Tuesday, July 6, 2010

New vs Old Companions

Okay, David asked what I was referring to in a previous post, when I lamented the "new companion" status that Ria carries.

I was typing out a reply comment, when it occurred to me that I was likely going over the comment-length limit. So, rather than cut down my reply, I'll just turn it into a new post, and maybe enlighten some of you what in the holy hell I'm talking about when I mention my companions learning.

What I mean when I talk about old and new NPCs is... sort of difficult to explain.

I've logged a thousand or more hours on the RR companion system over the last year plus. Probably more than 75% of the rest of the users of the mod combined. I've seen them do things no one else ever will.

It isn't widely reported, but the companions are... a sort of persistent. They learn and grow as individuals, as long as the game stays installed. The information isn't hidden in the save files, as it persists even across cleaning those out. The only way to reset the companions is to uninstall and reinstall the game. Even cleaning your save-game of the mod doesn't seem to reset the data.

Even if it is commonly encountered, it's not surprising it isn't reported. You have to know what to look for to notice it, and only a few of us do.

Besides which, out of 24,000 downloaders and change, less than 515 have been willing to take thirty seconds to endorse - another twelve were willing to thumbs-down it. That places the number of users that give enough of a fuck to toss in a vote either way at a bit less than 2.5% - so even if they are seeing it... most people wouldn't bother saying anything.

As you play with the companions, they get more accurate with weapons, they retreat less often, use more advanced combat tactics. They learn. Become more dangerous; better partners.

This isn't the "system", on the whole - it takes place for each individual. The longer you have one in tow, the better that one gets.

After being with me for 95% of the 68 hour game I'd been playing since the reinstall, my favorite "special" companion is just plain fucking scary. With a revolver she can take on six or more raiders and come out without a scratch. Get all three of them together, and they can take on Deathclaws in close-quarters combat and not have to use any stims.

They were like that before my video card died. When I uninstalled and reinstalled, though, they lost that experience, and started anew in the new install. It took about ten hours for them to get good again; by thirty hours (about level six, for the record), they were more than a match for any group of NPCs in the wastes.

I've seen them pull stuff that would make any graduate of the US Army's MOUT course proud. They work corners, cover each others' reloads, double-up on targets. Hell, I've seen them advance in a bounding overwatch formation.

I watched one engage targets at range with her rifle, then when the horde of zombies got too close she transitioned to a sidearm, and moved laterally to get out of the way while laying down accurate fire the entire time.

I saw my special version of Maeva develop a taste for making sure her targets are dead. She'll kill at range normally, but then walk up to the corpse, aim down, and put two or three rounds into the corpse's head.

Now. I planned out the mods for my Nos' Adventures game around this sort of behavior. Any one of them would be able to handle ten raiders with ease, even at level two.

The problem, is I forgot that they have to learn that behavior.

When I created Arianrhod, it slipped my mind that she'd be a clean slate.

Sure enough, she's been backing down from combat, spraying fire from the hip, and just generally making rookie mistakes left and right.

But, she's learning. Each encounter, she does a bit better. Still pretty worthless with a submachinegun... but does decently with a revolver. Her last bit of performance with an assault rifle was adequate, if not inspiring.

This has caused problems for me. I've had to turn off the increased increased spawns. With FWE on as well, they were simply unsurvivable.

If not for trying to hold to my storytelling ideals, I'd turn my special companions back on, and turn them loose. I may do it anyway, just to see how well they hunt with FWE on. I do so love watching my girls hunt...

Now, you guys may think I'm overdosed on caffeine or something, and have begun seeing things that aren't there - but this learning behavior has been reported by a couple other people, so I'm fairly sure it's not just some random convergence in my system, or insanity on my part.


  1. I sincerely believe this is where the real Terminators will come from. It won't be from some military AI or some girl's avatar getting stuck inside a Cylon; it will be from some video game AI created by some genius intern programmer for WoW or something to make a buck on the virtuanet.

  2. I've been reading your blog for a while now and thought it became time for a comment.

    I haven't used companions for quite a while now but I kinda get what you mean. I used to have one or two companions with me all the time and I've never experienced anything like what you described with the vanilla companions. They are as thick as pigsh*t and never change. I have used the Kelsey and Jessie companions and found that they where less of a bother after a while. So maybe that's the same thing starting to grow. Still not what I call intelligent though. Anyway there's no AI living on my computer but I suggest you unplug the internet cable before playing. Who knows, the AI might try to escape. :P

  3. @Remco:

    You kidding?

    You've obviously confused me with someone who has delusions of altruism.

    I am completely willing to subject you all to the robot apocalypse just to be able to say I had a hand in causing it.

  4. We could call the supreme AI "NosNet".

  5. Y'know, I really don't care if the AI wants to call itself HAL MKII, as long as it chooses to produce its terminators in top-heavy, red-headed form...