The Overlooked Contribution Of NPCs In Video Games

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Some NPCs in video games are fan favorites, ever wondered why?

Story Highlights
  • NPCs are an integral part of the gaming world. They enrich the plot, help unlock quests, aid in battles, and add social connections to the game.
  • They act as companions, guides, enemies, pedestrians, shopkeepers, and more. 
  • Several traits make an NPC likeable for players, like character design, humour, relevance to the game, contextual responses, and more.

What Are NPCs?

Non-playable characters (NPCs) are characters in a computer game not controlled by someone playing the game. They are the extra characters you encounter in a video game other than your main character.

NPCs are created through AI and machine learning tools to mimic human behaviour, emotions, and interactions. In contemporary video games, AI has enhanced their behaviour to make them more immersive, context-aware, and realistic (Karaca et al., 2023).

NPC Sorcerer Rogier Assigns Quests In Elden Ring
NPC Sorcerer Rogier Assigns Quests In Elden Ring (Image By Tech4Gamers)

Villains, guards, shopkeepers, and friends are all NPCs that are not usually under our control but add a deep value to the story nonetheless. 

Role Of NPCs In Games

Interacting with NPCs is not useless. They offer valuable insights and tips about the gaming world and objects that can prove useful along the quest. NPCs often help with quests and missions to help our character progress. Imagine if your main player was the only character in the universe. It would feel lonely, right? 

The presence of NPCs helps make sense of the game while adding emotions and depth. For example, in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, Task Force 141 comprises our main character, Captain John Price, along with his teammates, Lieutenant Simon Ghost, Sergeant Kyle Gaz, and Sergeant John Soap, who come together against the antagonist, Vladimir Makarov.

NPCs In COD: Modern Warfare 2
NPCs In COD: Modern Warfare 2 (Image By Tech4Gamers)

The teammates help keep an eye on the enemy and fight alongside us in intense encounters. Similarly, interaction with other NPCs along the way keeps the hunt alive. It is not wrong to say that we develop an emotional attachment to NPCs who stay with the character throughout the journey. 

Other NPCs bring you side-quests that all come together in the end to guide you towards the final destination. Elden Ring is a good example of how various NPCs, like Milicent, Rani The Witch, and Shabiri, assign quests throughout the game. They contribute to the character’s developing skillset and the player’s interest in the plot to some extent.

Ranni The Witch In Elden Ring
Ranni The Witch In Elden Ring (Image By Tech4Gamers)

Some NPCs exist primarily to prevent the player from feeling lonely. For instance, in the GTA series, you don’t interact with pedestrians or other drivers, yet they are essential for adding a touch of realism to the game.

Villains like Vladimir Makarov in COD and Antoine Castillo in Far Cry 6 are also NPCs. They are the ones you fight against and act as motivators to progress through the world.

What Makes An NPC Likeable?

Well-thought NPCs add to the appeal of video games. According to Legnefur and Abasahl (2023), many factors determine whether a player will like the NPC. Participants revealed that a unique personality, distinguishable traits, good character development, leadership abilities, and good humour create a strong connection between the player and the NPC companion.

Plus, people vary in their preferences for their favorite NPCs. For instance, this user on X prefers Teppei and The Shrine Maiden over Sumida in Genshin Impact. It was pretty sad when Teppei died.

Intricate character design, memorable quests, catchy one-liners, and context-accurate responses are some of the key elements that make an NPC likeable to me. Consequently, NPCs can make or break the game, and careful design will result in a huge success.

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