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Ketchaval

"Collaborative" Gamedesign.

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(Note:Not refering to teamwork in making games, or even removing conflict from games). Collaborative Gamedesign -------------------------- In what way can games be designed to "collaborate" more with the player in order to make the player''s experience of the game fun, stimulating and interesting. Rather than creating games which are frustrating. For example: Black and White has a creature that you train, and it should eventually become a very helpful tool in converting other gods villages to your side. Ie. If I want it to be aggressive and destructive, I can encourage it to be so, or if I want it to be good to the villagers and care for them that is also possible. Ie. Last night: I leashed my creature between a village store (food & wood) and a field of crops. I used the compassionate leash, and left it there. It kept casting create food miracles in the village store, and watering the field to help promote crop growth. Or, put an aggressive leash on it which had it throwing boulders at houses, kicking them, and setting fire to buildings. Either way, this has the effect of helping to reduce the demands of the player and helping to reinforce the player''s plan of action. (Reduces repetitive actions on the player''s behalf). Puzzles -------- Avoiding making unfair and harsh puzzles. Ie. Puzzles with a time limit that will make you have to restart from the beginning. etc.

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I actually found the ''collaborative gamedesign'' of B&W rather frustrating.

I think it''s because I felt I didn''t have enough control to begin with.

I think the ''right'' way to do it, would be to give the player absolute control, and give the player the ability to design a system that the AI will automatically follow.

My best example of this would be the good ol'' football gameplan.

You set routes for player''s to follow, and AI reactions to actions of the opponent.

I think in a ''perfect'' game, I''d give the player the ability to practice with the individual players until they get it right.

To me a game gets frustrating when it doesn''t allow me to do those things that I want to do. A game is stimulating and interesting when it allows me even more things than I could think of to do.

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Hmm, let’s see if I got it right… Black and White: it’s collaborative gameplay, not game design, but it really depends on what point do you look it from. And I agree with Silvermyst, it took huge amounts of time to train that creature, just to get close to the “collaborative” part. I stopped playing B&W just because of that – the game was a huge tamagochi to me and, it took huge amounts of time to look after the animal and you couldn’t put it in your pocket . If B&W had some kind of intuitive script engine, that allowed to “program” the creature, to set its reactions to certain events, now that would be great! I spent many hours talking (and arguing) with many B&W fans. They plead, that this script engine is the way you teach the creature: spank it or reward it. But even the fans agree that this process is not quite efficient. Anyway, enough on B&W, let’s talk RPG des…um, I mean, game design.

Imagine you didn’t have direct control over the people in your party, like point and kill, but instead you created a script that defined their behavior. To make it easy for newbie players, you could have preset scripts, for, say, different character professions. Also, I’m pretty much sure, that soon there would appear tons of sites, supported by programmers, which will offer for download updated scripts every day. Also scripts could be modular, like Defense module, Eating module, Rest module, so you could improve your party’s behavior in a selective manner. And why not have a script that defines the actions of the party as a group, not individuals. That way, the others could be programmed to act depending on your character, or on themselves.

I think this is a way to get over that aspect of gaming: “Where the hell do you think you’re going!? I said attack ork , not try to cross the river to get to the wyrm on the other side!!! Come back he… THERE! Now the wyrm attacked!” *ctrl+L*. What I mean is that if a NPCs acts inadequate, you cannot blame him (or the AI), only yourself and your lousy script.

Proper programmed NPCs would be able to leave the group at will to satisfy a demand or as a reaction to some change in the environment. I do realize, that the same could be reached with the perfect preprogrammed AI. That way player doesn’t have control, but who’s gonna want to improve the perfect AI?

The problem is that such AI doesn’t exist (yet). So having a combination of user-side behavioral script engine, combined with the ability to build a queue of commands, would be a nice thing to have, imo.

Comments welcome!

Boby Dimitrov
boby@shararagames.com
Sharara Games Team

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The title was a bit misleading, but this is the article that inspired the thread.

http://www.ministryofpeace.com/if-review/reviews/20010629.html

To try and use my own words:
So, how can we make games where the player and the game fuse together to provide a positive experience? Where the world provides opportunities, rather than crushing the player mercilessly (we haven''t done this in most modern computer games- but in the old 8-bit / Arcade days many games did ie. Defender !!). Whilst this does in part come down to the basics of good game design (IE. fairness etc), I think that there is a little more to it than that.

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BD, and Silvermyst

I agree that the creature took quite a while (though choosing the ape - helps greatly as learns quicker). The game is fairly slow paced (I stopped on land 3).

Maybe it would be possible to create a scripting system which worked like the old CRPG what would you do "question" system. This would ask a series of questions that would determine how your allies would react. (Ie. Create a flexible script).

Ie. There is a starving villager here.

Do you a. Eat him.
b. Force him to work harder to grow more food.
c. Give him some food.

The problem with this would be that the more complex the game world was, the more incidents would need to be covered by the questions.

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Well, this raises the question of whether all actions - at least within the context of the game world - can be abstracted to responses to a variety or combination of stimuli (commands). The next step up is creating an interface rich enough to allow one to issue the full range of input stimuli (and, of course, designing and implementing AI robust enough to properly handle all possible combinations of stimuli).

If so, then it should be quite feasible to select recipients of stimuli - ranging from a single inanimate object to armies of bloodthirst scavengers (which could also allow you to address a crowd rather than speaking to just one person. Interesting social consequences).

Of course, this is just a "what" post. I leave the "how" to brighter minds here interested in such things.

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KETCHAVAL:

Your suggested problem (the more complex the game world, the more questions need to be answered) is easily solved: create general templates (''good'' template would always pick nicest answers, ''selfish'' template would always pick answers best for creature, ''happy'' template would always pick fun answer, etc). Then let the player adjust those by answering individual questions.

In B&W I''d like to be able to actually TELL my creature what to do. I mean, I can teach my dog new tricks in about a day (using dog cookies as treats) so why did it take me days to teach me creature in B&W how to do anything? I felt more like a babysitter than a god. I''d like to be able to tell my creature ''when someone is starving, bring them food. when we''re low on wood, cut some trees''. For game balance you could make the creature only able to learn a few of these commands, so that player would have to decide which ones to teach.

Then again, maybe I just didn''t have enough patience to really get into training my B&W pet. I must say that B&W was a disappointment to me, and I''ve heard others voice that same emotion.

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if you could program your ais perfectly, what would be left for you to do? I certainly don''t want to sit and watch my characters autonomously fight monsters. It''s barely interesting when I do it myself.

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Sunandshadow, you can still control your character. I would love to have a nice programmed NPCs to join my party! I would love to have them come and go when it suits their needs. I would love to express opinions about certain activities of mine. I would love to be able to ask them, not order them and the ai makes a decision then to see if they''re going to do that or not.

Imagine you''re in a combat, you and two your friends. Three goblins () attack you, each player has an opposing goblin. Now if that was an ordinary BG- or IWD-like game, you could order one of your friends to come and help you kick your oppenent''s butt. But if it was programmed by the model i describe, the ai would first decide if turning back to his opponent is not a dangerous, then take certain action. So your friend could come and help you, but first kill his own opponent, or he could go and help the other NPC if the AI decides he needs more help, and so on.

So, "I certainly don''t want to sit and watch my characters autonomously fight monsters" too. I want to sit and watch other characters autonomously fight monsters.

Boby Dimitrov
boby@shararagames.com
Sharara Games Team

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I''d jsut like to script two soccer AI teams, or other form of football, and get them palying against each other for a whole season... I reckon it would be a cool feature in games such as the EA sports games series.

And you could set a copy running in your local pub / tavern and place bets during the off season - now that''s thinking.

Oh well

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