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Every NPC in games should be killable. Invincible NPC is missing the point.



This is something that I’ve started noticing with RPG games such as Skyrim, Witcher 3, FO4 and also the Bioware titles. You simply cannot kill NPC’s the game deems essential, in the case of the witcher it’s not even essential it’s everyone other than the designated enemies that’s unkillable. While this is done in an almost every game it’s most notable in role-playing games due to their inherent nature. I think this is bad design and it’s a limitation that drives away from the potential games can offer. Every game should allow their npcs to killable; it will only add to the suspension of disbelief and not take away from it.
 I am dead. Really. For sure this time.

Look at a game like Divinity Original Sin, the player can finish the game even if he killed the entire population inhabiting a town and the game still gives you ways to carry on, whether in the form of notes or other actual clues such as bloodstains etc. Similarly in Dark Souls the player’s progress is independent of the NPC’s, they are people that just exist. Now, if these npc’s were invincible in the game then you will never feel that relief, that indescribable feeling of being amongst one of your kind. In the Gothic games you are allowed to kill everyone in the world. This interaction creates a tangible world, a world which feels alive because the inhabitants abide by the same rules as the player. Similarly, Morrowind holds the highest regard when it comes to the Elder Scrolls series is because the game world felt like it had rules, and everyone was bound by it, you can kill every npc in the game if you so wish.
He was planning on taking the arrow to the knee. Things didn’t go as planned.
Death is very important in any medium because it gives every character more meaning, irrespective of who the character was he/she made an impact in the world even if its little. In Dark Souls, every npc in the game is mortal and the npcs take the lives of each other too. Their betrayal, their struggles all feel real because at the end they are just people trying to survive/or fulfill some bull in a twisted world and doing whatever it takes. And you the player also belong in this world, the npc’s go through the same plight as the player, the npcs are not just npcs, they are people. And when you kill them their character arc just ends, there is no resolution, there is no meaning and this is actual death. Similarly in Gothic you are nothing but one of the many prisoners and even among prisoners the act of taking a life is a savage act.
Hah! Like your playacting is going to fool anyone.
The act of killing is to beat a person till he collapses and then to turn him over and stab him, this lends the game world a weight that most other games lack.
The worst are the games where they make npc’s invincible for arbitrary restriction, such as the immortals in Fallout 3 and Skyrim, the civilians you cannot kill in the witcher etc. These exist as nothing but arbitrary restrictions that the developers put in to force us to play a certain way. In witcher games this is because Geralt does not kill random people, but why is a game restricted by such reasoning. What if he kills, wouldn’t it have lent the world weight if the people reacted appropriately and divert the story mildly.
Scene dressing
Rather than creating a shallow world with arbitrary restrictions, wouldn’t the world be more alive, won’t the people be given meaning? They no longer will be just random background characters filling the screen. And when it comes to fun, look at games like GTA, Saint’s Row etc. Ignore the missions and the most fun a player usually has is when he or she bumps into an npc, the cup in the npc’s hand falls down, he starts a fight, you being the player shoots him in his crotch, the cops and it all escalates from there. Why must the developers limit ways of play, why force linear play rather than giving options of play.
The game that gives you one of the best options of play; the karma system is alright I guess.
One can argue killing the NPC’s break the quests and even the main-quest, won’t the player be unable to progress any further due to the story NPC being dead? This will happen if there is only one path to the ending, you can easily implement an alternate path. A game like Divinity Original Sin does this well, even at the worst the player can still finish the game through the countless alternate paths. If a character was going to tell the player to go to a certain place or give him a certain item, then the location can be mentioned in the journal of the character in his house or in the case of the item the character could have it on hand or again mention it in the journal. Or generally can leave clues in his room or something, all these small designs don’t take too long to implement nor do they cost much. So, even in this day and age of absurd costs, these small designs don’t cost much and even if they do they are very negligible. At the same time they add a lot because your game becomes a tangible world and not just a movie with gameplay.
If you are obsidian, then go crazy.
Even if you kill an npc accidently one you didn’t intend to kill, you might miss his content, but won’t living with the consequences make that game experience better. When you eventually replay won’t you have a different experience waiting for you the next time? Every NPC in every game should be killable not just RPG’s either because the interact-ability and tangibility is what separates games from other mediums.

Now you can also argue that missing these conversations and creating branching paths can dilute the content, so the players experience will end up mediocre. No, why should the players experience end up as mediocre, maybe the player will find the path where they have to deduce clues rather than the melo-drama to be the superior one. And again won’t each playthrough be different and worth experiencing.

Even if the content is brilliant and can improve the game significantly it shouldn’t be forced upon the player. In MGSV the arc of quite, the only the complete arc in the game, when you first encounter her you can kill her if you so wish and thus miss out on the best story in MGSV but yet the game allows that. And the vast majority of the players won’t kill her, mostly due to her being a female and flaunting her sexual appeal in most of the trailer should've been enough for most male species to not kill her. The point is, if you make an appealing/good character the player will think twice about even trying kill them, in Gothic the action of killing a person was added so much weight that, the 1st time I killed someone I just Alt+f4rd cause I felt guilty, I felt like I was a horrible person. And regardless, for the most part players will not kill everyone in their sights for no reason at all. But, even if they do and miss the content it shouldn’t be a crime, the thing about games is they allow you to get more than one type of experience, so why forcefully limit it.
Yes dear, tis me. Who else could be this exceedingly handsome!
In games like Castlevania Symphony of the Night, there are countless hidden bosses that are absolutely brilliant, there is an entire second castle hidden in the game. These things did not take away from the core of the game, the main game in-itself is brilliant, then the game goes on to make the experience even better for the dedicated player. Giving more life to the game will elevate it from just another game to pass time, it elevates it into the players own experience.
The ability to kill npcs is more important in role-playing games because it creates role-playing opportunities. Look at a game like New Vegas the setting and the game allows the mechanics to create tangible differences, it allows you to be a psychopathic killer with low iq if you so choose to be, in D&D spectrum the game allows you to role-play from anything from True neutral, Chaotic evil etc. You are what you choose to be, and this is why it’s very essential in rpgs, the whole point of rpgs is to let the player be what he/she chooses to be.
Kingdoms of Amalur also allowed killing anyone in the game, the game's lore and narrative backed this up by making you the fate weaver, quite literally you are what you choose to be.
Dragons Dogma is one of the best rpgs I’ve played, while it most certainly limited in its role-playing scope, the game allows you to roleplay your character. It also allows you to kill most in the game, they give you a warning, but due to the limitation of having a single slot the game respawns them in a week, which is one thing I can’t stand by.  But the point is, the game allows it and the mechanics back that up.

Now look at a game like borderlands, if the game allowed you these opportunities of making tangible decisions the games narrative would have had more weight. If the game allowed to kill an npc when the npc says to go do x for me and I’ll give this item you need, if it allowed you to kill the npc and take the item. RPG characters usually lack personality so they are mostly blank slates to role-play, but the weight of killing will be even more interesting in an action game hero with an established personality.
Lilith is already quite the psycopath
Just like Geralt killing random people, Lilith killing good (questionable) npcs. The developer can adapt her personality to twist according to the players actions (by the end she is a psychopath), this can turn even the most uninteresting and narratively bland games into an existential crisis and create personal drama.

Games aren’t books, aren’t movies, comics and whatever else, and so limiting its potential by the restrictions enforced by other mediums are just silly. Games have the possibility to truly create another world, where we have the potential to make an impact. We have a medium that can embrace the best of the other mediums, infact we can put other mediums in our medium and evolve them. Rather than creating simple shallow worlds with little intention, creating worlds where the player can truly inhabit will be something that’s more than just time-pass more than just a story. At the end it creates worlds where the player feels like he is a part of it. And it’ll elevate the game to be more than just a game.


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