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  Computer-Moderated RPGs Not There Yet  
Posted 2003-08-11 by Tony Walsh
Neverwinter Nights is a single- and multi-player RPG based on the Dungeons and Dragons rules set. I've been playing Neverwinter Nights (NWN) since the Beta last year, and really didn't enjoy any of the single-player campaign. Computer-moderated "roleplaying" isn't very meaningful-- the AI is just not sophisticated enough to immerse me in the story and/or the environment.

Roleplaying games are meant to be played amongst real human beings. No computer-moderated RPG (yet) replicates the flexibility and potential genius of a human "Dungeon Master" (the person who runs a D&D game), and therefore falls totally flat as far as player-character development goes.

This is entertainingly exemplified in Jane Pinckard's article "Rapture the Destroyer" over at Game Girl Advance. Jane's article paints a picture of a hollow single-player experience resulting from limited dialog, AI, and story hooks available to Evil players. Sure, she killed everyone in sight, but that's not a very satisfying Evil, is it? Where are the machinations, the plotting, the behind-the-scenes orchestration leading to shocking betrayal?

Finding a balance of options for characters of all persuasions (Good, Evil, Neutral, etc) is not easy. In a scripted, single-player campaign it's possible, but generally unsatisfying. Having run a complex multiplayer campaign for NWN over the last 10 months, I have always tried to provide avenues for sinister and homicidal characters to explore. In my campaign, I allow the players free reign to do whatever they want, and player feedback generally indicates a high level of immersion, enjoyment, and character development. I attribute this to the human factor, something that computer games have always tried to mimic, but like Eliza disappoint once the limitations are revealed.
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