NPC Systems and Kickstarter Delays

More quick and dirty design notes!

NPC Systems Enhancements – Mood

So far, NPCs have only one major variable when it comes to interacting with you: their Favor Level. This indicates whether they love you, hate you, or are somewhere in between. It works fine, but I’m planning to add some more variables to let me do lots more stuff with NPCs.

Raising Favor is time-consuming, but gives you a permanent reward. Doing things that reduce favor, then, is very bad, because it’s like losing XP. It sucks to lose favor, so there’s very few things that lower it. But lots of game mechanics would be more interesting if NPCs could dislike certain actions.

So this new variable (let’s call it Mood for now) will indicate their mood on a short time scale. It slowly returns back to a neutral mood over time. If you gamble with an NPC and win all his money, his Mood sours. If he wins all yours, his Mood improves. If you give him a gift, his Mood (as well as his Favor) goes up. If you drive a hard bargain while Bartering, he gets pissed. Come back tomorrow, though, and his Mood is back to neutral. The NPC’s Mood will affect things like their sales rates, how receptive they are to bribes, etc.

NPC System – Weekly Money Pool

Vendors already have a cap on how much they’ll buy stuff for. The higher your Favor, the more money they’ll splurge on a single item. This works fine, but it tends to focus people all on one NPC. I’d like to get people to move around a little bit more. So I’ll add a “money pool” that determines how much total money the NPC can spend per week.

I think this system was done really poorly in Skyrim, where most vendors had so little weekly money that they couldn’t even buy one inventory-load of loot. You had to run all around town just to sell one batch of crap! Very frustrating. I don’t want that effect. Instead, I want you to hit Vendor A with the first few loads of loot, and Vendor B with the next few, etc. So I’ll be setting the amounts really high… maybe 25x their purchase cap, meaning that if they’re willing to spend up to $1000 on a sword, they’ll have $25,000 weekly to spend on swords. Something like that.

This is intended to be a pretty subtle behavior-changer, not a sledgehammer. In fact, people who only play on weekends will rarely be affected by it at all, because it’ll reset before they play again. That’s a little unfair to people who play every day, but at the moment I don’t think it’s a big deal.

NPC System – Trade Trust

The last new variable is something I’m calling “trade trust”… I’m not sure what I’ll call it in-game.

Let me step back and explain the problem: I’d like to have some game skills that focus on letting you make more money, barter better, etc. But in open-skill games, those skills are usually very uninteresting. Either they’re very weak, or they take forever to raise, or — worst of all — they’re super useful and everybody just always maxes them out as soon as they can. If everybody is maxing out the trading skills, then “everybody” is a trader. Which means nobody is especially good at trading.

 

So instead of having a global skill for something like “Bartering”, I want to push that into the individual NPCs. The more you Barter with each NPC, the more Trade Trust they’ll have for you, and the better you’ll do. You’ll earn Trade Trust for every purchase or sale, too, so if you’ve been visiting the same vendor for years, you can get a pretty good deal.

It’ll be a little challenging making this system hard to “game” by high-level players — you don’t want to be able to max out Trade Trust by just dropping a million bucks on somebody and instantly earning their endearment; it needs to be a time-based thing, too. But it shouldn’t take literal years, either, if you’re spending good money. So that will probably take some tweaking.

On Again, Off Again Kickstarter

The Kickstarter I’d planned hasn’t happened, despite doing a lot of the prep work. The problem is that the game still doesn’t test well enough. One of the recurring themes is that the graphics aren’t good enough. I think players can see past a lot of bad graphics, but a few issues really seem to grate. Things like how the run animation makes humans’ arms go all bendy unless they’re wearing metal armor. Or how certain female armor suits make your head look detached. So I’m working with the Legends of Etherell team again to do another overhaul of character art.

They’re also revamping Serbule and probably some other areas to give it a more professional feel. Aaron from LoE is also doing a lot of performance testing to try to get Serbule working well. Exciting stuff!

If things pan out well, this batch of art will also include a new playable race, the orcs. (I mean with custom faces and such, not just bright-green-tinted Elves, which is what I’m using as placeholders at the moment!)

Next time I’ll talk about the racial differences that are coming down the pike.

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6 Responses to NPC Systems and Kickstarter Delays

  1. Mouse says:

    As you stated, the major worry with Trade Trust is gaming the system. An off-the-cuff example of something to prevent is spam buy/selling. Sell cheapish item A, rebuy it with the markup (or overpay somehow?), repeat. All that selling low/buying high builds up the Trade Trust value, even though the low/high delta is quite small.

    Sort of the reverse of your drop million gold scenario. Player might lose 10 of some small denomination per sale, but power up so they can sell the big ticket item for 10% higher and gain thousands of a larger denomination.

    It’s the sort of thing that makes sense in real life and human pattern matching would prevent such things, but setting actual logical rules for a computer to control can be a bitch.

    I’m actually someone who enjoys economic gameplay beyond ‘buy low, sell high’. and, honestly, I’d question whether it’s worth your time:
    Say it took a year of 8 hour days to earn 100 gold. Having established rapport with an NPC I can buy that uber-expensive item for 99 gold, instead. That’s savings of about 3 whole days work, which is huge, and I should be thrilled, but as a human I just see 1% change and feel meh.

    Or coin flows through hands like water and I earn thousands at the drop of a hat. Getting a 20% discount on a million gold item also feels meh. Again, 20% would be huge, but I feel like gold is so easy to earn that the discount is meaningless.

    The sweet spot in between is incredibly small and still wouldn’t generate much more than the ‘meh’ except for those few really who like to play the economics game.

    Finally – if I’m getting a 10% discount all the time (example: WoW exalted reputations), I see it as the default and feel overcharged when I’m not at that rank. Since I only see my own purchases/sales, it’s undetectable – I can forget other folks are being charged 10% more, so I take it for granted. If somehow everyone’s purchase prices were disclosed, then at 10% discount I still feel rather blase, but the guy with no discount starts getting irked that he’s paying more all the time (or you triage for half the difference in price).

    Three scenarios, two with boredom results, and one with disgruntlement. Is it really a value add? You have a lot of great ideas and implement a lot of interesting things in unique ways – as sole developer, vendor discounts just doesn’t seem to be cost effective for you.

  2. Azuriel says:

    Sell cheapish item A, rebuy it with the markup (or overpay somehow?), repeat.

    One possible way to get around that would be to put in code that a vendor doesn’t want to re-purchase an item he/she just sold. Or maybe they will – GameStop is fine selling new and buying used – but the Trade Trust doesn’t increase more than one for each item. Then again, maybe the player will purchase 1 of everything and then resell.

    If you do go with this Trade Trust thing, I think you’ll have to make it so that it only increases once every X hours or whatever, to dissuade gaming it. Hell, you could probably make it as short as 20 minutes – long enough for questing until your bags are full and then return. Maybe this will just encourage players to sell 1 item to 20 different vendors though…

  3. Mouse says:

    Azuriel – or run rings. Buy item from A, sell to B. Buy something else from B, sell to C. Continue through selling Y’s item to Z. Buy from Z and sell to A. Entire loop takes long enough that A’s once again happy to see you when you get there.

    It’s a tricky thing to balance. It can be balanced. It can be fair. It can even be fun. Getting it to be all three is hard. I just question if Eric should spend time on this vs. some other of his crazy-cool features.

  4. Jason says:

    Some good ideas and good feedback. One thing that might work well in conjunction with your Trade Trust is the concept of diminishing returns. We use this in Istaria, the more of an item you sell to a vendor the less that vendor pays you for each item. Eventually it is no longer cost effective to sell and you must switch vendors.

    Combining that with a Trade Trust system would provide some interesting mechanics.

    1) You might only earn Trade Trust while selling at > 95% of the value of the item.
    2) The more Trade Trust you earn with that NPC, the longer the NPC is willing to buy at the higher rate (the sale price curve flattens a bit).
    3) This could work in the converse as well, the higher your Trade Trust the lower the sale price of the items you might buy from a vendor.

    With Istaria the value returns to norm after a period of time, but with Trade Trust it might not and this might encourage players to work with a set of Vendors to build up their trust. Note that this sort of system wouldn’t be “fun” but it can be balanced and fair. Note2 that this system wouldn’t work so well if you had tons of vendors around who would buy everything. Unless, the actual goal was to reduce the price of items that the vendor sells cause they were crazy expensive at first.

    Finally, another thought entirely… What if trade trust were earned not for buying or selling to vendors, but for doing other things for them? Such as daily quests (you could do all manner of thing with that, from basic collect or kill quests to spreading rumors about the vendor’s competitors to truly being underhanded with the competition, etc) or tie it to an overall faction value.

    Completely crazy idea here but what if you treated vendors sort of like your allies in Dragon Age. Each has his or her set of items they “like”, if you bring those to them and sell them then you gain trust. Bob the Blacksmith might actually collect Porcelain Pig figurines from the distant kingdom of Piggyton and so if you bring and sell them to him he likes you more.

    Sorry, yes, I know its nuts but I’m brainstorming here!

  5. Kdansky says:

    You might want to look into this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fy0aCDmgnxg

    MMOs are generally really bad at this, even those with giant budgets.

  6. Tzyx says:

    Hi Eric, have been following your project with interest, good luck with it! Look forward to your post about racial bonuses, something i find an interesting topic.