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The petty, grudge-holding NPCs of Thousand Threads

“Things go wrong” is one of the best genres of videogames. Thousand Threads [official site] is an upcoming open world game that seems to embrace that philosophy, if the developer’s attempt to create a video demonstration is anything to go by. It features colourful meadows, peaceful woodland and half a dozen angry people in hats chasing and punching each other as part of an elaborate grudge match all because Sung stole three rocks from Dorinda. For goodness sake, Sung.

That looks very interesting in a promising prototype way, no? It’s billed as an open world game where characters remember what you do on an individual basis, forming grievances and fondnesses for both you and other NPCs. Here’s how the developers, Seamount Games, describe it:

Maybe you deliver an item for a guy. He gives you a reward and likes you a little more. Or maybe instead of delivering the item, you sell it to the highest bidder. Now the guy hates you. He tells his friends and they hate you. You’re rich, but on the run.

It’s not a morality system. It’s not a scripted story with branching paths. It’s a system of cause and effect. Characters have unique personality traits, memories, and goals, so they act and react differently. Your actions build your story.

Thems some lofty ambitions. Right now, it seems like stealing, punching and being punched because you are either stealing or punching are the only kinds of interaction going on. It’s still funny, but by no means a complete representation of what a system like this should be able to replicate. To my mind, the biggest design problem with things like this isn’t in making a simulation where people get annoyed with each other, but in making a game that can clearly communicate why people have gotten annoyed. Otherwise, something like this can easily just look like random chaos.

But hopefully we’ll see more when the devs make progress. I mostly wanted to post about it because I thought the video was a laugh. I love that the developer is constantly interrupted from trying to explain the deeper mechanics of the simulation because his angry creations are acting like petulant children.

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Who am I?

Brendan Caldwell

Features Editor

Brendan likes all types of games. To him there is wisdom in Crusader Kings 2, valour in Dark Souls, and tragicomedy in Nidhogg.

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