wyrdsmyth

Speculation on surviving The Long Dark with NPCs

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This is a speculation thread to discuss possible changes in our own behavior as we adapt to the possibility of a human threat added to the world. The idea for this thread was spawned from Self (or How I Learned to Stop Quibbling and Love Sleeping), where it was mentioned that some dramatic changes to gameplay were coming that would make it much harder or impossible to survive using the hibernation method. While I could certainly be very wrong, my interpretation was that this would possibly be an indication that NPCs were coming soon (and there has been mention of this during interviews that I have watched recently).

The first thing that comes to mind is that the presence of NPCs will mean that houses and other buildings will no longer be a 100% safe shelter.

In the same thread it was mentioned by Octavian that there appeared to be chimneys where before there were none just a few months ago, and that could be an indication that smoke rising from the chimney would be a signal to NPCs that someone has a fire going, and alternately a signal to players that the building in question is occupied.

To me that also means that stored food, supplies, tools and also any curing furs and wood would be at risk for theft.

The next thought that I had is that I hope the devs add craftable fur hats, because that bright red toque is going to make the player an easy target for an NPC with a rifle or bow.

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It is hard for me to even contemplate the existence of NPC's in the Sandbox world. TLD has so far survived on its simplicity. There are only 4 creatures in this world who combined have three responses to player presence: flee, pursue, and charge. The only voiceovers are random situational interjections. Simulating something as intimate as human interaction and cooperation would be a quantum leap.

Would we get merchants, anchored in place, waiting for us to bring them 3 shiny fish so they can determine our worthiness before handing over their keys to locked chests? Unkillable wretches begging for food that only disappear when fed?

No. More likely it's zombies...

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I don't know why people are already assuming that the NPC's are going to be "hostile", either in the sense of actual combat or by them stealing your supplies.

It makes ZERO sense, when examined from any view other than "antagonism for the sake of antagonism".

Think about it: in a TLD-situation, you stumble across a house that appears to be lived in. Plenty of firewood, food, drinking water, medication, etc. Would you take those supplies, back out into the cold, or ..... you know.... build up the fire, wait for the other survivor to come back, and chat with them for a while? See if they want to team up?

Remember, humans ARE a social species (99.9% of humans suffer psychological issues if isolated without SOME [not necessarily human] form of social interaction), and neither you nor this other survivor have likely seen something that hasn't tried to eat you for quite some time now.

Or, if they happen to be a travelling tradesman, why wouldn't you GO WITH THEM back to civilization? I can 't think of a single person that would willingly stay by themselves in a TLD-style situation (myself, with survival training, would be out of there in a heartbeat, given the chance), when there was even the slightest chance of food, warmth, and shelter WITH other people. Remember: survival gets EASIER when there are more people. Division of labor, specialization of tasks, etc.

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I don't know why people are already assuming that the NPC's are going to be "hostile", either in the sense of actual combat or by them stealing your supplies.

I stayed in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina with my family, and we had to escape by a canoe ride offered by two gentlemen who were indeed being helpful. We could not have easily escaped the city without their assistance.

That said:

The first day after the hurricane, before the flooding started to appear, we observed people riding through the neighborhood by bike. They did not appear to be friendly, and they made no attempt to communicate with us.

That night, hours after the sun set, we began to hear gun shots going off in the neighboring buildings, followed by people screaming. We were lucky that we had three adult dogs with us in the building, in addition to an armed adult, but it could have easily gone very badly for us. I am friends with other people who survived in different parts of the city who had much worse stories to tell.

In that respect, the flooding was a godsend, because it deterred the murdering looters from coming back to the neighborhood we were in each night afterward. Unfortunately, we did not have enough food and supplies to remain in the building, and had to leave in order to survive.

So the point is, there is enough historical evidence following any sort of disaster that there will be people who are willing to become predators, as long the opportunity presents itself and the risk is not too great. Most of the time, there are enough authority figures such as police and/or military who come in immediately after a disaster, and they tend to prevent this from happening. In the wake of Katrina this did not happen, and the citizens who stayed behind had to fend for themselves for several days. We were some the lucky ones in that we got out relatively quickly and that we could permanently relocate to a comparatively safer place to live.

So in my opinion, if The Long Dark is to be realistic in the respect of NPCs, there should be both types of people - those who are there to help, and those who are there to prey on the weak. If you want to survive, you should be preparing for how to deal with the second type.

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Non-hostile NPCs would be an insult. First of all, it would feel too much like bro survival camp during the apocalypse. Second, opposition is pretty much a universal aspect of life, and by extension every story, because that's what a story is, either a proof that a particular aspect of life is true in a particular context, either a solution to a life problem. Whatever Hinterland's moral argument is, if you don't see your own kind as a threat, and your own kind doesn't see you as one in return, off the bat, then we would be better off playing as perky pandas, because humans are certainly not involved. Even in the panda world, opposition is pre-ontological. But because pandas can’t talk, they can’t tell us they know it to be such.

However, if NPCs exist, where are they coming from, and why can’t you go there yourself? This will be a big problem.

There is no such thing as antagonism for the sake of antagonism, there is simply, antagonism. If you want to go that route, wolves are antagonism for the sake of antagonism, humans are the same species as you, and you don't see wolves attacking wolves, but people attacking people? Er, yes. And that says something, both about us, and the wolves.

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I don't know why people are already assuming that the NPC's are going to be "hostile", either in the sense of actual combat or by them stealing your supplies.

It makes ZERO sense, when examined from any view other than "antagonism for the sake of antagonism".

Think about it: in a TLD-situation, you stumble across a house that appears to be lived in. Plenty of firewood, food, drinking water, medication, etc. Would you take those supplies, back out into the cold, or ..... you know.... build up the fire, wait for the other survivor to come back, and chat with them for a while? See if they want to team up?

Remember, humans ARE a social species (99.9% of humans suffer psychological issues if isolated without SOME [not necessarily human] form of social interaction), and neither you nor this other survivor have likely seen something that hasn't tried to eat you for quite some time now.

Or, if they happen to be a travelling tradesman, why wouldn't you GO WITH THEM back to civilization? I can 't think of a single person that would willingly stay by themselves in a TLD-style situation (myself, with survival training, would be out of there in a heartbeat, given the chance), when there was even the slightest chance of food, warmth, and shelter WITH other people. Remember: survival gets EASIER when there are more people. Division of labor, specialization of tasks, etc.

While this is true, humans ARE a social species and we require interaction with other humans that will otherwise tend to affect our psyche. Following major natural disasters that isolate small communities for short periods of time, humans tend to develop gang mentalities that don't just exist in movies. Some people, like Wyrdsmyth says, truly will help others. Most however, will prefer to stick with humans they know. If you- as a bush pilot outsider, become a threat to two friends who have been surviving together (even not intending to be. Simply another human in the area can be a threat, because its a person with unknown motive who might steal or even kill if their situation becomes dire enough) you won't find yourself on the friendly side of a rifle. Also, while survival does get easier with more people, it also becomes more difficult. Food and water must now be shared meaning a group must find and accumulate more deer, cans and snow just to get a daily caloric need. Distribution of labor will become a testy ground, if someone starts feeling agitated they may end up lashing out when getting the "lesser" jobs like stringing up guts or shoveling snow. Dissension in a group leads to dangerous situations. Then what happens when the most skilled hunter or maybe the heaviest lifter gets food poisoning? Or if they're attacked by a wolf? Then the group has a useless human who they have to care for and use medical supplies on. I hate to say it, but if you're not part of the group in a trusted manner you might find yourself outside and taking care of yourself.

In this situation there is no antagonism for the sake of antagonism. Self preservation will take priority over social and moral bonds when their own life is threatened simply through their existence. The games The Last of Us and This War of Mine, illustrate that. The Last of Us shows only a handful of "helpful" survivors. Most are suspicious, wary and standoffish, unwilling to potentially let someone who could turn on them when they learn of food supplies. Others take on gang mentalities, in which they run by the rules of "dog eat dog", and if you aren't part of them, you're just a means of survival. It sounds like fiction, but it's how the human psyche works. In This War of Mine, you're presented with opportunities to take on other survivors into your group. Sometimes you might take them, because you have a plentiful amount of food or supplies and they may offer something to further your survival. Other times you will not. You'll close the door in their face. Perhaps your three survivors are barely living on scraps, or you just don't trust their intentions. All you know is that by bringing this person in, you're going to struggle even more.

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I don't understand why we are operating like NPCS need to be hostile or friendly. They will likely be both, and why wouldn't we want that? We should have hostile, and friendly NPCS, and NPCS that can start friendly and become hostile, and vice versa, depending on how we interact with them. I also know that Hinterland is trying to tell a specific story with the story mode experience, so we'll see what they have planned with NPCS.

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I think the NPC's will act pretty much how real humans would. Some will want to kill you the second they spot you, others will act friendly and stab you in the back while you're sleeping, others still will not want to harm you but will try to steal or con your stuff. And surely there will be NPC's who will help you out of the goodness of their hearts and some will only help you for something in return.

However most will likely be very wary of people they don't know (you). They may not want to talk to you at all or only after you earned their trust. I think the NPC's will be very diverse and I'm sure they will create some difficult moral dilemma's. Like in one of the trailers Hinterland released, where you come up to a tent and hear a man hitting a woman inside. What would you do is the question asked. You don't know what will happen if you intervene, the man may get aggressive, the woman may get aggressive, they may both get aggressive or maybe neither will and they will turn out to be of great help to you, or not. If you encounter three similar situations with NPC's in TLD, I doubt you would get two similar results if you choose the same option every time. This is how I think the NPC's will help enrich the game; unpredictability.

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NPCs that are not hostile pose a design conundrum. Even if you find a way to believably explain you can’t go where they came from, if one of you doesn’t die in the encounter, what then, the map just accumulates NPCs over time, like you’re at the bottom of a funnel, with AIs filtering to your location? Or wildlife will take care of them sooner or later? Or they’ll start to fight each other? What’s this, Fallout?

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Why would the map accumulate NPC's over time? I would expect NPC's to work pretty much the same way spawnable items in the game work now, if they ever get added to the sandbox mode that is. There will probably be locations where an NPC could spawn and at the start of the game or when you enter a map it is determined randomly whether or not an NPC spawns at each location and if so what NPC will spawn.

It may even be that NPC's can spawn at a location after a while, even if you've been there already. But that doesn't mean an infinite number of NPC's could be spawned. Possibly NPC's can travel around the map(s), but I doubt NPC's can come from (or go to) places you as the player can go to. Hinterland has already stated that they intend to use NPC's to present the player with choices, not simply as a new enemy to fight.

In the story mode, NPC's will probably be the same for each run. It seems very hard to me to create a good story if you don't know what NPC will spawn where, if at all.

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Why would the map accumulate NPC's over time?

The way I read Raph's hints is that survivor AIs in sandbox would - maybe partly - be a source of non-sustainable resources like matches bullets scrap and so on. So I never thought of them like something you experience from day one, asking yourself where the AI(s) spawned like you’d ask yourself where the rifle spawned.

So, in this context, if a survivor AI would find its way into the world 3 months into the game, if it’s not hostile, then I wonder if the map will accumulate AIs over time. Because if it’s not hostile, and you don’t kill it, even if you trade – even if trade would be kind of silly – you will still need non-sustainable resources in the future, so presumably another survivor AI, and if it’s not hostile either, you get the point. That’s why I raised the issue of the map accumulating AIs.

And what are the AIs doing all this time?

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Why would the map accumulate NPC's over time?

The way I read Raph's hints is that survivor AIs in sandbox would - maybe partly - be a source of non-sustainable resources like matches bullets scrap and so on. So I never thought of them like something you experience from day one, asking yourself where the AI(s) spawned like you’d ask yourself where the rifle spawned.

So, in this context, if a survivor AI would find its way into the world 3 months into the game, if it’s not hostile, then I wonder if the map will accumulate AIs over time. Because if it’s not hostile, and you don’t kill it, even if you trade – even if trade would be kind of silly – you will still need non-sustainable resources in the future, so presumably another survivor AI, and if it’s not hostile either, you get the point. That’s why I raised the issue of the map accumulating AIs.

I didn't know that. But I would interpret that as NPC's "finding" resources you didn't so you can trade for it, steal it from them or kill them for it. Of course, killing them would mean they can't "find" more resources in the future. By NPC's "finding" things I mean those things appear in their inventory magically, much like traders in RPG's work, magically getting new stock every so many days. That would also mean that if you kill all NPC's you also loose a source of resources.

If new NPC's make their way into the game world every so often, that raises the question where they would come from. Because it should also mean we would be able to go there. But if they are able to enter the player accessible game world, I would be surprised if they could not leave it as well.

From what I've read from the devs here on the forum, in interviews and on reddit, I'm pretty sure they are not planning on only hostile NPC's. If I remember correctly, one of the scenario's they painted is one where you come upon a small group of houses. There is a larger building that seems to be used for gatherings and there are signs of people in there. Do you walk straight up to the building and knock on the door or do you stay out in the cold, in the trees scouting the place out first?

If all NPC's are hostile, there really is not much of a choice here. At least not when answering the question asked. You, going up against multiple people, possibly (probably?) armed? Knocking on that door would mean death. You're only choice would be to try to sneak around and loot some stuff without being seen or to stay clear of the place.

But of course this is all just speculation, based on the information I have gathered online. I could be completely wrong.

And what are the AIs doing all this time?

Probably just trying to survive, just like we.

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If I remember correctly, one of the scenario's they painted is one where you come upon a small group of houses. There is a larger building that seems to be used for gatherings and there are signs of people in there. Do you walk straight up to the building and knock on the door or do you stay out in the cold, in the trees scouting the place out first?

Might possibly be this old pre-alpha thread where we [players] were creating our own fictional/speculative scenarios based on just early teaser concept art.

viewtopic.php?f=59&t=167&p=217&hilit=scenarios#p2354

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I didn't know that. But I would interpret that as NPC's "finding" resources you didn't so you can trade for it, steal it from them or kill them for it. Of course, killing them would mean they can't "find" more resources in the future. By NPC's "finding" things I mean those things appear in their inventory magically, much like traders in RPG's work, magically getting new stock every so many days. That would also mean that if you kill all NPC's you also loose a source of resources.

I would find that kind of implementation cheap, "finding" resources I didn't, I'd very much prefer the AI having them in their possession before they come into the map, even if only the form of equipment you can break down.

If new NPC's make their way into the game world every so often, that raises the question where they would come from. Because it should also mean we would be able to go there. But if they are able to enter the player accessible game world, I would be surprised if they could not leave it as well.

Precisely, that's a big issue. But if they can enter and exit, you should too, but you won't, the game world will always have a border, so either they're in the world from the start, which has its own problems, either they parachute in or some other weird, contrived way that tries to manage this, either they simply have their own inter-dimensional portals you can't access.

From what I've read from the devs here on the forum, in interviews and on reddit, I'm pretty sure they are not planning on only hostile NPC's. If I remember correctly, one of the scenario's they painted is one where you come upon a small group of houses. There is a larger building that seems to be used for gatherings and there are signs of people in there. Do you walk straight up to the building and knock on the door or do you stay out in the cold, in the trees scouting the place out first?

If all NPC's are hostile, there really is not much of a choice here. At least not when answering the question asked. You, going up against multiple people, possibly (probably?) armed? Knocking on that door would mean death. You're only choice would be to try to sneak around and loot some stuff without being seen or to stay clear of the place.

But of course this is all just speculation, based on the information I have gathered online. I could be completely wrong.

So you're suggesting that you would have no way to know if they're friendly or not? Erm, this approach is also suspicious to me, this kind of event as such, it's just lazy design with a veneer of intricate gameplay. As a player if you do not have any way to infer the outcome this kind of approach always leads to throwing immersion out the window.

Because what usually happens, especially with atmospheric, thoughtful games, is that you role-play them. And if you role-play death means stopping and playing something else because you have failed. Or you simply become jaded and just push through to get it done. For example Frictional is notoriously bad at overlooking this. The monster catches you, you're dead, and you teleport back from the after-life, so any kind of true, immersive experience is negated, and you're going only for cheap, fake screams on YT.

So you're trusting and enter thinking it makes no sense for them to be hostile, and you're dead, causing confusion, annoyance, immersion loss, and a developer slapping you in the face saying you did wrong. Or you're distrustful, thinking they are hostile, come up with a plan and systematically kill them or loot their houses while they're in there, right? Only to find out they were not hostile, and not only that, but you have to pay for what you did, not with your own, minimally imagined conscience, but the game doing it for you.

This War of Mine did this, you could rob/kill neutral NPCs, and when you got home, everybody was mopey and sad because you raided some pensioners. The developers effectively treating me like some Call of Duty player stereotype tripping on high-fructose corn syrup soda and MSG made in a lab, sprinkled on potato chips made to taste like another food that is not potato, to the point the game has to tell me I did something bad because I can’t figure it out myself, assuming out of the gate I’m either emotionally underdeveloped or momentary incapable of doing anything else that burping, speaking in vernacular and being a bigot.

Not only this, not having the balls to let the player mope on their own if they feel they did something bad, but any kind of “emergent” game design suffers another, bigger problem. Whenever the game can fork, the moment you observe it forked, you can’t help wondering what would have happened if you did “the other thing”.

In the example you gave, if you choose not to enter but sneak around, someone running late to the meeting could “see you”, and if you approach the NPCs later, they’ll say, "Bob saw you sneaking around, you’re a sneaky bastard and we don’t want to want to interact with you." Developers cheerlead this as everything you do having a consequence, and even though it’s eye-watering contrived, you do go on, constantly wondering what would have happened if you did barge in, maybe be welcomed with free granola bars, hugs, and a deed for that abandoned house someone died in ten years ago and has been unused since.

This happens over and over and over again, some random, contrived event that makes no sense whatsoever and forks the game because you made a "decision" so obvious you have to think back and figure out what it was by process of elimination, and the wider the fork, the more immersion gets broken, if nothing else, because it’s one of the moments you see the game’s inner workings, if A then B else C.

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I would hope NPCs would run the gambit from outright hostile to downright friendly and everything in between. However, I would assume most are going to be non-confrontational and guarded at best. I don't care of it is one person sitting on a horde or a family guarding their last loaf of bread. Everyone has a fixed amount of resources. The NPCs are looking at what they have and they condition they are in. An unknown enters the equation and everything could change, the most immediate change is death but the consumption of resources is going to ensue. You put up a strong front (probably with a weapon, loaded or not) catching a wanderer flat footed with "We don't take kindly to strangers round here." This would send a fare number of people packing (even if they planned on coming back later). Walking around at night would probably just get you shot.

It is not that you don't have a sob story, everyone has a sob story. They just plan on looking out for their own and you complicate the situation. The player should have to prove their worth before being accepted and then the player will have to determine if the risk is worth the possible reward. Knowing full well they could just be out to con you. Decisions, decisions...

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Something else I considered was that if there was a significant chance of a building being accessed while I'm in it (sleeping possibly) and therefore forcing a confrontation with an unwelcome visitor, then I might want to consider finding and using a "difficult to find", inhospitable or remote location to establish my home base.

The hidden bunkers immediately come to mind in this scenario. As I was discussing this with my oldest daughter, she pointed out that the people who made the bunkers might decide to use them. However, based on the appearance of said bunkers, especially the roots penetrating the walls, I'm of the opinion that they were built so long ago that the original builders would most likely be deceased.

The caves are another possibility (provided they are not occupied by a bear). One other thought was that a new map could be added that had no man-made structures at all, forcing the player to make do with whatever nature has provided.

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If I remember correctly, one of the scenario's they painted is one where you come upon a small group of houses. There is a larger building that seems to be used for gatherings and there are signs of people in there. Do you walk straight up to the building and knock on the door or do you stay out in the cold, in the trees scouting the place out first?

Might possibly be this old pre-alpha thread where we [players] were creating our own fictional/speculative scenarios based on just early teaser concept art.

viewtopic.php?f=59&t=167&p=217&hilit=scenarios#p2354

That may very well be the case :) This scenario was probably not from Hinterland.

This is

I was thinking about. I think it gives some insight in how Hinterland intends to use NPC's in the story mode.

@Octavian: I think NPC's will be more than just a way to get resources and I very much doubt they would all be aggressive. I don't know how exactly Hinterland plans to do this, but I'm sure they have a vision how NPC's should work withing TLD and I trust them to make it a believable immersing experience.

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This is
I was thinking about. I think it gives some insight in how Hinterland intends to use NPC's in the story mode.

Thanks for sharing that video - I had not seen that one before. I rather like the premise being shown.

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I expect story mode will include NPCs (non playable characters) in cut scenes. In the sandbox game we only see the corpses so presumably there is something going on.

I bet you will see the story characters come and go and the player will still be operating "solo" during actual game play.

If you really want to do this game up right, it should be multi-player and that's how you get other characters to interact with in endless ways. It might be a drastic change to the game engine, I don't know. It would certainly involve a lot more server interaction and the possibility of severe performance issues. But if the Unity engine has support for it, then why not go for it? Multi-player would be a huge advance!

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I expect story mode will include NPCs (non playable characters) in cut scenes. In the sandbox game we only see the corpses so presumably there is something going on.

I bet you will see the story characters come and go and the player will still be operating "solo" during actual game play.

If you really want to do this game up right, it should be multi-player and that's how you get other characters to interact with in endless ways. It might be a drastic change to the game engine, I don't know. It would certainly involve a lot more server interaction and the possibility of severe performance issues. But if the Unity engine has support for it, then why not go for it? Multi-player would be a huge advance!

The multiplayer discussion has been done multiple times, the fan base is pretty split but it seems a majority would prefer the game to remain solo based, Hinterland has also made it VERY clear they have no plans to implement any level of multiplayer into the game.

I do expect that NPC's are going to become something pivotal in the story mode, just from several different developer statements and early indications of what the story mode is trying to deliver, which is a specific narrative and story from the developers minds. I also feel like thinks like the smoking chimney we already see when finding trappers homestead in sandbox are indicative to things coming in story mode that will hint to us the presence of other people in the world and what not.

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I expect story mode will include NPCs (non playable characters) in cut scenes. In the sandbox game we only see the corpses so presumably there is something going on.

It could also be that we don't see NPC's in sandbox mode because they have not been created yet (TLD is still in alpha so there are still features missing). It could also be that the NPC's have been developed but are kept out of the public releases because Hinterland feels the NPC's in the sandbox would give away too much about the story in story mode.

Personally, I expect the NPC's will make their way to the sandbox in due time.

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