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[Project: Gorgon Official News] NPC Systems and Kickstarter Delays

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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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