Dev Discussion #20 - NPC Behavior

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  • NeurathNeurath Member
    This topic is too complex. We don't have enough knowledge of the game to be able to answer.

    Anything random is bad, randomized limitations can be effective.

    If NPCs will root us, we need unroot abilities, if enemies flee, we need snares, if enemies stun we need anti-stun, if npcs poison we need anti-poison. The footage I've seen has been so simplistic I don't see how we are meant to answer. The Wyrms outside the node in the 4k Video did nothing until provoked. The Cleric Cleanse Mist ability was removed from the test. To be blunt, how would one build a group for a task if the task is random? Cookie-Cutter Groups would form instead of skilled groups.

    If NPCs can Block, dodge and evade, Player Characters should be able to Block, Dodge and Evade. The whole concept is a can of worms because critique of the combat system is difficult until we see or experience the Hybrid System.

    I'm against Randomization but I'm for challenged encounters. Encounters can be a challenge without randomization.
  • @Neurath I think they are asking for if the NPC should be randomized in suck a way that you cant just simply google or wiki the solution to fighting the enemy, making where you are on your toes when in combat and not having to sit there and do the same combo again and again knowing the NPC is always going to be doing the same combo after fighting your 100th NPC mob,

    I think having a randomized/ maybe even a learning NPC would be great, would make you have to watch and hear to the combat ques every fight, not having the chance to sit there with one hand on key-bored playing while eating.

    Like what if bosses could learn during combat and do random attacks, not knowing the combos they are going to do would definitely make it a challenge and not a timed scripted fight, scripted would make it boring over time, During a boss fight maybe have it learn your repeated combos, forcing you to switch it up during combat or it would start blocking or dodging or doing something to screw your combos that you are spamming.

    Think of the possibility's with a non scripted combat system from the NPCs, Randomized or maybe a learning NPC, either would make fighting that 100th mob be slightly different and not a cookie cutter mob of same value, would make the combat more unpredictable and dynamic in such a way to still be fun killing low-high level mobs.
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  • George BlackGeorge Black Member
    edited July 17
    For me, aggressive NPCs need to run as fast as players and not give up on attacking us easily.
    This makes open world challenging and dangerous. Otberwise it becomes boring if players can skip every encounter.

    I prefer the sense of danger MUCH MORE than NPCs putting a social show to seem more alive.

    If we can have both, then great

  • Alpha SoulAlpha Soul Member, Phoenix Initiative, Avatar of the Phoenix
    I think having a good amount of variance is a positive thing and keeps people on their toes. If the pattern is too predictable, you eventually fall into a sort of "rut" and know what is coming next.

    The reason though I would like to see more "unpredictability" is it helps add spice to group combat as you as a group need to coordinate better and act on the fly.
  • Undead CanuckUndead Canuck Member, Braver of Worlds
    edited July 17
    Well, since this is a PvX game and we will be fighting other people, NPCs having more intelligence and tactics would be a good thing. Try to make it where people cannot tell if they are playing NPCs or PCs. That is the goal.
    Kind of like a fighting Turing test.
  • noaaninoaani Member
    For me, the answer here is both a yes and a no.

    For base population, an amount of randomization could be really good, but only if the behavior displayed fits in with the target type. This means that even if we are fighting our 120th owlbear in a row, there is still a chance that this one may do something different that means we have to react in a different way. This is good.

    It doesn't always make sense for a mob that is almost dead to run off to try and get help, as an example. This does sometimes make sense, but not always. A bear, as an example, is likely to stand and fight to the death. A group of gnolls or goblins though, that would make perfect sense for one (or more) of them to run off to try and get help.

    I don't think that just having a list of possible actions that all mobs may take at random would be better for the game, but taking that list and then applying a specific selection of them to each mob type to then use randomly would work.

    For boss fights though, you shouldn't need to randomize things to make the encounter enjoyable. There should be enough of a scripting system where developers can actually curate these encounters and tune them with a high degree of specificity.

    Assuming this is the case, boss encounters should not need randomization at all in them.

    Since boss encounters are taken on far less frequently than base population, there is much less of a need for things to be different with each encounter - if players are taking on their 120th boss encounter in a row, the game has bigger issues.

    In fact, if players are taking on the same boss at all for more than the 25th time ever, the game isn't adding new content to the game fast enough - persumably because the developers are too busy trying to figure out how to make boss encounters with randomization, rather than just making more boss encounters.

    If a boss has randomization involved in it, then any curating that is undertaken with that encounter needs to account for all possibilities. This means that there is always going to be a lesser degree that the encounter can be tuned to. In some boss encounters, this isn't an issue - but in a given content cycles marquee encounter, this is a real issue.

    Further, boss encounters (specifically instanced boss encounters, but also open world ones) are a metric that PvE guilds often use to compare progress and standing - this works especially well in a cross server capacity (though in Ashes is obviously restricted to servers that have access to the same content). With this in mind, randomization in such encounters
  • CaerylCaeryl Member
    Variance is sorely needed to make the broader PvE experience enjoyable. A Rogue NPC shouldn’t come at me with the same approach as a Sorcerer NPC, and a Tank NPC shouldn’t come at me like a Fighter NPC.

    Even among those particular paradigms there should be some variety. As mentioned above, some NPCs should retreat, some should call for help, some should try to flank you, some should never back down, some should have “smarts” to focus dps, some should focus on protecting their allies, some should try to get in close, some should try to keep their distance, some should be immune to some cc, some should stagger just from basic attacks, some should resist magic, some should resist physical attacks, some should use cc frequently, some shouldn’t use cc at all.

    There’s so many ways to build an NPC that doesn’t feel like fighting a cardboard cutout after the first couple times. They don’t even have to be complex, just enough to make sure players have to pay a slight bit of attention to every fight.

    While having to keep aware may be seen as inconvenient by some, in general it’s much more immersive when you can’t have youtube vids playing the background and afk farm with no consequence. It would only be annoying if NPC behavior was nonsensically random, ex. a Tank tries to flank me, gets staggered by my first ability, then retreats without using any cc.

    For bosses, especially with Ashes having temporary dungeons, it’d be simpler to have a few constants. Ex. The dragon will always use 5 moves within a fight, there’s 10 possible moves it can have access to, but it will only ever be able to use 5 of those 10 during an encounter.
  • I like randomized behavior, as it makes fighting a lot more engaging in my opinion. Furthermore, it adds another layer of realism, as long as the random reactions of the NPCs are logical (e.g. It doesn't make sense for them to charge in if they only have 10% of life left and are bleeding. In that case, NPCs and their (random) decisions should be more defensive).
  • Bandits may decide to set up in a cave and go in/out at random times to prey on players (afterall: Why is it always the player's responsibility to seek out NPCs?)

    I like that idea.

  • HartwellHartwell Member, Braver of Worlds
    Instead of randomized NPC spells, I prefer a randomized selection from a pool of preset NPCs. Randomized spells can make things either too easy or too hard. Building NPCs to be intentionally moderate in difficulty and then mixing them around is better, if you want some form of randomization to the combat.
  • puckpuck Member, Pioneer
    Yes.

    There isn't one.
  • NeurathNeurath Member
    edited July 17
    @Neurath I think they are asking for if the NPC should be randomized in suck a way that you cant just simply google or wiki the solution to fighting the enemy, making where you are on your toes when in combat and not having to sit there and do the same combo again and again knowing the NPC is always going to be doing the same combo after fighting your 100th NPC mob,

    I think having a randomized/ maybe even a learning NPC would be great, would make you have to watch and hear to the combat ques every fight, not having the chance to sit there with one hand on key-bored playing while eating.

    Like what if bosses could learn during combat and do random attacks, not knowing the combos they are going to do would definitely make it a challenge and not a timed scripted fight, scripted would make it boring over time, During a boss fight maybe have it learn your repeated combos, forcing you to switch it up during combat or it would start blocking or dodging or doing something to screw your combos that you are spamming.

    Think of the possibility's with a non scripted combat system from the NPCs, Randomized or maybe a learning NPC, either would make fighting that 100th mob be slightly different and not a cookie cutter mob of same value, would make the combat more unpredictable and dynamic in such a way to still be fun killing low-high level mobs.

    The issue is there will be hundreds of types of NPCs (Can't remember the exact quote). NPCs will change when nodes upgrade and NPCs will hopefully get tougher the deeper we go.

    I'm all for Placeholders for Bosses, Roaming Bosses, Roaming NPCs, grouped NPCs and and temperamental NPCs.

    I don't think turning hundreds of NPCs into thousands of possible constituencies is a productive effort. The Dungeons and Raids should have mechanics but to make all the mechanics random doesn't make for good Raid Designs. People would die too much and few people would progress. It would make the situation too complex to code, too complex to navigate and too complex to conquer.

    There must be limits on Randomization. I don't want to see a Wolf shoot a Fire Ball. I want a Wolf to act like a Wolf.

    Edit: There are hundreds of rules that could be requested but for every rule there will be exceptions. While I can concede *some* randomisation can be refreshing and entertaining, 100% randomization is a gimmick which would cause tedium.

    I can understand there is tedium after 100 kills of a specific NPC but one can just go and fight another type of NPC. If all the NPCs can effectively do the same thing because of randomization whatever tedium you get could pop up anywhere. There would be no refreshed approach.

    The thread asks about Random Behaviours, and I have discussed Randomised Traits. In terms of Random Behaviours I would agree.

    It would be far more entertaining to have the wyrms outside the node in the 4k video roaming the walls and entrances so you get your heart pumping when you detect an opening and run for the gap. I want tactics, strategies and excitement, if NPCs are static and only respond when provoked then tedium will be a fast onset.
  • Yes, but only for combat. I like the npcs to have behavior that makes sense, if possible.
  • QuetzalcoatlQuetzalcoatl Member
    edited July 17
    I think outdoor mobs should have a variety of different abilities that are nonetheless predictable if you've fought them enough times. I'd rather see 5 types of mobs sitting around a campfire than 1 type of mob 5 times that do completely random things. If I fight 15 skeletons and get their abilities down, then fighting a skeleton mage should surprise me. But when I've fought 30 goats who had X abilities and then suddenly the 31st punts me off the mountain, that's just annoying.

    Edit:Some NPC behaviour variation in humanoids is acceptable, but a general fighting style should be a given thing after you've fought them enough times.
  • Is randomized behavior in NPCs you are fighting desirable? Where's the line between interesting variance and unpredictable annoyance?

    Firstly if you know what to expect, then you already won the fight. If you already won the fight before fighting, whats the point ? Its not a fight at that point, just an obstruction/annoyance or busy work. Sure it makes some people feel good to blast down 100 enemies with one swing if you are into asian style MMOs, but if you are into something more tactical, then you expect cat & mouse or a chess game or a battle of wits (rather than stack and spam). Do you prefer a sophisticated port or the simple cheese ?

    I enjoy PvP as much as PvE. So I expect full fat NPCs. I find the enemy being OP more of a problem than their versatility (but thats why you bring numbers or suck it up with the OP adversaries). Besides, if you have to face humans anyway, whats the point of even asking how hard NPCs should be ?

    The toughest problem I faced was actually a trio of healers....as a tank build. That was frustrating. Adapt or die. You can overcome such things if you have timing, interrupts and such, that actually have a purpose in game (crits/evasion + cc/movement + light damage/armour + heavy damage/shields + toxins/recovery + stealth/speed + decoys/environment).

    I guess what I am saying in a round about kind of way is, as long as there is true counterplay, with balanced defensive and offensive skills...bring what you like. But thats if you believe staying alive is just as valid gameplay as killing/defeating your opponent. What happened to the opportunity to put an adversary out of action temporarily if they over reach, to achieve the primary objective, which isnt necessarily killing/defeating your opponent as they could simply be an obstacle and may be even a required hostage (a live one) ?
  • Neurath wrote: »

    I don't think turning hundreds of NPCs into thousands of possible constituencies is a productive effort. The Dungeons and Raids should have mechanics but to make all the mechanics random doesn't make for good Raid Designs. People would die too much and few people would progress. It would make the situation too complex to code, too complex to navigate and too complex to conquer.

    I guess that depends on the game philosophy.
    Is/should it be about the destination or is/should it about the journey ?
    You're speaking from the viewpoint of a prescripted quest, for prescripted adversaries, for prescripted parties, with prescripted mechanics, to make completion (destination) the objective. Basically expecting a prescripted outcome for performing the prescripted task.
  • AzraelAzrael Member
    Making mobs behave randomly us an awesome idea. One. It allows mobs to not be camped because of learning and memorizing skill sets and moves. Two. It puts a real factor into the game. After something dies it doeant necessarily get stronger, but we change strategies to overcome obsticles. The same can be coded for mobs. Changing by either party make up, how many enemies, or just standard from dieing to many times to the same attack
  • On a side note, town NPC overpopulation doesnt make the world feel more alive. It's just annoying. BDO is an example of this mess.
  • akabearakabear Member, Pioneer
    Some of the most memorable moments in past MMORPG`s where when there were outliner NPC behavior.
    Those occasions where either the NPC or player intervention did more than the usual mechanics.

    Asheron's Call
    I remember entering a zone where I shouldn`t with an under powered character and being stalked by a NPC that ran parallel with the forest for what seemed an eternity, before I was able to escape.

    Lineage 2
    Pulling large hoards of mobs for AOE parties.

    OAE groups in the dungeons, training groups of mobs on each other to win dominance over an area.

    Training a Boss mob from its usual location into town to wreak havoc on those AFK.


    Everquest Next
    Whilst this one never when ahead, if I remember correctly, there were some great ideas for NPC/Mob behavior that alone would have made significant leaps in game play from other games at the time. ie the game itself would keep metrics of player movement, and the mob locations, density, rarity and action would be influenced. ie perhaps a bottleneck in terrain between two destinations that players frequent becomes a place were mobs spawn to defend the crossing at peak game play times, perhaps a mob only spawns when there are a small number of players in a given area.

    Ecology
    As touched on earlier. I would love to see a degree of inter-species interaction. ie top of the food chain is dependent on the lower and hence if the lower species down the food chain are culled, the higher up become more rare and some mechanic perhaps within the node management to encourage supporting/defending different species prosperity to compliment what nature does. ie outlaw / reward farming of x to achieve support of y species and/or limit to those with allegiance to a node.

    NPC Dialogue
    For the NPC that repeat certain dialogue in town, provide some variance and different frequencies. After some time playing it becomes tiresome to hear the same conversation over and over again.
  • I'd love for NPC(s) to be able to react to character choice, like if you play a warrior archetype and are more prone to solve quests, problems, etc., through violence people will stay out of your way.
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  • TacualeonTacualeon Member
    edited July 19
    Also I think one thing that I enjoy is when NPCs move around and interact with one another instead of just standing in one place.
    Wish list.
    Dev Discussion #20 - NPC Behavior
    Is randomized behavior in NPCs you are fighting desirable? Where's the line between interesting variance and unpredictable annoyance?
    Can we anchor the random to something already seen/known?
    Basically, classes of enemies with loose subclasses, sharing a core behavior.

    I enjoy recognizing patterns and remembering enemies.
    I like observing and investigating the variation (flavor) if possible.
    I like adjusting to different core plus varied random gameplay, not surprise random damage.

    50%-65% Core, pattern, active strategy, skill.
    50%-35% Random, reactive tactic, adaptability.
  • darthadendarthaden Member, Braver of Worlds
    Something I'd love to see in combat is mob mechanics like aoe attacks that need to be dodged. Instead of a red glowing circle on the ground though I'd like to see some other form of a visual cue. a couple Examples of what I'm talking about. A bull is getting ready to do a charge attack in a strait line instead of a red line in front of the bull have the bull lower it's head and raise it's rear in the air. A mage is getting ready to cast a aoe attack that will hit everyone within 20 meters. Instead of a red circle around the mage have the mage lift his or her staff in the air and wave it side to side for a second or two. IMO visual cues like this are much more immersive then red circles to let us players know there's a powerful attack coming that we need to dodge.
  • I'd also love to see NPCs have daily routines, like going to work in the morning, maybe spending an evening at the tavern or going home when its late. If seasons are indeed a thing, then seeing NPCs dress for the appropriate weather would be cool. Having them react to the time of day and season making them part of a living, breathing world.
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  • stevejones92stevejones92 Member, Braver of Worlds
    I don't know about randomization. I just think there should be a robust set of different actions to different scenarios. It is the uniqueness of the environment that brings the notably different gameplay by engaging its different responses: number of enemies, distances, type, etc.

    As an interesting idea, maybe an open behavior creation system could be created where users can submit their versions and the best are kept. It could be updated over time to become better in more varieties of situations, or even different viable behaviors on the same mob if an aggressive or defensive playstyle works for it.

    I'm thinking similar to how I used to play hexcelle or a game called gladiabots on steam had ai scripting behavior. Gladiabots is a good example.
  • lGSMllGSMl Member
    Majority of people in this topic want to have randomized behavior. Good luck in balancing that. Imagine you have 40 people raid and spend two hours reaching final boss. Suddenly it casts non expected hard combo... 5 times in a row, and you are wiped. And there is another raid from enemy guild in same dung - in their case boss casted kamikaze half bagged skill allowed to kill him easy and fast. Budum tss - you just implicitly RNGed 40 people to suck. PVE is always a time investment into something, mostly in preparation for PVP. If you randomize pve - you put players investment time on RNG without any reward, so totally equal players can have different efficiency in pve just because one is unlucky. And this is different from RNG like item enhancement.and such, because there is no willingly taken risk, neither reward. Please stick to a classic pve mechanics with a fixed amount of skills and rotations per npc.
  • warsaawwarsaaw Member, Braver of Worlds
    This is a very small thing but I CANNOT stand when npcs stand the same and move in sync...
  • Faeri PinkettFaeri Pinkett Member, Settler
    In Mmos Variety is Important

    What does this mean, variety?

    Does variety equate to curious patterns, rhythms and sequences?
    Or does variety equate to chance? I think both.

    In literature, video games, and popular media there is something about predictability that we tend to appreciate.
    A player that learns, and after time understands the rules, will learn and understand how to overcome, or go around the rules.

    I want to see variety in patterns between NPCs, but I also really want to see some 0.01% type of stuff.
    I would love if a boss has a 0.01% chance of using a special move that is super strong, but counterable. So that a special player or group that experience it, has a story to tell.

    I want to see this in the random world and fields as well, people experiencing events that are not common, not expected, entirely random, and unique. Perhaps if a boss uses this special technique there is a special way to over-come it.

    Alas, players will groan and be upset if others experience something cool why they do not. But I miss the days where games were not predictable. You had to learn from experience, and I'm hoping ashes can try to do something.

    give us patterns with field bosses, world bosses, big bosses, heck some field npcs/monsters could have unique patterns that players could learn or just charge through.

    Rotate them though, do not go into a "stale deficit" of wet noodle mobs, or the easily predictable attacks.

    But if you do any variance with how NPCs fight, please make sure to give accurate visuals/sounds for players to recognize an attack or recognize how to deal with it.

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  • diamahtdiamaht Member, Settler, Founder
    Behavior should stay in context. Variety and RNG are fine if it makes sense with what is currently happening. It's almost too vague of questions I suppose.

    In general it is a good thing to not know exactly what an opponent is going to do, but it is immersion breaking to have opponents that feels like they are dictated by nothing more than a dice roll. For example, if an npc decides to aggressively charge you it's ok to have it choose from a selection of abilities that fit that theme so you won't quite know what he is going to do until it starts to happen. Therefore you are prepared to react to something aggressive because that is what was communicated to you by the game but you don't know exactly what.

  • trokairtrokair Member
    edited July 20
    There definitely needs to be some way to change up NPC behaviors to keep encounters from going stale. This is one of the main reasons why I generally stop playing an MMO because I get bored of the fights.

    However, randomization can lead to encounters that are not balanced at all. Some can be crazy hard or others are so easy because the combination of randomized attacks doesn't work well together.

    In your January development update you told us about how you are compartmentalizing the decision trees of your AI in order to allow AIs to adapt. When I heard this I really loved the idea in regards to randomizing NPC behavior because it gives a lot of control over what abilities can stay the same for the base tree and then what abilities can actually be swapped out between encounters.

    I think that all NPCs should have a well defined base behavior. When you look at an enemy players should be able to understand what they are getting themselves into, and be able to plan to some degree.

    However, I think from the base repertoire of abilities, there should then be some freedom to diversify the rest of their abilities by swapping out similar types of abilities. For example, maybe a dragon spawns with one of its aoe breath attacks swapped out with a aoe claw attack that does similar damage.
  • ThialThial Member
    Randomized behavior is great if we are talking about different attack patterns. There is nothing worse than having to farm a large quantity of monsters of the same type and all of them using the same attack pattern (same skills in the same order). It really sucks the soul out of the game as the enemies feel like brainless annoyances rather than actual enemies who are trying to defeat you.

    It's not so important when we are fighting weak or simple monsters as they won't have the chance to use different attack patterns but if we are fighting something tougher it's different. If I'm fighting some super elite soldier I want to feel like the guy is an actual super elite soldier who is dangerous (launching attacks in different order, maybe even trying to do some combos, maybe even dodging / blocking) not having him stand there and poke me with a stick for 1 minute.

    Creating different attack patterns for every single monster will considerably extend the development time unless it's a universal system which simply randomizes the attack/skill/action order.

    A different story would be creating special mechanics like pack mentality where monsters are trying to surround you to land backstabs or are trying to launch some combo attack (as in possibly the leader making his underlings cast debuffs).
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