The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim brought a bit more realism to non-player characters when it first released, giving each NPC a unique personality, daily set schedule, and new features like the ability for the player to marry certain NPCs. However, fans of The Elder Scrolls aren’t content to leave the game as-is, and one mod has taken NPCs to the next level.
The Skyrim mod, called Social NPCs, expands vastly upon the standard functionality of NPCs in the game. Through complex programming, NPCs gain likes and dislikes and the ability to interact meaningfully with one another. The player has the ability to interact directly with the enhanced NPCs in The Honningbrew Meadery, as well as a new house that comes with the mod called “Comme il Faut House,” which is named for the Comme il-Faut (CiF) AI architecture the mod is partially based upon. The work that went into the mod has been considered such a success that a team of computer science researchers are now publishing a paper based upon the mod and its underlying programming.
Gamers using the Social NPCs mod can expect to be able to interact on a deeper level with non-player characters. NPCs can be pitted against each other, flirted with, insulted, complimented, and more. The ability to do all this in gaming isn’t unheard of, but rather than simply being pre-programmed scripted events, interactions will shape how the NPCs behave towards others. For example, if a player is friendly to a certain NPC, that might offend other non-player characters who hate the NPC the player interacted with. As a result, those NPCs begin to loathe the player for being nice to someone they hate, even if they’ve never directly interacted with the player.
Unfortunately, the mod has some shortcomings. The mod was originally built for the original release of Skyrim on PC, and requires SKSE to run. Since the SKSE for Skyrim: Special Edition hasn’t been released yet, players of that version of Skyrim won’t be able to try out the mod. In addition, since the mod has added myriads of new dialogue for each character, the mod doesn’t offer voices for any of the new dialogue. The creator notes that he welcomes other modders to create voice recordings for the dialogue, but it’s an endeavor that no one has taken on just yet.
Skyrim has plenty of mods that change or enhance the game’s inherent qualities, but including advanced AI architecture to create believable NPCs is fairly unique. The researchers make mention of wanting to bring this type of AI interaction to other games, and that Skyrim is hopefully just the start. If they get their wish, perhaps someday most RPGs will inherently offer players this level of interaction and responsiveness with non-player characters.
The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim is out now for PC, PS4, and Xbox One.