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Numsgil

Interacting with Randomly Created Sentients

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For my game, I want to have various species of aliens, which are randomly created from various sentient aspects and personality types. Humans would be something like: social, commercial, combative, curious... you get the idea. I haven't pieced together the specifics. The various personalities would affect how you would communicate with a species. A highly aggressive species might require a certain finess with bravado, while a rational species might disdain any excessive show of emotion, violent or otherwise. Then, created from the list of sentient traits and a certain random factor are created a list of taboos, customs, etc. Nothing too fancy, I don't think I have the expertise to code something too complex. Just enough so that the species have a kind of flavor. Now the question. In my game, I have Xenopsychologists, which can examine newly discovered sentient species, and discover the various personality traits and taboos/customs. Should: 1. The Xenopsychologists just report their findings to the player "behind the scene", so that the player doesn't have to read a generated report of the species. From then on the player's dealings with the species have an increased chance in liklihood of success. 2. The game produces an actual report for the player to read, which lists their findings. When the player interacts with a species, he/she must be careful not to trespass on taboos, while communicating effectively via the local customs. For instance, maybe a species views eating in the same way we view sex. If you ask them to a formal dinner, they would take great offense and declare war (or eat you. Whichever ;) Type one means that the player doesn't have to deal with the details, so he can visit and explore more rapidly. This would reduce the repetitive fatigue. Type two means that the player has to read through a (summarized of course) report on every new species he encounters. Then he has to take into consideration that report with his dealings with the aliens. I imagine the Interaction with the aliens in this type wouldn't be the "propose alliance", etc. of empire builder games, but closer to the RPG NPC interaction, where you choose responses and questions from a list. Type two could certainly make the game much more immersive. It also obviously slows down the gameplay, although it isn't an action driven game to begin with. It's certainly in keeping with a more exploratory style. But a certain amount of fatigue might eventually appear, especially near the mid to end game, where the player doesn't care about learning about each new race he/she finds. I was thinking perhaps you could hire some professional diplomats later in the game, which will take the burden from you, though at a slightly lower success rate than you have. Another disadvantage I see is that all interactions must be finite to allow them to make sense (ie: listed in a file somewhere), and there is likewise a finite list of customs and taboos (also in a list). Obviously, with parts being matched together, the number of possibilities is still large. The customs/taboos would have to make sense with the creature too. Beings which don't eat probably wouldn't be offended by an invitation to dinner. But after a while, the player may feel like: "been there, done that". But a system like this certainly increases the interactivity of the world dramatically. Also, conflicting personalities within the race could arise to some interesting combinations. Social and Violent together would create a kind of ritualized commonplace combat. Customs might include gruesome deathcage dueling, and offending a leader would mean going to the deathcage. Obviously, a good personality->taboos & customs generator is essential. I don't know how hard such a system would be to code. I don't imagine too hard, as I'd have the personalities point to several customs and taboos from the list, with an added random factor. Then wherever the personalities overlapped would form a custom or taboo. What do you think? I think the hire a professional negotiater later in the game option is a good one, as it lets the player be as in depth as he/she wished, but I'd need to balance it so that the player feels he still needs to take control of some of the delicate negotiations, even in the end game, while not making it so repetitive that the player is bored. [Edited by - Numsgil on August 3, 2004 4:28:08 AM]

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a third way would be to have the report available if the player wants to read it, but also have hints (based on the xenopsychologist's findings) during interaction with those species. for example, when speaking with the leader of one of the cultures, and one choice is to offer to discuss the matters over dinner, the option will be highlighted with a note that reads: "According to Dr. Whotsit, this species does not eat" or "Your xenopsychologist recommends against mentioning food, as it is considered taboo in this culture." if, of course, your guys are good enough at their job to have discovered this. perhaps there could even be a "possible" hint, i.e. "Civilian Psychologist Whotsit suggests that this topic may have connotations that we have not yet discovered."

that's be cool.

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Original post by krez
a third way would be to have the report available if the player wants to read it, but also have hints (based on the xenopsychologist's findings) during interaction with those species.


Yes, I thought about this too, but worried that these kinds of tooltips might make it feel like the player's without strategy, that is, that he's being told what to do. Perhaps only make these kinds of tips appear at an easier setting? Or have them lower in usefullness as the difficulty setting rises?

I don't tend to like these kinds of popup help hints in games, but if others enjoy them, I should include them as optional within the game.

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Guest Anonymous Poster
Not to seem too cynical, but ... You want players to guess at randomly generated values without any hints to whether their choice might be a good one or a bad one?

It's like "guess the number" without the thrill of having actual numbers.

I'd suggest veiled hints, in one form or another. Krez is dead on with his suggestions.

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Original post by Anonymous Poster
Not to seem too cynical, but ... You want players to guess at randomly generated values without any hints to whether their choice might be a good one or a bad one?


I'm not sure if you read through my first post entirely. I would never ask the player to guess at something that can't be found out in game.

As your Xenopsychologists work, you become more certain of the sentient's characteristics. To use your "guess the number" example, as your Xenopsychologists work, the range of the number drops. (say from 1 to 10 to 3 to 6, to 5 when you become truely certain).

What is more at issue is how this increased certainty of a sentient's aspects should be presented to the player. If it's put into a report that the player reads, then he must remember these aspects during a dialogue with the aliens. Perhaps the report is available even while you are talking with teh aliens.

Krez's suggestion is to have tool tips pop up at relevant times. This makes it easier for the game to disseminate information to the player, while keeping the interactive dialogue model, but IMO may decrease the problem solving nature of the dialogue. Kind of an in-game puzzle with hints on the solution popping up.

Therefore, I'm not sure that your criticism is ligitimate. But perhaps I misunderstand your point? If so, I apologize.

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I think AP is referring to your dislike of tooltips.
What you're suggesting is, make the report, but don't allow players to see it when they actually need it?
Or allow them to see the entire report during conversation?

If the former, then it does become a "guess the number" game, which is stupid. If you have the report, then you should be able to access it when you actually need it, instead of memorizing it, or scribbling it down on a piece of paper.

If you're going to let players access the report during conversations, then there's really no big difference from the tooltips.
The only difference is that with the former, a player might have to browse through 5 pages of text to find the one comment that's relevant. With a tooltip, you just see that relevant comment, without the rest of the text.

Of course, the tips could be very vague, and maybe a good player could get a feel for what he should say, so he can spot when the tooltip xenopsychologists are wrong.

I dont think your game difficulty should rely on forcing players to memorize information, or the willingness to read through an entire 5 page report rather than just being told what the relevant parts are. If thats how you make high difficulty games tougher, then I'm going to stick to easy, thank you :)

Whether you allow the player to see the entire report, or just the relevant parts (as tooltips) during conversation doesn't make any big difference as far as I can see. The relevant information is available to the player in both cases. The only question is whether the irrelevant info should be shown as well.

Sounds like a cool idea though. What kind of game is it for?

Oh, and I dont really like the "behind the scenes" option. That would turn the system into the same bland diplomacy you find in all other games. I think you're on to something interesting here, no point in hiding it from the player :)

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Quote:
Original post by Spoonster
I think AP is referring to your dislike of tooltips.
What you're suggesting is, make the report, but don't allow players to see it when they actually need it?
Or allow them to see the entire report during conversation?

Ah, thanx for the clarification ;) I was thinking originally that the report wouldn't be made available to the player during the conversation, but that seems silly to me now. I see no reason why the report can't be made available mid conversation. Nothing's worse than having to create a written log when you're playing a game.

Quote:

If you're going to let players access the report during conversations, then there's really no big difference from the tooltips.


The difference, as I see it, is that tooltips tell you specifically A -> B , whereas with a report to read, you more have a large pool of A, and a pool of actions B, and you have to provide the impetus to connect A -> B and A -> ~B .

Quote:

The only difference is that with the former, a player might have to browse through 5 pages of text to find the one comment that's relevant. With a tooltip, you just see that relevant comment, without the rest of the text.


I was thinking the 'report' would really be more of a memo. An example would be something like:
Quote:

Sir,

We have discovered the following about the "Relannians":

They are Social, Violent, Creative, and Rational.

They have taboos against mentioning violence, and will respond unfavorably if provoked. This has resulted from suppression of their violent natures in response to their rationality.

They have a custom of reciting epic stories during formal gatherings. They view the disruption of these stories as a great tresspass. This custom arose from a combination of their Social and Creative natures.

There is an unknwon taboo or custom which seems to relate with their Social and Rational natures. We think it relates in some way to death and personal loss. We recommend steering the conversation away from death and personal loss until we discover the nature of this taboo or custom.

Respectfully Yours,
Milano Cookee
Head Xenopsychologist


Not long indeed. And the important points would be color coded and hyperlinked. So you could click on 'Rational' to see what its effects on a sentient are.

I imagine taboos arise when one characteristic suppresses another, while customs arise when two work together.

Our taboo against sex might be a result of our social nature and our family structure of raising children.

I was thinking about having the characteristics apply to one of the three aspects of personality as defined by Freud:

Id - Characteristics here are the basest and most instinctual. They would include violent, social, etc. If they are not suppressed, they color the whole sentient's conciousness.

Superego - The constraints of society. Characteristics here which conflict with Id create taboos. Where they work together, it creates the more universal customs.

Ego - This is where Rational, etc. characteristics go. Where these conflict with another level, taboos arise. Where they coincide, customs arise.

Thoughts?

Quote:

I dont think your game difficulty should rely on forcing players to memorize information, or the willingness to read through an entire 5 page report rather than just being told what the relevant parts are. If thats how you make high difficulty games tougher, then I'm going to stick to easy, thank you :)


Thanks for the feedback. I'll definately have a tooltip option available to the player, which they can toggle based on personal preference.

Quote:

Whether you allow the player to see the entire report, or just the relevant parts (as tooltips) during conversation doesn't make any big difference as far as I can see.


I think you're right that such tips are very close to anavailable report. I don't think it would unbalance the game too much for them to be available.

Quote:

Sounds like a cool idea though. What kind of game is it for?


Thanks. I'm aiming at a kind of game that doesn't really exist anymore. I'm hoping to make it a cross between Noctis and Seven Cities of Gold. It's emphasis [is/will be] on exploration on behalf of Earth, although you represent Earth in all meetings with ET's, so you can form treaties on behalf of Earth too, which is where this idea comes into play. Neat ideas come up as I work on it, and seem to be well recieved, so I'll trust my gut from now on I think :P

Quote:

Oh, and I dont really like the "behind the scenes" option. That would turn the system into the same bland diplomacy you find in all other games. I think you're on to something interesting here, no point in hiding it from the player :)


Thank's for the feedback. My initial impression was similar, but I am somewhat afraid of boring the player with this kind of information if they don't care. But I guess in the end, I have to identify my audience and decide what they would like. The behind-the-scenes option would work better in an action driven game, which this certainly isn't.

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Quote:
Original post by Numsgil
The difference, as I see it, is that tooltips tell you specifically A -> B , whereas with a report to read, you more have a large pool of A, and a pool of actions B, and you have to provide the impetus to connect A -> B and A -> ~B .

Why? Why not have the tooltips basically be snippets from the report? They don't have to be any more informative or accurate than the report itself. I'd say they should be more like the relevant parts of the report, and nothing more. Of course they shouldn't tell you what to do, guaranteed.
[quote]
I was thinking the 'report' would really be more of a memo. An example would be something like:
Quote:

Sir,

We have discovered the following about the "Relannians":

They are Social, Violent, Creative, and Rational.

They have taboos against mentioning violence, and will respond unfavorably if provoked. This has resulted from suppression of their violent natures in response to their rationality.

They have a custom of reciting epic stories during formal gatherings. They view the disruption of these stories as a great tresspass. This custom arose from a combination of their Social and Creative natures.

There is an unknwon taboo or custom which seems to relate with their Social and Rational natures. We think it relates in some way to death and personal loss. We recommend steering the conversation away from death and personal loss until we discover the nature of this taboo or custom.

Respectfully Yours,
Milano Cookee
Head Xenopsychologist

So, when you hover the mouse over an aggressive sentence, you could get a tooltip saying "The Rellanians have a taboo against mentioning violence". It shouldn't tell you anything that isn't in the report, it's just cutting away the irrelevant parts.

If your report mentions an unknown custom, then the tooltip should say the same. Otherwise, I agree, it's just telling the player what to do. No fun in that.

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