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Emergence in games/Non-linearity in games

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I am investigating emergence and it’s possible implications on the design document. Emergence is a term that we are beginning to use to describe games that provide the player with a non-linear experience. Where objects in worlds have rules and behaviours that enable the player to discover their own method to solving a particular task. Think of games like Deus Ex, GTA 3 and share your views with the following questions, some of the questions are geared towards games designers or developers but feel free to contribute to the topic as a whole; 1. What genres of game do you develop? Action, Adventure, Driving, Puzzle, RPG, Simulation, Sports Other ______________________________________ 2. Which of the following concepts do you regard as most fundamental to your development ethos? (1=not at all, 5=extremely) Graphics 1 2 3 4 5 Immersion 1 2 3 4 5 Branding 1 2 3 4 5 Physics 1 2 3 4 5 Ergonomics 1 2 3 4 5 Game play 1 2 3 4 5 A.I. 1 2 3 4 5 Narrative 1 2 3 4 5 Emergence 1 2 3 4 5 3. Are the games that you create progressive or more free roaming? 4. Where do you see innovations in game design in 2/3 years? 5. Do you believe that emergence can provide the player with new game playing experiences? 6. Do you currently design games of this type? Yes/No 7. If not a factor now is emergence something that you plan to investigate in the near future? Definitely Maybe Not likely N/A 8. Do you reward a player for being creative/innovative within a game environment? Yes/No 9. Is emergence more important for a: one player or multiplayer experience. 10. What % of time/effort is devoted to game A.I.? 1-2% 2-5% 5-10% 10-20% 20%+ 11. What % of time/effort is devoted to game Physics? 1-2% 2-5% 5-10% 10-20% 20%+ 12. Do you think that emergence can be accidental or must be planned? 13. How important is the design document in creating a successful product? 14. Is emergence a factor that you currently consider in the design document? Discuss? 15. Would you like to receive a copy of the findings? Yes/No

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The big killer of "emergence" is as always the effort involved. Unless you can get that under control, nobody will pay for your project.
So unless you can make a game which creates "emergence" with an intrinsic set of rules instead of predefine possibilites you are in trouble.

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1. What genres of game do you develop?

Action, Adventure, Driving, Puzzle, RPG, Simulation, Sports
Other ______________________________________

I would describe it as an online world based on simulation aspects. In that world all kinds of simulations can be present such as for example: driving a car, flying a plan, setting up a succesfull business, being a politician, etc...

2. Which of the following concepts do you regard as most fundamental to your development ethos?

(1=not at all, 5=extremely)
Graphics 4
Immersion 5
Branding 5
Physics 4
Ergonomics 4
Game play 5
A.I. 1 (not really necesary in multiplayer world)
Narrative 1 (if possible I would give it a 0 )
Emergence 4


3. Are the games that you create progressive or more free roaming?

The two gaming styles are possible. You can concenntrate on success, you can concentrate on play, like playing with a toy.

4. Where do you see innovations in game design in 2/3 years?

Online worlds will allow for much more player created content such as houses, tools, organizations, etc... This together with more appealing visuals and easy voice communication will attract the real ''mass'' audience. In 2 to 3 years the start will be given. So I guess by then you will have about 4 million people in the West playing these online worlds but this number will rise a lot in the years to follow. It will also be clear by then that massive online worlds have a much bigger future then single player games (though they have a future too).

5. Do you believe that emergence can provide the player with new game playing experiences?

Sure, when you create systems and elements to play with into your world players can come up with new combinations not foreseen by the gamedesigner. The art is to create environments that allow emergence to emerge!

6. Do you currently design games of this type?

Yes

7. If not a factor now is emergence something that you plan to investigate in the near future?

N/A

8. Do you reward a player for being creative/innovative within a game environment?

Not enoguh yet. I think you need lots of elements in your game in order to allow emergence to exist.

9. Is emergence more important for a: one player or
multiplayer experience.

Both, but multiplayer will have more appeal because it allows for emergence on the level of organizations among people. For instance players that set up governements in their persistent online world.

10. What % of time/effort is devoted to game A.I.?

Nothing yet as I feel I do not need any ai driven creatures or people in my world.

11. What % of time/effort is devoted to game Physics?

5-10% As physical action is quite important in my world.

12. Do you think that emergence can be accidental or must be planned?

I think it must be controled. It can never be fully planned as their are always new things popping up as the combinations of all elements is just to big to test. If some unwanted situation emerges, the worldrules or world situation must be adapted through a god like intervention in order to let the world work in the way you want it to work.

13. How important is the design document in creating a successful product?

The design document might be not that important but the design talent is important. If you do not have it you will come out with at best a mediocre game, never a truly innovative game.

14. Is emergence a factor that you currently consider in the design document? Discuss?

Yes, I want an environment where players can create all kind of original things. Therefore I give them a sort of lego like building bloks. (actually clouds where they live upon and can transform the way they like). I also want players to organize themselves in groups. I want to see leaders emerge. I want to see different specialized roles emerge. I do this by creating an environment that has some in depth simulations that ask for real qualities that not all players will have. (for instance, they need food, but food is not easy to get, you have to know something about all the fruits that grow there, which are healthy and which are not, or fighting is also something that not all players will be equaly good at, therefore groups will do good to split up roles.)

15. Would you like to receive a copy of the findings?

Yes, I would love to. I would even love to get in contact with you before the results as I find your question very interesting. I wonder what your ideas about this are.

Warm Regards,
MarcDM


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Personally I think emergence is the way to go in interactive entertainment. Scripting is cool, but with complex worlds it''s not really practical and it of course limits your freedom. One of my favorite games in a long time was Morrowind, which is also very emergent. Look at some of the top selling games in recent history (The Sims, GTA3), they''re all based on emergent designs. A good emergent design is definitely hard to do, but emergence leads to better gameplay.

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1. What genres of game do you develop?

Action, Simulation, Strategy

2. Which of the following concepts do you regard as most fundamental to your development ethos?

(1=not at all, 5=extremely)
Graphics 3

Immersion 5

Branding 2

Physics 5 (the game must "feel" right to the player/be realistic as game demands it)

Ergonomics 5 (is this a "feel" question?)

Game play 5

A.I. 5

Narrative 3

Emergence 5

3. Are the games that you create progressive or more free roaming?

The games I love and spend the most time in allow for free roaming to at least some extent (Civ, Alpha Centauri, GTA). Therefore, I design for free roaming (in addition to levels/scenarios and I try to offer at least some freedom in levels/scenarios).

4. Where do you see innovations in game design in 2/3 years?

The Sims/Rollercoaster Tycoon is an excellent example of designing for the mass market. Designing specifically for a given market segment, quite narrow designs, will move to the forefront of top-selling games.

Free-form games and moddable games will have a huge following- it may not be a design issue but a technical one (Half-Life+its mods), but in some games it can be (Morrowind, Freedon Force). Designing gameplay to allow for user-creations will be a science, or at least researched.

5. Do you believe that emergence can provide the player with new game playing experiences?

Yes. Anyone that has sniped pedestrians from a boat in GTA3 knows the joys of watching cop cars drive and cops simply leap into the ocean as the run after you... as simple as the police AI is (its Doom-style: Run/drive towards player; kill player). The complex game situations that this creates must surely be defined as emmergent.

6. Do you currently design games of this type? Yes/No

Yes

7. If not a factor now is emergence something that you plan to investigate in the near future?

N/A

8. Do you reward a player for being creative/innovative within a game environment? Yes

9. Emmergence is more important for single player, where other human beings cannot be possibly countedon for providing the interest to continue playing.

10. What % of time/effort is devoted to game A.I.?

20%+

11. What % of time/effort is devoted to game Physics?

20%+

12. Do you think that emergence can be accidental or must be planned? Planned.

13. How important is the design document in creating a successful product? Quite...l emergence is quite difficult to plan (speaking from expereince with an emmergence-based AI I just got working).

14. Is emergence a factor that you currently consider in the design document? Yes

Emmergence of complex behaviour from simple rules must be considered from second one of a technical design doc, and from day one of a game design doc. Emmergence only works with carefully designed systems... generating interesting behaviours requires balancing on a mathematical pinhead. See variants of John Conway''s famous "Game of Life" for a good example of what I am talking about here.

15. Would you like to receive a copy of the findings? Yes please!

-Steven Rokiski

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