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time and space in a virtual world

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this topic may have been discussed in other threads, but not yet, in my opinion, to such a specific degree as to solve probably the largest design problem that i am facing right now. that being, in a virtual world, based on the real world, wherein the laws of science and physics operate, for the most part, as we know them to operate, how does one reconcile game time and real time? now, this question may seem vague, so, i''ll give an example which brought the problem to my attention. but first, some background information on the concept of this game as it now is... the game is set on earth, with a full map encompassing the entire globe. it is 300,000 years in the future, and after a 250,000 year hiatus, the human race is back in control of the planet, developing slowly but surely, as our own civilizations have done. as such, there are entire continents and oceans to explore, and myriad forgotten histories to reveal. the earth still revolves around the sun every 365 days, and the days are still 24 hours long, still comprised of periods of sunlight and darkness. the problem arises when considering the scale of the game world that i want to implement with the time that it would take to traverse this world. if a player starts off in a town in what used to be africa, and wants to travel to a town in what used to be asia...well..you see the dilemna. if the world is true to scale, then it would take that character weeks of gameplay to complete such a journey, and that only takes into account time spent actually playing the game. if the world is scaled down, the traveling experience will not be tedious, and such a journey could be completed in a matter of hours, but the scale would certainly suffer. geologic features like the himalayas, or the grand canyon, will be significantly less impressive than they should be. not only that, but intrapersonal echanges will be out of wack as well. right now, i cannot wrap my mind around this problem. has anyone else run into these types of problems, and if so, how did you resolve them? am i just thinking about this the wrong way (i definently could be)? this is by far the single biggest design problem that i''m facing, so any help would be greatly appreciated.

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Well, if you're striving for realism, don't forget that before more advanced forms of transportation, people couldn't just walk from Africa to Asia. If they did, it was a major ordeal, not a matter of a few hours. Maybe you should deal with that in your game.

EDIT: Maybe I should elaborate on that. Basically what I meant was to integrate the paths of travel into the story, and not just have the character jump from one town to another in your design doc and/or thoughts of the storyline. That way, you won't have to deal with the matter of game time vs real time as much .

Other ideas include inversely scaling space and time. ie - when you're playing the actual game, time flows at an "earthly" speed, however, then you can zoom out to a "world map", where the scale of space is smaller (you can see the whole world at once), but time flows much quicker. Just a few suggestions that might point you in the direction you wish to go.

[edited by - Neosmyle on August 18, 2003 8:20:30 PM]

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hmmm...two time scales isn''t bad. that''s definently something i''ll have to think about.

and of course, im aware that nobody simply walks from africa to asia. usually, such a journey requires that the player be part of a group, or have an alternate mode of transportation, and always that they dress and pack accordingly (sandals just won''t cut it when crossing the artic circle). i''ll probably include horses, and other newly evolved animals (the reason for the 250,000 year absence of civilization - a series of extra-terrestrial impacts - has greatly speeded up the evolutionary process, as species struggle to adapt), but definently nothing like a car, or train.

but because the design of this game dictates that nothing, and i mean nothing, is mandatory, the player is free to jump from town to town as he sees fit. there will be major events which have profound impacts on the player, but the player is never forced to, ya know, save the world. the player could, in fact, choose to help doom the world if he wanted. thus, any journey undertaken is done so for personal reasons, and not because the game absolutely requires it.

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So how are you going to fit all the data for an entire real size world into a home PC? Ignoring the script data needed to run the events in the world just the map data would be huge.

Then you come to the obvious issue.... what''s the point. the only way to travel around would be via some fast vehicle or a speed up function. So you have created a world that the player will never see because they have to fast forward through it to get anywhere before they die.

Dan Marchant
Obscure Productions
Game Development & Design consultant

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Well, if you think about it he doesn''t necessarily have to store really accurate data. Some nicely details contour maps would suffice for the most part, and then, given this is 300,000 years in the future, the rest could simply be randomly generated from these maps as the player explores areas and it wouldn''t be a problem since hey! it''s a long time in the future and things happen. Storing generated data might be a problem, but if you did it with predictable functions then you could generate the necessary data on the fly with no problems.

If you wanted to ensure certain things looked the right way you could probably devise a method of having hints to the random terrain generator, but otherwise I reckon such an idea could be done.

----
flying starfish

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quote:
Original post by Obscure
So how are you going to fit all the data for an entire real size world into a home PC? Ignoring the script data needed to run the events in the world just the map data would be huge.


This may not need to be on one PC, it could be a server based game where that data could be stored. That's one possibility to solve that problem. Two, to play a game of such scale, it would clearly take a very long time to play, so constructing such a vast scale planet datascheme would take a huge amount of time to code, and may be prohibitive from a practical production standpoint, unless you publish a regionally sized chunk of it at a time, or you get a lot of proggers on the payroll.

quote:

Then you come to the obvious issue.... what's the point. the only way to travel around would be via some fast vehicle or a speed up function. So you have created a world that the player will never see because they have to fast forward through it to get anywhere before they die.


Unless the world syn_apse is creating is like the one I am creating, nicknamed by Peter Molyneaux at his GDC presentation as "lifelong games" which is where I think the industry is going in majority.

With respect to the actual problem you pose, my suggestion would be that in the lifelong games of the future of this business, other behaviors upon the part of the player will be considered satisfactory in terms of gameplay satisfaction during time spent playing, and, one of them will be the traveling aspect of the quest.

Real quests in real history in real life took a long time, and that may not be so tedious or deplorable by players as you may think, if other aspects of gameplay such as resource management, or even AI entity training and enhancement, which in and of themselves may beceom remote little versions of gameplay "play perparations" necessary for the final challenge of the journey that lay ahead. Art imitating life, as it were.

In my game, while the player has to drive several hundred miles to get to the next destination, he can choose. They can cut to the next level if they want by I/O command, or choose a fast mode of transporation, or they have the option to simply enjoy the virtual world without feeling the instant gratification impulse to be playing at pitch level activity constantly, but instead are just virtually 'being' constantly, or occasionally, depending on the individual personality type of the player in the game.

From a pragmatic standpoint, I think it would be adviseable to leave the option to the player. A world that big, if well designed, just might be worth appreciating leisurely here, and played frantically there, just like life itself is.

That may just be an unexpected value. We can't say how players are going to be acting out behaviorally in lifelong games in terms of what time and effort and choice they will be investing in it, but we can say for sure it will be unlike how players in games today respond, demand and behave.

I say let the player choose if he wants to Kon Tiki to the next continent and wait three weeks by the clock to get to the next level, and have the computer screen simply render the real world as nornal time space and physics while the autopilot is set, or let the player grab a ion surfboard and get there in thrity seconds, or just cut to the chase if they want to also. In any case, the player is playing how they want to play no matter what level the challenge intensity is at. They could actually fish for AI entity fish while boating liesurely to the next continent, and be having one heck of a good time. Or, they could slow down the ion surfboard to tube a 70' deep ocean wave, then speed up again. The player determines the choice of fun, we should just design to give them options.

The best thing about your suggestion imo, is that you are thinking in terms of scale and detail of the gameworld that I believe is the future of the industry, and I am glad to see people designing on that level after me feeling like I have been the only person in the world doing it for five years. I even like the concept, there is wonderful story potential in the genre of the reverse chronology piece from the far future perspective.

Adventuredesign


[edited by - adventuredesign on August 19, 2003 6:13:04 AM]

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quote:
Original post by Obscure
So how are you going to fit all the data for an entire real size world into a home PC? Ignoring the script data needed to run the events in the world just the map data would be huge.


continous loading, of course. really, only the surface of the planet and the player''s initial surroundings will need to be loaded at startup. plus, this is a game that will, without a doubt, take years to develop and complete. by the time this becomes tangible, the next generation consoles will be out (although this is definently a PC game), and the average home PC will most likely be as or more powerful than the top-of-the-line models offered today.

quote:
Then you come to the obvious issue.... what''s the point.


a more interactive and belieavable game world, for starters.

quote:
the only way to travel around would be via some fast vehicle or a speed up function. So you have created a world that the player will never see because they have to fast forward through it to get anywhere before they die.


well, there will be magicks that the player can employ to speed up travel, or teleport. the reason that i chose meteorite impacts as the cause of the demise of our own civilizations was to introduce new and exotic elements to the planet, which could then be used for magical purposes. anyways, this tangent aside, i don''t think that this is "a world that the player will never see". the opportunity for travel is there whenever the player wants to take advantage.

but you are right that relatively, it will take a long time. i am not concerned with travel taking a long time in terms of the character''s lifespan. i am concerned with it taking a long time in terms of actual gameplay and player lifespan.


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quote:
Original post by adventuredesign
I say let the player choose if he wants to Kon Tiki to the next continent and wait three weeks by the clock to get to the next level, and have the computer screen simply render the real world as nornal time space and physics while the autopilot is set, or let the player grab a ion surfboard and get there in thrity seconds, or just cut to the chase if they want to also. In any case, the player is playing how they want to play no matter what level the challenge intensity is at. They could actually fish for AI entity fish while boating liesurely to the next continent, and be having one heck of a good time. Or, they could slow down the ion surfboard to tube a 70'' deep ocean wave, then speed up again. The player determines the choice of fun, we should just design to give them options.


this is a good suggestion, and is definently something that i have considered and will probably implement regardless, because there really is no way to determine each player''s preferences. thus, the player must choose their own preferences.

i am encouraged and a little...um...frightened that the industry is indeed headed in this direction. i am encouraged because my opinion is that the industry has stagnated as of late, and i had gotten the impression that, like with the music industry, the only real goal is to profit, and that true interactive experiences and artistic integrity were simply obstacles to those profits. i am frightened because there is always a chance that someone will take an idea very similar to one of my own, and completely screw it up. this is, after all, the reason that i started designing this game and others; because i was disappointed with what the industry was producing.

but, i like to think that i''m a fairly objective person, so i''ll take a wait-and-see approach.

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OMG. I can''t believe how many people are thinking almost exactly like me. I have had the same general idea for two years now. And I just started designing the game to incorporate this (Although I''m just prototyping at the moment).

I also thought I was currently thinking this way alone. It''s somewhat uplifting to hear others think the same way. And yes, I have also noticed that the industry is starting to move in that direction bit by bit.

I have also planned my game''s developement time to be many many years. I just want to do it as a hobby and hopefully I will get somewhere and release it as freeware some day.

I fear the day when a game similar to the one I''m designing would be released before I can do it, because it would render my work pointless (well not exactly pointless but less satisfactory for myself). Yet on the other hand, I hope this happens because then I won''t have to do it myself.

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quote:
Original post by Erkki
I fear the day when a game similar to the one I''m designing would be released before I can do it, because it would render my work pointless (well not exactly pointless but less satisfactory for myself). Yet on the other hand, I hope this happens because then I won''t have to do it myself.


Same here

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