This is the fifth part in a six part series of posts that talk about the Personality System used in Human Orbit. In the first post, Let’s Get Personal, I introduced the Personality System. Since then, I’ve covered Extroversion, Agreeableness and Conscientiousness. Today, I’ll be covering Neuroticism, which leaves only Openness to be covered in a future post. So, let’s get right into it. Neuroticism in Human Orbit is a set of traits that primarily affects the way that NPCs feel about themselves (Depression, Self-consciousness) and respond to external stimuli (Anxiety, Anger, Depression, Immoderation).
The Neuroticism set contains traits that, by and large, make life more difficult for NPCs that have high values in them. As I have indicated in previous articles, Human Orbit’s Personality System is based upon a personality model that is typically used for profiling real people – so it is important to note here, especially with this set, that the way that Human Orbit uses the Big Five system prioritises the properties of the system that are most useful for creating interesting gameplay scenarios. Our interpretations don’t necessarily correspond directly to how the traits are used in reality.
The Neuroticism Traits
In Human Orbit, Anxiety tends to amplify the emotional reactions that NPCs have to events. An NPC who has a high value for Anxiety will have a strong internal response when another NPC suggests something negative about them. I find it useful to think of Anxiety in Human Orbit as a panic response – an NPC with high Anxiety and high Depression is likely to react to external stimuli with a strong melancholic response. An NPC with high Anxiety, high Anger and low Cautiousness (a trait from the Conscientiousness set) may be more likely to respond to negative external stimuli with violence. Anxiety also acts as a kind of ‘background radiation’ to an NPC’s general mood – an NPC with high Anxiety may experience (briefly) lower lows than an NPC with low Anxiety.
Anger is another trait that controls how NPCs respond to external stimuli. An NPC with high Anger is likely to feel resentment against others who slight them; they will harbour grudges more easily, more fervently and for longer periods. In extreme cases, and where they have low values in traits from the Agreeableness set, an NPC with a high value for Anger may respond with physical violence when provoked.
Depression is the counterpart to Cheerfulness (a trait from the Extroversion set). In addition to generally modulating an NPC’s mood, a high value in Depression will cause NPCs to feel negative feelings more often, more strongly and for longer. An NPC with a high level of Depression is more easily discouraged than an NPC with a lower value, and they will often find it difficult to muster the energy to work towards their goals. Lacking the energy to work towards their goals, for some NPCs, may further contribute to a low mood. It is important with depressive NPCs to ensure that they have good support structures in place – a good way to achieve this as the player is to ensure that they are in contact with NPCs that have high Agreeableness.
Self-conscious NPCs in Human Orbit will be very concerned about what other NPCs think about them and will frequently attempt to please others in a similar way to NPCs with a high value in Cooperativeness (a trait from the Agreeableness set). They will feel it strongly when other NPCs express a disliking of them; conversely, they will feel very positive feelings when another NPC expresses a liking for them. Self-conscious NPCs will tend to feel uncomfortable when they are with groups of strangers and may seek to escape to places and people with whom they feel more secure.
NPCs with a strong expression in Immoderation will find it hard to resist temptations of all kinds. They may overindulge in simple ways such as finding it more difficult to get out of bed in the morning, and this might cause them to be late to work. They may also have a tendency to stay up way too late, indulging in their pastimes or hanging with their friends when they really need to get up the next morning. Another way that their Immoderation might show through is that they might find it hard to resist sending messages that are really a bad idea to send. In this respect, they are quite similar to NPCs with weakly expressed Cautiousness, and may irritate others through their apparent rashness.
Vulnerability is similar to Anxiety in a lot of ways. It affects the way that NPCs respond to external stimuli – but it does not engage the fight-or-flight impulse in the same way as Anxiety does. NPCs who are highly vulnerable will respond negatively to pressure or difficult situations. If there is a lot of pressure on at work or they are feeling social anxiety, then a highly vulnerable NPC will have their mood dampened more strongly than an NPC who has a lower value for Vulnerability.
In the final post in this series, I’ll be talking about Openness. See you next time, Space Cowboy.