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Artificial Atmospheric Actions
NPC 1: I saw a mudcrab the other day.
NPC 2: Horrible creatures, I avoid them whenever I can.

NPC 37: I saw a mudcrab the other day.
NPC 52: Horrible creatures, I avoid them whenever I can.

In some games, NPCs do various window-dressing activities in order to make the world seem more alive. However, if the actions are used in inappropriate contexts, it just highlights their artificiality. At best it's distracting, it's often funny, but at worst it's scary.

Frequently has to do with inappropriate Enemy Chatter, and occasionally Gang Up on the Human. Occasionally, this can become So Bad, It's Good, although it is more likely to be a Most Annoying Sound. Related to Welcome to Corneria and Going Through the Motions, and a successor of sorts to Hyperactive Sprite. Nothing to do with oddly shaped clouds.


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Action 
  • Assassin's Creed I has side-missions that require you to save civilians from harassment by guards. The citizens will watch you kill the guards, then thank you. They may then spot the guards' bodies and ask "Who could have done such a thing?"
    • Not to mention the horde of beggars, ignoring the rich noblemen to pester the angry-looking swordsman like a cloud of blackflies, buzzing "Just a few coins, that's all I ask..." "No, YOU don't understand, I have NOTHING!"
    • It's even funnier when they sound like they're having a conversation with each other. "I'm poor, I'm sick..." "Who did this!"
    • The guards themselves can get into this. You can hop out from behind a corner and trigger a "There he is!" and then immediately hop back behind and hear a "Where is he?!".
    • This improves in the Ezio Trilogy. You now have people doing more then just wander about, carrying things to and fro. People can be seen sweeping and cleaning, performing day to day maintenance on buildings and various other things such as fences, farmers are tilling the fields, etc. By Brotherhood and Revelations, you will occasionally see people standing in front of shops, as if they're about to purchase things, holding scripted conversations with the shop owners. Heck, you even come across picnickers and revelers out in the countryside in Rome and you'll come across street performers in Constantinople.
    • Things improved steadily in the next games, but then sent back to square one in Assassin's Creed III. In the Brazil mission, citizens don't let things like gunfire coming from a VIP box and a hooded criminal fighting security officers distract them from their routine of walking in circles and idly chatting up their buddies.
  • In Mirror's Edge, there's one point where you can knock an enemy off a building. If you look down to where his body is lying in the middle of the street, you'll see cars and pedestrians going right past - or even right over - the corpse. It's eerie, but somehow it kind of fits with the Dystopian Post Cyber Punk setting.

    Action Adventure 
  • The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask partially averts this by giving several Non Player Characters schedules to follow, which tie into the side quests you can do with them.
    • It helps that the game takes place in a three-day "Groundhog Day" Loop.
    • As such there are 3 kinds of NPCs. NPCs that do the same thing for all 3 days (though they may have a second thing after you do stuff, such as talking to them or clearing a dungeon). NPCs that follow a schedule (Again, some may change with player interaction) and monsters that are just there to attack you. No friendly NPC is random.
  • In Thief: Deadly Shadows, characters respond appropriately to bodies or bloodstains, either running away if they're non-combatants, or getting angry and looking for the player if they're fighters. This makes less sense (and can cause the player a lot of trouble) if they were the ones to put the corpse there, or saw some other NPC do it.
  • In Postal2, NPCs when they encounter each other often enter into non sequitir-filled conversations ("It's a beautiful day." "If it was up your ass, you'd know."). They can also be seen doing not-very-hygienic things like picking pills up off the ground and eating them. And if the player pulls out a weapon and starts shooting, they're as likely to stand still and stare at the player than attack or run away.

    Driving Games 
  • The pedestrians in Driver 2 would scream and run if you came close. Understandable when you're driving a car at them. Strange in the missions where you're on foot.
    • Some players speculate that Tanner's model is holding a gun, which is why carjacking is so easy and why pedestrians run screaming. The model is too undetailed for a definite interpretation though.

    Interactive Fiction 
  • The long—ago text-based game of The Hobbit already incorporated this sort of action, resulting activities ranging from game-ending (the butler who unlocks the door in the elves' prison is already dead when you're caught, trapping you in jail) to fridge brilliant (orcs and elves capture each other and put each other in their prisons, despite not being intended to).

    MMORPG 
  • Quite annoying with the predator mobs in World of Warcraft. If a critter (rabbit, deer, etc.) strays too close to a predator (lion, tiger, etc.), the predator will rush over and kill them in one blow. Or sometimes they'll stalk them for a while before killing them. But then the predator just turns around and continues walking lazily along. This switches the predators from natural hunters who eat what they kill to psychopathic murderers intent on the eradication of all lesser lifeforms. It would be far better if the predator just dropped onto his chest and started chowing down on the body (bloodlessly, of course).
    • The game also has instances of random chatter. Some NPCs even talk about a random character near them if they meet a specific criteria. And the human starting zone had the worker unit from Warcraft 3 walking around, complete with the original voiceset. So did the orc/troll starting zone, but those were involved in a quest.
    • There was subtle, albeit noticeable improvement in creature interactions in the Wrath of the Lich King expansion and following: wolves actually go through eating motions near carcasses, bears fish in the rivers and emerge with actual fish in their mouths, rams head-butting each other, tickbirds ride on rhinos' horns, and most remarkably, drakes in Storm Peaks that kill rhinos and carry them in their talons up to the nests where their hatchlings are.
  • The atmospheric actions in Warhammer Online can sometimes come across as phony, with characters crying completely at random or wandering around aimlessly. It's actually a step up from most MMOs, though, which don't bother to have even poorly-done atmospheric actions, and have all NPCs just stand in one place for their entire lives.
  • City of Heroes occasionally has office missions with dozens of terrified people running about. They're not headed for anywhere, and can push you around if you get in the way of their path, and can distract you if you have actual hostages to rescue. Gyah.
    • Better still, civilian NPCs aren't programmed to jump; thus, anything that's raised even slightly and not an incline is an Insurmountable Waist High Fence. It's pretty hilarious to see an office lady panicking between two boxes and a wall, or in a fountain, or behind a potted plant... you get the idea.
    • Unfortunately, this also happens in the Villainous Mayhem Missions, so as you're attempting to fight your way through the cops, you'll be swarmed by NPCs who can't die, offer no rewards, con as hostile, and do nothing but run around flailing and screaming. Meaning that auto-targeting before or during fights is likely to take several minutes as you try to either click on or tab through the massive hordes of red garbage to actually click on the person you're trying to fight. Targeting binds make this less of an issue, but it's still really, really annoying.
    • The villain groups get in on this as well. Certain bits of dialogue are triggered by proximity, making it very easy to make two henchmen say their lines out of order just by entering through the wrong door. Due to the limited selection of idle stances, odds are good that said henchmen are threatening a wall/some crates/empty air while having this conversation.
      • Also, some enemy groups feature radically different members. The Vahzilok consist of mad scientists and their zombie creations, but that doesn't stop the zombies going on rants, or the scientists shouting "Brains!". Similarly, several varieties of battle drones can be quite eloquent at times when all they're supposed to do is beep.
    • The civilian NPCs in the cityscape are much worse off. One of the programmed scripts involves gang members attempting a break-in to one of the generic warehouses. For some reason, the script occasionally triggers on 'trees' raising questions as to the street value of sap.
    • Another programmed cityscape event involves a civilian NPC getting mugged. The NPC is random. While it looks unusual when a businessman is struggling over his purse, it is downright embarrassing when it is a SWAT team member.
  • EVE Online has NPC haulers entering and exiting stations to give the impression of a busy market hub.
  • The Lord of the Rings Online, though mostly populated by NPCs rooted in place, crafting area NPCs will hammer away at bits of metal forever and ever...
  • In Guild Wars, sometimes you will see different factions of mobs fighting others. However, if you step by, they will immediately turn around and start attacking you.
  • In The Old Republic, enemy mobs are generally programmed to do something in their spare time — mime talking, mess around with their weapons, lounge on the furniture, whatever. These actions are usually individually set, so most of the time they play out pretty appropriately. However, it's possible under certain circumstances (for instance, engage a group of three enemies, kill one, and be killed by the others) to have an NPC holding an argument with a corpse and not even realize it.
    • Even the Player Character him/herself falls victim to this with his spoken lines. While quest-relevant conversations may be unique and show off some pretty good voice acting, generic tend to be repeated, particularly during side quests.

    Real Time Strategy 
  • Warcraft III has a standard set of lines a given unit will utter whenever you order it to attack, regardless of circumstances. Thus, we have Arthas, a Paladin, shouting "You are past redemption!" as he charges into battle to slay an ordinary sheep. Must have been an uncommonly sinful barnyard animal. ...on the other hand, let's not think too much about that.
    • Both Warcraft III and Starcraft II feature a "pause" function for cutscenes, allowing the game to effectively ignore everything that wasn't part of the script. Unfortunately, it doesn't always account for what it's pausing — it's possible in some cases to have soldiers on opposite sides of a fight staring at each other while the cutscene plays out, or even have missiles hanging in flight for the duration. One of the most egregious examples is "In Utter Darkness": if the Dark Voice starts his Evil Gloating during a wave, Zeratul's reply will be given while the protoss and zerg troops stand around, idle animations playing, not five feet from each other.
  • In Starcraft, your zealots will shout "We cannot hold!" at you when a horde of 20 of them is fired on by a single marine. The marines too, who might say "We're screwed!" when attacked by a zergling.
    • The Terran Battle Cruiser captain outdoes all by yelling out "Abandon ship!" if the enemy so much as looks at it scary.

    Rhythm Games 
  • The Guitar Hero series has only about four models for the crowd: guys in striped shirts who hop, guys in solid shirts who pump their arms, etc, and they're all perfectly in sync, perfectly identical, staring in exactly the same direction, doing their one move no matter how fast or slow the song. It's fun to go to concerts IRL and impersonate a Guitar Hero NPC.
    • This is taken to its logical conclusion in Guitar Hero 2, where in the hipster venue, EVERYONE is wearing a striped shirt.
    • Then there's the crowd surfer in Guitar Hero 3 that appears to climb up to the stage, shake his hand a couple times, and jump off. Some might call him a loyal fan, but he's in at least a dozen scripted sequences in the various songs.

    Role-Playing Games - Gamebryo Engine 
  • In The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, there are the ridiculous conversations between NPCs consisting of them throwing random banter lines back and forth.
    • Oblivion NPCs also have daily schedules, complete with eating and sleeping animations. Taverns at dinner time, for instance, usually have at least half a dozen NPCs sitting down and eating. Okay, and having ridiculous conversations with each other.
    • One early demo for Oblivion showed that the much-touted Radiant AI is capable of organic problem solving, even if its solutions are a little... non-traditional. An NPC was awoken by the barking of her dog. Her response was to get up, fireball the poor pooch to death, then return to bed...
      • There was a similar problem with a pair of NPCs each given commands to perform tasks that the other was equipped for (hoeing and raking). Cue the epic battle to the death to get the rake or the hoe, instead of, y'know, swapping.
      • And the bug where they hadn't prevented guards being arrested by other guards, so that a guard committing a crime in the course of pursuing a criminal was attacked by another guard, who was then flagged for attacking the guard, whereupon the townspeople attacked the crazy guy attacking a guard... except they all got flagged as having attacked the guard... you can see where this ends.
      • And there was the dear lady raking her carpet.
    • The actual lines used in Oblivion make you wonder why they even recorded them sometimes, like people talking about who they would go to if they needed info on some random topic that they don't need info on.
      • This is actually supposed to be a (really unsubtle) hint for the player as to where they can find advanced skill trainers.
    • Although certain characters are scripted to be jerks, that is to respond to NPC conversation with mean or uncaring responses, other characters will not respond appropriately. The result was dialog along the lines of...
      NPC 1: I saw a mudcrab the other day.
      NPC 2: Get out of my face!
      NPC 1: Have a nice day.
      NPC 2: You too.
    • NPCs also fail to realize who they are talking to. Resulting in some... weird exchanges:
      Champion of the Fighters Guild: I've heard the Fighters Guild is a good place to go to look for work.
      Grandmaster of the Fighters Guild: I've thought about joining them once or twice.
    • After turning in the evidence for the corrupt guard quest in Cheydinhal
      NPC runs up to the count: I need to speak to the count!
    • The script also often does not let them know who they are, resulting in them talking about themselves in the third person.
      • There's one bug where people start talking about how Amantius Allectus was killed in a burglary, even if Amantius is still alive. This becomes absurd when the one saying this is Amantius Allectus. He got better, apparently.
    • There's a glitch in Cheydinhal that results in the Captain of the Guard saying "I don't know you, and I don't care to know you" over and over and over. Thing is, he only does this to one of his own guardsmen.
    • Guards will automatically attack and kill NPCs who are attacking the player, but they also have a script for when they find dead bodies in the street. This can result in them cutting a person down, turning to walk away, turning back around, and gasping at the corpse, "Oh my goodness! Are you all right?"
      • Even better: if the townspeople aid you (often with... just their fists...) in fighting off an attacker revealed in (or led into) town, a guardsman might accidentally hit one with an arrow. Said towner will interpret this as a hostile attack and retaliate by fighting the guard. Of course, the guard is inevitably stronger, and cuts her down. And since she was an innocent... the guard will lean down, check her neck for a pulse: "...the body is still warm.... there's a MURDERER on the loose!" ...aaaand proceed to walk away without even deigning to hide the body.
    • After a certain point in the Fighter's Guild questline, the Master of the Guild becomes very angry with you after you get involved in a mistake that led to the death of her son. During quest updates, she is furious with you and commands you to never speak to her again. But if she isn't part of any of your current quests, she's perfectly friendly with you.
    • Animals in Oblivion seem to have it in for you, very rarely they can be seen going after actual prey. This gets pretty immersion breaking when you get to a high level and just want to walk down the road, but your walking armored death machine has to stop and swat away suicidal and pathetically weak lone wolfs and mountain lions literally every 40-50 feet. Or bandits that demand you give them "100 gold or your life", despite carrying around weapons and armor worth roughly 10,000-30,000 gold.
    • If you complete the main questline, new conversation topics will activate, including one of a guy (badly) singing part of an epic about your character. This becomes amusing if you happen to overhear a bandit literally singing your praises, who will nevertheless attack you with murderous intent on sight.
    • The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind has the NPC greetings change based on your reputation and relationship with the NPC. Unfortunately, the greetings are all randomly selected based on race, which has some odd effects if the NPC has an actual personality (such as the elitist, thankless superiors of the Mages Guild greeting you with "Welcome, friend, the day is yours!").
      • E...e...e...excuse me Nerevarine. It's just that you are a big hero, and I don't know how to talk to ...
      • If you are sick, even people who are friendly to you say "Yuck, get away from me!" like you are some kind of leper. And the funny thing is, you talk to them, especially Caius, and they seem to forget that you have the equivalent of Leprosy when you ask about certain things.
      • 99.999% of the citizens of Morrowind are above the law. If someone is attacking you, they'll just act like nothing's wrong when if you did that; they'd run right over and try to arrest you. And if you're attacked by an Ash Zombie after sleeping when someone's in the room, they'll just stand there and ignore them; as well as the corpse you left in their room.
      • At the start of the game, take all your clothes off. Now walk around Seyda Neen and Balmora and marvel at how any individual NPC's walk-by reaction will switch between Naked People Are Funny and Please Put Some Clothes On on a dime. (Some of them are a little more consistent than others, though; Dunmer in particular seem to be universally disgusted with you.)
    • In Skyrim, CHICKENS used to report you for committing crimes.
    • Skyrim in general is better than the previous Elder Scrolls games for this, making the citizens seem more alive than the rest of the series. However, you can still do some funny things, such as placing a bucket over peoples' heads and robbing them blind (They won't report you for crimes if they can't actually see you!) or jumping up on peoples' tables and kicking all their food, plates, and goblets to the floor. Even at a fancy party, people will merely say "Watch what you're doing" when you jump on the table and kick sweet rolls and platters across the room. Just don't actually take them - unless you put a bucket over their heads, first.
    • Followers are scripted to marvel at landmarks you walk past, even when you're exiting them. This leads to instances of your companion wondering what mysteries lie inside a cave that the two of you just finished clearing of bandits.
    • This can happen with both major and minor NPCs with regards to your status. You deal with a member of the Thieves Guild a couple of times while trying to assassinate the emperor. After you return to him to help you set up your guild quarters he's clearly respectful of you but after business is completed he'll immediately ask you why you haven't finished whatever buglary job he assigned you.
    • And just how many guards could have possibly retired from adventuring due to taking an arrow to the knee?
      • Worse, sometimes the dialogue glitches mid-sentence resulting in guards that have retired from adventuring after taking an arrow to the wife and kids.
      • This led to a popular fan theory that the phrase "taking an arrow to the knee" is actually Nordic slang for getting married, which makes a whole lot more sense.
    • When you complete a sidequest for an NPC, who then gives you praise of the highest order... and you accidentally pick up a bit of his stock. Never mind that you're now his BFF, never mind that you put it back where you got it, shopkeep will still try to kill you for it.
    • Similarly, if you're completing a quest in someone's house or other private property and nightfall comes while you're talking to the NPC, then as soon as he's finished praising/rewarding you he'll scream at you for how you're trespassing and tell you to leave.
    • People will often come up to your character and make random commentary, which is not only repetitive as they generally say the same thing over and over again, but also a bit odd depending on who you are. You can be the Thane of whatever keep you're at and the guards will still insist, "I have my eye on you orc/lizard/cat/etc", and you can be a female Nord and women will still come up to you saying "Bet you've never seen a strong Nord woman before".
      • One thing that ups the immersion is having people comment on changes that your character undertakes, such as being sick. This also leads to unfortunate glitches such as people commenting on your being a werewolf long after you've cured it.
  • One of the biggest flaws in the AI of Oblivion NPCs is that most of them don't react to seeing a dead body in any way, and those that do will simply lean down and check the pulse, rarely comment on it, and then go back to ignoring it completely. This can lead to some surreal experiences if you have a high sneak skill or invisibility spell, such as cutting down a bandit with a backstab, then backstabbing the next bandit that calmly walks over and leans down to check the corpse, and then the next bandit after that, etc ... until every bandit in the room is lying dead in a pile.
    • Skyrim continues this tradition. Even better a glitch in the Civil War campaign can cause the leaders of their faction to never have their corpses removed. Consequently everyone in the room will continuously walk up to the corpse, despair over the murder, and then immediately go on with their lives.
      • One player dumped Ulfric Stormcloak's dead body on the throne...and his housecarl's body on the table. Then watched as people spawned and went about their day without taking into consideration that there's a dead body on the table.
  • Similarly found in Fallout 3, based off the same engine, but thankfully upgraded through the simple process of writing extra lines for specific NPC combinations within areas. While the traditional 'schedules' of Oblivion remain, it's not uncommon for NPCs to actually recognize specifically who they are talking to and therefore for slightly more organic conversations to occur. Due to engine limitations, however, they're still clunky as hell.
    "I need to talk to you."
    "I'm listening."
    "Goodbye."
    • Also in Fallout 3 Charon tends to spout the line "I don't like the look of this place", regardless of whether he's in a run-down school infested with raiders or in the middle of the PC's house.
    • Cross: "I remember this place..." In Raven Rock.
    • It would seem that the greatest improvement Fallout 3 has over Oblivion is this particular field wasn't some sort of engine modification or superior scripting, but rather simply having less towns, less NPCs per town, and more recorded lines per NPC. Being a post apocalyptic wasteland it has smaller and less dense populace than Oblivion's thriving empire.
    • Fallout 3 also has its failings in this department. NPCs attempt to sleep periodically to seem more real. However setting off explosives while in stealth and in a barracks with many people not only fails to wake any of them up but no one seems alarmed either. Furthermore NPCs then continue to lay down and sleep with the dismembered bodies of the victims of said explosion on the same bed.
    • Also of interest in Fallout 3 is the inexplicably short temper of any citizen looking at locked doors or at any of their wares. Walk by a locked door with someone watching and they'll likely tell you it's locked for a reason.

    Role-Playing Games 
  • In The Witcher, a NPC using a hammer on a brick wall... complete with woodknocking noise.
  • Fallout 2 had loads of it. Made you want to use the ball gag you got from failing an arm wrestling mission on Cassidy the 69,105th time he says that his father named him after a character in a book while walking across a street. The fact that he seemed to speak by materializing text that would interfere with your ability to click on things, or read what other people were saying didn't help...
  • In Knights of the Old Republic, NPCs just walk around randomly. Back and forth, forth and back. This gets a little funny when they walk through your vibrosword.
  • In Neverwinter Nights and Neverwinter Nights 2, the characters shout things like "Perish, as you should!" when you have them bash open a door or chest.
    • "We both won't walk away from this!"
    • There are two peasants in part 1 of the original NWN who walk around in circles having the same conversation every time they bump into each other. EVERY TIME.
    • Mook Holding A Club: "AH CARVE YOU UP!"
  • In Baldur's Gate and the other Infinity engine games, certain NPCs are programmed to leave the area after conversing with the PC. This is typically done by having them walk to the nearest area transition and zone out — even if this is a locked door or somebody else's house. When there isn't an exit close enough, the NPC will simply dematerialize.
    • There was also a problem with Anomen - his battle cry is an impassioned 'For the Order!'... even if in your game, he failed his test, renounced the Order and basically blames them for everything bad that happened in his life.
      • The things people say when you click on them can have this effect too - Solaufein's generic Drow 'Do not question the Matron Mothers' was starting to sound very sarcastic by the end of that storyline.
    • Planescape: Torment (which uses the same engine) has a quest to retrieve an item from a shop the quest giver has been barred from. Because the door closest to him is said shop, he tends to walk into the shop he can't go in!
  • Final Fantasy VIII lampshaded this a couple of times. One of the more amusing involved a shopkeeper panicking about how the enemy would take over his store. He gives a moving speech about the fate of his family, and ends with a perky, '...So what will it be?'
  • The PC action-RPG Gothic had not only NPCs who would engage in such mundane activities as cooking food, eating, sleeping, and urinating, but also an entire ecosystem among the various monsters. For example, if the main character killed a mole rat, left the area, and came back, he might witness a pack of wolves devouring the carcass.
    • Plus NPC chatter that was mood-relevant and coherent. Granted, it's not that difficult to script a cryptic conversation about some unnamed NPC being in trouble for some unnamed misdeed, while the two NPCs talking are trying to distance themselves from the whole affair. It's made up from less than a dozen actual lines, repeated in random order to create a thousand possible conversations - but it works.
  • This also occurs in Mass Effect—notably, right outside of the human embassy, there is an asari walking back and forth, forth and back.
    • Enemies offer a rather more egregious example: they only have three possible lines, all of which they will repeat endlessly in combat. "Hold the line!" and "I will destroy you!" start to sound a little idiotic when they're being yelled by a lone sniper in a room full of crates.
      • "Enemies everywhere!" Uh... No. That's just three people hidden behind one crate. Gets even better if both of your squadmates are dead. Shepard is Triplicate Girl now?
      • Even more insane, they recorded those exact same lines in several different voices. Fortunately, most of the enemies in the main storyline can't speak.
      • Not even Shepard escapes this, due to the random shouts she or he will give out. This leads to... perplexing situations where Shepard will have a lengthy discussion cutscene with an opponent, only to shout out "We've been spotted!" when the actual fight starts. Shepard is also known to say "we've been spotted" while alone (as in Arrival), so who knows what s/he's thinking?
    • Everyone you can talk to (who isn't volus, elcor, or hanar) uses the same set of gestures (notably the "point at you" and "raise both hands parallel to the floor" gestures) and always walks off-screen to your left, leading with his/her head. The only unique gesture is Anderson's silly-looking "need-to-know basis" hand shaking before the first mission.
    • There was also a common problem with the background NPC chatter. In an effort to avoid Welcome to Corneria, they recorded several (generally six to eight) "stages" for each one, so a pair of characters would toss off the first four or so lines of their conversation the first time you walked by, and then the next couple when you came back, and so on. Unfortunately, if you're around unusually often, they run out and start over from the beginning. Sometimes (like the two krogan on Tuchanka who keep taunting each other), it works. Other times (like, say, the asari and salarian involved in "something that'll last") it doesn't.
  • In Marvel Ultimate Alliance, you can hear the chatter of carnival goers in the Murderworld level. Discerning listeners can make out what's being said ("You're too tall for this ride" and so on), but one must wonder where it's coming from, considering that the entire park is designed to kill you.
    • Note that it's entirely in character to have those sounds in Murderworld for the creator of the place, Arcade.
  • In Fable II, walk into a town where multiple people love you. They will ALL walk up to you and announce their intent to marry you. The game will add a caption telling you can marry someone by presenting a ring. This happens even if you're married... and your spouse is with you... and you don't have any rings to offer in the first place.
    • When you take a job, someone will comment on your performance. Sadly they only have about 5 quotes, and you do a lot of work, so it gets repetitive quickly.
  • In the roguelike IVAN, the choice of words and the topic of conversations of characters is selected at random, often for humorous purposes, eg. hunters discussing trapping wild housewives or skinning tax collectors.
  • Even playable characters in your own party aren't immune to this. Rogue Galaxy is a notorious offender via the "Active Chat" feature. As you run around, your party members will bleat out short bursts of spoken dialogue which rarely have any relevance on what's actually going on, and in the worst cases, are downright stupid/lame/just plain wrong. The absolute WORST is Jaster's oft-repeated "Hope it all goes well." Just as annoying is Lilika's stock phrase: "Be careful. I sense something strange." And then there's the crap they spew when you're standing around idle (usually because you are in a moving elevator and can't really do anything else...) You can turn this shit off, but somehow it detracts from the game's atmosphere.
  • In Jade Empire, sometimes your character will shout battlecries as they... kick open chests and drawers. "Your end is near!"
  • In Prince of Persia: Warrior Within, the Prince will let out a battlecry with every hit, which includes hitting scenery for some extra Sand.
  • In .hack//G.U., whenever you run around Root Towns or run into NPCs in areas, they have speech bubbles above their heads with random things about other people they've met, or things they need to do, or something like that. Their bubbles change whenever Haseo walks near them ranging from, "Oh, Haseo!" to, "It's the Emperor!" if you've beaten that volume's tournament, to, "Are you ready yet?" if you meet one of your party memebers.
  • Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines was pretty good about this, having NPCs not only stroll along, but also go to different locations, answer cell phone calls, and even urinate in the street. Of course, they can't actually enter another room— a woman walks down the hall to the bathroom, kicks open the door and stares warily inside for a moment, then turns and walks off again. Furthermore, on first entering Chinatown, you can even stumble upon a hooker "helping out" a policeman.
  • The relatively obscure JRPG Radiata Stories manages to avert this much the same way Majora's Mask did: every NPC in the game has a set schedule and interactions. Also, the majority of them are recruitable party members, giving you reason to stalk them.
  • The Last Story allows you to knock over baskets of onions, which then knock over the other NPCs when they step on them. Two of them border a plot-important cutscene of Zael discovering Lisa hiding in a wagon. As Zael and Lisa gaze fondly into each others's eyes, oblivious to the rest of the world, the randomly-generated passersby hurtle over with comedy 'thunk' sounds.
  • In Pokémon Black and White, in Castelia City, there are at least two streets that have several rows of NPC Clerk Trainers walking up and down the street. Various phrases from them are shown in text, like "Sorry!" "I'm hungry." "Oh, no!" et cetera. They usually all avoid the player character, although it is possible to talk to a few of them if they bump into you. All of them disappear when you enter the area with the fountain, reappear again in the last street of the city, then disappear again when you travel through the gate.
  • Many NPC townsfolk in Ultima V have an entire daily routine programmed in, with the potential for slight variation if someone (you) gets in their way. On the one hand, this means characters move around in a vaguely realistic manner; on the other hand, they're still following the exact same schedule, day in, day out, down to each individual step.

    Shooters 
  • In Call of Duty 3, Treyarch implemented the vaunted "Battle Chatter" system, in which your squad mates would shout warnings or advice to you, such as telling you where the enemy was or advising you to get behind something. Most of the time it sounded pretty natural. Occasionally your squad mates would start yelling "Use that cover for cover!"
  • The Frigate mission of Golden Eye 1997 features several hostages that must be freed. Generally, they simply run away and disappear offscreen (with the message "Hostage Escaped"). If you follow them, however, they never disappear, and you can see that they simply run aimlessly about the ship at top speed. Of course, it's probably best not to think about these guys, since there's nowhere for them to escape to anyway (the only possible way to leave the ship would be via Bond's tiny one-man motorboat, unless they wanted to try swimming it).
    • In fact, quite a few of the noncombatants in that game did odd things, from the scientists in the Facility level who would go sprinting for the bathroom once you left them alone (where, strangely enough, they would simply dematerialize without explanation) to the civilians in the Street level who would simply run around in little circles... through minefields.
    • A bug like this pops up time to time in hostage escort missions that involve multiple hostages in City of Heroes and City of Villains. If you escorted them to the door, a single hostage will exit through it just fine. But if there is more than one hostage and you try taking them to the door one at a time, you will see them exit but when you go back for the others you might suddenly find that previous hostage following you around still even though the game considers them to have been "rescued".
  • And the numerous lightgun FPS arcade games that penalized you for shooting civilians? Sure, it makes some degree of sense that a world would be populated by people other than terrorists and aliens and whatnot, but why do the civilians intentionally leap out in front of you and startle you? In places like restricted military bases and terrorist encampments?
    • Parodied by xkcd.
    • In one of these games, a civilian actually pops up and shoots you. So, of course, you shoot back. Then, after he dies and you get a penalty, you realize he was taking a picture of you and his camera flash looks exactly like the muzzle flash of the enemies' guns. It's almost like these people want to die...
    • This is justified in games where you are attempting to save people. House of the Dead, for example, has civilians being chased by zombies. You generally earn a bonus if you kill their pursuers.
  • The Enemy Chatter of the Splinter Cell games is usually well-done if its pre-scripted. It starts to break down when guards start screaming with entirely different voices when they see you, or when the Informal Eulogy draws the line "Sadono will want to hear about this," after you've been killed right in front of Sadono. In fact, it's even possible for Sadono to be the only person left alive in the room when this happens, and he'll still say the line in a generic guard's voice.
  • ARMA 2 has squaddie chatter dynamically generated out of individual words; the words are never the same inflection and oftentimes it sounds like lines are being strung together by more than one voice actor. Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising dynamically generates squaddie chatter with phrases instead, and hits a level of artificiality that just makes it sound more like realistic military chatter. There are also three different entire sets of intonations that chatter will switch to depending on context.
  • Half-Life is famous for its bizarre, probably batshit insane NPCs that could seemingly only say things that were massively inappopriate for the situation. Half-Life 2 mostly averts this by virtue of simply having them not talk most of the time, but will occasionally still provide some real gems. NPC conversations were generated by having one NPC randomly pick from the list of "generic comments" and then another NPC randomly picking from the list of "generic replies", with no relationship between the two. There were a fair amount of both initial comments and replies, and sometimes it seemed like a pretty natural conversation. Other times, you ended up with "Sometimes... I dream of cheese." "Man, if I had a nickel for every time I've heard that..."
    • Which is not helped by the relatively small size of the voice cast; a good fifty percent of the time you wind up hearing John Patrick Lowrie Talking to Himself.
    • Not to mention that during scenes in which the NPCs are apparently talking to Gordon Freeman, no matter what the player decides to have him do, they continue to talk to him as if he's standing right there. This gets rather weird or amusing when the player decides to have Gordon run around the room, check out the walls, or try to write words in the wall with bulletholes and then they're just talking about what Freeman should do next.
  • In Perfect Dark, characters will sometimes randomly hold their crotch and squat like they have to use the bathroom. After this they will go on like nothing happened.
    • While exploring Carrington Institute, random coworkers will often spout random lines when you approach them. Sometimes they will tell you that they're very busy, and then sit stock-still and stare at their desk.
  • Both friendly NPCs and enemies in Borderlands and Borderlands 2 will often patrol around, but will sometimes do more than just walk, to seem a bit more lively—guards will get lazy and sit down on railings or boxes, while civilians will pick through trash and drunkenly swap stories. It sometimes gets hilarious, such as when a large skag decides to roll on its back in the dirt...with a rider still on his saddle on its back.

    Simulation Games 
  • In Animal Crossing, characters can randomly go up and talk to each other and may end up being happy, sad, or angry afterwards (annoyingly, if they ended up sad or angry you couldn't talk to them, delaying your progress in a Fetch Quest). Starting with the Gamecube version, you can listen in on the conversations.
  • The sims in SimCity 4 often have bizarre driving habits. This normally didn't matter, but on driving missions it became annoying.
    • Somewhere in SimCity 4 is a driver's ed class teaching, "when you see an emergency vehicle, speed up and block the intersection."
      • It is a known fact that all SimCity 4 auto manufacturers install a bolt that keeps the accelerator at 50 miles an hour, no matter where the car is going.
      • In general, when an emergency vehicle goes down the road, the cars just careen out of the way on to the side walk like a giant laser beam was heading down the road.
    • Coupled with Artificial Stupidity, the Sims you can place to live in the city just have odd habits and things that make you go "why would you do that?". The most jarring show cases the problem of the default path-finding algorithm, where a Sim can't find his/her place of work... when it's across the intersection.
    • In the previous game, Sim City 3000, the freight trains would actually stop and wait for the automobile traffic.
  • The merchants in the market booths (let us never speak of them again) in Anno 1503 will loudly advertise their wares.
  • Actually done pretty decently in Rune Factory 3 - characters will frequently do or carry things related to their occupation, so it's not uncommon to see Carlos and Carmen fishing, one of the witches at their cauldron, Daria painting, or just a group of people chatting with each other. Characters will also sometimes go to the "date spots" in the dungeons, or just randomly go to the beach (with swimsuits) during summer. They even come into your house on occasion if you're friends.
  • In The Sims, non-playable sims will try to swim in your pool even if they don't know you. In The Sims 2, townies are notorious for randomly grabbing babies and trying to feed them.
    • The Sims 3 has a few odd AI quirks, depending on how far you patch and/or mod your game. One that stands out in particular is the way non-controlled Sims seem to flock to public lots if you're on them. This at least prevents, say, the city park from looking too empty. The problem comes when your nocturnal Sim decides to visit the ghosts in the graveyard, and lickity-split a businessman, a housewife, and a schoolgirl show up — at 2AM on a Tuesday. They have no reason for showing up, and proceed to mill about aimlessly until you leave, or until their schedule finally kicks in, causing them to run top-speed off the lot.
    • Even more amusing when the neighbors do something funny like take a BATH in your house or freeload in your pool. In The Sims 1, visiting sims would almost always take a dip in your pool no matter how rude it was to take a dip in the new neighbors' pool.
    • People in The Sims Medieval who are carrying swords, when they're not the active Sim, sometimes sharpen their swords, wait a few minutes, and then sharpen them again.
  • Possibly inverted with Adventure Mode in Dwarf Fortress. Wars and other historical events are simulated during world generation, but the world becomes almost completely static once you join as an adventurer.

    Space Simulator 
  • Freelancer plays this with scripted NPC dialog as well as NPC ships that just keep wandering around the systems. Notice, however, that although the NPC dialog sounds painfully artificial and scripted, the NPC ships' radio dialog does actually sounds like they have their own agenda, and also manages to make the systems and bases look like busy places bustling with activity. Sometimes you even have to wait for your turn to dock with something!
    • They even chime in with occasional little comments like "Looks like we're not the only ones headed to the [DESTINATION] system" if there are multiple ships waiting at a jumpgate.
    • Example that you'll probably hear a lot:
      "This is * pause* [STATIONNAME]. Incoming * pause* [FACTION] [CONVOYTYPE] * pause* we have you on our [scope/long range radar/scanner]. Please transmit your [ID/designation]."
      "This is * pause* [CONVOYNAME] * pause* transmitting the data now."


      "Data recieved * pause* [CONVOYNAME] * pause* Where are you headed?"
      "We hail from the * pause* [ORIGINSYSTEM] * pause* we're transporting * pause* [SUPPLIES] * pause* to the * pause* [DESTINATIONSYSTEM] * pause* ."
    • Sometimes, with certain mods, the chatter gets ... kinda scrambled, unintentionally invoking other tropes:
      "This is [CORSAIRS] [RED] [TEN] to [CORSAIRS] [RED] [TEN]. I've got your back."
  • In Wing Commander Privateer, NPC friendly and neutral ships will just aimlessly wander around a navigation point, regardless of whether or not logic would dictate that they should have a definite destination towards which they're heading.
  • The scientists and engineers wandering around the Vehicle Assembly Building and Spaceplane Hangar in Kerbal Space Program. Among other enhancements, 0.20 update added fuel tankers, apparently driven by complete lunatics. Oh, and the Spaceplane Hangar also stands out for containing a large group of Kerbals wearing high-vis vests, holding lighted batons and doing... well, it's not actually all that clear what they're doing, but it's either some sort of semaphor training or a yoga routine.

    Stealth-Based Game 
  • Guards in Dishonored frequently mumble to themselves about elixirs and the plague, or ask the other guard if they want to gather for whiskeys and cigars at night or how their sister's doing.

    Turn-Based Strategy 
  • Sometimes, the AI in the Space Empires games will send you a random message saying a predefined phrase like "We have found many rich deposits in the nearby asteroid fields". Another thing they'll say is "Your growth is astonishing!" even though you haven't grown at all and are still stuck on your home planet.
    • And the classic "Mineral planets are the best!" is repeated by all the races... even the ones with organic technology who don't rely on minerals so much! (Some mods change the speech files for the organic races so they say "Organic planets are the best!" And then there's the Space Viking custom race, which says "Beer planets are the best!")
  • Civilization V has a ton of leaders, and when talking to any of them, they will say a generic line in their own tongue with unrelated subtitles. This works well the first dozen times, until you realize each leader has about 6 different lines to introduce themselves, propose a deal, say hello in a happy or angry way, start a war and lose a war, which gets repetitive really fast - and hilarious when you understand the language.

    Wide Open Sandbox 
  • Avoided in Shenmue where each character has a predefined schedule. They start appearing around morning (with only a few drunks around early morning) they go shopping, then later they may go to bars and then later make their way home. Why they didn't react to somebody walking directly behind them all day and asking them questions like "Do you remember the day the snow turned to rain?" is another matter.
  • In Grand Theft Auto IV pedestrians would convincingly walk around with shopping bags, bags of groceries, answer their cellphone when it rang an so on, but if Niko so much as lightly brushed their arm by walking by, or they were distracted by a nearby incident such as a car hitting a pedestrian, they would drop everything they were carrying, observe for a moment then walk on. One can see how the average resident could go through several phones in a day and end up with a grocery bill in the thousands by the end of the week, not counting how many cars they need to replace or fix when Niko steals or rams them off the road.
    • In Grand Theft Auto III, the pedestrians would run screaming if someone nearby was shot; once they were a few yards away, they would resume their nonchalant strolling.
    • Also in Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, you can acquire goons for your very own gang. They all look identical and stand outside of your base swapping a few lines at random. The frequent, "So I said to myself, Mario..." earned the gang the fandom nickname The Marios.
      • "What am I gonna do about her?"
      • "Forget about her, Mario!"
    • In Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, ambulances will speed to the scene of a casualty. And we do mean "speed" — they're liable to plough straight into/through any pedestrians standing near the body (with a seemingly greater-than-chance likelihood of hitting the PC, but that might be an attempt at Laser-Guided Karma...)
    • In all incarnations of GTA, citizens will jump and dive out of the way if a car is speeding. About half the time, this means they jump off the sidewalk and into your path, causing you to run them over.
  • Numerous examples with the NPC dialog in the Saints Row series. The best: A civilian in the second game says something along the lines of "Well, the Brotherhood is done for. You going to bring Carlos back next?" while Carlos's zombified corpse beats the guy next to him with a nightstick. In the same game your character will actually 'join in'' e.g. cheerleading or use background items (weightlifting in the prison).
  • Spore has a lot of them- in creature stage you'll occasionally see other species fighting each other, but it's most visible in tribal stage- if your tribe members are just hanging out in the village not doing anything they'll often interact with each other, "saying" things (with pictures in speech bubbles), and occasionally even punching each other.
  • In Bully, sometimes you can hear citizens talk about rather strange stuff, or see a prep suddenly wander right into the autoshop and then start fighting the Greasers. Sometimes you'll see prefects completely ignore when someone gets knocked out or pushed into a trash can, and it becomes even more hilarious if you stuff a Prefect into a trash can, hide in a locker, and then come back to watch a prefect walk past their fellow prefect struggling to get out of the trash can.
    • The "Kick Me" signs have this; although it's one of the more amusing examples. The way they're programmed, just about anyone will run over and kick the student with the sign on their back. Girls and kids who don't normally attack will kick them. Heck, even the prefects and the gym teacher might go over and kick the target!
  • Mount & Blade has moments where you're allowed to enter villages and towns. There are villagers wandering around, but none of them ever do anything other than wander, and all you can talk to any of them about is the town you're in, which all of them have the exact same knowledge and opinion on. They never talk to eachother, but it sort of works as long as you're not in the villages for too long. You can also see travelling villagers moving between towns on the world map, and you can even attack them.
    • Mods can compound the silliness. For example, there is a star wars mod for the original mount and blade. Said mod adds bounty hunters to towns who will randomly attack you which works pretty well, except that nobody else on the map responds to it on the slightest. Including the guards. Even if you own that planet. It also adds bar fights, which are still very amusing as the bartender cannot jump over the bar to actually join the fight (but will keep trying) and the fact that an unarmed rodian will decide to try to take on a wookie or fully armored bounty hunter.
  • Mafia freeride shows that the only concern for the Lost Heaven Police Department is Tommy. He can anger mafia goons and use a police car as a bullet sponge. The cops wont do anything untill Tommy defends himself.

Non-Video Game Examples:

    Film 
  • In The Truman Show, Truman notices "A lady on a red bicycle, a man carrying flowers, and a car with a dented bumper... they've been going in a loop around my house."
  • In the same vein as the above, Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones has a scene in Coruscant where background traffic behind a window repeats five times over.
  • Glitches in The Matrix can cause that to happen. Notably, in the first film, Neo sees a black cat walking past, turns away, looks back and sees the same black cat walking past, making the same movements. Déjŕ vu in The Matrix usually happens when the Machines change something; therefore, when Neo mentions it, Trinity has an Oh Crap moment.
  • In lots of movies and television shows background extras just mill about not doing anything in particular, or doing only one thing in particular. This can get amusing if you pay attention to it.
    • Especially amusing for people who can read lips. In an article on soap operas, a deaf friend of the writer said that one extra on Coronation Street was telling another about his time on Eastenders. (Not that the other actor was likely to have heard it, since extras are explicitly instructed to move their lips without actually making any sound, so as to maintain the atmosphere without drowning out the plot-important dialogue.)
    • Patton Oswalt once stood completely still for several minutes appearing in a party scene on King of Queens.
  • Skyfall had a hilarious (and heavily parodied) example, where a man standing directy behind Mr. Bond had apparently forgotten how to use a broom.

    Literature 
  • The Thursday Next series mentions this occasionally as a typical glitch in the Bookworld. A normal town-setting usually only contains five different cars, one of them is bound to be a van from Spongg's Footcare.
  • In Memories Of The Future Wil Wheaton recalls a scene from Encounter at Farpoint where they're in a market. Wil and Gates McFadden thought that the audience would notice the people looping behind them background. The director patiently noted that if the audience did notice, then they weren't doing their job in the foreground.

    Web Animation 
  • RWBY has all background characters rendered as black shadows, which takes a while to get used to, to say the least. It also means that the ones that look totally weird (one shambling along like a zombie, or another in highly impractical high heels) stand out a lot more.

    Western Animation 
  • In many cartoons, especially cheaper ones, the extras are actually painted onto the background plates, so they're (a) completely motionless, and (b) probably not colored correctly. They may also be drawn in a different, often simpler, art style.
  • Background characters in Avatar: The Last Airbender are always doing something. Sometimes they're conversing with poles, but the point is they're not just standing around like lumps. This often leads to a Funny Background Event or two, like a man arguing with aforementioned pole and then apparently losing the argument, only to curl up into a fetal position.
  • Disney used Cel Shading to create the huge crowds in The Hunchback of Notre Dame. They're mostly used for wide shots in which you can't get a good look at the individual people, but sometimes you get a close enough shot to see they have simple, computerized movements.
  • The vast majority of background characters in My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic are simply copies of a small set of body styles, with mixed and matched colors, hairstyles, and cutie marks (the symbols on their flanks). This is fine until you wind up seeing several of the exact same character in the same crowd scene. Additionally, per the show's mythos, a cutie mark is supposed to be a unique, magically acquired representation of a particular pony's special talent and no two are the same; so when things like an hourglass cutie mark show up on several clearly different ponies over the course of several seasons, the immediate fan reaction is that he must be a time lord.

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