TLDR: Accounts with “NPC” tag + forum bots = interactable (private) conversations with NPCs.
One thing I personally love about Eve is that it is an interactable MMO in a sci-fi setting with consistent and mature world, apart from being 100 things more as a sandbox.
Old Faction Contacts
There is a list of a couple of dozen characters that are considered “faction contacts”. NPCs who represent a certain NPC faction or corporation that you can mail and potentially get a response. I wasn’t playing at the time, but it seems like it was a nice and fun avenue for players to interact with the world. The main problem with that system was that when too many people send you messages, writing a good and unique answer becomes a hard and tiring task as the time goes on.
New Forum Functionality
The new forums allow usage of bots (particularly private convos), as many of you have already seen with the “discobot” who guides you through a tutorial system for the new forums. You can participate in pre-written conversations and sometimes (IIRC) use trigger words to prompt a reaction. The bots can do pretty much anything from posting pictures to modifying the messages after the user’s actions, which is quite interesting.
Another new thing in the system – a new tag addition to our usual “DEV”, “ISD” and “CSM” – “NPC”. The NPC characters are the characters that are created by devs who they sometimes use in Live Events and in forum posting in the roleplaying section.
I think there is an opportunity to allow more people to interact with the world in a very casual manner by allowing them to converse with NPCs who utilize simple prewritten dialogue options and respond to hidden (as well as usual marked options) trigger words that can allow more tinfoiling for dedicated nerds.
But before bringing in the usual range of faction NPCs let’s try and put this system to good use with these examples.
Replacing the discobot with Aura.
Something that was proposed somewhere else, but is an easy start – just replacing discobot with Aura can be a simple and nice touch to add the new forums some Eve flavor.
Using NPC characters connected to popular recent events and seasonal events.
Exoplanets. The new host for Project Discovery is called “Doctor Mayor”. Dialogue with him could offer a wide range of scientific topics – from tutorials on how to play the new minigame, to really interesting and educating relevant facts from, say, Wikipedia. Maybe even more if you ask him some strange question!
Seasonal events already put out some lore, but wouldn’t it be cool if you could go to some relevant NPC and ask some questions about it? Who are Rogue Drones? Why did they become hostile? Why do Blood Raiders like blood so much? The key here is deescalating things – the new New Player Experience makes you the hero of your faction by basically running you through a chronicle – while an exciting thing in itself for a new player, you can’t really go ahead and play around with it since that way everyone is the hero. But if you are talking to just some CONCORD secretary? Eh, I wouldn’t be surprised if she just made a bunch of pre-written answers for those capsuleers.
Using these NPCs for major plot developments and ARGs.
The reason I, personally, started engaging with the lore is because how awesome that small and simple puzzle with Hilen Tukoss posting distorted messages was. Once simple things mentioned earlier are written and implemented, you can really start designing and building a tiny interactive RPG, or just make a bunch of faction NPCs that you can talk to to learn some interesting facts about the universe.
Hope this idea makes sense. It could be a good way to popularize the game’s lore in a casual, fun and engaging way without dumbing things down too much and add a little bit of interactivity.