Honestly, it's not like they watch the game or anything... But still, chatting with an NPC can add a new dimension to gameplay, and while Interactive Fiction has been tackling and trying to drag that particular quarterback to the ground for decades now, MMO's have largely forgotten all about it...
In my last blog, I discussed some of my ideas for getting dialog with NPC's back into MMORPG's (or even plain MMO's, for those that aren't RPG's), and here's a very quick and very dirty version of the chat done up in Excel and VB (used to quickly emulate a database and quickly code out some functions):
Snazzy, eh! No? Well, that's because I reinstalled my shitty Alienware laptop with Vista and only have Paint on here to cut and paste the relevant cells from Excel, but the other reason why you're not treated to the fabulous "cells of mysterious numbers" that my last blog had is because: a) It's even more cluttered than usual, and b) Work product.
I'm hoping to learn how to grab video out of TGE soon after I actually improve on this, move it to MySQL, and tie it in with some rudimentary AI (also shown in the last .plan), but for now there's only these odd glimpses of bad conversation between myself and an NPC about things you probably would never ask one about.
However, the point of the excercise was to prove that a database-driven dialog solution is actually possible that does not involve Natural Language Parsing, which this does not. As a matter of fact, it has absolutely no idea what any of those words on the screen mean, but the way that dialog snippets are generated are theorectically geared towards providing for a large range of response. That said, the generation of dialog is not going to leave human hands, and even with the creation of database tools to allow for smoother generation of these dialog pieces, it promises to be a tedious process- just like most other data generation tasks that MMO's entail. But the "canned" nature of the dialogs ensure that users can't burden the system with bad grammar and/or spelling, and certain other methods are meant to make it easier for my side of the equation to dynamically create an NPC with the dialog it needs to know, without it having dialog that allows it to talk about absolutely everything in the world. So no, the old guy on the corner probably doesn't know where those bandits who kidnapped the farmer's daughter are, but he could chat about how sunny and warm it is outside.
And I do apologize for the rambling nature of the post, but I'm a little excited and wanted to share- especially since dealing with the laptop set me back a full week, and even after that I was one of the unlucky ones cut off from connecting to the forums until today (kudos to David Blake for helping me out with that!), so I'm a little pent-up.
In any event, back to work. Hopefully, I can polish it up in time to show off at the IMGDC in Minneapolis this year so I'm not just the weird guy with the weird gui sitting there and talking design with nothing to show. In the immortal words of Howard Dean: Byyyyyaaaaahhhhhhh!!!!!!!