Editor's Choice

Editor's Choice
Parting Ways With Our NPCs

Brenda Brathwaite | 29 Sep 2009 12:26
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Andrew Krausnick, a game designer at TimeGate Studios, has similar feelings toward Torkald, an NPC he created for Vanguard: Saga of Heroes. Torkald was the leader of the giants, a race of creatures far from home and decreasing in number. "He was the only giant that wouldn't attack player characters on sight," Krausnick says. "His aims and goals were never fully revealed during my tenure on the project, and as far as I know, they still remain a mystery. It's a story that I regret was never told."

So he tells me.

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"The last time I worked on his story, he was attempting to open a portal back to the homeland of the giants. Maybe he simply wished to return home, or maybe he was simply looking for reinforcements. Here's a monstrous creature that the player would expect to be at odds with, but he was instead asking for help."

Diary of an NPC Vampire

When I asked my friend and fellow designer Sheri Graner Ray if there was anyone she missed, she drew a blank at first. Most of her characters were licensed and predefined, she says. Then, she remembered Damon from their toothy fling nearly 13 years ago.

Damon appeared in The Vampire Diaries, an FMV game based on the book series of the same name written by L. J. Smith. It follows the adventures of two vampire brothers, Damon, the "bad vampire," and Stefan Salvatore, "the good vampire." Damon wasn't evil, though, just constantly tempted by the proverbial power of the dark side of his vampirism. "When I set out to write his part in the game, " Ray tells me, "I wanted to play this up, make him a bad boy, scary, dangerous and, most of all, sexy."

As Ray worked to get just the right look for the character, she and her co-workers most looked forward to the day they shot the "bite" scene. "As we prepared to shoot it, all the women on the set gathered around the monitor by my chair. Damon's lines were perfect; his menace was scary and seductive at the same time. All the women watching the scene held their breath. As he dipped the actress, bared his fangs and bent over her neck, they all sighed. When the scene ended, applause broke out."

It worked for the designers, and according to Ray, it worked for the fans, too. "They all told us they would purposefully choose the 'fail' ending just so they could get bitten by Damon!"

Return to Morrowind

The last designer I talked to is an old friend of mine. I first met Ted Peterson when he was working for Bethesda on the Elder Scrolls games in the 1990s. His worlds, like my worlds, were filled with NPCs, and I wondered if any had struck a memorable chord with him. Speaking of the first game in the series, Arena, Peterson notes that the characters weren't particularly memorable. "Fairly generic sword-and-sorcery universe called Tamriel with a Big Bad Wizard as the villain," he says. But all that changed with the second installment in the series, Daggerfall. "Suddenly, I was given license to come up with a real history to the world."

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