A new EA patent has surfaced online, and the technology it protects could play a significant role in the future games of EA and its studios, in particular BioWare, which is currently working on a new Mass Effect game and Dragon Age 4. It refers to the behavior of the NPC, or rather, giving the NPC the ability to self-learn, which, in turn, will allow the NPC to adapt to the decisions made by the player. Of course, NPCs reacting to player decisions are neither revolutionary nor new. If you play a renegade Shepard in the Mass Effect games, the NPCs react differently to you than to a good Shepard. However, they do so thanks to BioWare’s precise scripts.
Reading between the lines of technical jargon, it looks like the goal is to make the NPCs react not only to the decisions the players make during the course of the story, but also to the player’s play style. In other words, instead of checking if you’ve made a certain decision to influence the dialogue, NPCs will react to all the data they have about the player and then adapt themselves based on that data.
The implications for the new Mass Effect and Dragon Age games are clear, as it will be an evolution of BioWare’s formula of giving weight to player decisions by having NPCs and the entire game world react differently to those decisions.
However, at the moment these possibilities are locked behind a patent. Not only does nothing usually come of patents, but even if this patent is used, it may be years before we see fruit, and of course it may not be used in the way we imagine.