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Old 04-03-2003, 12:22 PM   #1
Burr
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It would be wonderful to have NPCs with AI so advanced that they are 100% indisginguishable from the PCs, even on an RP mud.  But we don't have them yet, and we likely won't for a quite a while.  So for now, instead of simply lamenting the discrepancy, maybe we can fix it by adapting the IC world rather than by adapting the code.  The IC world is something we have a lot more control over, after all.

One obvious way to do this would be for all NPCs to be lower life forms.  But that doesn't really solve the problems that advanced AI is intended to address, the desire for a greater feeling of humanity in MUDs.  And in any case, doing that would rather limit the further development of advanced AI on the mud in which it is done.

We might adapt that idea, however.  If PCs were created out of existing NPCs, then NPCs will at least be perceived as having immediate potential for humanity.  At any time an NPC might become the body for a PC.  That gargoyle you are sitting by really might just start up a conversation, even if there are no immortals around, even if your character isn't one of the better RPers or PKers on the mud.

Of course, with this idea comes an issue of consistency in RP.  To avoid any problems, the following steps could be taken:

1) Have the NPC be low enough of a life form to be mostly personalityless and memoryless, so as to make the decrease the potential pitfalls of the transition.
2) Have the theme of the world be such that PCs expect, to some extent, a sudden change in the mental state of the NPCs.

How do we do this?  One idea might be to have these PC-potential NPCs be magically created or conjured by other PCs.  This gives you a basis in fantasy storytelling for it to later suddenly come to life, real life, some day (e.g., Pinocchio, Robin Hobb's liveships, etc.).

This would complement the use of AI, as neither practice limits the other.  If NPCs are expected, ICly, to grow into higher life forms, then their being lower life forms at first does not limit the advancement of their AI capabilities.  At the same time, the potential development of the character would not be bound by the limitations of AI, for the possessing player would take over where AI left off.

Incidentally, a theme in which PCs are created-things would not only put a new spin on both fealty and craftsmanship systems, but it could also solve a lot of RP issues with death, for those people who don't prefer permadeath.  It may be a lot easier to suspend disbelief about resurrection if the original "surrection" was itself unnatural.
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