NPC: Random Names or Chosen Names?


#1

I started writing my current game, not yet announced, with a script that would randomly choose names for the npc’s at the beginning of every play through. Initially, I thought this would be a fun design idea as every time you restart the people would have different names, however, as I’ve put a lot of work into character development I’ve found that it may not be the best idea. Before you go straight ahead and bash the idea of random names I’ll list the pros and cons I’ve found with it below. Let me know your opinion on the idea and whether or not I should go ahead and just choose names for each character myself.

Pros:

  • Sense of contemporariness. Changing variables is one of the primary themes of the game and changing names, I think, is just an interesting mechanic that goes along with that theme.

  • It may get boring with the same people after 3 or 4 play throughs. Unfortunately, I cant create a whole AI to generate new dialogue every play through, but at least completionists wont have to read the same names over and over again.

Cons:

  • Difficulty in the forum. Obviously if everyone’s name is different it would make discussing the characters in the forum difficult.

  • Empathy. If their names change every play through it may hinder some people’s connection towards the characters.

Let me know what you think or if you come up with any pros or cons I didn’t mention.


#2

Not only difficult for discussing the characters in the forum, but harder to beta test.

It’s not boring, I think, to read the same names over and over again. I’d suggest not randomizing.


#3

Maybe add the option for the player to choose the npc names and have set ones if they dont want to. I belive mecha ace did something similar


#4

Except they would still be the same characters, they just wouldn’t have the same names each time.


#5

As an intellectual exercise a game mechanic to randomize all names at the beginning of the story sounds fun but as a practical application, I’d shy away from it.

Consistency is totally blown away with such a mechanic and as such it will be confusing and off-putting to your audience.

It will also break the 4th-wall of immersion - if a reader must stop to figure out that Annie is last sessions Mary, then you just broke the reader’s connection to the story.

Another “con” that I’d point out as feedback is: The readers of CoG titles grow attached to RO and if you randomize their names at the beginning this will cause several negative consequences related to your audience’s habits.

This is one mechanic I don’t think would end up being received well.