Can talking to NPCs ever be fun?

Justin Achilli (a name that’ll be familiar to Vampire tabletop players since he was line developer for White Wolf, now working on CCP’s new MMOs) wrote this week about task resolution systems for conversation.

The vast majority of computer roleplaying games are designed with combat first and foremost. “Roleplaying” in a computer game context really means “advancement,” not “you take on the persona,” and as such, fighting stuff to level is your primary gameplay.

He’s pointing out that dialogue in computer RPGs isn’t fun gameplay and the rewards are usually either a bit more text or a slightly more convoluted path to the same scene that everyone would be directed into next anyway.

These are not “social interactions.” These are more obstacles to click through to get to the big fight at the end that you’re going to have to have anyway.

I’m not really sure how much I want actual social interactions with bots in my game, is the only thing. That’s just a little bit creepy and leads to people falling in love with characters in their Japanese dating games. I might be happy with an interactive fiction with cut scenes, like a film in which I can decide what sort of person I want my character to be and then stand back and watch them get on with it.

I actually liked Mass Effect’s dial that lets you roughly guide what sort of response you want to give and then let your character get on with it. But I’m glad people are thinking about how to make this side of the game world more fun and involving.