Will MMORPGs someday enable a kind of virtual, second life that can hardly be distinguished from reality? Bethesda's Fallout 76 shows that this probably never happens.
In Star Trek: The Next Generation there was the holodeck, where the game was basically indistinguishable from reality. With virtual reality headsets, we are approaching this future. But how Fallout 76 shows, virtual reality will never be able to imitate "real" reality.
NPCs in MMOs
Probably it will be possible at some point in the – maybe not too distant – future to develop an AI that is "lifelike". But such an AI will probably not be used in an MMO. This is because it is not wanted at all.
In Fallout 76 (buy now) it is possible to drop an atomic bomb on NPC settlements. The non-player characters are not really interested in this – except that they walk around with radiation protection suits for a short time. If the atomic bomb wiped out the NPCs and their city, it would no longer be possible for other players to ask for quests or shop there. This alone shows that realistic behavior of NPCs cannot work in an online game.
The very fact that NPCs leave their traditional location and maybe have a complex daily routine or travel around the world is basically problematic. The death of an NPC is actually impossible (if you exclude The Elder Scrolls Online's phasing system). NPCs that serve a purpose, whether as quest givers or as traders, basically have to remain more or less static robots so that every player can "use" them.
Fallout 76 simply shows extremely clearly that we can probably never count on a kind of online life simulation in which NPCs play a role and behave as naturally as possible. If we ever get such a game, then with a high probability without NPCs. Then this would be a virtual sandbox world in which only human players are. Or we accept the fact that we get non-player characters who do not behave naturally, but then the game would not really imitate real life.
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