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Story-driven games captivate players by offering an immersive world filled with engaging narratives and complex characters. An integral part of these engrossing environments is the presence of non-playable characters (NPCs) controlled by the game's artificial intelligence. These AI NPCs are the lifeblood of the game world, providing a depth and realism that make the narrative more believable and the gaming experience more engaging. From multi-branching conversations that evolve based on player choices, to responsive actions that reflect the player's deeds, these NPCs shape the player's journey within the game.
They're the quest-givers that guide us, the companions that assist us, and often, the catalysts that propel the storyline forward. Beyond their roles in the scripted narrative, with advancements in AI, these NPCs also offer emergent gameplay, where unexpected scenarios arise from complex interactions within the game's AI systems, providing an even deeper level of immersion and unpredictability.
Portal II is a great example of a story driven game that relied on NPCs as a core aspect of the performance. A large part of the appeal was actually the quirky dialogue of Wheatley, an NPC robot played by Stephen Merchant (described as among the best video game voiceovers of all time). He described the experience as “exhausting”, however. Advanced NPCs can replicate high quality performances that really enhances the gameplay.