“Stationary” NPCs – Priests, Guards, Shopkeepers, Jailers, Mercenaries

This week I’ve implemented almost all the “stationary” NPCs. To explain what I mean by this, URR has three “tiers” of NPC: the crowd, the stationary, and the crucial. Crowd NPCs spawn and despawn as the player moves around the world map and are of importance insofar as they demonstrate the demographics of the nation, and you will be able to acquire significant information about the generality of the nation/religion/culture they belong to from them, and they serve also, when in crowds, to illustrate something of that nation’s ideologies (so you’ll only see a crowd with a bunch of people trailing a priest in quite a religious nation, for instance). Stationary NPCs are positioned in locations where there must always be an NPC serving a certain function, but the individual is not of particular important. Examples would be priests in religious buildings, jailers in prisons, innkeeps, guards, and many others. In some cases these individuals will “change” around after time – guards, for example, will be “met” by another guard at a certain point who will then take over the guarding role, i.e. they change shifts – whilst others, like priests, will obviously not change every few hours. Crucial NPCs, meanwhile, are those NPCs who are of sufficient importance to the game and the world that regardless of where the player is, the actions and movements of these NPCs will always be tracked. This category is primarily for NPCs like rulers, religious leaders, inquisitors, heretical leaders, nobles, military officers, and the like. Also, very rarely, what appears to be a stationary NPC will actually be a crucial NPC. Which is to say: in a jail, maybe 95% of the prisoners will be “general” prisoners, but a tiny number might have massive global significance due to their past role in a grand plot, and one wouldn’t know which was which until uncovering a path of clues which lead you to the important prisoner. Ninety-nine out of every hundred priests might be good loyal clerics… but perhaps one in a hundred hides an religious artefact of immense importance in their private quarters?

So, this week it has been the turn of all the stationary NPCs. Here are some examples:

Priests

Priests now spawn in religious buildings and cathedrals. In religious buildings, the priest lives on the top floor and will return there in the evenings; in cathedrals they have distinct rooms on the ground floor to which they will retreat as and when appropriate. For the time being,  however, they just spend their time around the ground floor of the cathedral interacting with the worshipers, going about their own worship, etc. There is actually a tiny bug in the below gif – the priest was standing on the same tile at the altar, when they should be standing next to the altar – but I’ve since fixed that, but I otherwise rather liked this gif so decided to stick with it.

Priests

Embassies

Embassies now have clerks and diplomats in them; the clerks are probably going to be “general” NPCs in the embassy crowd, whilst I think diplomats will be assigned to specific areas. The ambassadors for each nation in other nations will be crucial NPCs who will always be tracked separately, so they haven’t been coded just yet.

Emba

Servants/Slaves

Servants/slaves (depending on whether the nation is a slaving nation or not) now spawn and go about their business sensibly in upper-class houses. The houses will also, of course, get visitors in the form of various aristos from time to time, and then later, we’ll get working on the “crucial” NPCs – i.e. the family who lives there – generating properly. Thus, for now, here’s an example of some servants and some general citizens. You’ll note the servants will always stand next to something, either next to a person to serve them, or next to a chair/table/whatever in order to keep it clean and tidy. They’ll sometimes return to their quarters in the basement, and once I get schedules working, they’ll obviously retire there at night.

Uppercrowd

Prisoners

In jails (in nations with the Penitentiary ideology) we can now find prisoners in the cells, one prisoner per bed, milling around. As mentioned above, a small number might be someone of particular importance, but it’ll be up to the player to decipher who (if anyone) that might be. Prisoners will also be on release schedules (or at least, the lucky ones will be!) so they’ll be replaced whenever one moves out. I might add some kind of system whereby the different floors of each jail are for different types of prisoner – I’ll think about that going forward.

Jahail

Archivists

Below the cathedrals of theocratic nations you’ll find a crypt… and if you explore that crypt, you might come across a room containing the most secret archives of that religion. Right now these are tables without books, as we don’t have book generation yet, but we do now have the archivist, and their guard(s), spawning. Here’s a gif of me finding an archivist in a half-flooded crypt in a city next to the ocean, and then having a look at the archivist, and looking at his religious garment (which you’ll note has grey patterning – as well as “default” robes and the “religious leader” robes with gold patterning I showed last week, I’ve added in a mid-tier version with grey patterning which will be given to people like archivists, abbots, inquisitors etc, who are higher-ranked than the average priest but not the leader(s) of the entire religion). The “Archivist” is depicted with a ‘V’, and the ‘g’s are of course the guards:

Archivist

Once books are generating, archivists will be guarding the most important secrets of their religion, so the books behind them will be immensely important to find a way to read…

More Guards

Guards have also been added to several other areas which need them, such as Officers’ Quarters, and Mansions, and various other places, and the guards for now all shout the “Oy, shop that!” placeholder (along with their x/y coordinates) once you walk into their territory:

Ofguard

Monasteries

I’ve now temporarily (or permanently, we’ll see) removed the “Cultism” religious ideology and replaced it with, for the time being, the far more interesting “Monastic” option, and as such, we now have monasteries spawning. These are structured in the form of a religious building in the middle, a range of paths and vegetable gardens around it, a “loop” of monastic housing in a shape based on the civilization’s spatial preference, with several other important rooms (libraries, dining halls, abbot’s quarters, etc) spaced around the outside (or sometimes the inside). As examples, here we have a map grid containing a monastery (diamond), then the player standing outside one (cross), then inside from the player’s perspective (square) and an absolute perspective in the same monastery (circular) – note of course that all the wall in middle and edges of the fourth picture is not actually wall, since outside the monastery is where the vegetable garden is, but all the spare space in an “interior” map is just filled in with wall:

NewS

Monastery Outside

Insaad

Inside1

Next Release?

I find myself with a quandary. Everything to do with NPCs and their schedules, behaviour, appearance, etc, will be finished, at the latest, by the end of next month. However, one will not be able to interact with NPCs at this point: there will be no conversation system. At this point my intention is to continue working on this release until the conversation system is fully implemented and as deep/detailed as I want it to be, and thereby make this the largest (in terms of time invested) release URR has ever had, so looking to release in Oct/Nov. As the first gameplay release, this seems appropriate on some level – I want the first gameplay release to have a lot to do (or at least a lot of people to talk to!) rather than a little. On the other hand, I do strive (with mixed success) to release new versions as rapidly as I can. So: what does everyone think? Right now I feel I’d rather save up both NPCs and conversations for one massive first gameplay release, rather than make NPCs 0.8 and conversations 0.9, as I think a world full of NPCs you can’t interact with will feel rather peculiar… but I’d like to hear your thoughts.

Next Week

Next week… I have no idea. Something involving NPCs in some way. See you then!

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32 thoughts on ““Stationary” NPCs – Priests, Guards, Shopkeepers, Jailers, Mercenaries

  1. I would prefer to wait and get a release where we can interact with the NPCs.

    Question: NPC schedules are based in a diary time schedule only? I mean, can a guard, for example, spend X days between his post and bed and then have a weekly day off and go to a tavern have a drink?

    • Got it. Answer: I’m not sure, but I will probably add variation for holidays, weekends, that kind of thing. Alternatively, maybe different nations have different calendars. Would that be cool, or annoying? I’ll think about it this week as I develop day/night/housing/job etc scheduling…

      • I think it might be interesting to tie the calendar to the nation religious background and other variables, a religious nation could create a calendar starting the religion started, and follow x amount of months or days, depending on what kind of numbers they think are holy or sacred, while hunting nations could use seasons to keep track of time (the deer season, the fish season and so forth), at first it might take some time for the player to get used to different time systems but if the character gets used to that nation or something you could get a nifty option to show the the entire calendar (maybe add holydays and things as you discover them)

        • I actually love these suggestions, and how you’ve described it has persuaded me – let’s go for different calendar systems! And the idea of a screen where you can compare all those you’ve currently discovered is genius.

          • Heh I’m glad the suggestions were of your liking, I’m looking forward to see more updates on URR!

  2. I’m amazed by how quickly you’re to be able to work on this project. The systems are looking really good so far and I’m looking forward to taking a look at them in action.

    Personally, I would vote for releasing conversations and NPCs in the same release as you originally intended. The primary reason for this being that aiming for that release schedule would create more incentive to create the conversation system faster – and I imagine any incentive to get code released faster is a good one to go with on such a large project where keeping up pace is very important. That said, I have faith you’d manage either way.

    From the point of view of someone simply downloading the releases as they come out, I would download and look at each release you upload assuming they aren’t coming out at a rate faster than once per month or so. What content has been added in each release isn’t a major concern, as long as the content is making a significant difference between the releases, and clearly the NPC and conversation systems both achieve that goal by themselves.

    The question above about the schedule system is interesting – I hadn’t considered day to day schedules prior to that. This raises the question, do you have any plans for generating calendars? I know there is a date widget in the interface, and I admit that I haven’t looked at it very much… I also recall that the game generates a planetary system at the beginning. It seems to only generate a single moon, though, which, combined with the date system in the interface, would suggest you have decided to stick with a simple month system.

    • Heh, thanks! August was, and September will be, major URR months (my new job which I need to get around to announcing here starts Oct 1), though obviously development should still continue at a decent speed beyond that. Thanks for the vote – it has been tallied.

      > as long as the content is making a significant difference between the releases, and clearly the NPC and conversation systems both achieve that goal by themselves.

      That’s a good way to put it, and very close to my own thought process(es) on the topic. As in my above comment, I hadn’t actually thought about that at all, but I should probably consider giving different civilizations different systems, then you choose the one you want to use in your upper-left sidebar? That would be kind of cool. Possibly. Or deeply annoying. I’m not quite sure which… (everyone “speaks English” for gameplay reasons, not for realism reasons, so maybe everyone should use the same calendar? I’ll have to think about what kind of difference it would *actually* make…)

  3. Like the others have said, I would prefer to wait. Also, I find the typo in the More Guards section hilarious:
    …and the guards for now all shout the “Oy, shop that!” placeholder…

    Who knew heavily armed guards gave shopping tips during the day :p.

  4. I live by the motto “Release Early. Release often.”

    Though the real question is how much feedback do you want from your community? A release with what we have now gives a chance to test out quite a lot of mechanics and leaving conversations for a single release means that the player testing can *really* focus on conversations.

    • I’d… like to, but I do struggle to. I want to give people a lot to look at/do each time, since I consider the time of my players very precious, so each new release should add a ton (especially in its pre-gameplay/moving-into-gameplay state). Feedback: per se, as much as humanly possible, and you raise a good point, and I’ll definitely take it into consideration when deciding on the next version.

  5. No problem with waiting.
    Oct/nov is not SO LONG, it’s only 3 months, which is actually quite short for a software patch.

  6. I love the new monasteries! Historically, monasteries often had (comparatively for the time) large and impressive libraries, since prior to the printing press, monks that hand-copied books were one of the few sources of written works. For a few centuries, the Catholic Church maintained an ‘Index of Prohibited Books’ (technically, it’s still around but is no longer enforced), but the prohibition was against *reading* them, not *possessing* them — scholars could read them if permission was obtained from the appropriate Church authorities. Books were often added to and removed from the Index for political reasons, so destroying books on the Index would have been wasteful. As a result, many monastery libraries incorporated special vaults where prohibited books were stored. I’ve seen a few of them at monasteries in mainland Europe — some book vaults are right out in the open, others are hidden behind sliding walls and secret doors.

    I wonder if the monasteries in URR will also contain hidden vaults with secret knowledge? And perhaps archivist-monks (such as the wonderfully-named Firsty Lastly) that you need to convince or fool into helping you? Maybe if you tell Lastly you saw a priest standing on TOP of the altar like in the screenshot (“Blasphemer! He probably secretly owns snazzy Demonic robes, too!”) , the archivist will help you…

    Regarding the release: three months isn’t that long at all, considering the scope of the game and that’s it’s a one-person operation, so I’d prefer a larger & later release with conversations.

    • Thanks! Glad you like them – I’m very pleased with how they’ve turned out (and they might be enhanced if I ever think that procedurally generating stained-glass windows would be a good use of my time… which is not impossible). Ah, yes, I’ve actually come across The Index in my own readings – some of the “Inquisition” factions in the game will probably have things along those lines too, but I didn’t appreciate the nuance about reading and owning – very interesting (perhaps there’s an echo there in Name of the Rose with the requisite “asking permission” to see certain tomes). That’s fascinating about some of these in Europe – do you have any particular examples? I find myself spending more and more time on the mainland these days and it might be fun to have a wander around one some time. Hidden vaults: oh, almost certainly! There’s quite a bit of code in already for generating “secret chambers” in a range of places. Release: got it!

      • The sites I visited were all in the Czech Republic; I thought the most impressive (in terms of libraries and secret rooms, that is) were Strahov Monastary and Kroměříž palace.

        By the way, in addition to the Index of Prohibited Books, there was also the ‘Index Expurgatorius’, which listed books that were not banned outright, but that were supposed to be censored before they could be read by the faithful. This sounds like something the conspiracy group in URR might have: a secret index of historical works that they’ve altered for their own purposes. Perhaps finding a page or fragment of the conspiracy’s Index would be a clue towards locating the original, unaltered works? Surely the conspiracy would also keep around copies of the originals in secret locations throughout the world…

        Oh, and procedurally-generated stained-glass windows would be great!

        • Sounds fascinating; next time I’m around central Europe I’ll seriously think about trying to give those a look. Ooh, that’s *very* interesting re: the IE! I had not heard of that one, and as you say, that kind of concept has a lot of potential for the central conspiracy (in the background I’m of course continuing to refine how the central quest will play out, and it has again changed just a little from the last I posted on the blog about it, but it definitely moves closer and closer to being “correct”). Ha, well, maybe windows will make their way into URR some time soon-ish!

  7. Another vote for wait longer, also I have a quick question. Will players be arrested and placed in cells if you disrupt the guards or say get caught trespassing in a restricted building? I appreciate not in this build but just as a way to flesh out guards and prisons for the future?

    • Got it – and yes, I definitely intend to have the different justice ideologies (prison, ordeal, gladiatorial, etc) play out in what happens to the player if too many laws are broken; when one looks at something like an Elder Scrolls game it’s hard for jail to have any effect unless one is doing a no-reload playthrough; in a permadeath game, though, it could be far more interesting…

      • I agree 100% I always found it a bit disappointing how you could pretty much walk right out of jail in those games. Prison could be fleshed out (Depending on how much you want to deviate from the main purpose of the game). Maybe even in extreme cases of the highest of treasons you’d be waiting in your cell for your execution date. Morbid but from a RP perspective very interesting.

        • Exactly my thinking – and I like the possibility of jail “using up” time on your overall quest counter, or of various punishments having various effects, or the ability to bribe those in power somehow to escape but at the loss of significant money/standing/etc…

  8. This game is getting more and more amazing. I am always very impressed with the level of polish that go in the implementation of each new feature. Take your time for the next release, but keep updating us on the progress ! It’s great to read all these posts 🙂

    On an unrelated topic, was there any recording of IRDC 2015 ? I could only find the talks of the US conference

  9. Hey friend!

    Everything looks really good and exciting as usual. I think you are focusing on ecactly the right thing with a very good conversations system. It will definately pay back.

    In my opinion you should take your time, whatever time it would take, and make it fun, interesting and rewarding. This will after all be one of the absolute core mechanics to explore the world and the people within it – and if I’ve understood this correctly – one of the ways to extract information from the game world. I also think it will help making the game world truly come alive and give a true sense of direction and orientation.

    So, don’t stress and have fun 🙂 A good goal should be as you say, to make the conversations system fun by itself.

    Keep up the good work on this fantastic project!

    • Awesome, glad you like it all!

      > absolute core mechanics to explore the world and the people within it – and if I’ve understood this correctly – one of the ways to extract information from the game world.

      You have indeed – that’s 100% it. I’m definitely leaning towards a larger release, based on both player feedback and my own preferences, though I still haven’t totally decided whether I’ll split them up yet – it’ll probably have to wait until I’ve actually finished all the NPC stuff, then make a decision. I completely agree though, being able to talk to NPCs is going to be a *colossal* jump forward in the world and the game and basically everything. And thanks!

  10. Hi, I’m interested in an early release. Not having a conversation system doesn’t really mean there are no interactions between players and npcs worth testing or even just enjoying.

    Things like hostilities, pathing, or maybe just movement rate compared to the player might need feedback. And, like my name suggests, I think it would be neat to be able to just follow an npc through their day.

    • Got it – thanks for the vote. This is very true, and NPC systems – being so complex – will definitely need a lot of testing (even though I’m obviously doing that myself as we go along). It’ll be very much things like pathinfinding, movement, making sure NPCs behave sensible demographically, according to time of day, etc etc…

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