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Ubisoft's Redding: Prominent NPCs Key To Believable Story

To create believable story, designers need to "invest in the NPCs", says Ubisoft Montreal narrative designer Patrick Redding -- who says lack of consequences in NPC beh
Truly believable story experiences need important, plausible NPCs, says Ubisoft Montreal's Patrick Redding -- who says the absence of visible personal consequences in Far Cry 2 was one of the game's "big mistakes." Redding, who's done narrative design on Far Cry 2 and Splinter Cell: Conviction, says the importance of genuineness in non-player characters as was one of his main takeaways from the experience of working on Far Cry 2, and he explains as part of a new Gamasutra feature. "If you're serious about trying to make the story something that lives in the game's mechanics and is not just embedded in the background or the cut-scenes or the dialogue, you need to give visibility and importance and prominence to the NPCs," he says. "You need to be willing to invest in the NPCs almost more than anything else," he adds, "because players do develop positive or negative reactions about these characters, but only if they can understand why they matter." He continues: "I think one of the big mistakes that we made on Far Cry 2 was that we built all these systems -- we created an entire system for managing buddies, for managing your reputation within the factions, for tracking various choices you've made throughout -- but the player didn't really get to see the consequences very well." Observant or heavily-invested players would come in time to observe some of those consequences, Redding adds, but he says that's "not fair to the player who just wants to sit down with the game and appreciate why their choices matter." "I've always believed we could have done tons with the buddies that we didn't do, rather than complicating it more than that," Redding reflects. He now calls upcoming Splinter Cell: Conviction, where he directs the co-op experience, "the best possible opportunity to take away the lesson of the buddies and apply it to another game, because you by definition have a buddy." Having a partner playing co-op adds a human relationship that is "a layer above and beyond what Archer and Kestrel are doing in the game itself," explains Redding. "The depth of that relationship and how much it matters to you is something that's going to be entirely personal, which is something we wanted to do with the Far Cry 2 buddies but which here I think is going to be more or less by default."

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