Unique NPC faces or duplicates?

cthulhusquid

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In my post-apocalyptic RPG I'm working on, I currently have a several variants of soldiers, gang members, and mafia members. However, if I want to use them in any large number, I have two choices: Use duplicates of the same NPC portrait/sprite (unrealistic), or have each individual be unique (time consuming). Which one would you prefer?
 

trouble time

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Personally I only use faces for important characters to signify how important they are (and sometimes characters don't have a portrait until they're important but that's more having to account for the 4th wall for a twist.) Personally a good compromise is recolored "classes" of faces. This is like 1 of 2 things Lunar Dragon Song did that I think would do if I could. The other thing was being a completed game.
 

Uzuki

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Depends on how much time/money you're willing to spend and how important of an character they are. If it's a time/money issue then you can do it, but if every non-important NPC gets a unique faceset and sprite then you're going to be spending a lot of time/money on something that a lot of people are probably not even going to notice and/or appreciate, especially if it doesn't add anything outside of looking different. It could also be confusing because if all of them stand out then how will the important NPC stand out? And people use the "genericness" of NPCs as landmarks for shortcuts and locations of important things or shorthands for certain things like shops and services.

You can explain away using the same sprites or whatever. If you have a gang they're probably going to have a uniformed look or something that indicates that they are part of a gang. Same thing for organizations and armies. It also helps if you don't frequently use the same sprites relatively close to each or in the same scene.
 

Wavelength

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I'd recommend duplicates, as a matter of practicality. Also consider the "Kit of Parts" approach, which is where you differentiate each similar member with a set of several pieces of facial features, skin color, clothing, accessories, etc. For example, if you have 3 different hats, 3 different badges, and three different shirts, that's already 27 different variations, and if you combine that with 5 different skin colors and 5 different hair colors, you have nearly 1000 different variations to choose from, by creating just 19 different parts you can mix and match.
 

trouble time

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I'd recommend duplicates, as a matter of practicality. Also consider the "Kit of Parts" approach, which is where you differentiate each similar member with a set of several pieces of facial features, skin color, clothing, accessories, etc. For example, if you have 3 different hats, 3 different badges, and three different shirts, that's already 27 different variations, and if you combine that with 5 different skin colors and 5 different hair colors, you have nearly 1000 different variations to choose from, by creating just 19 different parts you can mix and match.
This is what I meant when I mentioned "classes of faces" but expressed better.
 

Aesica

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In a quick-to-make game, duplicates are fine and were used by all early, popular RPGs like FF1-6, DQ1-4, etc. Not every bar patron or town greeter needs to have a unique sprite and/or portrait. On the other hand, I kind of do want to make everyone look unique in my "big" game, but that's nothing a decently-stocked character generator can't facilitate.
 

Marquise*

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Ever thought of putting most of their face in the shadow or behind fog etc?
Might also serve as plot point later on if your char takes orders by someone he/she never saw the face.

Also then you can use something like 4 or 5 chars per shadows.
 

dulsi

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Having never completed an rpg, I'm going to say I would prefer unique faces. I don't mind the approach in Skyborn where only important people have faces but I'd prefer everyone have a unique face.
 

M.I.A.

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I was (and still may be) working on a project that was not so serious. The only Face Pics were of playable characters. NPCs didn't get faces. This was pointed out in a little 4th wall breaking line when you speak to an NPC in the first town who has a Face Pic. The other party member says:
"Pay attention, see how they have a face? That's important. That means they can join us on our adventure somehow!"

But in terms of dialogue boxes, I prefer Name Boxes to Face Pics. :)

Hope this helps!
-MIA
 

Fernyfer775

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As a developer, I feel like it's too much effort for something that is so unimportant to the overall quality of the game. To me, that time could be better spent on other aspects of the project.

As a player, I couldn't care less if rando-NPC#43 has a face or not, which only reinforces my thinking as a dev to forego putting in any effort into it.
 
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synchronicity

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I think it's good for some NPC's to have faces, but only ones that are memorable or significant in some way. I don't think it's necessary to give every single townsperson a face because for most of them I won't bother looking at their face anyway. If you have a recurring character though, or a character that your protagonist is supposed to know - a childhood friend, a kindly neighbour, a mentor - they should definitely have unique faces. But they don't necessarily need to have a variety of expressions just because you give them a unique face - it's more so about helping your player connect to the NPC, since the character they are playing is connected with the NPC. Trails in the Sky, for example, has a journalist and photographer that reappears throughout the games, and they both have unique faces, but some random person on the street doesn't because they don't need to. Look at it as being similar to real life - we meet lots of strangers whose faces we don't remember, because our interaction with them is very limited. I kind of look at faceless NPC's in RPG's the same way. They don't have faces, because you don't need to remember them. But if you want your player to remember them for some reason, they should have a face.
 

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