The most recent alpha build of The Repopulation introduced a new Inquiry system. This article will explain this feature in more detail including what it is and why it is important.
The Basics: How Inquiries Work[edit | edit source]
You can make an inquiry with most NPCs in The Repopulation and the questions you can ask them are determined by a per NPC basis. Some questions will be available for anyone and others require you to know specific bits of knowledge in order to inquire about them. You can acquire this knowledge in many ways: by reading books, inquiring with other NPCs, overhearing NPCs speaking about matters, exploring areas, through missions, or via engagements.
To make an inquiry of a NPC, you simply right click on them. If you already have missions for that NPC you will get the mission dialog first; followed by the inquiry options. If the NPC is a vendor, you’ll receive a vendor window with a button to enter into an inquiry. Otherwise, you’ll simply receive the inquiry chat bubbles.
Inquiries, like mission text, take place using a chat bubble system (as depicted in the above screenshot). Inquiries are separated into topics such as “Tell me about...”, “Where is...”, “Why...”, “Do you...”, etc. Clicking on any of those topics will present you with a list of responses to complete that sentence. Most NPCs also provide an option which allows you to enter text. This is typically used for things like finding information on NPCs in the city or asking for directions to a particular NPC or landmark. It can also be used to allow players to ask about hidden topics.
Inquiries are tied into the Diplomacy system and allow you to increase your diplomacy skill just by interacting. As your diplomacy skill rises you’ll receive more complete information and at a higher frequency. A low diplomacy skill will often result in NPCs who are not willing to divulge information, or who will only provide partial information.
Now that we know the basics of how the system works, let’s take a look at what you can do with inquiries.
Locate NPCs[edit | edit source]
One of the simplest types of inquiries is the “Where is...” inquiry. This inquiry allows you to ask about other NPCs who have some type of relationship with this NPC, who they are willing to talk about, and in some cases, ask about other NPCs. Some NPCs will be more willing to provide this information than others. An NPC with a Talkative or Helpful personality is far more likely to aid a player than an NPC who is Quiet, Shy, or a Jerk.
If an NPC is aware of whom you are inquiring about, and you pass the diplomacy skill check, they will provide you with a tracking marker to the NPC’s current location. They may also provide some additional information such as specific times that an NPC is available. This is important because some NPCs have multiple spawn locations, may path between multiple locations, or might only be available at certain times of day. For example, many shops close at night.
Obtain Details About NPCs[edit | edit source]
Another very common type of inquiry is asking a NPC to provide information about another NPC. They will often speak about NPCs who they have some type of a relationship with, or give you a prompt where you can enter the name of other NPCs in the area.
This method allows you to obtain useful bits of information such as providing clues about an NPCs personality traits, their profession, and problems which may be bothering them currently. It’s important to note that most NPCs in The Repopulation have their own moods, dilemmas, personalities, professions and other useful traits, such as the cause of their current dilemma. Some of those traits will change based on events in the world and new opportunities become available as an NPC’s traits change. For example, if a local gang or indigenous species raids a shop’s supplies, the shopkeeper may feel vindictive or depressed. When they are in those states, they could give missions or inquiry choices that they would not give at other times.
Backstory[edit | edit source]
Backstory and history are important for establishing a meaningful world. MMOs generally try to provide backstory through missions, but polls have shown that most players don’t even read the mission text in most modern MMOs, simply accepting the mission and following quest helpers. Books are also employed by some games (including The Repopulation) to help provide some background information to players who take the time to read them. But many bits of backstory will never be known by the general populace.
Our inquiry system allows us to place pieces of knowledge on NPCs based on what they should know about. For example; a Doctor might be able to describe to you how Cloning works and the principles of the Judair Limiter and memory retention. Where a robotic engineer might be able to tell you about robotics manufacturers or certain parts. Many NPCs can tell you about local events, or an area’s history.
As is the case in other areas, some of these bits of knowledge will only be available to you after you learn about the subject from elsewhere and others will be readily available to all. Your list of inquiry subjects will grow as you continue to obtain knowledge.
Hidden Missions[edit | edit source]
Inquiries can also be used to provide hidden mission opportunities which reward players who take the time to solve them. Keep in mind that most missions in The Repopulation are generated and can be tailored for your character. These missions, along with the inquiry and achievement systems, use one another as filters when generating new opportunities. As a result, most characters will not have all of the same opportunities available to them. For example, if you are a thief or an assassin, you’re going to have a very different set of opportunities than a player who plays primarily to gain military rank in an honorable fashion.
Philosophy Behind the Inquiry System[edit | edit source]
The inquiry system allows us to take bits of knowledge acquired from a player and to use that to open up rare or hidden content. But why is it needed? To understand those reasons, let’s take a look back at old school single player RPGs and early MMORPGs.
Most older games did not feature quest journals and those that did still required a player to figure out many things on their own. Early MMORPGs used a ‘guess the keyword’ system which required players to listen to what an NPC said and then ask them about the right keywords to receive more information.
Over the years most MMOs and single player games have moved to journals. These journals then became streamlined into Quest Helpers which gave you bullet points telling you exactly what you needed to do. Markers to necessary NPCs or locations are also generally provided in most of the recent titles. Some games give you glowing trails to make things easier, and others will automatically walk to the next point for you. Advanced dialogs have given way to just accepting a mission and receiving a block of text that you rarely ever need to pay attention to.
Many of these were positive additions. Journals were certainly a good addition. Quest Helpers were also useful, for the most part. In many cases waypoints and glowing trails are also welcome additions. In our play tests we’ve found that many players have grown attached to these mechanics and as a result we’ve tried to design the game with a mixture of easy to complete templates along with more complex ones. While there are plenty of simple kill, interact or deliver generated missions there are also more complex missions which will require some thought to complete. Because most of these are generated missions they are more difficult to spoil. We also feel that some of the highpoints of old school systems have gotten lost along the way.
Let’s take the case of an old school MMO approach to a hidden quest. You might speak to one NPC in town and hear about a relation of theirs that had disappeared when traveling to a far off location. You’d receive a keyword which you could then use on an NPC hidden somewhere in that location. Some players would pay attention to this, and others would simply dismiss it as random NPC chatter. If you mentioned that keyword to the proper NPC in that far off location it would open up a new quest and reward the player for paying attention.
The single player approach to that solution would be that the first NPC would give you a new hidden piece of knowledge that allowed you to ask questions about this missing person to NPCs in the far off location. Some might offer clues to where the NPC was located and if you found the proper NPC he would give you the new mission. If you weren’t aware of the missing person you would not be able to ask questions about them and you would be unable to obtain this mission.
The modern day MMO approach this this scenario would be very different. When you spoke to the first NPC you would receive a new quest with a journal entry telling you where to go with a map marker right to their location. You’d follow the map markers to that NPC and advance the quest from there. While that may be desired in many cases, there are others where these things are best hidden from players. After all if what you’re doing is following markers to the next point and clicking the right mouse button then you really aren’t solving a quest, are you? You’re doing the equivalent of reading an interactive book.
In Repop this type of opportunity would work similar to a single player game. If you had run into the first NPC you could receive knowledge on the second NPC through an inquiry. For example, you might be able to ask them about their family or what is wrong if they had a dilemma that indicated they were stressed or in a depressed mood. It would otherwise work in the same manner as the single player example.
To many old school MMO fans the introduction of Everquest’s epic quests were one of the most memorable times for the game. It was months before some of those missions were solved, and they encouraged players to work together to discover the next steps. When the epic quests appeared in Everquest 2 though they didn’t have nearly the same effect because you pretty much knew exactly what you needed to do. It was just a matter of putting together a team of players to do it. While memorable, those types of quests simply don’t exist in most other modern day MMORPGs. Quests have become a way for players to gain experience rather than something you do for a challenge.
We’re looking to bring back those types of experiences in The Repopulation. Many of the epic mission templates are generated which allows them to be reused with different targets or branches. Let’s take a look at an example of how an epic storyline might unfold in The Repopulation.
You might first receive a lead in a mission through a random engagement or emailed as a job offer. This mission may not seem like anything special at the time but it will give you an internal flag which may later be used to interact with certain NPCs to inquire and open up another mission. Series of missions are a mixture of unique missions which can be chained one after the next, appear randomly after you meet certain criteria, or obtained through inquiries. This mixture of advancement methods and prerequisites means that two players may work their way through a series of missions in a completely different manner, using completely different NPCs and branches. It also allows us to create reusable content that players need to solve on their own, without being able to resort to spoiler sites.
Final Thoughts[edit | edit source]
This article has covered the basics of the Inquiry system and what you can expect from it. This system is still in its infancy and should continue to evolve in the coming months. We hope you enjoyed the article.