Abandonitis

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This is a newly invented term and could be subject to change

Abandonitis refers to a design error which causes the world of an IF game to seem mysteriously abandoned due to lack of NPC implementation. It should be distinguished from games which are intentionally set in abandoned environments (see ghost town), although in practise the distinction may not be hard and fast.

Even if there are NPCs about, the effect of abandonitis can still be felt if they are underimplemented and unresponsive.

Characteristics

  • The game is set in areas where one would normally expect to see lots of (or at least some) people, but none are implemented.
  • Explanations for the complete absence of NPCs seem contrived, or add nothing to the game.
  • NPC interactions are plentiful in cutscenes but are trivial or wholly absent in normal gameplay.

How To Cure Abandonitis Without Complex NPCs

  • Crowd objects. These are essentially just scenery objects representing groups of people; although requiring relatively little work, they can make an area seem much better-populated.
    • The effect of a crowd may be undermined by inappropriate default responses.
    • To prevent crowd objects from seeming as inert as the scenery that they are, it's useful to associate atmospheric messages with them.
    • Emergence. Associate a small number of individual NPCs with the crowd, which only become apparent on examination of the crowd or with atmospheric messages. Don't mislead the player into thinking they're important to the plot, or waste a lot of time on making them responsive, but ensure they're not obviously broken.