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Eurogamer Q&A: NPC abuse

Bully for you.

Wow. If there's one thing which finally reveals that Eurogamer staff are actually Very Bad People, it might be this week's EG Q&A topic. I sat down with my colleagues to discuss the eternally enjoyable gaming pastime that is bothering NPCs (Non-playable characters).

For most people, that usually just amounts to bumping into characters in GTA 5 until they fall over (which, you have to admit, is very funny), but it seems we've turned out quite a few far more troubling examples:

Johnny Chiodini, Video Team

I adore Animal Crossing New Leaf. According to my 3DS, in fact, I have spent over four hundred hours shaking trees, trading turnips and digging up fossils. To my shame, an alarming amount of that time has also been spent bullying one villager in particular.

One fateful, horrible day, Fang - hands down my favourite villager - moved away. Almost immediately, somebody new came to town. This new villager was Elise, the snooty monkey who dresses like Janine Melnitz from Ghostbusters. I hate Elise. She's arrogant, demanding and, well, she just isn't Fang. Determined to run her out of town, I began a crusade to make her as miserable as possible.

I'd hit Elise with my butterfly net until she yelled at me. Then I'd do it again. I complained about her constantly in the town hall. I'd plant pitfall seeds directly outside of her house. I'd plant pitfall seeds next to wherever she was standing and then push her into them. If Elise wanted something, you can bet your bottom bell my answer was no. Being awful to Elise became as much a part of my routine in Animal Crossing as gathering fruit or fishing by the shoreline. I didn't even especially enjoy manoeuvring her into a pitfall seed by the end, it was just another thing that had to be done for the good of the town.

I have only one regret about my treatment of Elise, and that is that it didn't work. Despite all my best efforts, she's still in my town. I eventually stopped playing New Leaf, and the thought that she weathered the storm rankles to this day.

Martin Robinson, Reviews and Features Editor

On the subject of Animal Crossing, I once led a hate campaign against one of the residents of my old GameCube town, sending letters to everyone to tell them what a shit they were and putting up signs telling them to leave. It ended up with me digging holes around their house when they slept so they couldn't get out.

Paul Watson, Social Media Manager

I'm a member of a recently cobbled-together Dungeons and Dragons group, composed of a friendship group which could generously be called "a bit dysfunctional". We haven't managed to sink our teeth into any proper campaigns just yet, but a few weeks back, our Dungeon Master put together a very quick campaign to help us get to grips with D&Ds sometimes arcane mechanics.

Or, it was SUPPOSED to be a very quick campaign. The main thrust of the story is thus: on our way into the city, our soon-to-be heroic team of five stumble upon a small enclave of goblins hiding a tasty stash of treasure. In our optimistic DM's mind, the team would stealth in, grab the delicious loot and make for the hills.

What ACTUALLY happened was quite different. After a rather vocal disagreement about the best way to approach the situation, half the team crept up to the makeshift goblin house through the bushes, only for the jig to be well and truly up when our Cleric decided "fuck it" and boorishly rocked up to the front door. A little like this.

This, of course, attracted the attention of one of the interior goblins, so enraged by the commotion that he stormed out of his house to yell at our party in undecipherable goblish. Cleric attempted to soothe the situation by talking down the angry little creature, but not before an arrow was launched from behind by our Ranger, straight into the chest of the now confused and close-to-death goblin.

This prompted another argument among the party, which went something along the lines of "WHAT THE HELL MAN, WE WERE HAVING A CHAT" and "Dude, it's only a goblin".

Cleric, absolutely furious about all of this and determined to have his chat, cast Healing Word on the poor goblin, restoring the bewildered creature back to health. Still, the original act of aggression was taken as a declaration of war, and gobbo and his mates drew arms.

That was when it happened. A fireball was lobbed at goblin #1 (look, I was flustered okay), turning the poor thing's head into something resembling a rotisserie chicken.

I keep thinking about this. The final five minutes of this particular creature's life. Imagine being nailed in the chest with an arrow and then brought back to life only for some stressed-out Wizard to unleash hellfire upon your head. That's next-level NPC trolling.

But I guess it's only a goblin, after all.

Emma Kent, Reporter Intern

We all like to test the boundaries of games. It's a natural thing to do (I think), and this excuse is the only way I can justify the things I've done to NPCs over the years.

A recent incident concerns the denizens of Karnaca in Dishonored 2. The first Dishonored game gives you relatively little time to explore, so I was surprised by my sudden freedom to roam the area without constantly skulking around.

As an experiment, I picked up a whisky glass to see what would happen if I threw it at an unsuspecting citizen. I picked my victim: a middle-aged fisherman casually leaning on a rusty rail in the harbour. The glass smashed and staggered him a little - not the worst thing in itself, but it set off a series of rather unfortunate events.

Knocked backwards, the NPC stumbled down the stairs of the harbour and into the water. Upon falling in, a shoal of man-eating piranhas - which had previously been feasting on a whale carcass - decided to take revenge on the fisherman. Within thirty seconds, the NPC transformed from unconscious victim to a battered meat sack. Stunned, I gazed down at my reflection in the bloody waters. What had I done?

A few minutes later, I was baiting another NPC into the exact same spot. I repeated the horrific practice 'for science' until barely anyone in the harbour was left. It then occurred to me that I needed a new victim.

Bottle in hand, I approached the protagonist's guide to the world, Meagan Foster, who was patiently waiting for me in a small boat. The bottle flew through the air, curved a little, and shattered right on Meagan's face - a beautiful shot. A message then popped up informing me I'd killed a vital character, and I'd failed the entire game. My reign of terror was over. Karma, I suppose.

Christian Donlan, Features Editor

One of the weird things about the Battle Royale genre is that, as form currently dictates, when a game starts, everyone is an NPC. You spawn on an island, all 99 or however many of you, just out of reach of the main arena, and you have a few minutes to run around, pick up guns, thwack things with your pickaxe if it's Fortnite, and generally do whatever you want. There's one thing you can't do, however: you can't hurt anybody else. Everyone around you - everyone you will soon be killing - temporarily has the strange, distressing invulnerability of a quest-giver in an RPG. Your worst assaults just bounce off them.

I find this a lot more distressing than the violence that follows. I think what's so weird about it is that rather than the pleasant rush of a head-shot, or the thrilling panic of a plan that has gone wrong, you get that weird flinch as your bullets bounce harmlessly off your target and then you're just left standing there, with nothing to do but consider your own behaviour.

This is always the case with NPC abuse, isn't it? When you can't say, Oh, I'm doing all this awful stuff because it's the point of the game, you're left with mindless violence, hollow and a bit grim.

Perhaps this is part of why Fortnite's dances are so crucial to the appeal of this odd, world-conquering game. When I spawn on that starter island now I tend not to shoot anybody. I just begin to dance. Pretty soon everyone will be dancing, or dabbing, or chucking popcorn, or producing a beach ball. These violent delights have violent ends, but Orange Justice is the sweetest honey.

Bendix, Video Team

There comes a point in any video game where I begin to feel a bit bored - but there is one game I keep coming back to as it's very easy to spice things up with self-made challenges or by setting the world on fire with chaos (quite literally), and that's The Sims.

Creating a story for my Sims is, for me, a huge part of the game, and I decided that I wanted to tell the story of a rich (slightly eccentric) scientist lady with a secret lair. It just so happened that she was desperate to get an alien baby. I have forgotten her name, but let's call her Lola.

First off, I needed Lola to get rich so I could build her a mansion big enough to hide a research facility beneath it. Unfortunately earning money through a regular career takes too long, so instead she married three well-off people (one was already married and had children, but to be fair, sometimes it's hard to tell in The Sims if they're with someone).

Sadly they all disappeared under mysterious flammable circumstances and left her with a fortune, but hey, she's quite good friends with that one ex-wife and her kids.

Once her mansion and research facility were built, the next step was to find her a suitable alien incubator... ahem, husband. I snatched the first good-looking generated Sim off the street, got them married and fenced him off in the garden (although I did let him out during work hours - he still had to pay rent for those precious square metres), but alas, no alien abduction was happening. I tried changing his career to make him a scientist and even got the Alien Satellite to increase my chances. Still no alien baby.

In the end I got sort of desperate. Getting an alien baby momentarily became my life goal - and I realise as I'm writing this that I should probably have turned off my computer and gone for a walk. Instead I lured in five more Sims, befriended them, made them move in, shoved them all into my secret lair and one by one I pulled them out into the night, trying to get them abducted. I should mention that throughout all of this, Lola has kept an incredibly stable and successful career as a doctor and befriended most of the town, which only makes this more creepy.

Time passed, my Sims grew old and in the end all I had was a small graveyard at the back of my garden consisting of six unfortunate Sims that had fallen to my experiments and three that had gone up in flames.

I didn't get my alien baby, but now that I've finished writing this, attempting the challenge again is awfully tempting...

Chris Tapsell, Guides Writer

"By Azura, by Azura, by Azura! It's the Grand Champion!"

I thought about being clever with this one but honestly, nothing in video games has ever given me more satisfaction than arrowing this man off a cliff (and then watching videos of other people doing it over and over again).

He's a cliché now. A tired, painful, "Who remembers this guy?! XD" sponsored Facebook post from GAME. He has been cruelly relegated to the tier of the later (inferior and infinitely more grating) "arrow to the knee", but the Adoring Fan - actually he's just Adoring Fan: first name Adoring, second name Fan - is still an icon. Still the original ragdoll. Still a relic of the 240p age, whether nostalgia for that's considered a cliché as well now or not.

I can remember the crackling audio (re-recorded from other uploads with their own crackling audio), and those silent, pastel-blue title cards that people put at the start of their awful capture that linger just long enough for it to be awkward, so you to have to go "wait for it it's funny I promise" in a moment when you're suddenly wondering if it is actually funny if you're just weird when you're showing it to your mate on a school computer at the start of ICT.

Watch on YouTube

Adoring Fan is one of those deftly-executed accidents of comedy that feels like it's personal to you, even when it obviously isn't. He was funny because, at least compared to now, the world was big and your world was small - because it felt like he was your discovery and your in-joke, and nobody else's. It's still not funny when someone else quotes it, but it's still hysterical when your mate suddenly remembers it and keeps whispering it to you at a grown up barbecue with your in-laws. And above all he really does have just the most delightfully arrowable face.

Bertie, Senior Staff Writer

[I wanted to expand on my story a little... -Bertie]

Ah, guards. Oblivion's guards. Once so terrifying and authoritative, the invincible upholders of the law. Break the rules and they'd swarm from every building and street corner to apprehend you. There was no escape. But hundreds of hours into the story the tables turned. They became my play things.

One bored Sunday I decided to carry out a little experiment. While spellcrafting I'd realised if you altered the value of a buff spell, it stacked with another, so in theory I could keep casting them on myself until I had a mana pool of 1000 points - roughly ten-times what I normally had. But I wouldn't have it for long because none of the buffs lasted longer than a minute.

Why would I want a temporary mana pool so large? Simple: to cast a doomsday spell - an elemental bomb of a concoction I'd been making which was so powerful no character would normally be able to cast it. I set to work.

I needed a lot of people in one place at one time - guards. A little spot of GBH here and dollop of ABH there and before I knew it had enforcers spilling out of every municipal orifice to apprehend me, the poor blighters. And like a homicidal Pied Piper I led them to their annihilation, their once so fearsome blows ricocheting off of my powerful Daedric armour like rain drops.

Studiously I began my buffing, my mana pool stretching larger and larger, until finally I was ready. I called down fire, I called down lightning, I called down a great blizzard. The screen erupted in spell effects and all around me guards were sent flying. They ragdolled high into the air and across the room in a brilliant ballet of destruction. Then, as soon as it had begun, it was over, and their bodies thumped to the floor. My mana pool shrunk back down to normal and all around me lay the scattered remains of the town's guard, broken, twisted and destroyed.

Satisfied, I switched off. 'A good Sunday's work,' I thought to myself, and went to bed.

Ian Higton, Video Team