Making the world feel more alive with NPCs and microfactions

Even though most of the population has become zombified already, I assume at the start of the game there are still some stragglers. These are mostly intended to be zombie fodder, so unless they are getting a really lucky spawn they will die quickly.

Idea for a microfactions:

A police station with one (or more?) officers left, mildly fortified with boarded-up windows and similar. The officer still has 2 prisoners in the holding cell and will not free them (because “Justice”) and thinks the whole Cataclysm will be over soon, with reinforcements already on their way. Needless to say, the stubborn officer means death to not only him but also the prisoners.
However, if they manage to not die, they could have a quest where you could kill-off the officer and the prisoners become your allies. Alternatively, you could side with the officer who wants you to acquire a prison bus so “Justice” will finally be delivered.

A fortified house with a basement, home to the zombie hunter microfaction. This little group of about 5-6 survivors banded together to try and end the Cataclysm by hunting zombies. Needless to say, they will soon be outnumbered and killed off because the likelyhood that they spawn near crowded areas is high.
If they do not immediately die though, you could try to persuade them to join either Tacoma or the refugee center. Perhaps either by social skills/persuading or by obtaining an agreement from either the Tacoma or refugee center leaders.

Lone NPCs with no particular backstory, I assume their locations could be altered to be fortified a bit so their death will be delayed, even if just a little, but them dying is still highly likely:

  • A lone restaurant with a cook who wants to complete one last delivery.
  • A park ranger on top of a fire lookout tower.
  • A rando in a dermatik nest, requiring immediate medical attention, might beg the player to just kill him off.
  • Some cocooned (idk how to implement that, treat it as a vague idea for now), severely weakened NPCs in a house turned into a spider nest.
  • A car crash victim.

Basically some professions the player could choose, spawned ingame as NPCs. So there is no NPC overload ingame, most of them should die pretty quickly.

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I like the direction indicated.

It should probably be possible to provide proof to the stubborn cop that there isn’t any help coming, causing him to release the prisoners. You’d then be able to have either the cop or the prisoners (or neither) join you. I doubt the prisoners would want to join the same faction as the stubborn asshole…
A working two way radio could show him that there is nobody responding. Being stubborn, he might demand a second radio to verify that it’s actually working.

Zombie hunter groups would make sense. If you wanted them to survive a bit longer you could spawn them at farms and cabins, rather than in a location where they won’t have much chance to survive. I’d really want to see the zombie trap that warns humans about it to be an indication that such a faction is nearby.

Lone NPCs are spawned with standard settings, presumably moving to the location you find them. I’ve mostly found ones labeled as “Survivor Cowboy”, some of which I’ve recruited. These seem to settle in the abandoned and crumbling farm sheds sprinkled on plains.

Prototype cyborgs set themselves up in various locations once freed but not recruited in 0.E-2, and probably still do (my only attempt to save one with a recent experimental had to be abandoned because it led to a repeatable (and reported) crash).

I think there is room for two basic types of random NPCs:

  • People drifting about surviving until they decide to settle down somewhere reasonably safe (like Survivor Cowboys). These ought to be possible to be found in areas you’ve already explored. They may band together (which I haven’t seen so far).
  • “Stationary” micro factions that picked a somewhat defensible and fortiable location and stay there (which doesn’t mean they can’t be persuaded to move elsewhere). Technically, I guess bandits fall into this category (minus the ability to communicate anything but insults and threats).
    If possible, such locations ought to be upgraded over time, but that’s probably tricky to implement.

I’m not keen on the kooky cook. Unless you can somehow only encounter it within the first week it doesn’t make any sense.

The park ranger sounds like a nice case. If possible the game might call you via radio when close enough, or have you observe a flare for a variant where the ranger is under siege by zombies. There might be a variant where the ranger has managed to clear out the zombies instead.

The dermatik nest isn’t a good one in my opinion. Far too dangerous (I’ve yet to deal with the buggers with the player in Autumn (apart from a cheater that entered the vehicle through a diagonal gap, infecting the PC). It takes a long time before the player is somewhat ready to deal with them.

The spider nest case has the problem that the player would somehow be notified about the NPC without the whole zombie population in the neighborhood being drawn in. Also, it will take a fair bit of time before the player is capable of taking on the spiders.

The car crash victim has much of the same problem as the cook, namely that it would need to happen very early. I guess you could have a survivor who ran into some zombie or animal and then crashed into something, though.

The point is that not everyone is going to live, either due to bad luck or missing survivor mentality (e.g the cook). And saving someone requires effort and risk to be considered by the player.
As I said, most of them will be zombie fodder, showing that most people will die.

The refugee center has already a working implementation, although it is fairly minor. They will install solar panels on the roof after a certain quest.

If most of these character die off quickly, the only thing most players would see is their former base, as the NPCs would just be another zombie in the vast number around that place. Sure, it should help to send the message that just surviving the beginning is just the beginning of surviving, but I’m not sure the effort is worth the results. However, I certainly won’t discourage people from implementing it.

I think it’s a rather significant difference between upgrading of major factions and upgrades for “random” micro factions.