Let’s Get Personal

Everything in Human Orbit revolves around the core of the Personality System that drives each NPC. The Personality System doesn’t do much, in and of itself, but acts as a data store from which every other tendril of the project draws data. The Personality System is referred to when we are determining the ambitions and interests of each NPC. The Personality system is referred to when we are determining how NPCs relate to other NPCs. The Personality System is referred to when we are determining the internal emotional state of every NPC, how they respond to that emotional state and the degree to which they express it to others. The Personality System is referred to when we are determining how fulfilled an NPC feels in their work and, when they are feeling unfulfilled, it is the Personality System that will be referred to in order to determine whether or not they act upon that feeling. The Personality System determines how NPCs spend their free time. It determines how they do their hair. It determines how they wear their clothes.

What I’m saying here is that the Personality System is important.

Every crew member of the Genesis Orbital has a personality assigned to them at the moment that they come into existence and, with some few exceptions, that personality will remain static. As they go about their life on the station they will experience new things and encounter new ideas. The way that they respond to these new experiences and ideas is filtered through the lens of their individual personality and that will determine if and how they will react to them.

Their personalities affect the language that they use and the tone that they adopt when sending each other messages. It affects the level of suspicion with which they will treat unexplainable occurrences on the ship. Some personalities will be easier to work with for the player than other personalities will. On a smaller scale, their personalities affect the way that they respond to the trivialities of life. For instance, whether they respect and knuckle down to their apparent superiors or whether they hold their head high and talk to them straight.

An assertive, gregarious dog promoted above its stationAn assertive, gregarious dog promoted well above its station

As a simple example: Imagine a room containing a single chair. There are two people present in the room and they’ve both been on their feet all day; they both want to sit down. In such a case, it will typically be the more assertive of the two that will claim the seat – but they should be a little wary of doing so, because the other person may end up resenting them for taking the seat that they wanted for themselves. They might hold a grudge or, worse still, they might act upon it.

Another simple example, but one that attempts to express why these apparent trivialities matter. If an NPC notices that a colleague of theirs is depressed or otherwise acting out of sorts – how should they respond to that? A sympathetic or altruistic NPC may seek for a way to help their colleague. Further still, it’s quite possible that the player had not noticed the strange behaviour of the first NPC and that it is only the expression of concern coming from the second NPC that brings light to the matter! Frequently in video games, these sorts of details are glossed over for not contributing to an immediately actionable bit of play – but it is precisely this same sort of depth that creates the opportunities for discoverable, emergent gameplay as exemplified in games like Dwarf Fortress.

Strike the Earth!If you’ve not played Dwarf Fortress, you should give it a try. Years ahead of its time.

But I’ll cut myself short there, before I go on a proper long screed about emergent gameplay. I suspect that many visitors to our site are already well aware of the untapped potential value that lies there, waiting for game developers and modders to properly explore.

Back to Human Orbit’s Personality System. The Personality System is based upon the Big Five system of measuring personality traits; specifically, it is based upon the Revised NEO Personality Inventory. This is based around thirty seperate interacting traits that define a whole personality, grouped into five sets of size six. The five sets are: Extroversion, Agreeableness, Conscientiousness, Neuroticism and Openness. Over the next few days I will be going over each of these sets in detail – and giving examples of how they might affect the behaviour of the Genesis Orbital’s crew. The examples will range from the dramatic to the apparently trivial. More than anything, I want to emphasise the importance of the so-called trivial and the opportunities that mainstream gaming is missing by sidelining it in favour of pure dramatism.

In the meantime, you can take the Revised NEO Personality Inventory. That way, when I’m giving examples in the next few posts, you’ll be able to relate them to your own scores.

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