You turn the corner, rifle at the ready, and sneak down the hall. Just as you’re about to shoot, an NPC comes out with his hands up. What do you want him to say? When it comes to game writers, arguably we influence the game the most with how we write NPC dialog. And yet, when we attended a meeting at a major game publisher, we had one executive lamenting the state of games: “There’s no excuse for NPCs with no character.”
I happen to agree. All characters should have a character arc and as much personality as possible. Great examples might be from Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. Anyone played GTA IV yet? However, some people hold that sometimes a guard is just a guard. NPCs with personality or arc could be distracting or just unrealistic. If you’re not around an NPC long enough, how could he or she go through a full character arc?
The obvious answer involves reaching some kind of balance, but I’m still of the mindset that everyone should have an arc, unless they literally have one line. Where do you stand? What kind of NPCs do you want? The quirky kind who learn to love again, or the earnest sort who just gets the job done?