Non-Player Character (NPC) in Video Games: An Overview

You can play a game without NPCs, but the game will be far less interesting. Do you want to know why? Let’s learn about NPCs and their importance in every game title.

Most game worlds are full of characters that will help you on your epic adventures. Some of these guys are great while others are downright annoying. They are the NPCs.

In this article, we will learn more about Non-Player Characters (NPCs) and how it contributes to the success of a video game title.

What Are NPCs?

In short, NPCs are non-player-controlled characters that help the game’s main story progress. They could be bots that appear in multiplayer matches or are the story building characters in single-player modes.

Why Does a Game Need NPCs?

NPCs make the game better because it increases communication and interaction within gameplay.

As mentioned above, NPCs are practice targets for players in multiplayer games. Surely you are not new to the bots used to train skills in CS:GO or Overwatch. They help players get acquainted with the mechanics of the game. The existence of bots in firing range allows players to practice newly acquired skills or simply have something to shoot at.

A training bot in Overwatch
A training bot in Overwatch

In addition, NPCs help make the game world more real in the eyes of the players. It’s undeniable that the story of all games, in general, requires NPCs. The storyline or main quests of a game can not progress if the game doesn’t have NPCs.

A good story needs a way to push the tension of the story up to the climax to require the player to solve it. No NPCs means no one to give the quest to the main character. And no NPCs also means that no one will provide new plots to guide the story to the next chapter. This leads to the death of the story in that video game.

But is having NPCs in the game enough? We don’t think some glitchy awkward characters could help the game hit the marketplace. Poor character design can ruin the whole game no matter how good the plot is. The purpose of NPCs is to create a world that makes players trust enough that they are the main character. After all, everyone wants to live their fantasy. 

The best way to create convincing figures is to simulate behaviors so as to be as human as possible. The appearance of the character may change to fit the context of the story, but the way the human brain draws meaning from animated scenes does not change. We all feel closer and easier to integrate into the world of the game when that world’s living humanoid characters act like real people.

This may seem obvious but, having the NPCs have their own goals and motivations besides being there for the player character. Having the world and its characters not be completely focused on the main character make it more lifelike. The way NPCs help the world feel authentic is their continuously evolving worldview (and dialogue) that shows you the impact that your actions are having.

Usually, NPCs in a role-playing game are divided into two categories, namely supporting cast NPCs and extra, surrounding NPCs. Let’s discuss a bit about these two types.

Supporting cast NPCs

The supporting cast NPCs are characters that are directly related to the game’s story and mechanics such as Quest Givers, Merchants, Companions, etc.

Of course, as the name suggests, these NPCs allow you to use game mechanics such as trading, quests, fighting, etc. which will ensure continuity of the game. Typically, game developers will focus on the reality of these NPCs. They will have unique voice lines, special appearances, and personalities. This helps the game progress on the plot without being forced or sketchy.

Extra NPCs

Let’s talk about another type of NPCs which are extra NPCs. They are the people living in those worlds you are in. Yes, the locals’ matter. They create a believable world by simulating human society. You will not be able to feel the whole story of the game if every time you pass by every single townspeople has just one repeated scripted sentence.

Skyrim is a prime example of this design flaw. The NPCs have little personality, and their dialogue often fails to reflect the actions of the player.  This makes the world feel flat and inauthentic. 

NPCs’ Role in an RPG game

The Guide

NPC might be a guide with a very specific function. The guide character is literally the character who will take the player’s characters from point A to point B. That might be the sea captain, or it might be literally the guide they hire to take them to or from wherever it is that they’re going. The guide shouldn’t give them very much information about where they’re going because his role is only guiding.

The Advancement NPC 

Their function is to literally advance. The advancement NPC is literally somebody who helps move the story along and this is one of the most powerful types of NPCs that are out there because you can use them to drive the story and get the players going.

The advancement character is someone who just gives information because perhaps the players have spent too much time trying to figure out how to open this door and you just wanted to move along.

The Antagonist

It could be the thief who tries to steal from people whilst they’re out on that shopping spree. Any kind of NPC that is offering opposition should offer opposition. And then, if the players treat that NPC right can shift from being an antagonistic type of NPC to perhaps being an advancement NPC.

Antagonistic NPC really does not need to have a huge amount of life built into them. They are there simply to preserve a purpose is to cause temporary derailment of the NPCs plans and then later on maybe they can advance them.

The Mentor 

The mentor NPC is different from the guide. The guide will say we should go left or we should go right or it’s on the other side of that nebula over there.

The mentor is the one who in between missions perhaps or at the launch of each of the adventures is giving the players a little bit of advice. This is really just a vehicle for Game Master to pass information to the players.

The Long-term NPC

This NPC may be of use from time to time and their role can shift quite dramatically. Suffice it to say not every NPC should be planned as a long-term NPC because they are more complex but they are more rewarding ultimately to play as the game master and give the characters a little bit more as well.

Generally speaking the long term NPC is the guide, the antagonist at times or the mentor as well and will sometimes just advance the plot.

The Support NPC

The support NPC is literally the butler who runs the mansion and who offers a kind word here or there but doesn’t really add anything to the story. This is for characters that have maybe got a little bit more of a sedentary life.

Games That Are Famous For Their NPCs

Currently, on the market there are many attractive and beautiful open-world games. Because of so many options, we will give you a few insights so you can easily make decisions.

Borderlands 1 and 2

Borderlands, whichever game you play, isn’t short of amusing NPCs to interact with. These can be mission givers, people you need to recruit to your team, or even just strangers wandering around in the settlements. Whoever they are though, they all have something to say. And normally when they speak, it’s worth listening to. 

Fallout Series

Regarding the gameplay and plot, we can say Fallout is very popular. There must be a reason for this. The answer lies in the large open-world of the game, players can find a lot of interesting details that after hundreds of hours of play is not necessarily discovered.

Every time you set foot in The Wasteland, you will have the opportunity to encounter new stories, new adventures and continue to burn a few more hours before you realize it has started to light.

GTA 5

The world of Grand Theft Auto is full of crooks, scammers, criminals, which is what every player knows, and is the main basis that GTA attracts players. Players play the role of a criminal, but they need people who give them illegal jobs to do, and that’s the job of NPCs.

Recently NPCs have been refined a lot by Rockstar, they have their own stories, and life is also very interesting. The role of NPCs in recent GTAs has been increasingly asserted, let us find out what these NPCs do are considered important in the GTA world.

The Witcher 3

It must be said that the developer of this game can do the development of the main characters, though surprisingly good. It makes it possible for us, whether we have played the previous parts or not, to follow these characters and invest a lot of thought and emotion into them.

We have that Zoltan guy and Dandelion in reviving the inn and helping Geralt find Ciri. Or Priscilla sings Wolven Storm, Roach and Reuven in politics in Novigrad.

We can also hear the story of Hjalmar and Cerys winning the throne to see who deserves the most, and of course the whole fragmented journey that is told slowly by Ciri makes us extremely focused on thinking and feeling.

In addition, many of these sub-stories raise a lot of questions about human dignity and political implications. A Novigrad that eliminates cruel wizards and wizards like talking about religious persecution and racism, politicians making us choose to support clarifying things like what we could accept to follow. This is not just a slash-and-bash game.

God of War

atreus and kratos in god of war
Atreus and Kratos in God of War. Wiki Fandom

When exploring the world of God of War, you will not be bored when listening to Kratos’ conversations, very diverse stories, and sometimes Kratos’ pragmatic style ‘with questions, questions. childish innocence from Atreus, and once met Mimir – the most intelligent god, the stories of the gods Vanir or Aesir are also narrated in detail and very diverse.

Red Dead Redemption 2

Red Dead Redemption 2 is full of life. Many people lead busy lives. Any NPC on the road can talk or fight with you, especially if the player passes a gunfight, the winning NPC will challenge loudly whether anyone wants to challenge him or is not.

If Arthur comes close, players will be given the option to play and fight with this guy, obviously, it’s only a small part of the world of Red Dead Redemption 2, because, in addition to NPC, it’s your friend.

You can interact with dogs, horses, and even farm animals. The number of lines in the game is also extremely large, sometimes you will hear the NPC chattering all kinds of genres and to increase the reality, they also sometimes forget the lyrics.

Impressive NPCs in Video Games 

Ghost in Modern Warfare 2

One look at this guy and you know why he’s on the list. Ghost not only has a cool nickname but also a strong bond with the player. This awesome character covers your back at all times in modern warfare 2. What could possibly go wrong?

Handsome Jack in Borderlands 1 and 2

Handsome Jack borderlands
Handsome Jack in Borderlands series

Bad guys don’t always have to be dull, and Handsome Jack is certainly not dull. The world of Borderlands 2 is full of surprises and absolutely bonkers NPC’s to talk to and shoot, sometimes specifically in the face.

It would then seem almost impossible to create a very real threat in this bizarre place. Handsome Jack is this threat but in the most satisfying way possible.

Elizabeth in BioShock Infinite

Booker finds Elizabeth locked in a tower on Monument Island. Booker climbed up the tower, met Elizabeth, and also met the giant bird robot Songbird tasked with guarding the girl. Songbird attacked and destroyed the tower, both of whom were fortunate enough to escape their lives and planned to reach the First Lady’s Airship. Elizabeth wanted to use it to run to the city of Paris, where she wished to live when she got out of captivity.

Cortana in Halo

Cortana is an A.I. (Artificial Intelligence), and can also exist in the form of a woman. Designed with the sole purpose of supporting the Master Chief, Cortana is doing very well this duty and even goes beyond his authority to protect humanity from extinction.

cortana in halo
Cortana in Halo

Cortana is A.I., so all the tactical and tactical information to defeat the enemy is from this girl. Without Cortana, the Earth would have been invaded by the Covenants and Floods long ago. When Gravemind was captured and tortured, Cortana didn’t say a word, meaning she was just as tough as the Spartan warriors.

Most importantly, throughout the Halo series, Cortana is also the only one who has built a close relationship with Master Chief. This was further emphasized in Halo 4 when Cortana disappeared. It can be said that Cortana is a soul of the Halo series, besides Master Chief.

Dogmeat in Fallout 4

dogmeat in fallout 4
Dogmeat in Fallout 4

The land of the post-apocalyptic Wasteland in Fallout is extremely rotten and lonely, if not harsh. But not at all, because next to you is a loyal dog named Dogmeat.

It does not eat much nor bark much, but whenever necessary is ready to roll out to protect its owner. No matter how big or strong the enemy is, or how well equipped it is, Dogmeat will attack. If anyone wants to “talk” with you, they have to go through Dogmeat’s body first.

Luigi in Super Mario Bros.

Luigi was always the one behind, like Robin and Batman. And in the games where Luigi is the main character, he is also scared of ghosts.

However, Luigi is still a great assistant for Mario, and also because he is a brother of Mario, whenever Mario is in trouble, he always has Luigi by his side to help him.

And even in games like Mario Kart or Super Smash Brothers, Luigi is a bit better than Mario. Probably because of that, Nintendo always left Luigi in the back not to steal the thunder of Mario

Final Words

In a nutshell, NPCs really can shape a game. The NPC, a previously unplanned point in the story, now became a driving force in the narrative.

We hope you enjoy this post about NPCs and the way they contribute to a game. Don’t hesitate to leave a comment or suggest us ideas about next articles!

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