As a child of the 90s, I played my fair share of video games. Most of these games were solo games since multiplayer wasn’t a thing when I was a kid. However, I could always count on friendly NPCs to keep me company even when I was playing alone. To this day I still vividly remember some of the interactions I’ve had with NPCs. In this post, I will highlight six common archetypes of NPCs that you may encounter and want to remix with Inworld.
Before we begin, let’s first define what an NPC is. An NPC stands for “non playable character” and refers to any video game character that is controlled by the computer, rather than a real player. They are usually put in place to advance the plot, give context on the environment, or simply make the game more interesting. Typically they are governed by conversation trees, but you can use Inworld to make the experience more immersive and ensure that you can really ask NPCs anything.
Here’s a list of the types of common NPCs you may encounter:
- The Shopkeeper
- The Hint Giver
- The Onboarding Character
- The Side Kick
- The Save Game NPC
- The Quest Giver
Shopkeepers are NPCs that allow you to buy or sell items within the game. Speaking to them often brings up an interface where you can trade game currency for game items.
One recent game that implemented Shopkeeper NPCs in a unique way is Red Dead Redemption 2. Mirroring the wild west, you can actually rob Shopkeeper NPCs instead of trading with them. The downside is that if you try to rob them or kill them, you won’t actually be able to buy items from that specific store again until a new Shopkeeper NPC replaces them.
The Hint Giver
A Hint Giver is a NPC that provides you with hints when you get stuck in the game and don’t know what to do next. A classic example of a Hint Giver NPC is Navi from The Legend of Zelda.
In the Legend of Zelda originally built for the Nintendo 64, you could press a button to talk to Navi, who would often give you tips on what you should do next in the game. Hint Giver NPCs are a great mechanism for providing players with a way to get hints while keeping them immersed within the game world.
The Onboarding Character
An onboarding character is a type of NPC that guides you through the game when you first start. They usually go over the basic controls of the game and give you some context on the game world. A great example of an onboarding character is Ciri from The Witcher 3.
When you first begin the game, there is a short cutscene where you are interacting with Ciri. Then immediately you are guided through a fortress where you learn the basics of running, jumping and climbing ladders. Eventually, you practice sword fighting with some other onboarding characters before the main plot of the game begins.
The Side Kick
A Side Kick NPC is a type of NPC that follows you around the game, assists you in battle, and occasionally provides you with context on the environment. A notable example of this type of NPC is Elizabeth from Bioshock infinite.
Elizabeth’s artificial intelligence was pretty advanced as well for the time period in which Bioshock Infinite came out. During battle scenes she would often hide in a corner to avoid damage or go find ammunition or other items to give to you.
The “Save Game” NPC
Another popular type of NPC is the “Save Game” NPC. This type of NPC allows you to save your game progress when you encounter them. This is typically involved in games that don’t autosave or allow you to save by going to the game menu.
One example of a “Save Game” NPC is Data from Megaman Legends.
The Quest Giver
A Quest Giver NPC is a type of NPC that triggers the start of a quest. RuneScape is an example of a game that has hundreds of NPCs that give out quests of varying difficulty.
Once you complete a quest that a Quest Giver NPC gives you, you are often rewarded with item or game currency. If you try to speak to the Quest Giver NPC again, they may give you another quest or their dialogue may change to thank you for helping them complete the original quest.
Designing NPCs with Inworld Studio
The NPCs in this post were probably created using conversation trees, where the player can ask a series of questions before the conversation comes to an end. If instead you’re interested in creating generative NPCs, check out Inworld. Whether you're trying to build an onboarding character, shopkeeper character, or any other type of NPC, we can help you build rich interactions and relationships in these virtual worlds.