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Musings on NPC continuity

KilivitzKilivitz Member Posts: 1,459
I've been thinking about how the BG games handle continuity between NPCs and about how the advent of SoD is the ideal opportunity to shake things around. I hope some of you will join me in my musings.

Continuity in these games can be seen as two aspects: the alive/dead status of NPCs and the statistics of NPCs who have once joined your group. So first, let's look at the different ways the games handle that:

RECRUITING AN NPC

In BG1, an NPC's level (and every stat that relies on that, such as HPs, weapon proficiencies, spells, thief skill points, etc.) upon joining is determined according to the average level of your party. Once the game determines which level they should be, it spawns one of 3 or 4 possible incarnations (at either Level 1, 2, 4 or 6). These are not dynamically generated - they're static creature files.

In SoA, things work the same way, except that in BG2:EE the level of an NPC is now determined solely by the level of the protagonist. In ToB, things get a bit different and what you get is an NPC's highest-level incarnation from SoA with a bunch of XP points stacked on top of it.

IN-GAME NPC CONTINUITY

Once a NPC has joined you, they're stuck on that "incarnation" so there are no continuity issues. If they are kicked out of the party and recruited back later, their statistics and inventory will be untouched. If they're killed and then kicked out of the party, they're dead forever. If they're killed while not in the party, they're also dead forever. And in SoA, certain circumstances may lead them to leave the party and be gone forever, carrying their inventory with them.

Of course, this continuity behavior is contained to each game. Let's see how the different transitions handle things:

BG1-BG2 NPC CONTINUITY

I think it's safe to say that continuity between BG1 and BG2 is non-existent. Nothing you do in BG1 regarding NPCs will affect your BG2 game in any way. Who was alive or dead, who was in your party and what their current stats and skills were by the end of BG1, all that gets thrown out the window.

Bioware's not only established a certain canon of what companions you've seen and traveled with, but also revised their abilities. Returning NPCs are essentially the same, with a few tweaks here and there, making them more suited to face the challenges of SoA and ToB.

Transition between SoA and ToB is a bit smoother. NPCs currently in your party transition with you and are untouched. Dead NPCs stay dead and permanently unavailable. NPCs who were kicked out of the party will be "refreshed" and treated by the game as if you've never met them (although in terms of story, they will treat you as if you know each other even if you've never met. Confusing, I know).

Until now, that was probably for the best. BG1 and BG2 used to be way more different from each other than they are now. BG2 introduced kits, tons of new spells and reworked the thief skill and weapon proficiency systems, making it impossible to have seamless continuity.

It was also a different time. Tight continuity between a game and its sequels wasn't the norm and BG's version of the Infinity Engine wasn't exactly built to hold the amount of variables needed to be set by a game in order to ensure perfect story/inventory continuity. So you went along with it and that was that.

ENTER THE ENHANCED EDITIONS AND SIEGE OF DRAGONSPEAR

In the EEs, both games are built upon the same revamped version of the Infinity Engine, which was built upon BG2's more modern engine. This has changed BG1 dramatically, making it and BG2 much more consistent with each other than their original counterparts. Unfortunately, for whatever reasons, this consistency still does not extend to NPCs.

While one may argue that this is still for the best, I'm of the opinion that as the Baldur's Gate series feel more and more like just one big continuous game, addressing continuity issues can and should be viewed as part of the process of further improving the games and bringing them closer to the expectations of new players, as it seems to be one of the main design goals of SoD.

Of course, it's a fact that SoD's not going to alter any story aspects of BG2 but rather explain them. Returning NPCs will be where they've always been, but now you're going to get an explanation of how exactly they ended up there.

So I'm not advocating for changes in that regard. On the contrary, I very much appreciate Beamdog's respect of Bioware's team decisions in that regard. I do believe, however, that there's still a lot of room for improvement, at least when it comes to NPCs and their statistics.

So here's my question to the community: what would you like to see in that regard? Would you like BG2 NPCs to remember their stats, weapon proficiency points, spells known, etc. from BG1/SoD? Do you think that NPCs who die in BG1 should stay dead in later stages of the campaign?

And here's my question to the devs: can we expect SoD to bring any changes to the way the games handle NPC continuity?



FINAL NOTE: EVEN MORE QUESTIONS FOR THE DEVS

We know by now that one of SoD's story goals is to make the beginning of BG2 consistent with any party combination a player might have had by the end of BG1. This means we'll get to see charname being reunited with Imoen, Jaheira, Khalid, Minsc and Dynaheir while parting ways with any other companions.

This is great. But as you know, among those NPCs, we have two pairs. What happens if a player forcefully breaks one or more of these pairs before or during SoD? More specifically, how does the expansion account for one of them being dead? Do we an opportunity to reunite them? And what if one or more of them dies during the expansion? Is there going to be any special dialogue addressing those potential story issues?

rjmacreadyFaydark

Comments

  • ValamirCleaverValamirCleaver Member Posts: 184
    edited February 2016
    For the original versions of the BG series modders made Baldur's Gate Trilogy that addresses many of these issues. Modders are currently at work on the Enhanced Edition Trilogy that will address many of these same issues.

    http://www.spellholdstudios.net/ie/bgt
    http://gibberlings3.net/forums/index.php?showforum=195
    https://forums.beamdog.com/discussion/44476/tool-big-world-setup-bws-mod-manager-for-baldurs-gate-enhanced-edition-trilogy-for-windows

  • RaduzielRaduziel Member Posts: 4,716
    My question is: is there someone who doesn't want this continuity?

    I myself spend the first half-hour of BG2 to set the NPCs as they're supposed to be. I didn't give up all those tomes to Jaheira or Viconia so she just pops up with a non enhanced Wisdom, for example.

    Two things that really disappointed me in the Enhanced Edition was the unfinished business that have being kept unfinished (most of all the "mysterious vial" plot) and the non-continuity of the NPCs.

  • LifatLifat Member Posts: 353
    I doubt anyone would be against consistent NPC's.
    Personally speaking, when I play bg1 I make sure to only lose the party members that aren't going to show up in bg2. And then I EE keeper the characters to reflect the choices I made in bg1.

  • JuliusBorisovJuliusBorisov Member, Administrator, Moderator, Developer Posts: 21,711
    When BG2 was released it was awesome that we could import the main character and thus get some continuity between playing two separate games. With the EEs, this continuity improved, so that we could now import a weapon and the imported save now remembered your BGEE's romances.

    And I look at SoD - a completely new storyline in the base Baldur's Gate adventure, as at an option to further unite two games into one big story. The fact that SoD will answer why Imoen got her second class tells me about it. We'll see what happens during the year between BG1 and BG2, there will be nothing unknown left.

    Yes, I know about BGT and now EET mods but I tend to think that the import system should be the core of the unmodded game, of new EEs.

    So, to me, after SoD, the import between BGEE-SoD-BG2EE should become as smooth as possible. And of course, it means that not only main character should be importable into BG2, but also those BG1/SoD NPCs who can be met in BG2EE. Just like we can import NPCs "as they are" from BGEE to SoD, or from BG2 to ToB.

    The fact that there will be no unknown time between BG1 and BG2 left should make, to me, the import process between BGEE+SoD and BG2EE similar to what we experience between SoA and ToB.

    I once have made a feature request for BGEE NPCs' proficiencies and ability scores being imported to BG2EE, taking into account SoD and a patch for BG2EE here

    There's an answer by Dee there that the technical aspects of this would make it an all-or-nothing proposition; either you import the characters as-is, with ability scores and proficiencies carried over, or you don't import them at all.

    And although vanilla BG2 improve several stats of BG1 NPCs (Minsc gets +1 to both DEX and CON, Jaheira gets +3 to DEX, Viconia gets +3 to WIS, Edwin gets +1 to STR and WIS), with the release of SoD, to me, the import system should work so that if you continue to play BG2EE with NPCs you had at the end of SoD, these NPCs should have exactly those stats they had in SoD, and exatly those proficiencies and skills/spells you chose for them in BGEE+SoD.

    So if your Minsc with whom you went through BGEE+SoD had 15 DEX and 15 CON but in the same time was specialized in hammers, Minsc you meet at the start of BG2EE should have the same 15 DEX and 15 CON and 2 pips in hammers.

    If you gave Dorn a DEX tome and 2 pips in longbows in BGEE+SoD, you should meet him with 17, not 16, DEX and 2 pips in longbows in BG2EE, even if it would mean that Jaheira, whom you too had in your BGEE+SoD party, will have only 14, and not 17, DEX in BG2EE.

    KilivitzSkatanValamirCleaver
  • Mikey205Mikey205 Member Posts: 302
    This is one of my biggest wants. I hate the powergamer in me that uses those tomes on my PC knowing that otherwise they wont carry into BG2. Id want party members with you to import as is. Others I dont mind as they could have done who knows what.

  • Mikey205Mikey205 Member Posts: 302
    Also on the bg trilogy thing I dont like a lot of aspects of trilogy (overpowered xp on scrolls and traps, weird mixed monster spawns why are xvarts hanging with a gibberling and a wolf ). I always found tutu a better experience with the exception of continuity.

  • RaduzielRaduziel Member Posts: 4,716
    I never understood how kobolds and skeletons lives side by side in Ulcaster.

  • UnderstandMouseMagicUnderstandMouseMagic Member Posts: 2,147
    Although I agree in principle with the OP, there is the flip side.

    I don't like and never play BG with Jaheira, Khalid, Minsc, Imoen or Dynaheir. TBH, if I saw that lot together somewhere, I'd run in the opposite direction.
    Irenicus would have never got his hands on me if they were present.

    So RP continuity for me, requires a gap. The more "continuity" is pushed for the core party, the harder it is to RP reasons as to why on earth would I end up near them.

    Unless that is addressed, and recognition is given to the fact that Charname has never traveled with that group other than rescueing Dynaheir, telling Imoen to go home, and saying HI at some point to J and K simply because of the letter.

    I know the Irenicus dungeon is unpopular, but for me the reason is because who I'm stuck with. Torture and death, bring it on, just spare me Jaheira and Imoen.

  • FardragonFardragon Member Posts: 4,511
    Jaheira's mission from the harpers is to keep an eye on the Bhaalspawn. Dynaheir has a similar mission. So even if you tell them to go away they will follow from a distance.

    They won't be in your party at the end of SoD, for the simple reason that no one is in your party at the end of SoD. They will attempt to prevent a Bhaalspawn falling into enemy hands though.

    ValamirCleaver
  • UnderstandMouseMagicUnderstandMouseMagic Member Posts: 2,147
    Fardragon said:

    Jaheira's mission from the harpers is to keep an eye on the Bhaalspawn. Dynaheir has a similar mission. So even if you tell them to go away they will follow from a distance.

    They won't be in your party at the end of SoD, for the simple reason that no one is in your party at the end of SoD. They will attempt to prevent a Bhaalspawn falling into enemy hands though.

    Jaheira quite clearly says that she is a part of your party at the beginning of BG2, "I must admit, traveling with you is never dull" (something like that), and talks about "other companions".

    It's precisely the dishonesty of J and K and Dynaheir that stops me ever allowing them in my party.
    Especially Dynaheir.

    You can overlook that (the producers of the game could never have predicted individual players reactions to the NPC), but it gets harder if there is too much continuity.

  • Mikey205Mikey205 Member Posts: 302
    I'm in favour of stats carrying over for the party. I think other things are too much for them to handle without running into some problems and having to rewrite bg2 which is cleatly well beyond the scope of SoD.

    @UnderstandMouseMagic Having stats carry over if theyre in your import party wont affect you if you avoid them. You can still have your gap by avoiding them in BG1 and SoD and pick them up in Irenicus dungeon.

    @Fardragon Not necessarily a) that was an old build and they made changes to it according to feedback they got from avellone and b) there may be a final save prior to the goodbyes and that ending cutscene where you're captured that's used for import purposes. This is a pretty common practice.

  • DeeDee Member Posts: 10,447
    Mikey205 said:

    This is a pretty common practice.

    Just to note, none of the existing BG games work this way. The "Final Save" is always generated right before the ending credits/right before you're booted back to the main menu.

    JuliusBorisovRaduziel
  • Mikey205Mikey205 Member Posts: 302
    Thats true. Still even though the party members may "leave" they could still be technically in the party during the ending cutscenes. I hope the devs will allow party members to be imported with current stats. Its add a lot to those that like them and takes nothing from those that don't.

    ValamirCleaver
  • FardragonFardragon Member Posts: 4,511

    Fardragon said:

    Jaheira's mission from the harpers is to keep an eye on the Bhaalspawn. Dynaheir has a similar mission. So even if you tell them to go away they will follow from a distance.

    They won't be in your party at the end of SoD, for the simple reason that no one is in your party at the end of SoD. They will attempt to prevent a Bhaalspawn falling into enemy hands though.

    Jaheira quite clearly says that she is a part of your party at the beginning of BG2, "I must admit, traveling with you is never dull"
    She could be referring to trailing you from a distance. Regardless, I don't see that this differs in any way to Xzar not being a cleric when you encounter him in Amn.

    I really don't see a distinction between "party" and "non-party" NPCs - I have had most of them in my party at some point.

  • FardragonFardragon Member Posts: 4,511
    edited February 2016
    Mikey205 said:

    Thats true. Still even though the party members may "leave" they could still be technically in the party during the ending cutscenes. I hope the devs will allow party members to be imported with current stats. Its add a lot to those that like them and takes nothing from those that don't.

    The party members all leave and say their farewells (this is the bit that was Chris Avallone's idea). Then the ambush occurs, in which Jalhera and co turn up, but are not party members.

  • Mikey205Mikey205 Member Posts: 302
    @Fardragon Well there clearly is a distinction between an NPC that's in your party through BG2 and ToB and one that isn't. The basic difference is that if they're in your party you have control of them and their level-ups. Also most people feel more invested in characters they have in their party than non-party NPCs.

    In an ideal world everything would import, but just because you can't do everything doesn't mean you shouldn't do anything. Game import from SoD should bring over NPC stats, and character import just bring over your main character. That way everyone's choice is respected.

    They may actually still be in the party system-wise in SoD at the end for the final save. Similar to when you can be tricked into being alone with the vampire in Throne of Bhaal.

    @Dee It would be great to know if this is something that's being considered with SoD. All or nothing would easily work. Import character file = nothing, Import game = everything. More options for everyone is win-win.

    Faydark
  • FardragonFardragon Member Posts: 4,511
    You have control over any character who has ever been in your party, not just the ones who happen to be with you at the end.

  • Mikey205Mikey205 Member Posts: 302
    Again I reiterate, just because you can't do everything doesn't mean you shouldn't do anything. Just because it's not possible/feasible for non-player NPCs to have imported stats, doesn't mean they can't improve continuity for NPCs that you can keep adventuring with. Your basically saying because minor NPCs in BG2 don't import no-one else should import. Well we already have exceptions: the main playable character, items and the relationship stats on Beamdog NPCs so why not allow us to bring over stats and proficiencies too on those NPCs we've been building through BG1, Siege of Dragonspear and can continue with in BG2.

    ValamirCleaver
  • FardragonFardragon Member Posts: 4,511
    But I don't see how that improves continuty. I travel with many NPCs, and the ones who so happen to be with me at the end are probably not the ones I have spent most time with. They are really just a random five.

  • JuliusBorisovJuliusBorisov Member, Administrator, Moderator, Developer Posts: 21,711
    Just a note: @Fardragon , what you're describing, is actually an exception - most players see the NPCs in their party who are there at the end of the game as the core of their team, the ones they wished and developed the most.

    FaydarkValamirCleaver
  • FardragonFardragon Member Posts: 4,511
    It's not my fault that everyone plays the game wrong apart from me.

    DeeRaduziel
  • LifatLifat Member Posts: 353
    Fardragon said:

    It's not my fault that everyone plays the game wrong apart from me.

    pffft! We all know that the only truly right way to play the game is the way I do it! None of that weaksauce that @Fardragon spews!

  • ValamirCleaverValamirCleaver Member Posts: 184
    @Fardragon So once again modders need to do what the developer/publisher won't or publisher/IP holder won't allow?

  • Mikey205Mikey205 Member Posts: 302
    @ValamirCleaver I'm keeping my fingers crossed for this. Everything about the expansion tells me that Beamdog clearly do care about story continuity. I can live with the EE keeper method, but it would be nice to have it supported in some way.

  • ValamirCleaverValamirCleaver Member Posts: 184
    @Mikey205 If I'd hazard a guess, I would say that it's probably less that Beamdog doesn't care and more about what WotC / Hasbro won't allow...

  • LifatLifat Member Posts: 353

    @Mikey205 If I'd hazard a guess, I would say that it's probably less that Beamdog doesn't care and more about what WotC / Hasbro won't allow...

    Fairly certain that @Mikey205 said that he thought beamdog DID care. I think we all suspect that beamdog cares a great deal about these games based on what they have said/done in the past.
    But you are right that they may be contractually prohibited from doing certain things that would improve continuity. And that is indeed where I'd love to see modders step in, because they have no such restrictions.

    ValamirCleaver
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