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Bad blood and how to deal with it


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#1 Heath   Members   -  Reputation: 344

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Posted 09 October 2012 - 08:55 PM

I want to make a game where the player builds up, rather than tears down. You, the player, are in charge of leading a team of NPCs which is unfortunately stricken with some bad blood. It isn't any kind of fantasy setting, but rather you are given a group of human beings who have to work together. There is basically an "elephant in the room", some cancer to the group as a whole that is causing division, and you have some ground control to do. All you should really need to do is get the teammates to get over themselves and work together, but that might be either not enough, or not appropriate for the situation.

Setting. Over the weekend, I was driving a dump truck for a construction project. That was my first time driving a dump truck, using the PTO, etc. It was awesome! :) I think this game could work in a school project kind of setting, but the idea of a construction site is a little promising. If things really come to blows on a construction site, someone can be badly hurt. You don't want that. And plus, the player can have something to show for his hard work as the team is visibly accomplishing something on-screen.

Display and Input. Simple 2D graphics are fine. I have never been interested much in 3D, and I tend to use computers with some on-board graphics chip. All I need is 2D. :) As to how information is displayed on the screen, I just imagine a scrolling game where the player literally controls an avatar that he moves around the construction site. When you're working, you're all over the place. You're not just in one location the entire day. So, imagine the player has to run around to everybody and supervise how they're doing, ask how they're doing, and also give them some command.

The important thing to remember is that these are people, and when people work together, a lot of personal tension can evaporate if the right attitudes are shown. Former enemies can become friends. Egotism, on the other hand, is the pig-headed antagonist of the entire game. If you can get your teammates to forgive and apologize and work together, you can you build up your team, repair some damage, and actually get a winning team on the construction site.

Another idea is that, while the game is mostly single-player, it should allow for multiple players, too. What if you had an actual friend helping you lead the team, maybe as an assistant or a partner? The game should work just as well, but this might not be necessary.

What do you think? :) My wife says it sounds like the Sims in a way... That's not what I'm going for, but if it works, it works.

edit: Changed the title of the thread, because I hated it.

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#2 Servant of the Lord   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 18117

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Posted 09 October 2012 - 10:41 PM

Interesting idea - Do the NPCs already have pre-existing relationships before the game begins? Bob and Joe are friends, Charlie doesn't like Joe, everybody hates the manager?

What about having to deal with the emotions of distraught NPCs immediately after a disaster? What comes to mind is the Chilean Mining Disaster a few years back, where supposedly the mental health of the miners, as led by the mining foreman, played a important part of their survival.

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#3 Waterlimon   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 2433

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Posted 10 October 2012 - 06:24 AM

A construction site would also offer many good ways of getting rid of the bad blood Posted Image

o3o


#4 Telcontar   Members   -  Reputation: 884

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Posted 10 October 2012 - 10:01 AM

The first thought I have is that, for this to be a "game" and not an educational simulation, you need a primary mechanic and a goal. If we run with the construction site thing, that gives us the goal - complete the building. It also gives us subgoals in the various jobs that need to be done, which is great.

Primary mechanic? Organizing your construction teams for maximum efficiency. Certain people don't work well around other certain people. Sometimes they rub each other the wrong way. Sometimes pairing up two slackers encourages them to slack off even more. Sometimes their combined experience isn't enough for the task at hand, etc etc etc.

The trick is to balance the information you give the player with the information you withold, I think. Unless you want to completely simulate human emotional behavior, you need to heavily abstract it. That might lead to altogether too much predictabilty, though, unless you get that initial balance correct. My thoughts? "Professional" information should be given: Skills with various tools and tasks, experience and work ethic, etc. "Personal" information is hidden though, and heavily affects how a person works within a team. Thus the job of the player (manager) is to suss out enough of a person's hidden personal characteristics to put them in the best group possible, and THEN balance the combinations of people and groups to make an effective set of teams.

At least, that's the first idea I came up with. Modeling that personal behavior in ways that is at once believable and unpredictable (more problems come out under the stress of close deadlines, for instance, so problems that might not have shown up before suddenly appear) is the meat of the game and needs to be nailed.

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#5 DaveTroyer   Members   -  Reputation: 1052

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Posted 10 October 2012 - 10:52 AM

I really like the idea of a construction site! Modern settings have a special place in my heart. Posted Image

Like Telcontar said, I feel that having the player discover or some how figure out the workers traits would be a good way of managing them, even if it is just trying to glean those traits based off their interactions. Having each worker have something like a name card that you can check off what traits you think they have. Like Joe could be moody and Max is an extrovert, making the chance of them fighting a bit higher than if either was paired with the introvert slacker Mike.

Then, having their traits unknown at first but giving a list of possible traits for each worker will help the player feel less lost in the process and once they master the system, they will know exactly why. It'll give them confidence and satisfaction from playing the game, which is pretty dang cool.

If the workers have random personality traits that work well with some while completely clashing with others, you probably wouldn't need to have pre-determined relationships since those relationships will appear based on how their traits mesh. An angry, alpha workaholic being paired with 2 passive workaholics could get along great but 2 alphas together and you have a mess to clean up.

My only other thought is finding ways to force the workers to work together. If there are enough things to work on, then they could just be separated and won't need to interact. If you make it so some tasks can't be completed without 3 or more workers and tasks are dependent on one another, then you have a pretty simple system that has a high chance of chaos going that I think would be a really fun resource management game.

Just my thoughts, but now get to work! I wanna play it. Posted Image

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#6 Heath   Members   -  Reputation: 344

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Posted 10 October 2012 - 08:42 PM

Interesting idea - Do the NPCs already have pre-existing relationships before the game begins? Bob and Joe are friends, Charlie doesn't like Joe, everybody hates the manager?

That's what I was thinking, but something about that may have to be randomized so that it's not the same puzzle every time.

What about having to deal with the emotions of distraught NPCs immediately after a disaster? What comes to mind is the Chilean Mining Disaster a few years back, where supposedly the mental health of the miners, as led by the mining foreman, played a important part of their survival.

Great idea! Maybe each level is a different scenario? New guys come in, Charlie's girlfriend left him for the company pencil pusher, etc. :P

A construction site would also offer many good ways of getting rid of the bad blood Posted Image

Chris Crawford's game Balance of Power would end with a black screen if you brought the world to nuclear war, and some text would say, "No, there is no animated mushroom cloud with parts of bodies everywhere. We do not reward failure." So, if your team ends up killing each other, I think it's game over.

The first thought I have is that, for this to be a "game" and not an educational simulation, you need a primary mechanic and a goal. If we run with the construction site thing, that gives us the goal - complete the building. It also gives us subgoals in the various jobs that need to be done, which is great.

The good news is that my goal is not to make a construction site simulator. I wouldn't even be the right person to do that. The goal is to have the player lead a team to accomplish some visible task, and efficiently mete out some problems in the group.

Primary mechanic? Organizing your construction teams for maximum efficiency. Certain people don't work well around other certain people.

And talking to them, too.

Sometimes they rub each other the wrong way. Sometimes pairing up two slackers encourages them to slack off even more. Sometimes their combined experience isn't enough for the task at hand, etc etc etc.

The trick is to balance the information you give the player with the information you withold, I think. Unless you want to completely simulate human emotional behavior, you need to heavily abstract it. That might lead to altogether too much predictabilty, though, unless you get that initial balance correct. My thoughts? "Professional" information should be given: Skills with various tools and tasks, experience and work ethic, etc. "Personal" information is hidden though, and heavily affects how a person works within a team. Thus the job of the player (manager) is to suss out enough of a person's hidden personal characteristics to put them in the best group possible, and THEN balance the combinations of people and groups to make an effective set of teams.

Interesting. But I wonder if the construction goal will start to override the goal of managing people. Play-testing is a must. I'm not interested in modeling the human psyche, either, so there will be a lot of abstraction to keep things simple.

At least, that's the first idea I came up with. Modeling that personal behavior in ways that is at once believable and unpredictable (more problems come out under the stress of close deadlines, for instance, so problems that might not have shown up before suddenly appear) is the meat of the game and needs to be nailed.

I agree. Thank you! :)

I really like the idea of a construction site! Modern settings have a special place in my heart. Posted Image

I was really worried about that when I posted this. :) I don't want fantasy, I want to do something a lot more grounded, so it's great to see some interest there!

Like Telcontar said, I feel that having the player discover or some how figure out the workers traits would be a good way of managing them, even if it is just trying to glean those traits based off their interactions. Having each worker have something like a name card that you can check off what traits you think they have. Like Joe could be moody and Max is an extrovert, making the chance of them fighting a bit higher than if either was paired with the introvert slacker Mike.

Then, having their traits unknown at first but giving a list of possible traits for each worker will help the player feel less lost in the process and once they master the system, they will know exactly why. It'll give them confidence and satisfaction from playing the game, which is pretty dang cool.

If the workers have random personality traits that work well with some while completely clashing with others, you probably wouldn't need to have pre-determined relationships since those relationships will appear based on how their traits mesh. An angry, alpha workaholic being paired with 2 passive workaholics could get along great but 2 alphas together and you have a mess to clean up.

I think that makes a lot of sense. :) I'd imagine this information can be play-tested a little bit as a kind of card game or board game, too. Not really any construction, of course, but you could have players role-play a little bit. Each player who plays a worker takes a "skill card" and also a "personality card". The final player is the boss, the player in the computer game, and he gets a copy of each player's "skill card" and goes about managing his team. Maybe have a board to show where each player is on the site, as well.

My only other thought is finding ways to force the workers to work together. If there are enough things to work on, then they could just be separated and won't need to interact. If you make it so some tasks can't be completed without 3 or more workers and tasks are dependent on one another, then you have a pretty simple system that has a high chance of chaos going that I think would be a really fun resource management game.

Put the pressure on to get the results you want. :)

Just my thoughts, but now get to work! I wanna play it. Posted Image

Right on!

#7 sunandshadow   Moderators   -  Reputation: 4687

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Posted 11 October 2012 - 06:15 AM

I've enjoyed building-up games where you control a group of people who have just been marooned somewhere, and basically have to build themselves a new civilization from scratch. This kind of setting can spawn lots of inter-personal conflict, as shown in stories ranging from Gilligan's Island to The Lord of the Flies. Similarly, you might be an animal or an alien who has to establish a new colony and protect and feed a crop of babies of your species as they are growing up -- perhaps they are inclined to argue with each other or ignore some of your orders and go off on their own tangents. Or instead of creating something new, it can be satisfying to clean up and restore ruins that have been overrun with weeds - this kind of this seems easier to implement since the building-up is not freeform.

One game design I came up with several years ago has a crew of several people stuck on a space station that was falling into a sun over a period of about three months. The player's job was mainly to keep the other characters from going axecrazy or suicidal in this doomed situation. Or you could deliberately make things worse if you wanted to see everything explode. Good scores allowed you to restart with an advantage, and if you started with an advantage it became possible to actually save everyone. This was intended to be a 2D adventure game with dating sim elements.

Edited by sunandshadow, 11 October 2012 - 06:16 AM.

Phone game idea available free to someone who will develop it (Alphadoku game - the only existing phone game of this type is both for windows phone only and awful. PM for details.)


I want to help design a "sandpark" MMO. Optional interactive story with quests and deeply characterized NPCs, plus sandbox elements like player-craftable housing and lots of other crafting. If you are starting a design of this type, please PM me. I also love pet-breeding games.


#8 wodinoneeye   Members   -  Reputation: 721

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Posted 12 October 2012 - 07:25 PM

.

How complicated is the social interaction model (factors and reactionsm possible)??

How complicated is the situational factor model (the things the NPCs will react to)?

How how do they all add up for decisions of how the NPCs act in different situations ???

What are YOU (player) allowed to do (actions/adjustments) to moderate the NPCs and/or the Situation ?

You have to work out all the "carrot and stick" actions (incentives and dis-incentives) that can be done by the player and whatever other actions the player can make happen (like simply seperating conflicting personalities so they dont interact).

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Unfortunately any system of complexity (like human relations) gets VERY complicated very fast (combinatorics and lots of end-cases) so you will have to pare it down to be workable, but still allow some effects of the NPC interactions and player interventions which is the point of the system.

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You might start (as a test example) defining 3 personality factors, three situational factors and 3 interventions actions useable by the player -- to see how fast the complexity explodes (say if you add a fourth to each of the above).

That is small enough that you can use tables to compose the calculations/decisions/effects (the table cells still might be equations and if-then logic for each -- but that migh give clues to how such a system could be generalized (like to a state machine or decision trees).


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Reading this stuff has me considering programming methods for a long term project of -MMORPG NPC behavior -- how to make them a LITTLE more independantly active (so that they look like they are doing something logical - instead of standing around like mannekins) and for a Team of NPCs the player controls (alot more complex if they are to cooperate on 'missions')

The first is similar to the OPs problem -- using differences to get somewhat different behaviors thru interactions of NPCs in different local situations -- simple is good enough, as its for background activity (filler) for the players game experience.

The mission Team-work is magnitudes more difficult (if the NPCs can do most of the the actions a player could) and the player isnt really supposed to micro-manage everything they do. Even assuming everyone (group of NPCs) is cooperating, the interaction (personality) factors may just be varying NPC skill levels for different tasks/actions which the player has to manage by assigning NPCs appropriate tasks (to get things done efficiently).

A related system would be for the opponent NPCs (enemies) to vary their behavior and to coordinate cooperative behaviors for them.

Edited by wodinoneeye, 12 October 2012 - 07:53 PM.

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#9 Heath   Members   -  Reputation: 344

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Posted 12 October 2012 - 11:57 PM

Or instead of creating something new, it can be satisfying to clean up and restore ruins that have been overrun with weeds - this kind of this seems easier to implement since the building-up is not freeform.

I agree with that. :) Seems like any scenario in this project would require something more than a clean slate so the player has something to work with.

You might start (as a test example) defining 3 personality factors, three situational factors and 3 interventions actions useable by the player -- to see how fast the complexity explodes (say if you add a fourth to each of the above).

That is small enough that you can use tables to compose the calculations/decisions/effect (the table cells still might be equations and if-then logic for each -- but that migh give clues to how such a system could be generalized (like to a state machine or decision trees).

That's a practical start. :) Thank you.




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