NPCs go a long way in making the world feel fleshed-out and real. There are games, like the recently reviewed by Justin Gone Home, that have no visible NPCs yet succeed in having a complete-feeling world. However, the presence/existence of NPCs is clearly felt, and an explanation provided for why they’re gone. Not to mention it’s confined to a small setting (within one house) verses other games that are saturated with NPCs, like Skyrim, which take place across continents.
You likely remember the old school Nintendo RPGs, like Pokémon or Zelda (btw, I love it… I typed in Pokémon and my computer automatically added in the accent) where the NPCs occupying your world just kind of walk in a line or around in a circle. After your initial greeting for each day, the character resorts to saying the same brush-off “Well let’s both have fun today!” or “I’m so glad you like cheese too!” “Take care of that pony!” “That was mean!” It’s something we talked about before, where it’s a bit of a trade to maintain the open-world feeling we desire.
It’s incredible to me, now on the other side of the fence, that anyone could be as detail-oriented as Oblivion, wherein NPCs basically live out their entire lives just as you play. I mean… you could very well have one guy in charge of making the entire life-coding for one inconsequential NPC.
Unfortunately, we don’t have that kind of time or man-power. However, I hope that many of our NPCs have their own interesting little background, and that most, if not all, have their own character portraits.
How do you feel about NPCs?