Where Do Baby NPCs Come From?

Half-orcs are a well-known adversary in Lord of the Rings Online. They can be found in camps throughout the Lone-Lands, lying in tents, relaxing near campfires, or patrolling abandoned ruins. They are a continual menace to the human residents of the area and your character will spend a lot of time killing half-orcs.

Killing MALE half-orcs.

Because, you see, female half-orcs don’t exist. Ever. At least, they don’t exist in the online world that Turbine has created. Which leads me to wonder just HOW the half-orcs got there in the first place. Asexual reproduction, perhaps? Admittedly, I’m not intimately familiar with Tolkien lore. Maybe there is an explanation somewhere for why no female half-orcs can be found. But I suspect that it has more to do with developer oversight than with adherence to Middle Earth’s rules on orc family dynamics.

Gil in World of Warcraft

Gil in World of Warcraft

Over the years I’ve noticed a distinct lack of family or children represented in many online games. Most often NPCs stand around patiently waiting to dole out quests to passing players, with no mention of family, spouse or even a girlfriend. Sure, you get the occasional ‘hook-up’ quest, where one NPC wants the player’s help in getting the romantic attentions of another NPC. Or you get the ‘rescue my son/daughter’ quests. But the daughter/son in question is always inevitably an adult, never a child.

Another Turbine game, Dungeons & Dragons Online even has the sounds of children playing as part of the ambient background noise for the Marketplace area of Stormreach. I always found this to be particularly unsettling because there’s not a child to be found in the game – anywhere. I asked a former Turbine employee about this. Not only had he never noticed the lack of children in either game, but he could give no explanation for their absence. He guessed that it was a matter of economics; Turbine didn’t want to spend the resources on having the art department create child character models.

There are only two MMOs I’ve played that depict children – World of Warcraft and Dark Age of Camelot. Granted, the children in WoW look a little odd with gigantic feet. But nevertheless, they are honest-to-goodness children and can be found in several places throughout the game world. DAoC’s attempt at creating children consisted of shrinking the adult character models down to midget size, which looked a little creepy. But I give them points for trying.

Although I am not a parent myself, I’ve always found the lack of children in an online world to be off-putting and a bit immersion-breaking. After all, any population, be it human or otherwise, is going to have a hard time sustaining itself if it can’t reproduce. How can all of these adult NPC quest-givers exist if there are no families? Why are children – be they orc or otherwise – omitted from online worlds? Simple oversight? Budget constraints? Or something else entirely?

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19 Responses to “Where Do Baby NPCs Come From?”

  1. toms says:

    This phenomenon seems to persist through all genres, be they FPSs or MMORPGs..

    The money and time costs are reasonable explanations for why there are no children in these games. After all, besides immersion (which I know is important), what purpose are children in a game where most of your time is spent killing things?

  2. Heron says:

    In a more general sense, games seem to be more sparsely populated than is reasonable.

    For example, in Mirror’s Edge, you randomly bust into an office building and run around trying to get to the other side. Yet the only non-police you ever encounter are actually hidden behind closed doors without windows – that is, you only *hear* them.

    Even the reception desk in the front, and the cafeteria areas, and all the offices with glass walls. None of them are occupied.

    How do any of these places stay in business if they’re paying for all this unused real estate?

    Along those same lines, these games tend to have disproportionately large police/military forces…

  3. Michael says:

    City of Heroes has some children in it. One of the early quests you can get (Hero side) is to resuce an electrician’s family… a wife and two children. The two children look to be ages 10 and 14, or around there.

    You don’t see them out in the open areas, but then again if people were getting mugged on every street corner I wouldn’t let my children out of the apartment either.

  4. Marwin says:

    Didn’t Guild Wars have children?

  5. Manni says:

    Yup, I remember a girl in Guild Wars having lost her flute or something.
    There are also some children in runes of magic, making you their messager boy or sending you on a treasure quest.

  6. Leslee says:

    After writing this post, I remembered that Guild Wars has the child character, Gwen, in it.

    It seems that Asian MMOs are more apt to have children in them than MMOs developed in the US. I wonder if there are any cultural reasons for this?

  7. Amarsir says:

    I’ve wondered if there isn’t maybe a legal reason? If there are children, and children are NPCs, and NPCs can be killed…

    I’m not saying that would be technically illegal, but it can’t help the ESRB rating.

  8. Michael says:

    Ah yes, Gwen. I’d forgetten about her. She is an NPC in the tutorial zone that can follow you around and heal your character a bit if you get her flute back.

    If you get the Eye of the North expansion, you can unlock a grown-up Gwen that’s a powerful Mesmer. There’s also an adventure pack that lets you play out her escape after the razing of Ascalon.

  9. Jeff says:

    A quick bit of research tells me that Tolkein says female orcs do exist, but they’re never mentioned nor seen because none of the books ever are set in an area where the orcs come from. So unless you’re delving into their origin lands, as opposed to their slave/military camps, you shouldn’t see them.

  10. Mario says:

    There’s an italian fantasy writer, Silvana De Mari, who covers what may be the major cause of half-orcs, saying that orcs may have sexually assaulted human or elf women, during their raids. So you could say that human’s and elf’s women may be the mothers of the half-orcs.
    Concerning Tolkien I think I remember that in the Lord of the rings he talked only about the origins of the Uruk-Hai. The creation of goblins and orcs is covered in the Silmarillion, in which is said that they were created by magic, twisting existing races. Anyway I think that evil races cannot breed, but only be generated through magic.

  11. GrumpySteen says:

    Sony’s Free Realms MMO has NPC children outside of the combat instances. Lots of them, in fact, but it’s an MMO that is designed with children as the target audience, so maybe that’s not such a surprise. Inside combat instances, the only humanoid children I can recall are unattackable NPCs (but there are baby spiders that you can kill).

  12. Quats says:

    There’s exactly one child in EverQuest that I know of; a Vah Shir (felinoid) named Shainai who is simply a 3/4 size scaled-down adult model. Sadly, the only reason she seems to exist is to get lost wandering around her hometown so that adventurers can mug her for her nightie… which has the identifying text of “You beat up a little girl for this.”

  13. eick says:

    From reading about the development of Fallout 2 (which has children), I think the reason most games don’t have children is because of the European market. The U.S. version of Fallout 2 has children but the European version of Fallout 2 did not have children. Not sure why though.

  14. Ternin says:

    Well I remember some in vanguard, in the Gnome home town there are some running around. Cant think of any others in VG.

    Dont remember any in EQ2 or Star Wars Galaxies (not seen the one mentioned above)

    In LOTRO in North Downs there is a girl possesed by an evil spirit (Idalen) not sure how old she is though, and the little girl you need to rescue from the Barrow Downs. I thought I saw Hobbit children but could have been mistaken just cause they are all very small.

    All in all, its suprising there are any adults in these games if the trouble the kids get into.

  15. Anaphyis says:

    Unlike Fallout 3 you could kill the children in Fallout 2, accompanied by the Child Killer perk. Interplay removed the children model from the game (the children are still there, invisible) to get a low rating and by that increasing their customer base. To understand this you have to keep two things in mind:

    1. European sensibilities concerning video games or media in general are pretty much diametrically opposed to those in the U.S. You have to pull out all the stops on violence to get an AO rating from the ESRB but god help you if you show boobies or sex. Unless you are getting into outright porn you wont have that problem with European ratings. You will however for gratuitous violence.

    2. While many game retailer actually enforce the ESRB rating, it’s still only a recommendation, not a law. In the UK, Germany and some other European countries the ratings are legally enforced. This was especially true for Germany before 2003, where a game that would warrant an AO-like rating couldn’t be advertised (which includes putting the game in a shelf at your game store – you had to go to the clerk and ask for it which is why most stores didn’t bother to order the game at all.

  16. HeroOfHyla says:

    Final Fantasy XI has some kids in it. Around Windurst you can see young Mithras (no idea if that needs an s at the end) and Taru Tarus. One that stands out to me is a little Taru girl standing outside the magic shop. If you talk to her she tells you her mom sent her to go buy some spells. A few yards off you can see her mom spying on her to makes sure she’s doing it right.

    Galka children are creepy: http://i44.tinypic.com/2j3k1ds.png
    I have no idea where they come from, because you can’t play as a female Galka. You can’t play as a male Mithra either, but there are references to the male Mithra all living in some village I think.

  17. Haters Gon' Hate says:

    I personally would like to see a game that not only had children, but made them as vulnerable to the player as the adult NPCs. I would like to be able to kill EVERTHING in a game for once. And lack of children is just creepy, so….yeah.

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