The Salesman of Waterdeep

Once in a while somebody puts up a post expressing the wish to a have more dynamic worlds in MMOs.  We want places that feel less static and more alive it is claimed.  We want places that behave more like a real world.

At least we think we do.  I have my own theories on that, but let’s assume for the moment that is what we truly want.

We have certainly moved in that direction as we have climbed out of the (Diku)MUD and into three dimensional worlds.

In 1999 the city of Freeport in EverQuest certainly felt like a real place when compared to the text based city of Waterdeep in TorilMUD on which it was based.

Sure, the guards walked around more like robots than humans and most of the other NPCs pretty much stayed put, but it was a step in the right direction.  The visual sense were satisfied.

And in 2004 the city of Freeport in EverQuest II moved us further still towards a world that felt real.  It is a virtual city with angles other than 90, 45, and 30 degrees.  The guards, while they still follow a predictable path, move more naturally about the city.  Even some NPCs wander from place to place.  The building look more realistic and the ones you cannot enter do not feel like they are part of a Potemkin village.  Wildlife even moves about.

But in some ways, Waterdeep in TorilMUD is more alive than than either of these Freeports.  Existing in mere text, the NPCs of Waterdeep are allowed more freedom.

For example, there are several salesmen in town.  They pick things up off the ground and then try to sell them to you, so you end up with encounters like this:

The salesman enters from the north.

The salesman starts following you.
The salesman saunters up to you and says, ‘Hey Zouve!  Have I got a deal for you! Take a look at this magnificent arrow. Isn’t it just a dream?  And it can be yours for just 504 coins!’

Of course, you cannot actually “see” the salesman, but you can look at him and get the visual image.

Following people around and selling the most impractical items possible, the salesman is at the top of his trade. He wears fine silks dyed in very stylish colors. He seems to be telling his newest victim about his latest and greatest product.
The salesman is in excellent condition.

He is persistent too.  You’ll note he started to follow me, so now as I move about the city, I have him in tow.  All the while he tries to interest me in his wares.  And, if I wanted, I could actually buy the item from him.  Today I did not want.

The salesman says ‘Only 504 coppers – a bargain!’

The salesman demonstrates the unique usefulness of arrow.

The salesman waves the a carven arrow in your face.

The salesman chuckles politely.
The salesman says ‘I tell you this arrow is of the finest quality.’

He even tries to ingratiate himself with you when you smile at other people.

The salesman smiles too, trying to join in on the fun.

Of course, even a text-based NPC has limited patience.

The salesman throws his hands up in disgust.
The salesman stops following you.

But not to worry, the salesman will spot another mark, even attempting to chat up his fellow NPCs.

The salesman now follows the salesman.
The salesman makes a sales pitch to the salesman.

The salesman says ‘Only 504 coppers – a bargain!’
The salesman tries to sell the arrow to the salesman.

So while we have moved towards worlds that look more realistic, I do not think I have ever had a random interaction like that in an MMO.

Have you?

15 thoughts on “The Salesman of Waterdeep

  1. Ossigor

    Dude, i wrote a nice reponse but it got wiped out because I didnt add my email.

    Loooongg story short… I haven’t seen any mob scripts that detailed, but the best dynamics come from the players themselves. I think good vs evil PvP aids in this, and is needed for me to stay interested in a MUD or MMO.

    PS im the guy that sent you a tell yesterday. Didn’t like the color schemes (seemed pretty L33T for a game that is suposedly RP enforced) and the no-pvp.


  2. Wilhelm2451 Post author

    @Ossigor – sorry about you losing your first comment. WordPress is pretty unforgiving on that and as a hosted blog I cannot change it.

    TorilMUD is very much a PvE world. If PvP is more your thing, there is always Duris MUD, Toril’s evil twin. I don’t know how it is doing these days, but it is still there.


  3. openedge1

    This has been my axe grind…MMO’s having such a “static” feel.

    Why must the NPC be relegated to that same spot with a marker over his head EVERY DAY (gotta get lonesome eh?)

    I have used Fable 2 as my example (single player, but has an online mode almost MMO like)

    The system has a “rumor” control that as you bypass people, you may hear them say something like “Poor people captured by slavers…”, etc.

    This then adds the rumor to your log system, and opens up a job or quest. You can then track down with a marker the person giving the quest.

    Then say…a guard who gives the work wanders about. You can spot his exclamation point over his head though.

    As an addition to this, you may be running around, and then see this guard, and he says as you pass him..”Are you interested in some work?”, and then you can accept the quest as well..

    It seems these online worlds have become a recurring nightmare of stale static “everyone knows where to go” gaming. No sense of adventure or discovery.

    Each game funnels you from one place to the next.

    Hopefully future MMO’s start to think about this.


  4. Khan

    I think one of the primary issues for dynamic NPCs in games is the player response – they want to know where the quest-givers always are. I think there’s ways around this, however (such as marking the maps to indicate where the NPC is now). I would like to see towns that felt more alive.

    I’ve seen some pretty interesting interactions in Oblivion with their NPCs. I watched an angry mob kill a thief. I followed some around during their daily routines and watched their interactions with other NPCs. My favorite NPC interaction story from that game was from a dev discussion. One of the devs was testing the alert / flight behavior. He set up a scenario where he would attack a woman with a knife. True to his expectations, she yelled for help and fled the room. He then waited for her to return with guards. He waited and waited and finally she returned. She walked in swinging a two-handed hammer and killed him. The dev had forgotten that they had also implemented searching behaviors; rather than get a guard, she had been out looking for a weapon.


  5. Tholal

    Agreed. Ultima Online had a little bit of that interaction, but a lot of their autonomous NPC behaviors were yanked when it started to drag down their server performance. I don’t know of any published MMO since that has even tried to make their NPCs living entities. They are now just pinatas and/or vending machines.


  6. Melf_Himself

    I’d love to see a game where the NPCs really just ran their own shit regardless of whether we there or not.

    Armies, sieges, merchants, thieves, farmers and everything in between.

    At the very least it gives you something to do when nobody else is online.

    Of course there are the epic lag issues probably associated with having armies running around.


  7. *vlad*

    openedge, what you describe is very much like what used to happen in the old D&D games that I had on my Amiga.
    You went to an inn, sat there for awhile, and then you would get some message like
    “the drunk in the corner mumbles to no-one in particular (turn to paragraph 104)”

    and then you would get your little quest book out and read what it said in paragraph 104, which would probably be something about mysterious goings-on in the dead of night, and that would be your hook to go exploring the Temple of Elemental Evil or whatever.


  8. Pingback: “Live” NPCs with a purpose. « Kinless Chronicles

  9. bluelinebasher

    I never played it, but I imagine Ultima Online would have the best examples of living NPCs based on playing Ultima 7. Everyone had their jobs, houses and paths between the two, and casual text would pop up.


  10. Ossigor

    UO never really had dynamic NPCs. At all, really. I don’t even remember there being any quests in UO. Mobs either stood still, or they wandered around a certain area.

    VERY, very static. Not even random speech.


  11. Xyd

    I hope this pastes okay. This one is simple but is one of my favorites from Torilmud.

    The Head
    The long bench continues into this room with additional holes
    leading to the cesspool below. A washbasin juts out from the
    wall, but no water is present. A stifling smell rises from the
    hole, warding away those who would use the facilities. The insect
    world however, has found the place quite hospitable. Numerous
    flies buzz about the area. The head continues to the west.
    Exits: – West
    A Swift-Steel mercenary is here relieving himself.

    l mercenary
    His pants are currently around his ankles, and he appears to
    be in dispose at the moment. He doesn’t look pleased to see you
    eyeing him either.
    A mercenary is in excellent condition.

    A mercenary says ‘That’s it, I warned you.’

    A mercenary pulls his pants up, and closes the buckles.

    A mercenary shouts ‘We’ve got a bathroom peeper here gentlemen!’

    A mercenary says ‘Should’ve left while you had the chance pervert.’

    A mercenary misses you with his strike.

    You barely pound a mercenary.
    A mercenary misses you with his strike.


  12. Patrick (Alaindril)

    I realize this is a little bit of post necromancy, but I stumbled across your posts today and had to comment, because really, where else am I going to relive these memories? My favorite memory of the salesman was when he would somehow get his hands on a bastard sword and would try to get you to “take a look at this magnificent bastard” … hahaha. Toril definitely felt like a very living world in that respect.


  13. wizardling

    But EverQuest does have some NPCs moving about, and others having conversations you overhear to get quest hints from or just local colour. Just swing back through Qeynos to see what I mean. Granted it’s not very sophisticated, but EQ1 is certainly not 100% static :-)


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