...From the start I've never suggested giving mobs anything more than very limited AI algorithms. To be honest, I don't care about monster backstories or backgrounds at all. Rather, I care about monster objectives. That's what I mean by giving monster's "motives." Give them objectives that they are trying to fullfill and allow the player under certain circumstances to see those goals so that they can come up with strategies to work around/with them...
Raph Koster tried to do this with UO, with his dynamic ecology resource system Part 1
(it's somewhat long, and there's 3 parts, but very interesting if one is into this stuff).
He tried to put "abstracted properties onto objects", such as a tree is made of wood that regrows. Objects could have properties such as production (trees produce wood that regrows), food (rabbit eats grass/etc.), shelter (trolls seek caves for a home), and desires (dragons desire gold, magic, meat; wolves desire meat and being pack animals desire other wolves).
The properties define behaviors -- rabbits seek out grass, wolves seek other wolves and hunt meat, dragons seek treasure and meat.
Part 1 ends with: "I’ll post later about how this was supposed to work in terms of AI behaviors, the way the world populated its data, and why it all didn’t work."
The (in)famous dragon example:
"The “virtual ecology,” as Starr Long, the game’s associate producer calls it, affects nearly every aspect of the game world, from the very small to the very large. If the rabbit population suddenly drops (because some gung-ho adventurer was trying out his new mace) then wolves may have to find different food sources – say, deer. When the deer population drops as a result, the local dragon, unable to find the food he’s accustomed to, may head into a local village and attack. Since all of this happens automatically, it generates numerous adventure possibilities."
"Most of this is actually fairly straightforward, in terms of AI implementation. The basic AI behavior of a creature was
- If I’m hungry, search for items that produce stuff on my FOOD list, and attack or eat them. Wander as far as needed to accomplish this.
- If I am not hungry, then start looking for a home base. If I already have one, then go there. If I get hungry while doing this, go back to hunting for food.
- If I am sheltered and not hungry, then look around for stuff that I just like. If I can pick it up, bring it to my shelter. If not, just hang around there — until I get hungry."
-"The problem was that the constant radial searches were incredibly expensive, and so was all the pathfinding."
-hoarding of resources (such as furs) prevented respawning (there were 'banks' of resources -- limits on how many existed)
Part 3 talks about uses (quests, transmuting) and more problems.
Applying this to Elemental:
-quests. For the rat quest, maybe rats desire grain, as do farmers. Rat population increases because its grain desire is met, reducing farmer's grain. Farmer now has unmet desire, so now has new desire to have this impediment removed. Farmer seeks adventurers to fulfill this new desire, and if successful, farmer loses new desire and rewards adventurers. Rat population has been reduced and unless something is done (give farmer cats or rat traps?) the rat population slowly increases and...
-Champions. Champion's desires may include loot, combat, fame, etc. They'll seek out these things, so... etc. etc. etc.
All this gives motives to the actions we see ingame, and makes it dynamic instead of just scripted. It allows the player to have more of an effect than just ticking off a list of static scripts. No need for "...monster backstories or backgrounds at all."