumably gather (in)fame. One technique I always appreciate in fiction is when people that knew them before they were famous continue to use their old name. For example, consider Doctor Manhattan in Watchmen - a being of incalculable power, he single-handedly won the Vietnam war. His friends still call him Jon.

    It's especially powerful when used to denote the close relationship between a pair of nemeses. For example, Magneto is the master of magnetism, the founder of the Brotherhood of Mutants, and is known to his arch-enemy as Eric. When not battling each other for the future of humanity, Eric and Charles like to hang out and play chess.

    I really like the idea of characters becoming more famous as time goes by, but the progression of NPC antagonists should be tied to the progression of the players they grew up with. So if I spend my time chasing after a mercenary who becomes known as the Butcher of Barnard's Star, I should always be able to track him down for our final showdown and hail him with the words "hey Bob, how's the kids?".

  9. #9
    question first
    Are any of the characters "instanced" ?
    ie at any point will a pair of identical characters experience a simultaneous and differenent sequence of events with different players ?

    ie will all stories a player might tell of their interaction with the games characters always be unique across all players ?




    discussion points

    >>How far should generated characters be shared. With friends, with the general public, with those in your current session etc.?

    I presume this query only applies to Tier 2 ?
    It seems Tier 1 are shared globally and Tier 3 are by default non-persistant ?

    I would suggest any persistant character should be preserved indefinately.
    If they can disappear in the future it makes them less real.
    That said it should be possible for some real persistant characters to disappear, possibly under mysterious sinister circumstances.
    Would you go looking for your favourite fence if they vanished after months/years of interaction ?



    >>How long should an NPC be remembered. If a character isn't used within 3 months, should it be assumed that the player will have forgotten about them, and won't benefit from a character appearing saying "remember me?"

    3 months might seem like a long time from the POV of traditional database managment but this is a BIG game. Some players, especialy explorers might not revisit the same space for several months. It would be great to come back a year later and find that great repair gal who gives you a friends and family discount cos you saved her Mom's transport from slavers...


    >>Should we limit how galactically important NPCs generated by player events can ultimately become.

    A better question is how to limit the benefits a player can get by being involved in creating a character who turns out to be one of the top Tier 1.
    Maybe they helped out the future imperial emperor when he was a kid, doesnt mean he will shower unlimited gifts on them.
    There could also be lots of downsides such as being an easier target for revenge plots by the characters numerous well-armed enemies.
    What the hell am I doing here not playing the Alpha ????

  10. #10
    I have an issue with the distinction between tier 1 and 2 characters to do with the whole game universe.

    Now, I can see that some tier 1 characters, such as traders, should be able to be directly interacted with, at least in terms of the trade they're running.

    Secondly, surely it may be tricky to have two players in an instance with their own copies of tier 2 NPCs called Captain Bubbles but which have different histories and reputations. In this case, NPCs need to be universal entities in the E: D game universe so as to prevent this sort of paradox from occurring.

    Maybe there needs to be a tier 1.5 where the NPC appears in all instances and is fully interactable.
    Just like Tron, I fight for the users.

  11. #11
    Quote Originally Posted by Novastar View Post
    It would be great to come back a year later and find that great repair gal who gives you a friends and family discount cos you saved her Mom's transport from slavers...

    Maybe they helped out the future imperial emperor when he was a kid, doesnt mean he will shower unlimited gifts on them.
    So maybe interactions should also have a 'significance' factor?
    Particular actions like saving that space-mechanics family would be considered highly significant and so a year down the line they still acknowledge your heroics. On the other hand doing standard supply runs for spares and fuel for the same person may net you a nice discount while you have an active relationship, but three months gap and someone else is doing that job and there and with plenty of delivery pilots in the universe you're now relegated back to joe schmoe.

  12. #12
    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Kewell View Post
    How long should an NPC be remembered. If a character isn't used within 3 months, should it be assumed that the player will have forgotten about them, and won't benefit from a character appearing saying "remember me?"
    Having said antagonists should be tied strongly to their protagonists, it would be nice for explorers to feel like time has passed if they come back after 3 months walkabout. NPCs have changed - they've gained scars, got married, want to show off their new toys, have adventures to tell you about, and so on. After all, Elite has always been about a universe that's bigger than you.

    Rather than deleting characters after a set period, how about opening them up to random occurrences that can include death? Maybe a smuggler character spends some time in prison, maybe a pirate decides to turn gamekeeper, maybe a politician gets assassinated. This will eventually kill off a player's NPCs by random chance if they never come back, while creating interesting hooks to bring players back in if they had a busy few months in real life and forgot all about the game.

  13. #13
    Interesting proposal Tom.

    How will this work with offline players if T1 are event driven and there are no events for them ?
    Cmdr Liqua
    Shinrarta Dezhra
    Founders System

  14. #14
    Quote Originally Posted by Crash_Happy View Post
    So maybe interactions should also have a 'significance' factor?
    I like this idea, especially if significance for the NPC is different to significance for the player. It could be a lot of fun to play around with the but for me it was Tuesday trope here - you were just pirating another trader without enough defences, but to them it was their belief in humanity going down the drain. When they come back 3 months later looking to kill you, your reaction is "I did what? Alright whatever, let's just fight".

    Even if most players really do forget and only know about it through the blog of someone obsessed enough to figure it out, knowing the game cares more about their NPCs than they do will give people permission to immerse themselves more in the story.

  15. #15
    For those who have named characters (that's most if not all of us here is it not?), are these going to be Tier 1, 2 or 3?
    Questions about Elite: Dangerous? Unsure of what's there now, what is coming, and what isn't? Start here.

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