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Procedurally generated complex world simulation?

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http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-262774490184348066&q=spore Spore. I'd like to thank Will Wright for showing that an entirely procedural and complex simulated world and gameplay is not only plausible but doable. It's rather nifty that you can have a world in which concepts are defined and the user can create as they see fit. Every hard coded limitation can optionally be replaced with a procedural and flexible remedy. Thus, your three legged lizard thingy can easily become your flying dinosaur of doom - while walking, fighting, eating, dragging, and even dancing correctly. But I digress... Suppose you had an MMO with a world whose interactions were modeled proceduraly, as opposed to the actual creatures? A world where you can wipe out a tribe of enemies and have the game react the same way a game like Spore accomodates when you remove a limb? Both are simply procedural systems. Out with the hard coded, in with the dynamic. Wouldn't games be better if your world reacted to you? The ecosystems of the multiple planets...in the hundreds of thousands of solar systems...all work and change procedurally. What if Spore was an MMO, and you weren't the only one playing in your world? Procedurally generated complex world simulation. I'm willing to bet that a small server farm could generate the entire world and keep it updated if Spore can at least display your corner an view of the universe on one machine. Thoughts?

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I think you are right about it would be possible with a few servers. It is a logical next step.

Very cool video btw.. Nice project, and funny and inspiring guy.

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It would be very nice, especially in a perfect world.

That said, I'm not sure I'd like to lose everything on my character that I've worked for because someone's 13 year old kid, afterschool, burned down my character's village and family, leaving me with nothing but "ha ur pwnt" as an explanation. ;)

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Original post by ellis1138
It would be very nice, especially in a perfect world.

That said, I'm not sure I'd like to lose everything on my character that I've worked for because someone's 13 year old kid, afterschool, burned down my character's village and family, leaving me with nothing but "ha ur pwnt" as an explanation. ;)


Of course, but while this could ONLY happen in a procedural and malleable world, that doesn't mean that it HAS to ;)

You don't have to let people blow up towns, or even create them, even if the functionality to do so exists.

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Original post by ellis1138
It would be very nice, especially in a perfect world.

That said, I'm not sure I'd like to lose everything on my character that I've worked for because someone's 13 year old kid, afterschool, burned down my character's village and family, leaving me with nothing but "ha ur pwnt" as an explanation. ;)


That would give you a motive to devote your life to pursue that Demon Prince along the entire procedural universe with the only objective to destroy him and claim your revenge!

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As much as I love Will Wright, I can't shake the feeling that Spore is mostly hype and fluff. Procedural animation: technically wondrous, but only a novelty to gameplay. It almost seems like the game was designed as an afterthought to show off a fancy tech demo.

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Original post by Kevinator
As much as I love Will Wright, I can't shake the feeling that Spore is mostly hype and fluff. Procedural animation: technically wondrous, but only a novelty to gameplay. It almost seems like the game was designed as an afterthought to show off a fancy tech demo.

Will Wright's never really struck me as the "tech demo" kind of designer, given his past collection of titles he's designed; he seems to be more the sort to develop tech to solve whatever gameplay element he wants to implement. My main concern with Spore is that it may turn out to be more a "game idea demo" like Black and White; a whole bunch of wacky game concepts that seem great in a short demonstration but just don't gel together into a cohesive whole. However given Will Wright is still my favourite game designer (possibly tied with Miyamoto) I'll probably buy it anyway [smile].

Back to the original question; ellis1138 pretty much described what I consider the main problem (other than the technical side of things) in a single sentence. From my understanding of MMO game design, a fairly central problem is what you do to stop the jerks from ruining the game for everyone else. A procedural dynamic world is just asking for abuse. I'm not sure how your players will react to having l33t-speak burned in mile high letters on the nearest mountain range, or having the entire native population of animals slaughtered just for fun, or having every village torched within the space of an hour. Whatever system you use will have to have some sort of anti-griefer system in place, otherwise the imbalance of the damage they can do versus the punishment that can be given will ruin the game.

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I think procedural worlds are cool too, but just like others have said, one issue with MMOs is the fact the the world is shared and persistent. But that doesn't mean its not doable. Now, if it were a distributed and peer-to-peer "universe", then it might be doable.

Personally, I think MMOs using centralized servers will eventually give way to distributed or P2P MMOs with index servers. So, for a game like spores, what can happen is that everyone starts on a different planet or star system. That system resides locally on your system. As long as you're online, people can move in and out of your system freely, but whether or not they can do anything to your system is another thing. Other people will be able to build outposts or colonies in your system, but they won't be able to actively attack your creations, unless they are authorized (backstabbing friends), though if their authorized by you to do such things, hopefully they won't really do it. So, its kind of like an alternative way of building a friend list, but in theis case, more like a galactic alliance.

It should be noted that technically, your star system is off limits to other players once you're offline, so no need to worry about having things messed up. That of course, includes access to an outposts other players may have built within your system.

So, procedural worlds in MMOs can work, its just that we have to sort of wrap the technology and game design around the concept. Not to mention invent a few new ones on the way.

Spores, even if it does fail on the sales front, will still be a landmark and inspirational game for years to come. Procedurally generated stuff have been around for years, but no one has been able to do it well enough to be widely accepted. Spores may just be the one that does it well enough to push it into mainstream.

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Original post by Trapper Zoid
Quote:
Original post by Kevinator
As much as I love Will Wright, I can't shake the feeling that Spore is mostly hype and fluff. Procedural animation: technically wondrous, but only a novelty to gameplay. It almost seems like the game was designed as an afterthought to show off a fancy tech demo.

Will Wright's never really struck me as the "tech demo" kind of designer, given his past collection of titles he's designed; he seems to be more the sort to develop tech to solve whatever gameplay element he wants to implement. My main concern with Spore is that it may turn out to be more a "game idea demo" like Black and White; a whole bunch of wacky game concepts that seem great in a short demonstration but just don't gel together into a cohesive whole. However given Will Wright is still my favourite game designer (possibly tied with Miyamoto) I'll probably buy it anyway [smile].

Back to the original question; ellis1138 pretty much described what I consider the main problem (other than the technical side of things) in a single sentence. From my understanding of MMO game design, a fairly central problem is what you do to stop the jerks from ruining the game for everyone else. A procedural dynamic world is just asking for abuse. I'm not sure how your players will react to having l33t-speak burned in mile high letters on the nearest mountain range, or having the entire native population of animals slaughtered just for fun, or having every village torched within the space of an hour. Whatever system you use will have to have some sort of anti-griefer system in place, otherwise the imbalance of the damage they can do versus the punishment that can be given will ruin the game.


Like I said above, just because you CAN give the player the ability to procedurally destroy your procedural town doesn't mean you DO. My town can be static, but my monsters can spawn with social hierarchy. I can still make it so that you never run out of monsters because of random spawning though. While you can't do anything other than random spawns with many games, you have a choice when using procedure.

Example: Town A in (every other game) is static. It cannot be changed beyond buying/selling from merchants or direct developer interaction - no user input. Town B exists in a procedural world. It has an odd set of properties however - physics scripts, damage, and normal interaction are disabled for Town B. Thus, you arrive at the same situation. Town B, while in a procedural world, is no more maleable by players than Town A. You could even decide that only the player who created Town B can change it. Using procedure only gives you the ability - not the requirement to have a maleable world.

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IMO procedural has different applications. Animations that are created on the fly to adapt to the situation at hand, no more static animations. You block or parry an attack, and your character actually animates so your shield


Eco-systems that are created and maintained by the game, monsters that have dynamic behavior instead of static. Monsters that can be wiped out in the game, amass armies against a PC town for trying to attack them, and monsters that work together with other monsters to do things. Monsters that create their own cities to protect themselves from PCs. Monsters that adapt to their surroundings, and learn new tactics to deal with an enemy.

Quests that are created by NPCs on the fly based on what is around them and what needs to be done in that city.


[Edited by - Sutekh on March 17, 2006 2:00:58 PM]

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