Cliffski on The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim's NPCs

Positech Games' Cliff "Cliffski" Harris taps into his indie game development experience to blog about the lack of progress Skyrim has made when it comes to NPC interactions. In short, he finds them "staggeringly stupid" and lacking dialogue, thanks to the advent of full voiceovers:
It's 2011 now (nearly 2012), so we still need almost static NPC's that act pretty much like .ossip+quest+lifestory vending machines'.

Coding a much more adaptive and context sensitive system shouldn't be hard. I find it very unlikely that there is a major problem from either a game design or code POV, in having every NPC store some data abut their attitude to you, plus a list of recent events, plus reaction to your appearance.

Almost all games have NPC's that are staggeringly stupid. You can sneak up to them at midnight, having never met them, with your sword drawn, wearing a black cloak and holding a two handed sword, and as long as you press '˜E', they will say something like (My name is zarg, I've been farming here all my life, things aren't so bad really.) WTF? We *can* do better than this. On an indie game, with a tiny budget and one coder, we can do better, so why a game with the budget of skyrim cannot, is beyond me. Unless...

It's voice acting isn't it? Lets be honest. We cannot afford to have 500 different lines fo dialog for that character, because the assumption is that all games need to be '˜fully voiced'. This is CRIPPLING to AI. I bet the AI coders on skyrim grind their teeth like maniacs, knowing that the simplest and cheapest text adventures can have twenty times more immersive character interaction that the trillion dollar AAA hit game Skyrim.