So I go on and on about personality AI, but what does this do for our RPG, SteamSaga? Make it more fun? Make the NPCs have more fun? Sow the seeds for Skynet? *mad scientist laughter, fading*
The main way you’ll learn about the way the AI works is through interacting with the NPCs, which will occur in two ways: through talking to them and through actions (such as fighting them, or fighting alongside them, even). Our dialogue will still use choices (haven’t developed natural language in the last few weeks!), but most conversations will have more than the few you see in other games (well, if you have choices at all in those games); you’ll see a “group” of possible choices, such as “Answer honestly …”, “Actions, not words …” and so forth, as in the screenshot below.
Clicking on one of these options gives you another set, the actual words you’ll say (or action you’ll take). For instance, if you’d chosen “Answer honestly …”, you’d see something like the following:
Depending on your prior interactions with this NPC, or on how you interacted with this NPC’s friends (who may have told her all about what you’ve said to them, and how they feel about it), you may not even get this set of options; the conversation may go very differently. Or you may have this set of options, but how the NPC interprets your speech/actions may lead to the conversation proceeding very differently. And the NPC will remember this conversation, and how she felt about it and you, for the next time you interact. (And of course she may report these feelings to her friends.)
In addition to your conversations with others, you have conversations with yourself! You’ll have to play the game to find out why you have this “inner voice”, but it will give you occasional insights and suggestions as to what it thinks you should say or do in a given situation. Whether you follow this advice or not is up to you, but it may eventually lead to consequences (rewards or penalties) for you and your party. The “inner voice” will also remember how you’ve reacted to it throughout the game, just as NPCs do. You can see examples of this voice in the upper-right of the two previous screenshots.
Finally (well, not necessarily finally, but finally for this discussion), in battle you will control the actions of your group—attack, cast spells, fall back—and the NPCs with you will not only notice this, but give you feedback. For instance, the Healer is not particularly thrilled with being sent to the front lines, and she will let you know this. Eventually, if you continue to do things she doesn’t like, or if you’ve treated her badly in other situations, you may ask to be healed and get a response you don’t like … *
This sort of rebellion won’t be easy to create, and of course you might be so nice to everyone that you get every effort and nicety out of your group, but remember that your actions have consequences—and that making one person happy might make someone else not so pleased. After all, these are individuals, and they react differently. There’s nothing to stop them from being jealous of your lavish praise on someone else, or from disagreeing with your tactics and coming to think of you as not so much a leader but a quivering mass of contradictions and cowardice, or somesuch.
In these ways (and others!) SteamSaga will be different from other RPGs, with more depth and replayability. And it has nothing at all to do with Skynet.
* Note in the screenshot she’s been hit twice in quick succession, and hence her repeating the phrase about being singed. Going to fix that …