In case you've been wondering why this blog (and progress on my game) has been quiet lately, it's because I've been playing The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. It's a fun game, in part because the NPCs do their own thing, and it's fun to watch them.
Tonight I was running north along one of the main roads, and a bandit jumped out to rob me. He jumped a bit too late, for I kept running with a bandit on my tail. I met another bandit, who also started chasing me. I then met a third bandit and continued to run. I then saw two of them turn and start chasing a woman on horseback. She delivers the newspaper daily to all the cities. She screams and starts to flee downhill. I turn around and start chasing the bandits, not because I want to save her, but because I want to watch the chase scene. After chasing her down the hill to the bay, they noticed me and started chasing me instead. She fled to the south and I went to the north. I decided to escape by swimming across the bay. To my amazement, they started swimming too. I have a magic item that doesn't require me to breathe underwater, so I went underwater and hoped they would drown. They didn't. They periodically came up for air. As I reached the other side of the bay, I looked down and saw the two of them coming up for air, then diving again. I wasn't able to escape.
I decided to turn east and head for a fort. Many forts contain monsters, and these monsters often fight humans, including bandits. Not all of my enemies are friendly towards one another. At the fort was a troll, a mudcrab, and a bear. I jumped up to a high perch and watched the two bandits defeat the three creatures. I then decided to lead them to a nearby cave. Along the way the bandits killed a wolf, and at the cave they met a minotaur and an ogre. In Oblivion, ogres are incredibly strong. It was here that I expected the bandits to meet their end. Instead, they fled! They swam across the bay, out of my trap.
I chased the bandits across the bay. I lost one of them, but saw the other one run up a hill. I chased him for a while but eventually he got away. I went back across the bay to the minotaur and ogre, and led them to a nearby goblin cave. It took three goblins to kill them. Now I have one goblin remaining. I took him to another cave, inhabited by a rival tribe of goblins. Four goblins from the rival tribe killed the one goblin I led there. I now had four goblins chasing me. So I took them back to the first goblin tribe's cave. I kept running back and forth, not actually fighting, but just leading goblins to each others' caves, and the hordes wiped each other out.
Playing this way is amusing.
Having played for 130 hours, I'm about halfway through Oblivion. It's an interesting game for a game programmer to play. You can guess what techniques they used for their AI, and then run experiments to see what happens. I'm probably not playing the way they meant the game to be played.