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?

The Importance of Realism in Video Games (or lack thereof)

Quick! Name some of your favorite video games!

Some may stick with the good ol’ stand-bys of long-gone days when life was simpler and games were simpler and your joy in playing was simpler. Mario. Classic Zelda games. Pokemon. Ah, the good ol’ days when you could be fully healed by walking into a town or finishing a level. When your Pidgeot would fly you from Cerulean to Pewter, or whatever. Realism wasn’t the focus. Living a fun little fantasy was.

Others may favor the hyper-realistic games of now, like Bioshock or Skyrim, with beautiful graphics and a detailed, textured world. The Amnesia series takes it to another level by being completely first-person, monitoring your character’s vital signs, and mechanism of chase by the monsters.

Still, even some of the more realistic games feature the fantastic: Diablo 3, PoE and many others have waypoints to save the player the frustration of running over the same terrain every time he dies or completes a quest. Several games don’t have a night/day system and even more, make you plant several vital shots into your enemy before he dies. Or one of your party dies… and then your throw a potion on him and he recovers. Save points. Guards that lose interest in chasing you after three minutes.

But wildly cartoony video games can (obviously) get away with a lot more. Super Meat Boy, for example, is the story of… a little slab of meat… that runs, jumps, and sticks to walls to avoid landing on giant, rotating saws.

Does the style of our video game aid or hinder our intentions with it?

Really, having throw-back graphics is pretty great. It enables us to focus less on the visual graphics and more on the story. We can make more visual jokes – and even the unrealistic aspects of gameplay can feel overall more authentic than an ultra-realistic game can with the same aspects. We more readily accept the game-logic bits – just as we accept cartoon antics more when drawn than when acted.

Still, we have real-world features. We have metered time. Weather conditions. Medicine. Player choices. But overall, the game is focused less on making you feel like you’re living in the real world with events that could actually happen and more like you have your own little open-world map to explore.

Anyways, what kind of games do you prefer? What are some of your favorites?