‘Project Zomboid’ studio shares what first NPC update will include

NPCs will be introduced with "a wide, but perhaps shallower" system, but the specifics may change before release

The Indie Stone has shared that it is “now in a more solid position” to discuss how non-player characters (NPCs) will function in Project Zomboid, with an early iteration planned for Build 43.

In a detailed blog post shared yesterday (March 3), The Indie Stone has revealed that it has completed “years of NPC work” and it can now share its plans for the feature in more detail.

Before diving in, the studio notes that it “can’t claim any of it to be 100 per cent complete yet,” and adds that “plans could change, and we could still rein in a few of our goals for the first NPC build – depending on how progress goes.”

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On what the first NPC build in Project Zomboid will include, The Indie Stone says it will include “a wide, but perhaps shallower, NPC system” that will not include a story mode.

“We are currently planning a way to get NPCs to join your group, and for them to help with crafting, cooking building and hauling and other safehouse tasks. Likewise a way for them to provide combat support on your travels and NPC threats to look out for.”

“Initial implementation may just be a portion of what we have envisioned for future builds, using our current tech, so we can get a wide and satisfying NPC package in a reasonable time.”

Going into more detail on the behind-the-scenes work on NPCs, The Indie Stone says that “a large chunk of what makes them interesting doesn’t really involve some hyper advanced AI, but is more down to story-telling and writing.”

On that topic, last week managing director Chris Simpson shared a look at a Crusader Kings-style NPC system for Project Zomboid, and spoke to NME about how each character’s generated backgrounds and family tree will affect their behaviour in the game.

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Project Zomboid. Credit: The Indie Stone.
Project Zomboid. Credit: The Indie Stone.

Writing in their blog, The Indie Stone explained how the game might have “a ‘two NPCs meet’ trigger, that could randomly launch any of a large range of story events related to this situation – each crafted to have interesting branching outcomes and are weighted by the personality traits of the people involved.”

“Does one shoot the other and loot their body? Do they join forces and ultimately become firm friends? Does one tail the other to find out where their safehouse is to tell his friends about? This is how we can have quite complex interactions between NPCs that for the most part purely come down to writer’s imagination, simple changes in state, setting story flags for later use by other events, and backed up by appropriate use of character personality traits and stats to skew the dice rolls of which direction the events take. There’s practically no AI involved whatsoever, in the traditional sense.”

The Indie Stone’s full blog post is worth a read for anyone looking for a deep dive on the development process behind NPCs.

In other news, Microsoft has halted the sale of its products in Russia. The company’s president, Brad Smith, also accused the country of violating the Geneva Convention by targeting civilians with cyber attacks.

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