Greedy Goblin

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Why there are no NPC teammates?

Have you ever wondered why there are no NPCs to hire to do group content? Blizzard just introduced flexible raids to deal with the "group not full" problem, when the solution is so trivial: introduce an NPC that does acceptable DPS and can be hired for raiding. It wouldn't be any good, but better than an empty spot.

In EVE Online it's even more problematic. You see, EVE is a game of alts, I know exactly one player who doesn't have alts in the game (my girlfirend, and she is too casual to matter). CCP games said that the average account/player is above 2, yet there is no officially supported method to multibox. To make it less understandable, setting up a "follower" AI would be like 30 minutes work for a programmer: warping needs no programming as squadwarp is already available, the only coding needed is when the boss jumps or activates warp gate or jump bridge or titan, the follower does the same, upon landing activate tank and propulsion start orbiting its master, lock it up, activate helping modules on it, then attack whatever the master attacks with all offensive modules. Such ship would be much worse than a player as it needs to be capstable with all modules perma-running, couldn't overheat and couldn't attack anything else than the primary of the master. Yet it would be a welcome addition.

The reason of the missing NPC teammates isn't programming, it's a fundamental game-design thing: an NPC teammate would set a barrier of skill for players. I mean a player who is worse than the NPC is rejected from every team, including teams of equally useless players. If a drooling moron starts a team, he will also include NPCs in the hope that they can carry him than taking other drooling morons. Such feature would remove a significant playerbase from the game as they would be outcast and ridiculed as "worse than a dumb NPC". Actually that NPC is just as good for a doctrine fleet than a player, or even better as it's never late, it doesn't spam the chat, won't go AFK, doesn't DC, doesn't mind if asked to stay docked and doesn't jump the gate on arrival when it was explicitly told not to.

While I wrote it would be worse than a player I meant it would be worse than someone who can overheat, warp off when needed, switch targets without orders, keep its position on its own, keep up Ewar on others than primary. Sure, there are such players, but not many, otherwise no one would field F1-bashing fleets that are prone to bombing runs. The pure fact that both sides of the "great 2013 Summer war" use "anchor up, permarun MWD, click broadcast, press F1" fleets prove that the average player isn't far from that very primitive bot. And I'm sure they wouldn't like to find this out the hard way, being devastated by a 50-man corp with each member running 20 accounts, fielding 1000-"men" fleets.

The game companies need human players, so even PvP games go great length to prevent players figure out that they are horrible. World of Warcraft still don't have a built-in damage meter. In EVE there is no way to set up a fair fight, while it's told to be because of the "dark universe", it's actually because it keeps the loser in the game as he can always blame link alts, faction modules or blobbing. In League of Legends the rating system was hidden behind this "bronze-silver-gold..." nonsense, to make sure that the 600 rated moron never finds out that he is indeed a 600 rated moron. I needed to dig to find some source to figure which tier and subtier belongs to which ELO rating and how it translates to ones position in the playerbase (and its numbers don't add up). Even if I failed to search well, the point is that I need to do even more effort to find out how am I performing.

PS: if you know a reliable source that translate League of Legends subtiers to player positions as "silver 4 = top 12%-top 8%", please link.


Rylinks said...

>PS: if you know a reliable source that translate League of Legends subtiers to player positions as "silver 4 = top 12%-top 8%", please link.

I'm not sure how reliable it is, but someone scraped lolking a while back ( and came up with:

48% of players are bronze
44% are silver
7% are gold
1% are plat
<1% are diamond

Anonymous said...

DDO used to have rent-able NPCs.

Not played for years, so don't know if they still do.

Might be worth checking out.

Anonymous said...

I'd argue that "Bronze V" is way more insuting and has bigger chance to make someone realize he's a moron than 600 elo rating. I mean, the rating is just a pretty number (not even that low, actually) while Bronze V clearly states you are scraping the very bottom of the barrel and can't fall any lower even if you tried.

Anonymous said...

All the stats available for players in Wot.

Calculates not only winrate, but also efficiency and WN7

Anonymous said...

About those Alts. Are they really that commonly used?

My father is a carebear mission runner. He has an Alt in Jita but he only used him to compare prises before purchases.
I don't think he has logged in as his alt since he discovered those market data websites.

Von Keigai said...

Gevlon, this is too tin-foil. CCP does not care if players know they suck at PVP. Indeed, many players will proudly make that claim. I suck at PVP and though not proud of it, I certainly know it. This does not bother me that much because (a) eventually I won't suck, and (b) there's much more to EVE than being a PVP master.

What would NPCs add to the game? Well, they might be worth implementing if you hired them for PLEX; at least that would give CCP some financial reason to do it. (Your "half hour" guess at programming time is simply risible -- my guess, half a year of a team of programmers.) But I do not expect CCP to do it, because of several ways that NPCs would degrade the game.

NPCs would massively inflate the CPU load of most fights. I mean, if it was comfortable to run 5 NPCs per character, then instead of 1v1 fights there would be 6v6. Small gangs would be 30 ships. Instead of 1000 man fleets there would be 6000 man fleets. They'd have to drop the minimum TIDI to 1% to handle the load of major fleet battles.

NPCs also break the ship balance in fundamental ways. Ships are good at one thing, by design. A ship that is good at DPS is not also good at carrying cargo, ewar, or healing, or sneaky. This makes players have to choose what they will do in the game. If you allow NPCs, then choice goes out the window. Each player has his own personal Osprey escort, his own personal Manticore escort, etc.

Anonymous said...

There is a third party utility called ISBoxer that can mirror commands. For example, here's a man using 11 accounts to solo an incursion:

The man running that 11box won the 'worst FC in Eve' award 2 years in a row.

I've also seen a fearsome PvP setup where a guy had 10 Tempests flying around Derelik. We (a semi-competent PvP corp) could build a counter comp to his setup and easily kill him, but the average lowsec gang is going to get annihilated by that setup.

If you allowed NPC bots the immediate borderline exploit I see is utilizing a fleet concept called Cripplecats. Thats the propless version of the 1400mm Artillery Maelstrom.

One of the most difficult aspects of controlling a Maelstrom fleet is synchronizing the gunfire so you get all the damage at once and can kill people before hostile Logistics can react. If you have a target caller in a super tanked Proteus with 200 Maelstrom bots assisting him, you remove that complexity from the equation, granting a perfect alpha strike with no callout on comms. No callout on comms means no enemy spies can relay your primary choice to the enemy fleet.

These reasons are actually one of the major justifications for using Slowcats, sentry drone carriers, and more recently sentry Domis. The sentry drones get assisted to the target caller, providing perfect alpha and no primary calls.

Here's an example (PL Comms NSFW):

In short, unless you put massive artificial restrictions on NPC bots rich, competent alliances would immediately exploit them. Rich, incompetent alliances would probably lose a bunch of maelstroms.

Plus, Bots are already in the game. You just have to recruit them off of Reddit, SA, or out of Highsec.

Anonymous said...

There was a game that implemented helper NPCs. Guild Wars1.

Your prediction was pretty spot-on. By the very end of the game, human teams were assembled only for dungeon runs with each member having a VERY specialized role, which would finish the dungeon quite fast.

This means that the average player simply had no hope joining as a non-specialist. For all instances of non-specialist requirements, any player would be better off using an AI player, due to their 'inhuman' reflexes and absolute obedience.

Anonymous said...

NPCs don't pay subscriptions or buy PLEXes. That's why.