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Wavinator

Gameplay ideas for full-on nanotech society?

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Imagine a world where the use of nanotech is as common as the use of electricity today. For a sci-fi RPG, what gameplay options would you see opening up? Little nanites (microscopic machines) could practically be a futuristic gameworld's magic system. They could float through the air, stick to your clothes, form distributed spying networks, be used in combat, etc.. What sort of actions or functions could you see nanites performing? How deep / strategic would you like to see deployment of nanite options, considering that nanites are things you can't see. For instance, you could enter a room that suddenly begins misting up as waves of stealthed nanites break free from the walls and start attacking you. You would also, given hostile nanotech, need to factor in some sort of nanite defense (though this could be a biotech bodysuit, or defensive nanites secreted from your pores-- aka, automatic defense). How much explanation do you think the average sci-fi oriented player would need to even get into the possibilities of nanotech?

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That sounds like an absolutely awsome idea.

I don't have much time (I've got to get to bed), but here's what I think:

* It's excellent justification for being able to do out-worldly things.
* It could allow for variants of the typical spells -- for example, instead of fire storm, it could be electromagnetic storm
* It could allow for some very interesting forms of gameplay involving interactions between small numbers of these nanites. Just like atoms behave weird compared to "large" objects such as balls, so could nanites. I'm not sure what implications this could have right now, but I'm sure there's some interesting ones. Perhaps, just as there are different types of atoms, there could be different types of nanites. Certain configurations of nanites would have different affects -- just like different combinations (molecules) have different effects

An interesting consequence of this is that all "spells" with the nanites could allow the player to choose the type of nanites making up the "spell". It would get cool when, instead of just choosing a single type, you can mix them together to form "molecules" of nanites. The type of nanite composing the spell would affect the outcome.

Anyway, I've got to get to bed, so good luck!

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I think Deus Ex did a alright job on a potential Nanite Society. I say alright because half the implants were redundant and not to inspiring. Aqua-Lung, Radiation Shield, and Balistic Shield were all trumped by the healing power of Regeneration, probably more of a game-mechanic flaw than anything being wrong with the concepts themselves. Though when i saw the Reciprocator implant i figured it would use the kenetic energy of the Heart to slowly but naturally regenerate my nanites power supply, not reduce the energy cost, what a rippoff. :p

Some poeple could have batches of Nanites specially designed to inhabit their bodies, they could provide longevity, enchanced healing, and a variety of other things (like shopping!). Clever hackers or programmers could re-program the nanites for specific tasks, such as combat or bodily modification (though you could scramble your insides if you don't do it right, a kind of deterent to amatures and blackmarket mods).

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I was thinking about this earlier today, probably subconsciously inspired by the title of this thread. About a game that is set in a swords and sorcery world, which was actually created using ultra-high technology as a kind of fantasy world or theme-park (think of Westworld which is set in a Wild West theme park gone wrong). So things like Nanites would be used to give the illusion that people were able to do magic, or that "dragons" can breathe fire.

But what would happen if a disaster hit this world, and the people who used it originally stopped coming, so then the people left behind have to breed and create a society there? And the safety mechanisms start breaking down and the animatronic / nanite dragons become dangerous.

-- But I think that people would be put off by the weird mix of genres ie. starting off as sci-fi turning it wizardly fantasy.

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Espionage.

Spies could have personal nanites that assist them with stealth missions. Nanites could allow near-instantaneous facial reconstruction, skin tone alteration and clothing changes. The player would be a master of disguise.

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References to crazy awesome uses of nanotech actually date back quite a bit. One of the most famous coming from the well known and almost iconic manga called Gunnm (or Battle Angel) here in the states. The crazy professor in there becomes literally immortal as he constantly has a few hundred million units of regenerative nanites injected in his body. The question is usually just how long it takes to regenerate. One of the novel combat ideas for nanites in that manga was the berserker system. These nanites were injected into soldiers on suicide missions into enemy territory. When activated, the nanites decompose the soldier's body into an amorphous blob that had the sole purpose of causing chaos and devouring/assimilating anything within range. However, a controlled version of the berserker system makes it possible to grow weapons out of body limbs, like growing a blade from the outter edge of your lower arm. Of course, there are definite limitations due to material and energy requirements.

The other cool use of nanites I saw a while back was in the ill-fated series Spiderman Unlimited where Peter Parker developed a nanite based suit that he stores in his wrist watch when not used. When activated, the nanites cover his body to form the spidey suit. The new suit gave him some cool abilities, like optical camouflage. Also, it was remote controlled too, which means the suit can seperate from him and form a copy of spiderman somewhere else, warrant that it wasn't required to move. Kind of a cool decoy concept. Those are probably the most non-intrusive uses of nanites.

Probably the biggest challenge in designing a game with nanites is drawing the technology limitations. Because, theoretically, if you had nanomachines that could freely manipulate molecules, then the sky's the limit as to what you can do. Think I saw some B sci-fi flick where some bad guy was using doses to nanites to iteratively construct a bomb inside another person's body, which was nasty cool though.

Also, it should be noted that nanotech and nano-manipulation takes time. Deformation may take less time than construction, but just have to remember that nothing is instantaneous, especially on the nano level. Deploying a mist is a cool idea, but the question then becomes how long will it take and how dense does it need to be to actually be visible.

Nanites are also simple machines that do nothing but one thing. So, that's definitely a physical limitation, along with the fact that most of the times, only 10% (optimistically) of the deployed nanites may get to where they need to be to perform what they need to do.

So, apart from the many coonsiderations, if done correctly, nanites can be used as a concept to build a really cool game.

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Original post by Wavinator
Little nanites (microscopic machines) could practically be a futuristic gameworld's magic system. They could float through the air, stick to your clothes, form distributed spying networks, be used in combat, etc..

What sort of actions or functions could you see nanites performing? How deep / strategic would you like to see deployment of nanite options, considering that nanites are things you can't see.

For instance, you could enter a room that suddenly begins misting up as waves of stealthed nanites break free from the walls and start attacking you.

You would also, given hostile nanotech, need to factor in some sort of nanite defense (though this could be a biotech bodysuit, or defensive nanites secreted from your pores-- aka, automatic defense).

How much explanation do you think the average sci-fi oriented player would need to even get into the possibilities of nanotech?


I think nanotech is a problem in games. [smile]

The issue, it seems to me, is that nanotech represents a genuine paradigm shift in how we construct and manipulate the environment around us.

Why would you have hostile nanites breaking from from the walls, when you could just have them suspended in the air to begin with? Or more precisely: how do you explain to the player why that doesn't happen, without disrupting his suspension of disbelief?

If a game had nanotech in it, this is the kind of gameplay things I'd expect to see:

I don't think nanites would be invisible. You can't usually see moisture drops in the air, but you can certainly see fog. I think that's what you'd see: a fog. You'd need equipment to be able to see through it as though it weren't there.

I don't think you'd have buildings or furniture in the traditional sense. Nanites would construct rooms as needed, partially out of themselves, partially out of fragments of high-tensile-strength Bucky-tubes which they would have floating about inside them, and partially out of purpose-built components they'd fabricate from raw elements.

It would be very difficult to get hurt. If you jumped off a high ledge, the nanites would support your weight and you'd float safely to the ground. With suitable equipment, you could use them to fly. They'd stop conventional bullets before they hit you, unless fired at very close range. They'd probably be programmed to recognise and disable weapons, anyway. They'd be able to form mirrors to deflect laser weapons. They'd form a second skin around you which would absorb the force of being hit by large objects.

None of that would apply if the nanotech's controller wanted you dead. Without nanotech of your own, you wouldn't stand a chance. It could form a second skin over you, blocking out air. It would conduct heat away from or into you, freezing or burning you to death. It would conduct electricty into you, electrocuting you. Oh, and it would contract, crushing your body into an unrecognisable pulp.

A nanotech society itself would be quite different from our society. Most material goods could be constructed in the home at only slighter more cost than factory production. The economy would therefore be largely communistic; the exceptions being non-abundant raw materials. Because of this, we'd find that common bulk materials would be the readily available organic materials: chiefly hydrogen, oxygen, carbon, nitrogen.

It wouldn't be so dependent upon trade as other societies possibly would be. There would be trade for rare elements and a niche market for 'macrofactured' products, which would be considered quaint, just like keyboards. However, its main import would be information. Its exports would be many. Macrofacturing could not compete with the quality of nanofactured goods, which would be much sought after by industrial and military concerns.

You may find lack of government. With almost no need for economic legislation, and the nanofog making most physical crimes simply impossible, a government wouldn't have that much left to do.

For the player to have a good time, a nanotech world must either be pacific, or the player needs to have a large array of nanotech defense technologies. Most nanotech worlds should be politically neutral utopias; middle grounds where powerful opponents meet to settle scores diplomatically, knowing that they are almost completely safe.

Most of the interesting usages of nanotech in the game wouldn't be on nanotech worlds themselves, but on more primitive worlds. Responsible nanotech societies will sell medical and defensive nanites to nearly anyone that wants them. We could expect their usage to be widespread. More roguish societies might sell hideously offensive nanotech weapons to the highest, and lowest, bidders. Their usage would be tempered by the fact that the use of particularly powerful and indescriminate nanotech weapons would be illegal, and the 'light side' nanotech societies would be those charged with punishing transgressors.

So in summary I think the gameplay effects of nanotech would be thus:

A sparse array of 'light side' nanotech utopias which view themselves as guardians of the primitive worlds, helping them gradually evolve into societies which can use nanotech ubiquitously without destroying themselves.

A sparse array of 'dark side' nanotech dystopias which view themselves as masters of the primitive worlds, exchanging invisible weapons of terror and devices of population control for intelligence and political cachet.

Everyone else, caught up in the nanotech worlds' political machinations.

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I'm off to bed soon, but it would be a great idea if done correctly. Some features to follow could be:

-Evolving nanites.
-Custom nanites to a task (i.e.) to construct larger objucts, work as a neural network, spies, etc.)
-Bio-technological nanites to act on others a a virus. Or to stimulate unused areas of the brain to give the player additional abilities and have them as a computer themselves with the nanites directly linked to their cortex. Or ones to enhance the natural abilities of teh character and repair their physical makeup on a molecular level.
--On the same note having nanites taken from a foe you have defeated injected into you to gain their experiences.
-EMP thchnology to defeat bad ones.
-EMP shielding to prtect good ones.
-As far as storyline - evil corporation trying to advance in their technology to infest the masses with their new MC16 mind control nanites and give them complete control-your mission as an operative (moral) character in a competing nanotechnological company must put and end to their plans, using the tech. your company has developed, funding new developments in what technology to persue (i.e. the nanites (well types) would have thier own advancement level dependant on how much funding you choose to divirte to each type) as well as capturing technologies from the evil company to reeingeneer to suite your needs.
-Anything else you can pull from a few epidodes of Stargate.
-Viral nanites to reprogram CPU's and other nanites.
-Espionage
-Character would require special instruments to diagnose and even detect such devices.

I think it could work out rather well and would love to play it. So do you think you can have a demo out in a few weeks? <joking>

Would involve some pretty intense AI.

The game could have aspects of FPS/Puzzle/Strategy/Adventure/RPG all in one.

Well goodnight.

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prolly the simplest, most effective, and most plauseable thing would be for the nanites to redirect the electrical signals from your brain...stop your heart from beating, stop your muscles from contracting, make you blind/deaf/mute by redirecting the sensory signals (hell even cause you to "see" things...maybe even say things, lie in a court room, tell your boss off, tell your wife she is fat, etc) they could possably even rearrange your memories (from something as simple as forgetting where your car is parked...to full on personnel history replacement..yeah you are physicaly a 20 year old guy...but after the nanites do thier job, you think you are an 85 year old great-grandmother) just messing with perception alone has so much potential.

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Original post by MSW
prolly the simplest, most effective, and most plauseable thing would be for the nanites to redirect the electrical signals from your brain...


Why do that when you can disassemble the molecules of matter themselves, turning the enemy into primordial goo.

My idea is this. The emergence of nano-warfare would shun people into hideouts with inpenetrable shields, they would have to create their own oxygen/water etc. There would be little communication between these "communities" and the space between would be barren of life though filled with hibernating nanites...

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Original post by Kuladus
Why do that when you can disassemble the molecules of matter themselves, turning the enemy into primordial goo.


Why do that when redircting brain waves is simpler, cheaper, and far more plauseable? wouldn't take many nanites to stop the electrical signal to your heart, but it would take a lot more energy to turn you into mush. Why physicaly rip your enemies apart when you can actively sever thier brains control of physical action, amplify pain, then sit back and watch as they cannot do anything physical to prevent death from starvation?

Besides there arn't really going to be many enemies when the nanites change your perceptions to everyone being your friend. Or even completely wipe your mind of the knowledge of your enemies existance.

Quote:

My idea is this. The emergence of nano-warfare would shun people into hideouts with inpenetrable shields, they would have to create their own oxygen/water etc. There would be little communication between these "communities" and the space between would be barren of life though filled with hibernating nanites...


the reality might be you laying on a bed...but your perceptions could be changed by nanites to you liveing in a virtual world just as you describe. Or changed to the perception you exist in any imaginatble world for that matter.

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Quite the post there Nathan. ;D

Two things came to mind, the first is in a society with limited raw resources, it would also make sense that death would be handled different, bodies may be broken down for raw resources. Having a persons consiousness stored within nanites or living on, and other religious/philosophical changes could be apparent.

The second thought is "He who controls the nanites, controls the world", hackers and other people who could create malicious nanites and/or code would create a new kind of crime. I could see a new kind of symboitic relationship like that between humans and virus's/bacteria, with infections and anti-biotics, evolution, etc. essentially patterning the technological over the biological at a deeper level.

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Major nano-tech issues include control method and energy supply. Depending on how you solve them, you could come up with different behaviour - maybe significant nano-activity generates a lot of heat, or maybe nanites draw power from their surroundings so activity lowers the temperature. If nano-activity is energy hungry, it'd be mostly restricted to very small-scale uses. If it's cheap, it'd be used for just about everything.

On the control issue, sooner or later, someone's going to design programmable nanites - so rather than having to design specific nanites for a given task, you could just program generic nanites somehow (like has happened with microchips - nowadays you don't design a specialist chip for a given task; you get a generic chip and design specialist software that's cheaper to produce). The programming interface could be interesting - getting nanites to recognise objects larger than a micrometer or so would be tricky (like us interacting with objects on the kilometer scale - and that's still 100-1000 times smaller than we can see with the naked eye) although some form of distributed intelligence could enable the nanites collectively to respond to human-scale objects - in which case Minority Report style holographic interfaces are possible - control interfaces literally appearing out of thin air - or you could go for the trickier option of mind-reading to a limited extent and have the control interface literally all in the mind (or brain). If you have mind-reading, then telepathy becomes possible. If you have gesture detection, then you're getting very close to outright magic.

In fact, a post-apocalyptic society after a nanite driven society self-destructs could quite plausibly resemble the traditional generic fantasy setting where the pervasive but long forgotten nanites allow individuals with the proper knowledge to produce magical effects.


To produce actual gameplay rather than just touring the wonders of a potential future, you'd probably want to add more restrictions to the nanites - probably including having conflicts between sets of nanites with different purposes.

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Wow, There are some crazy nanotech ideas in this thread. Remember nanites are just really tiny machines they are useful for whatever you would need a tiny machine for. So you would not use them to build buildings since it would require trillions upon trillions of nanites and even then it would take a long time to constuct a building one molecule at a time. Nanites can't turn anything in to anthing else.

The main question about nanites and their use depends on the cost of replication.

Some possible uses include:

Nano clothing - "The nano suit the only suit you'll ever need to own. With its portable control console you can change the color, and style with the touch of a button and even purchase the latest styles as the become available. More durable then traditional clothing and even self cleaning. And if suit ever gets damages simple soak it in a nano bath(fluid containing suspended blank nanites) and it will be as good as new in no time."

Nano equipment - again stronger, lighter, and more durable the normal equipment, and can be repaired by soaking it in a nano bath.

Nano medicine - an inject of medical nanites allows for the fighting of diseases, accelerated healing, and repairing of injuries. Medical nanites last only a few hours before the bodies immune system destroys them.

To be honest its rather hard to come up with any practical applications for nanites let alone ones that would make good game play. What about Micro machines? No not the toys, but tiny machines a micrometer in size, thats a 1000th of a millimeter which still seems a little small so what about milli machines?

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Original post by TechnoGoth
Remember nanites are just really tiny machines they are useful for whatever you would need a tiny machine for.

Err... Tautology. Obviously tiny machines are useful for what tiny machines are useful for.
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So you would not use them to build buildings since it would require trillions upon trillions of nanites and even then it would take a long time to constuct a building one molecule at a time.

There's so much that's wrong with this sentence.

Firstly, what's so impossible about having trillions upon trillions of nanomachines? Before you answer, bare in mind that there are already trillions upon trillions of nanomachines making up life on Earth.

Secondly, why would trillions upon trillions of nanomachines build a building one molecule at a time? They wouldn't, they'd work in parallel. Suppose it takes a thousand nanomachines a nanosecond to move a single molecule into place, and we have a billion trillion nanomachines. They could construct the Empire State Building in 4 hours.

Thirdly, why would nanomachines make buildings out of anything when they could form themselves into a building? Supposing a suitable nanomachine could move at 5m/s, a swarm of them could fill a volume the size of the Empire State Building in about 80 seconds. If nanomachines were built with Bucky-tube support struts, such a structure could be thousands of times stronger than steel, but tens lighter.

Fourthly, these examples are based upon nanotechnology as it might appear in our short or medium term future. Wavinator's game is set in a future so far advanced that civilisation has spread across the entire galaxy. It isn't unreasonable to suppose that any minor technical problems will have been resolved.
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Nanites can't turn anything in to anthing else.

And why not? Why can't nanites employ the same laws of physics that other machines can?
Quote:

To be honest its rather hard to come up with any practical applications for nanites let alone ones that would make good game play.

Previous posters have come up with some and you've failed to explain why they wouldn't work. Making trillions of nanomachines isn't a problem because you just need to build nanomachines that build nanomachines.

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Actually, if you talk to enough NPCs in Xenosaga, you'll find out that in their society, nanomachines are primarily used for construction purposes. Like constructing battle ships and large buildings. And these are very specialized nanomachine that you feed blue prints to. However, they do say that there are cases where nanites have malfunctioned during construction and built doors leading to nowhere, locked rooms with no doors, hallways that are just dead ends, and just things in general that weren't in the original blue print. Of course, that is completely feasible, since we're talking about a highly distributed and parallel construction process. Sometimes you get two teams that end up building the same thing, and its cheaper for one team to just tag their finished product somewhere randomly, instead of throwing it away and start on another task when they realized there are duplicates.

So, programming nanites may be a little tricky, since we have to consider parallelism and distribution in the scale of maybe 10^9 and up, which no one is even close to touching, since we can't even get parallelism right many times on the scale of 10^3.

Scenarios where you can use nanites are many. There are a few paths you can take. One is the usual post apocalyptic path, where nano technology is like lost science due to the fact that it destroyed the creators who eventually lost control of it. Then you can have your sci-fi fantasy setting, where people just seem to know how to operate things, but don't know why they work. And the list goes on.

The other path would be having the technology be an integral part of society with laws governing use. Then you can easily have specific uses or applications be outlawed or only implemented by the mafia or crime syndicates, etc. You can then also have defense mechanism against it, like airport screeners also make you walk through a low level EMP screen that effectively destroys 99% of all nanites, etc. Just some intersting ideas.

Personally, I feel it is wise to stay away from uses where you construct things in short amounts of time or take things apart. Even though nanites are designed to interact with atoms and molecules, they still have to obey the general law of physics and thermodynamics. So, there will always be some sort of energy issue with putting something together or tearing something apart, like someone mentioned earlier.

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theres also several issues with nano-machines.

1. breathing them in
2. if they malfunction then start turning all raw materials (yourself included) into whatever they're producing.
of course 'police bots' have been suggested, and hashing could also be another type of guard against malfunctions.

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So you would not use them to build buildings since it would require trillions upon trillions of nanites and even then it would take a long time to constuct a building one molecule at a time.

Quote:

There's so much that's wrong with this sentence.

Firstly, what's so impossible about having trillions upon trillions of nanomachines? Before you answer, bare in mind that there are already trillions upon trillions of nanomachines making up life on Earth.

Secondly, why would trillions upon trillions of nanomachines build a building one molecule at a time? They wouldn't, they'd work in parallel. Suppose it takes a thousand nanomachines a nanosecond to move a single molecule into place, and we have a billion trillion nanomachines. They could construct the Empire State Building in 4 hours.

Thirdly, why would nanomachines make buildings out of anything when they could form themselves into a building? Supposing a suitable nanomachine could move at 5m/s, a swarm of them could fill a volume the size of the Empire State Building in about 80 seconds. If nanomachines were built with Bucky-tube support struts, such a structure could be thousands of times stronger than steel, but tens lighter.

Fourthly, these examples are based upon nanotechnology as it might appear in our short or medium term future. Wavinator's game is set in a future so far advanced that civilisation has spread across the entire galaxy. It isn't unreasonable to suppose that any minor technical problems will have been resolved.



Basicaly using nanites to build a building is impractical an inefficent. It makes far more sense to use a small number large machines to constuct a building then vast numbers of tiny machines. How do nanties turn themselves into a building? And why do that since its just a waste of a high end finished good. In order for nanites to turn themselves into building then nanites would need to be built of strong material, that can be both conduct and not conduct electricity, act as insulation, be opaque and transparent, etc.. Lets assume for arguments sake that such a material exists or to make things even easier nanites are made of carbon. Convservation of mass means that in order to build a building out of nanites you need building sized mass of pure carbon to begin with from which to build the nanites from. That assumes that nanites can be built from a single common element, if nanites had to made of anything else it becomes even more impracticle. Simple put nanites turning themselves into buildings is simply not cost effective.

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Nanites can't turn anything in to anthing else.
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And why not? Why can't nanites employ the same laws of physics that other machines can?



I'm not talking about physics I'm talking about chemistry. If you have a block of lead nanites can turn it many things, but whatever they turn it into will always be lead.

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To be honest its rather hard to come up with any practical applications for nanites let alone ones that would make good game play.
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Previous posters have come up with some and you've failed to explain why they wouldn't work. Making trillions of nanomachines isn't a problem because you just need to build nanomachines that build nanomachines.


Well the problem with nanites is that they are ultimate purpose built machine since they have to built with certain equipment needed for whatever job they are designed to do. You could change that equipment but that again requires specially built construction nanites and a great deal of time. If takes as little as 1 nanite 1 minute to build or modify a nanite then its going to take some time unless you have a close ratio of construction nanites to nanites to build.

Take espionage nanites could monitor the data flow of computer but they can't store enough data to be of any value, so they have to transmit that data. They arn't going to have powerful enough transmitters to send transmit that data more then a few millimeters and if they did that would be to easy to detect. So what do you do have a nanochain leadering from your computer to the target computer? If you do that then if someone can detect nanites they easily find you.

Again nanites couldn't stop bullets from hitting you unless they where able to move faster then a speeding bullet. Even then they it would depend on far away from you the intercepted the bullet.

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Original post by Wavinator
Little nanites (microscopic machines) could practically be a futuristic gameworld's magic system. They could float through the air, stick to your clothes, form distributed spying networks, be used in combat, etc..

Nooo, please! :P
Anarchy Online did the whole "Hey, we have nanotech, so lets use it to copy fantasy game's magic systems".
Please, lets not turn it into "ordinary" magic. Tossing fireballs is fine in a fantasy game. In sci-fi, it requires a bit more explanation, and saying "But we have millions of tiny nanites doing it, so it's no problem" just sounds cheesy. ;)

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For instance, you could enter a room that suddenly begins misting up as waves of stealthed nanites break free from the walls and start attacking you.

How, exactly? How does something the size of a few molecules attack a person?
Sure, they could do it, but not just by bumping into you or shooting lasers at you. ;)
I suppose they could try to cover your mouth to prevent you from breathing, or just try to pile up on you (sooner or later, there'll be enough of them that they could start actually restricting your movement or maybe tie you up or something.
But I'd also imagine that something that literally arrives one molecule at a time would be easy to brush off or prevent from forming any sufficiently big groups.
Of course, if they're made of a *really* poisonous material, they might be able to kill you just by getting into your body in big enough numbers.

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How much explanation do you think the average sci-fi oriented player would need to even get into the possibilities of nanotech?

Dunno. I'd like to see some limitations. What *can't* it be used for? Where isn't it worth the bother?
Saying "nanotech can do anything and solve any problem" just seems like the easy way out, basically allowing you to steal the magic systems from fantasy games, and use it as a carte blanche to do anything you like. (It also sounds awfully naive). Then you're just making a fantasy game with lasers.

Anyway, just how much intelligence/programming can you cram into something that size? Would they really be able to, say, fly through a room, locate a target, coordinate with 200 million other nanites to begin clustering and try to attack the target? Would it be able to construct a building? Surely, but wouldn't it need to be guided through every step? You wouldn't be able to program them to create an entire building unsupervised. I doubt you'd save that much work in the end. On the other hand, it would allow you to construct thing literally an atom at a time, which would be great when accuracy is recuired. Would probably be extremely helpful in building computers, or most high-tech stuff.

I'd imagine their uses would be pretty limited, actually. Constructing small, hi-tech items with microscopic accuracy, probably. In specialized combat situations, sure (you could use them to eat through walls if you're not in a hurry, or if you need something more controllable than a big explosion), but using them for armor, or as an actual weapon to attack people with? I doubt it.
Being able to sever individual nerves, or manipulate your brain? Dream on. Physically, it should be possible for them to do, yes, but again, just how much programming do you think you can cram into them? "Scan the area, do a hell of a lot of image analysis just to find your target, then try to compute how to get to it. Now locate the head, find a way to get inside it, locate brain cell #3,314,945 and disrupt its connection to #2,924,114".

And using them as a cheap excuse for magic is just... wrong...
If you want to be able to do anything with no explanation, you're in the wrong genre. ;)
And no, changing the names of your spells (from firestorm to electromagnetic storm doesn't really improve matters.

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As someone already pointed out, we know it's possible for macromolecules to do heavy construction and interact on a human scale - after all, humans are "just" a collection of cells working together, and look what we can do. A living cell is a fairly good example of a general purpose "nanomachine" - though by the time you get to things as complex as cells, the nano part is a definite misnomer - and viruses are proof that they can be reprogrammed...

10-15 years ago, people were predicting that within 25 years or so (from then) there would be "smart" construction materials - which aren't far from being basic specialist nanomachines. And the ultimate in space-saving furniture - stuff that extrudes itself from some flat form on demand... OK, not as space efficient as "coffin hotels" but gives "1-room apartment" have a whole new meaning...


If you model nano-tech more on biological systems, then you can get a wide variety of different substances from the same raw material - just two carbon atoms and some water gives you the raw materials for everything from a gaseous fuel (ethane) to alcohol (ethanol) to vinegar (ethanoic acid) - adding more carbon gives you all sorts of interesting possibilities - adding traces of other elements then gives you pretty much every living thing on earth as a possibility.

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Original post by rmsgrey
As someone already pointed out, we know it's possible for macromolecules to do heavy construction and interact on a human scale - after all, humans are "just" a collection of cells working together, and look what we can do.


Nano-people? Nanomachines that work together to create a living machine? Nano-machines that can reproduce themselves. I can imagine the 'sentient-computer' villain being remade as a nano-machine villain.

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