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Ketchaval

Group dynamics - next frontier?

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It seems to me that one of the biggest things missing in games is character relationships where individuals and groups bond together on a personal level. Probably because programming the ai and conversation system for this kind of thing is very very hard in a single player game. However, I suppose that this kind of thing can be bypassed in a multiplayer game, where I suppose one of the challenges is to structure the game so that it promotes player to player interaction / squabbling. By making rules that reward working as a team / make the players fight over decisions - or resources. Thoughts?

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Some ideas:

What if character survival was down to how many health kits the party found to share about, like a survival horror game. and as the game goes on the members start turning on each other to survive and get the health kits?

Or what if the game was based around "the Weakest Link" where each round the players have to vote for the player that they thought got most questions wrong (or they secretly tactically vote against stronger players). Or the player with the worst play stats gets kicked off the server / turned into a zombie.

Ie. They would vote for the player that was the weakest warrior, ie. killed less enemies, successfuly guarded the windows the least number of times.

This way it would bring about something vaguely approaching the feel of the group slowly being whittled away and everyone turning against each other.

I suppose, that this could be done in a less abstract way by killing off the player character that gets left behind and isolated with the zombies?

How about if the game worked so that if the group splits up the zombies work to get in between them and stop them being reunited, so that you get two groups of players who have to work hard if they are going to reunite?

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Some of the better examples of team squabbling and co-operation are in a few starcraft maps patterned after popular concepts. The first being The Thing, which places 6 or so players in one map, one of whom is the thing (and nobody knows who). You usually end up with alot of nervousness, a couple of gunshots, and a few dead people, still not knowing who's "the thing". ;D

The other would be one of the many Zombie maps, where survival is usually dependant on everyone working together, there are usually a few who think they can make it on their own (and are summarily eaten), and without the extra firepower, the others pay the price as well with harder difficulty, or outright failure.

For single player, i'd say it would be extremely difficult to code those kind of interactions, i wouldn't say impossible though since SWRC did some good combat mechanics and team AI co-ordination.

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Zelda: Four Swords was cool for this. You had to work together to beat the levels, but at the end the player with the most "force gems" (coins, basically) was rewarded. So you'd cooperate against bosses, and rescue one another, but when that key showed up, you'd wrestle like drunks to be the one who opens the chest and gets the lewt.

I majored in philosophy, so I have only a very basic understanding of how this sort of thing works, but I've been reading a book called "Games People Play" by Eric Berne. He talks about human relationships and whatnot. "Games" in his system aren't games in the conventional sense, but include anything with rules, like rituals, war, and conversation. It's not really my thing, but I've gotten a little out of it, and I think it might translate into video games.

The big thing for me is getting an understanding of what people want to get out of a game. Berne's a shrink or something, so he talks funny. He uses terms like stimulus-hunger, structure-hunger and recognition-hunger. I don't want to try to encapsulate the whole thing, and I won't try to interpret it, so I'll just go ahead, and you can read the book if you care to.

Basically, I think that multiplayer games don't have enough tools by which players can interact and gratify one another (make your own joke here, folks). I want to be able to pat a dude on the back, or toss him a box of ammo, or shout at him to stop drawing enemy fire toward our medics.

Right now, text chat or maybe voicechat is all we get. Scoring only counts our kills. Frags are to performance evaluation what HP is to combat--a yardstick trying to measure the size of an irregular 4D solid. I want to see more of the little Halo trophies and TimeSplitters awards in MP games. Give a guy an "assist" for saving the flag-carrier's bacon. Let players give meaningful feedback on each other either in-game or afterward, so props can be distributed appropriately. Generally improve the sense of community on a team.

Shameless plug: The Closure Gaming discusion boards are sparsely populated, but we're beginning to address this very issue. If anyone wants to participate in the project, please head over there. We could use some more thinkers.

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Philosophy is some great stuff there Chef :). I'm particularily fond of Kant myself. Er anyway;

I think you hit the nail on the head. I feel _exactly_ the same way. I think what people want most out of multiplayer games is a social experience. A chance to fight together with friends. Anything that would enhance the ability for interaction amoung players would be great IMO.

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Some team based FPS or mods are including the concept of "assists". Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory does this by awarding more points to medics for healing than for frags, engineers get a lot of points for doing engineers stuff etc.

It's not exactly what you said but it's a step in the right direction I'd say.

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As far as a single player game goes I would suggest something along the lines of The Sims. Give the characters particular ratings, and as those ratings adjust they react differently. Each individual could have a different weight assigned to each of the ratings. In a combat game for example you could have bloodlust be a rating. One guy is happy so long as he's firing heavy weaponry at something, and the longer it's been since he did that, the more irritable he gets. Shellschock could be another. One guy just can't handle combat very well and the closer he comes to being threatened, let alone dead, the worse his mood. In contrast, that same individual could be very effective if given a sniper rifle and properly protected by his teammates.
I'm not a programmer, so I'd have no idea how to actually code that. The biggest issue would probably be trying to properly portray various emotional states and interactions. For instance, the second individual could be thrilled with the first because the first is keeping all the close enemies from harming him, where as the first is getting upset with the second because he keeps killing everything far away thus reducing his own kill count.

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