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What do animals do that's interesting?


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#1 sunandshadow   Moderators   -  Reputation: 4652

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Posted 19 February 2011 - 05:50 PM

The other day I found my old Creatures 3 cd and installed the game, as well as some additional content from the internet. But when I went to actually play the game I was in the first few minutes struck by how utterly boring the actions of the creatures are. They eat, they babble nonsense, they sleep, occasionally they will interact with an object. I was thinking a similar thing about Sims 2 the other week - if you just stick 4 sims in a house and watch them interact, it's extremely boring. They eat, they babble nonsense, they sleep, they use the bathroom, and occasionally they will interact with an object. They don't make any progress or produce anything surprising or alter their environment. I've had a goal of creating a pet monster/farming game for a while and one of the stumbling blocks has been a lack of example of how to make virtual pets that are genuinely interesting to interact with.

So, first I decided I'm going to make a list of actions I've seen animals (or plants) do in games which are actually interesting.

- Egg or seed hatches into a surprising animal or plant. Can be expanded into two stages - baby stage where only the general type of creature or plant is visible, then at adulthood the subtype becomes visible.

- Animal or plant produces a resource used for some type of crafting. Examples: chickens produce eggs, sheep produce wool, cows produce milk, bees produce wax and honey, plants produce flowers, food crops, fibers which can be used to make cloth or rope, or in a more fantasy setting an animal or plant could dig and harvest gemstones or ore for the player. In all of these cases the action is more interesting if the outcome is not certain. For example, perhaps a cow's genetics, feed, health, or other factor might result in cows that produce milk in colors other than white, which might then have different crafting uses. Milk might be used to make paint, and the color of milk could determine the color of the paint.

- Animal participates in a competition. Combat is the most obvious thing here, but other competitions such as races, beauty contests, sheep-herding and other trained behavior competitions, are all possibilities. There's been a lack of individual animals which express a liking or aversion to participating in particular kinds of contests though.

- Animal plays with a toy, sings, dances, plays with another animal, has a non-damaging fight with another animal, or otherwise useless but possibly entertaining action. These have some potential to be interesting but most pet games tend to kill them through overuse, lack of variety, or lack of the creatures spontaneously doing the action.

Now, here are actions which real animals do which are interesting but I haven't seen in a game:

- Modifying the environment: building a nest, digging a hole or tunnel, creating a building block or ball, building a tower. I've seen game creatures randomly pick up an object and carry it to a new location, but this is usually random, and it's the emerging pattern which would make this kind of activity interesting. And again, it would only be interesting of the animals spontaneously did these things; a mole that only dug where and when you told it to would be no better than a machine. There could also be animals which spontaneously painted or otherwise decorated objects in the environment.

- Courtship: some games have animals randomly decide to mate with other animals, but I haven't seen any complex enough to have an animal decide that it wants to impress a particular other animal, and experiments with several different types of courtship activities until it succeeds or is decisively rejected? For that matter, animals that have the ability to decide on a goal and experiment with trying to achieve that goal, for any kind of goal.

- Gathering: certainly there are virtual humans that will gather berries, wood, gold, etc. Some of them will even spontaneously decide to start gathering if you leave them standing around idle. But what about a virtual crow that gathers any shiny object it sees? How about a fantasy version of a bee which, instead of gathering nectar from flowers, went around and gathered the milk from your cows and stored it in a 'cheese comb' that you could harvest?


What else have you seen a real animal do, or could you imagine a fantasy animal doing, that would be particularly interesting?

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#2 lithos   Members   -  Reputation: 413

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Posted 19 February 2011 - 06:46 PM

Ferrets we had would find objects and hide them anywhere they could, usually socks and shoes(but anything was fair game). Would also try to escape anyway they could, it was actually a lot fun watching them follow through those antics. lets see they would also just generally chase each other. They also knew each others names so you could ask a question(just used tone) and if you mentioned the name of the the other they would go find them bring them back(mostly just the larger male). Lets see the "tube" they had they would have little dominance games with it anything from not moving, changing directions, and keeping the other out last one particularly funny as depending the one trying to get in would just wander off or go in the other way to "charge forward".

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One thing I would think about is giving players the ability to play a bit as their pet. Then an AI that would record some of the most common interactions(IE: order of moves if combat, or maybe the when if combat is the thing).

#3 cpvr   Members   -  Reputation: 100

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Posted 19 February 2011 - 09:03 PM

Now, here are actions which real animals do which are interesting but I haven't seen in a game:

- Modifying the environment: building a nest, digging a hole or tunnel, creating a building block or ball, building a tower. I've seen game creatures randomly pick up an object and carry it to a new location, but this is usually random, and it's the emerging pattern which would make this kind of activity interesting. And again, it would only be interesting of the animals spontaneously did these things; a mole that only dug where and when you told it to would be no better than a machine. There could also be animals which spontaneously painted or otherwise decorated objects in the environment.

- Courtship: some games have animals randomly decide to mate with other animals, but I haven't seen any complex enough to have an animal decide that it wants to impress a particular other animal, and experiments with several different types of courtship activities until it succeeds or is decisively rejected? For that matter, animals that have the ability to decide on a goal and experiment with trying to achieve that goal, for any kind of goal.

- Gathering: certainly there are virtual humans that will gather berries, wood, gold, etc. Some of them will even spontaneously decide to start gathering if you leave them standing around idle. But what about a virtual crow that gathers any shiny object it sees? How about a fantasy version of a bee which, instead of gathering nectar from flowers, went around and gathered the milk from your cows and stored it in a 'cheese comb' that you could harvest?


What else have you seen a real animal do, or could you imagine a fantasy animal doing, that would be particularly interesting?


Those are some quality features already. Have you checked out the list of currently virtual pet sites? There's a lot of them out there - with a ton of features that can give you other ideas - like hatching eggs, breeding, etc
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#4 icarus_redux   Members   -  Reputation: 100

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Posted 21 February 2011 - 07:04 AM

hi, I have been watching a bunch of nature shows.May I suggest.

life of mammals
great migrations
blue planet

all kinds of interesting behavior.I use netflix,but whatever.

#5 ShawnCowles   Members   -  Reputation: 295

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Posted 21 February 2011 - 08:06 AM

How about exploration?

Whenever I let my cat outside the first thing she does is circle the yard sniffing everything. In a more natural setting the animal could roam over wide areas of land (or deep oceans if it's aquatic). A small enough creature (say and ant) would have a whole adventure exploring a single tree.

#6 way2lazy2care   Members   -  Reputation: 782

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Posted 21 February 2011 - 09:54 AM

One interesting thing of note is how different an animal will act vs a herd of animals.

One of the cats at my house will shy away from you a lot of the time, but when other cats are playing with you she will also be at least inspective (aware this is not a real word).

#7 lithos   Members   -  Reputation: 413

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Posted 21 February 2011 - 10:54 AM

Actually I just remembered something about Ravens. Essentially when crows are going at food, a raven will not join them untill at least 4 are at. They will literally pass up an easy meal in favor of finding something else if the initial number of crows don't come. They'll also dine without conflict for the most part.




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