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Situation Creators

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I''m thinking along the lines of a Wavinatorish type game here. Visualize a game that has procedurally generated characters, races, planets, towns, and so on. Even add in a procedurally generated history complete with wars, legends and such. Now, let the player roam about freely, carrying out missions, dodging vicious aliens, building wealth, and whatever suits our player''s little heart. I have a feeling there still might be a point where the pursuit of such endeavors becomes stagnant. What we really want for the player is an epic journey of experiences, unique and fascinating. Of course, the ultimate solution is to have an AI savvy and sophisticated enough to provide the necessary elements. Given current limitations, what can we do to enhance the experience? Imagine a library of template like situations that can have the blanks filled in. Like a storyteller, the AI could draw upon these unfleshed out situations to embellish the plot. For example, let''s say gameplay is moving along, but lacking a certain individuality to the story. The AI gamemaster could draw upon the ''capture & detain'' situation and decide it''s time for the player to be captured and imprisoned in a cell in the Drithian System for crimes comitted. As it turns out, the player never comitted the crimes and will be falsely imprisoned. If the player foils capture, then gameplay proceeds as it was. If the player is captured, the AI gamemaster fleshes out the situation and provides possible ''escape'' methods. If the player is confined to the cell, the game enters a mode where time passes quickly except for notable points as when the guard brings him food. Each of the events could be used as a method for escape. Some of you may see this as boring and constraining, but I see it as a story of our player''s epic journey as it unfolds. This of course, is only one of many possible situations that could be available to the AI gamemaster. Other situations might be a long lost relative seeking revenge against you, inheritance from an unknown relative, an attempt to have the player framed for a crime, an elaborate con to separate the player from his money, an odd character seeking the player for odd and shady services, a stowaway onboard your ship, an individual begging for rescue, and the list goes on... Each of these situations could begin as unfleshed out scenarios where the AI is able to customize and randomize it for the existing story.

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Repetition is the absolutely lethal real killer here, you''re right. One reason missions and plot are strong is because they present us with detail setups. They put us into situations that we may have not otherwise gotten into ourselves. In this respect, I think the template idea is excellent.

I think whatever situation a player is put in has to be either interesting enough in and of itself (i.e, stand alone, as combat or puzzle solving or strategy often is) or interesting in context. So escaping a prison ship alone might be boring, but if you''re being sent to death, or travelling through rebel territory where you might get a signal out, or you meet an interesting NPC in jail... etc., etc., it would be much better.

All of this does depend on a set of rules that''s rich enough to support it. At it''s heart you''d need a sophistocated system for why content appears, and when, all of which takes in the player, the game environment, and the story so far.

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Just waiting for the mothership...

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I was just thinking tonight that I wonder if it's possible to combine the detail of a scripted event and the randomness of a event made by the computer.

Perhaps, some events could have some things that are scripted, but allow the AI to fill in the details. For instance, there may be an event where some NPC decides to assassinate someone. Then it's up to the NPC's AI to figure how he/she wants to do that. Do they ask other NPCs to help? If the balance of the scripted and the random was just right, you could have detail and randomness at the same time...maybe?

This way the same event could happen, but the way it happens would be different each time.



Need help? Well, go FAQ yourself.
What a plight we who try to make a story-based game have...writers of conventional media have words, we have but binary numbers


Edited by - Nazrix on March 20, 2001 10:43:44 AM

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(in my opinion)

One of the main aspects with this kind of system would be to create a system which would allow for this kind of flexibility in Action & Situation.

I think that one of the problems which stops us making situations is the need to flesh them out.

Ie. Dialogue, recorded speech, great graphics, etc.

-> Imagine if all there that there was, was textboxes.
Ie. Alien out for revenge: shouts "Get him, he killed my [brother, son, wife] etc."

That player response dialogue / option trees were limited [a bit like Doomdark''s Revenge]

--> Surrender
--> Plead for mercy
--> Aggressive
----------------------------

For the graphics imagine really simple pictures [tile based?].

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Yeah, player speach response would be the hardest thing to do in this case.

I think the best way would be to use an interpretor (you know, like zork, only better), and then have some sliders for advanced settings (like tone of voice, etc)


ANDREW RUSSELL STUDIOS
Visit Tiberia: it''s bigger, it''s badder, it''s pouyer...

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Ketchaval,
graphics, sound, etc does really limit this sort of thing. The more it is abstracted by using text, the easier such a thing would be



Need help? Well, go FAQ yourself.
What a plight we who try to make a story-based game have...writers of conventional media have words, we have but binary numbers

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Hey, bishop, just a random brainstorm here:

What''s the anatomy of a situation? How can it be made into a template which could allow you to fill in different elements?

Here''s a shot at it:

Situation Templates are made up of

Opposing Forces: Could be things like Factions (armies, the mob, roving creatures, etc.) or Natural Disasters (windstorms, volcanic eruption) or Device Malfunction (meltdown, atmosphere processor failure)

OpFor Elements / Makeup: NPCs, the player, lightening strikes, radiation leaks, etc. These essentially form the "keys" to the OpFor. To elemenate the OpFor, you deal with the keys. For a faction, maybe you just wack ''em all. But for a killer storm with lightening strikes, you need to find shelter, or somehow dissapate the storm.

Also includes characteristics: What each element has, and how strong / stealthy / dangerous / ready to explode / whatever they are. Essentially, this is the magnitude of the Element. Loyalties, capabilities, hitpoints, etc.

OpFor Goals: The general objectives the OpFor wants to achieve. Would be cool if agents resolved this themselves. This could be set as a result of some greater global value. You could also vary this by element goals. For instance, you have a terrorist group made up of like minded thugs and one sympathizer (who happens to be the player''s ex-girlfriend!!! )

Positioning: Where each side starts out. The initial positioning opens up and varies Short Term goals, and can make even a series of missions with similar goals different.

Event List: Everything that you want to happen for certain (deterministic) once the event is set in motion. You could, say, time in the arrival of another group; the transformation of a Force group''s element, or whatever else that should happen regardless of player input.

Victory Conditions: What has to happen for win/loss to occur. This basically terminates the situation.

Spawn Conditions: This is how and why the situation was enacted in the first place. I believe that a set rule like this will allow players to play intelligently. If, for example, you spawn a hijacking as a result of visiting a planet populated by oppressed fanatics, players will know what might be possible. They can then make intelligent choices, and eagerly anticipate them.

I believe that some events should just happen randomly, but not TOO many, and they shouldn''t be TOO severe. This gives more player control.

It''s much MUCH *MUCH* better if a situation gets spawned because of a choice the player made, or a result of observable interactions in the game universe.


Result:
Drawing from a pool of locations and agents that you can vary, with a known set of goals, and the ability to change the agent characteristics, I think you could create a sort of "random with a reason" setup from known templates. By varying only the elements, and having a reasonable enough list, I think you''ll get some of the more integrated feel you''re talking about.



--------------------
Just waiting for the mothership...

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Hey Wavinator, great post. I relate mostly to the last things you're discussing; spawn conditions, etc. because that is how I am visualizing it more.

Think of it less in terms of a simulation, and more in terms from the point of view of a storyteller. Put yourself in the shoes of the computer program, and think of yourself as a storyteller and your duty is to entertain and provide an epic journey for our player. The journey has entered a lull and it's time to draw from our bag of tricks to liven up the story...

Stage 1: The proposal.
A number of situations are proposed and filtered by requiring each situation to meet the necessary preconditions each situation posesses.

Stage 2: The selection.
Among the proposed situations which passed stage 1, a situation is selected which is best. Best might be determined by which one hasn't been used recently, which one melds the best with the existing scenario, and so on.

Stage 3: The setup
All the necessary elements are procedurally defined and put into place. This, for example, might be the creation and placement of a shady character standing in the dark alley just up ahead.

Stage 4: Do or die
The last trigger is either triggered to set off the situation or it is not. In the above case, it may be the player passing by the alley. If the character turns around and walks the otherway, the situation goes away, never having been fulfilled, and the proposal stage begins anew.

Stage 5: The playout
This is where we look at the deterministic elements vs. the pure simulation elements of the situation. Better NPC AI would help here. The manufactured agents which the situation are comprised of have goals and desires which have been setup explicitly for the situation.

Stage 6: Fulfillment
The situation plays out until the necessary conditions are met which define the situation as over. This may be the death of the situation's agents, or the losing of contact between the situation's agents and the player.




Edited by - bishop_pass on March 21, 2001 10:39:06 PM

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Guest Anonymous Poster
quote:
Stage 3 : The setup
All the necessary elements are procedurally defined and put into place. This, for example, might be the creation and placement of a shady character standing in the dark alley just up ahead.


Clarify : Are you going to Assign NPCs to the roles, or Generate new ones? I personally prefer to assign NPCs, but generating them would potentially lead to more complex and non-linear story-lines.

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quote:
Original post by Anonymous Poster

Clarify : Are you going to Assign NPCs to the roles, or Generate new ones? I personally prefer to assign NPCs, but generating them would potentially lead to more complex and non-linear story-lines.


I would be inclined to generate new NPCs custom tailored to the situation, assuming they could be generated hidden from the player. Only if the situation could work with an anonymous NPC standing around or walking would I say that assigning them would work.



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