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Video: How to design NPCs that will increase player empathy

March 9, 2018 | By Emma Kidwell

Non-playable characters are an important part of any game. Allies, enemies, and civilians all contribute in making an environment feel realistic and alive.

But oftentimes, NPCs are cast to the side and used as background decoration. How can writers and designers utilize NPCs to increase immersion and deepen player empathy?

In this 2016 GDC talk, Polyhedron Productions' CJ Kershner presents narrative case studies from around the industry, suggesting best practices for writers and designers looking to increase the narrative value of NPCs.

Kershner includes examples from his own work on Homefront, Far Cry 4, and Assassin's Creed Syndicate to provide advice on how to maximize the potential of an NPC in evoking empathy from a player.

Designers interested in seeing how to increase player empathy in their own games may appreciate that they can now watch the talk completely free via the official GDC YouTube channel!

About the GDC Vault

In addition to this presentation, the GDC Vault and its accompanying YouTube channel offers numerous other free videos, audio recordings, and slides from many of the recent Game Developers Conference events, and the service offers even more members-only content for GDC Vault subscribers.

Those who purchased All Access passes to recent events like GDC or VRDC already have full access to GDC Vault, and interested parties can apply for the individual subscription via a GDC Vault subscription page. Group subscriptions are also available: game-related schools and development studios who sign up for GDC Vault Studio Subscriptions can receive access for their entire office or company by contacting staff via the GDC Vault group subscription page. Finally, current subscribers with access issues can contact GDC Vault technical support.

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