If you’re new to gaming you’ve probably heard the term NPC, but you may not be quite sure what it means. The acronym has become more common in recent years, especially with the rise of highly immersive open-world games that are packed full of vibrant characters.

It’s not essential to know what an NPC is, but it is an interesting topic to follow if you’re interested in learning more about video games, and the world created within them.

What are NPCs?

NPC stands for non-player characters, and they basically mean anyone in the game that the player can’t control. They are usually governed by computer code and have a predetermined set of functions that they can carry out. NPCs are noticeable for their behavior, which can sometimes include daily routines. Players can interact with them sometimes, and the player’s actions can affect what the NPC will do next. For example, if you punch an NPC in Grand Theft Auto, they will either start fighting back or run away.

Types of NPCs

There are various types of NPC that you’ll come across when gaming. Some are closely related to the protagonist and may even help with missions. For example, in Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, players were able to team up with the deadly sniper, Quiet. It was possible to bring her along on missions and ask her to take out enemies, but players never controlled her.

Some NPCs simply exist in the game world and add to its richness. Some of the most advanced NPCs of recent times were in Red Dead Redemption 2. They had such detailed routines that some players simply enjoyed following them around, observing their day-to-day existence. Other types of NPC are those that are central to the story. Players may have to rescue them or ask them questions to progress the plot.

Are NPCs Even Useful?

Sometimes NPCs don’t add anything to the story of the game and exist in the game world as mere decorations. However, they are often useful. A lot of the time NPCs team up with the character and help with missions. A prime example of a game that put this type of NPC to good work was The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. The hugely popular game had loads of lovable characters who would often help Geralt of Rivia in battles.

Most Famous NPCs

If all this sounds interesting to you, you may want to go and check out some of the most famous NPCs ever. One of the best is Cortana, powered by artificial intelligence and the partner of Master Chief in Halo. Then, there are mysterious NPCs like the merchant in Resident Evil 4. Another great character was Clementine from The Walking Dead by Telltale Games. She was so popular that she ended up becoming a playable character later on.

Without NPCs, game worlds would be dull and there would be no opportunity for interaction. For open world games to give players a sense of full immersion, the NPCs need to be realistic and add to the story. NPCs have come an incredibly long way over the years, and they are set to be even more amazing in the future.