WHAT DOES NPC MEAN? NON

Since Fallout 76 has (finally) added AI-controlled human characters, lets reflect on the best NPCs in games.

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It took a while, but Fallout 76 finally added AI-controlled human characters khổng lồ the phối this week with the Wastelanders expansion. They"re everywhere now—living in previously empty houses, scavenging for loot, wandering the wilderness, and hunkering down in large settlements.


It"s a big improvement—having fake people in a world somehow makes the world feel more real than when there"s just real people in it. Probably because real players aren"t always the best conversationalists, while NPCs are always down for a little chat.

Which leads use to our question this week. Which game has the best NPCs? We"re not talking about major characters or quest-givers, necessarily. Think less about Garrus from Mass Effect and more about the randos you see filling the world as you make your way through it. Half-Life"s nerdy scientists? GTA 5"s rude cityfolk? Bannerlord"s weird, leering villagers? Which are your favorites?


Our answers are below, along with some from the PC Gamer Forums. Plus, a very special guest chimes in.



(Image credit: Arkane)

Andy Chalk: Dishonored"s distinct visual style gave sầu us some of the best-looking NPCs I"ve ever seen: Some thichồng & brutish, others thin & weaselly, và nearly all slightly, strangely disproportionate in one way or another, with bizarrely massive sầu hands or sharp teeth và beady eyes. They"re not so physically far out as khổng lồ be distracting or grotesque—in the context of the games, I actually think there"s a very natural look lớn all of it—but the oddly imperfect faces & bodies really accentuate the ugliness, & the beauty, of Dunwall và Karnaca.


And on top of how great they look (andsound), you can sense their innermost secrets through the magical powers of the Heart—"She tells them it"s whale meat. But it"s not."—which adds tremendously to Dishonored"s sense of place.

Dwarf Fortress

Wes Fenlon: Dwarf Fortress is a colony management game, so technically, all of your dwarves are NPCs. You don"t embody them or control them directly. And even if they"re just little ASCII symbols or tiny sprites wandering around, they have sầu some of the richest personalities you"ll ever encounter in a game. You can look at every dwarf in the game to lớn see a procedurally generated description of their personality, their feelings, their hopes and dreams. It"s just text, but it frequently manages to be profound, or funny, or anyway more interesting than the characters in most videogames. Dwarf Fortress is amazing!

Oblivion



(Image credit: Bethesda)

Adoring Fan: By Azura, by Azura, by Azura, it"s a gr& question! I can"t believe sầu I get lớn answer the PCG Q&A question this week! Me, answering this question! Wow!


Golly, Oblivion"s NPCs are the best! I just want to lớn follow them và watch them and worship the ground they walk on! Sometimes they don"t want me khổng lồ follow them, even though I won"t get in the way. Aw, gee! And then I have sầu to hang around the Arena grounds, wishing I could shine someone"s boots or give sầu them a backrub!

Did I answer the question right? I"ll just wait here while you decide! Or, over there! No, here? Right here? All right then, whatever you say!

Football Manager

Dave sầu James: Okay, I may be biased as a complete FM-obsessive sầu, but I"ve never felt such an emotional bond or attachment to lớn the NPCs of any other game than those who biến hóa the squad in my current long-term career. Seeing a young lad come through the youth system, nurturing them through their early, faltering steps of first team action can be a wonderful experience, building a relationship as svào as... your next job. What can I say, Football is a fickle game. But I still feel genuine pride at their first Call up khổng lồ represent their country, and an almost tangible desire lớn protect my young proteges when they get a major injury, or even come out to their peers and the public at large. Sports Interactive creates a new world every year, packed with more NPCs than any other, và they never fail lớn find a place in my heart.

Red Dead Redemption 2



(Image credit: Rockstar)

Chris Livingston: Like Adoring Fan up there, I like Oblivion"s NPCs because they had little routines you could observe—some travel khổng lồ other cities to visit friends, some cheat on their spouses, one is a secret skooma addict. They may not be terribly deep but there"s often a little bit more life to them than you see at first glance.

Red Dead Redemption 2 has a lot of that & it"s great fun just following random NPCs around to see what they vì. You can watch people go to lớn work and then return trang chủ at night. One might appear lớn be a generic citizen but is secretly a murderer. I rescued an abduction victlặng và she didn"t just ride off in some random direction afterward, she went khổng lồ her actual home page. If someone gets shot và killed in a town, someone else will eventually show up lớn carry the toàn thân off. There"s not enough room to lớn give sầu every character a full life, but there"s just enough detail lớn make them feel alive sầu.

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King of Dragon Pass

Jody Macgregor: King of Dragon Pass is one of those "bad decision management sims" where you tell people what khổng lồ vì, then they resent you for it. You"re chief of a fantasy tribe with a council of advisors called the ring, who are supposed khổng lồ help you arrive sầu at the wisest và best outcomes. They rarely agree on anything, và all have biases. This one is a follower of the trickster god and can"t be trusted, this one is obsessed with the harvest và thinks labour spent on anything but crop yield is a waste, this one hates beastfolk và thinks you should drive sầu the duck-people off their land, và so on.

You can reorganize the ring at any time, figuring out which members of your clan are the most helpful và building a superteam. But then the decisions you"re adjudicating—what khổng lồ vì with a trắng calf that might be an omen, who to lớn side with in a marriage dispute—start lớn involve the ring. Inganna"s advice on matters relating lớn battle had been invaluable, & I"d ended a bunch of feuds. Then a neighbor clan showed up saying four of their thane"s sons had been murdered by one of my people. I asked Inganmãng cầu for advice, và instead she confessed. She thought we"d grown weak, và was trying to start a war lớn make us svào again.

I had to outlaw her. Away from her clan"s protection, our neighbors killed her và declared the matter dealt with. Still, at least I hadn"t started a war with the duck-people. Turns out they"re the most powerful enemies you can make in Dragon Pass.

From the Forums



(Image credit: CD Projekt)

Zloth: If my memory was perfect, I"m pretty sure I would piông chồng Planescape: Torment. But it ain"t so I"ll give sầu it khổng lồ Vampire: The Masquerade: Bloodlines. Jack, the streetwise guy who (probably) helps you out so much, Jeanette and her crazy twist, Beckett, Heather - your pet ghoul, Chunk, oh, và there"s a stop sign I that still has a beating coming. BioWare has some companions that will easily show up any one of V:tM:B"s but, when you total up the greatness of all the characters in the game, I think V:tM:B wins.

Krud: It"s hard for me to quantify "best", especially since each game would have sầu different needs where NPC"s are concerned. I"ve often been happy with the NPC"s in various BioWare titles, from the Mass Effect trilogy khổng lồ Dragon Age (yes, even DA2), but even long before that, with Knights Of The Old Republic & Neverwinter Nights. In terms of NPC"s I really cared about, I was surprised at how much I cared about some of the NPC"s in Life Is Strange. (Also the prequel, Before The Storm.)

Oussebon: I"ll put in an early bid for Witcher 3"s generic NPCs, especially for the impact in Novigrad - literally fleshing out the đô thị. It must be one of the trickiest choices lớn make in creating a new game world. Do you vì a Skyryên và have sầu almost every NPC (beyond guards) be a named character with their own life, even where you have little interaction with them? But the price is that you have sầu khổng lồ limit the scale of the city and its population as a result. Every city"s beggar - token in their uniqueness - just reminds you of an entire, missing, underclass.

Do you vì a Far Cry where 2s or 3s of nameless NPCs, whose raison d"etre is to dive under your truông chồng, pop the heck up out of nowhere? And gleefully they dive sầu, because their AI tells them to run around lượt thích headless lobsters when a oto appears?! (I"m playing Far Cry New Darwin Award currently)

Witcher 3 nails it. The choice khổng lồ use generic NPCs lets CD Projekt Red build and populate a huge, huge thành phố - and make it feel alive. Think with disdain, if you must, of Novigrad và its flocks of NPCs called Strumpet, và the recycled faces. But then think of Novigrad without them or their cohorts. It would just be empty, soulless stone - as PCG has previously noted I think.

The NPCs are also a crucial background. They"re the little people, the cattle who simply don"t matter to lớn the characters who shape the story - whether white-knight Geralternative text or someone like Orianna. Plus it"s refreshing not everyone instinctively knows you can be the demi-god anh hùng who can fix all their problems. It"s not that Unnamed Strumpet #714f/c doesn"t have sầu problems (I expect), she just doesn"t take you to be her personal Odd Job Protagonist.

The presence of generically-named NPCs that you can interact with (e.g. Blacksmith, Merchant) helps blur what could otherwise be a too-harsh contrast between named (Get Your Quest Here!) NPCs & the nameless sheep, too. It"s also contextual. Wolfenstein Youngblood"s Paris felt conspicuous for the total absence of civilians, but it worked for gameplay. As for Geralternative text knowing who khổng lồ talk lớn và who not to lớn bother with, he has Witcher Senses và is very worldly-wise so if he just knows who lớn talk lớn, fine.


Hey folks, beloved mascot Coconut Monkey here representing the collective sầu PC Gamer editorial team, who worked together lớn write this article!