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Ketchaval

"Collaborative" Gamedesign.

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Ketchaval    186
(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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Silvermyst    113
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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BobyDimitrov    122
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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Ketchaval    186
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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Ketchaval    186
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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Oluseyi    2103
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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Silvermyst    113
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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sunandshadow    7426
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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BobyDimitrov    122
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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D    128
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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Silvermyst    113
DAEMIN:

About scripting two soccer team AIs...

That''s actually pretty much how robot soccer is done. Teams completely program them and then let the robots play with just their software running (no remote control).

SUNANDSHADOW:

I agree. If you can completely program the AI for a creature/character/whatever then the fun-factore disappears as it will not do anything unexpected and become more like a robot following orders. But, you would have to combine creature/character/whatever personality WITH the orders you give it. If I tell my creature ''when farmer is hungry, feed it'' it can stil decide to do something else. It can still be too dumb to understand. It can still just trample the poor farmer while it throws a cow onto it.
Characters in my party can still follow their own decisions. But they shouldn''t, because I''m the leader of the group and they''re supposed to follow orders (might be fun to punish them afterwards with push-ups ).

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Silvermyst    113
Another option for programming AI sets would be that it could make any player a good team leader.

Imagine programming different AI sets for different commands.

One command could be ''all out attack''. You''d program the AI of all your group members to ''when all out attack is announced, charge forward and attack closest enemy, no questions asked''.

Another command could be ''attack casters first''. You''d program the AI of all your group members to ''when attack casters first is announced, target enemy casters first, no questions asked''.

Of course, you''d be able to create commands anywhere in between.

''All out attack, but if possible attack casters first''

Then during play, as a team leader, you could watch the situation and make decisions based on that. Depending on your skill at programming the AI of your group members (well, not actually programming as much as picking) you would be able to issue a few simple orders and watch the fight unfold.

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Ketchaval    186
quote:
Original post by sunandshadow
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.


Ah, in Black & White the player had influence over their assistants actions, but did not direct them (fully). The Creature could be used as a counterpoint to the players'' actions.

Ie. Player throws villagers around, breaks houses with rocks, and lightning bolts the houses. (Gaining belief)

The Creature is sent in to clean up the mess ie. Water the fires to put them out, heal the villagers, give them food and wood (also gaining belief).

And the opposite can be achieved (Ie. Destructive creature, helping player).

Or the player and creature can work together to destroy / help the villages.

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BobyDimitrov    122
That''s right, Ketchaval, but only if the Creature is well trained and obeys orders. And in most cases, it is not.

But let''s get back on topic: collaboration.

If the NPCs were programmed the way I talked about above, having minds and making decisions, not just blindly following orders, that will allow some collaborative gameplay.

If you order the NPC to help you, it''s not collaboration. But if the NPC decides to help you based on the situation, your actions, your attitude to the NPC and several more factors, and the NPC really helps you - that''s what we''re looking for.

In a game, utilising that technology, the player will have the chance to decide which NPCs he wants on his side, as long time companions and try to keep them by his actions and attitude. If the player is the party leader, he will know which of the members are most loyal and effective, so he can take proper action to keep them in and to throw the others out.

The more loyal the NPC is, the more likely is to take high risk assigments. I.e. if a not-so-loyal NPC is asked to attack the Ogre you''re attaking too, the NPC would probably refuse to do that. But a loyal NPC that is a long time friend of yours won''t even wait for you to tell him!

Another example. Your party has to cross a big river and one of you have to cross alone to the other side to fasten a rope. A low-loyalty NPC won''t do it. If you continue to insist, the NPC may get insulted and leave the party. A med-loyalty NPC would take some persuading, but COULD eventually agree. If he does and completes the task, the party respect for that member raises and you consider him more loyal now. A high-loyalty NPC would go with little or no pursuading, but if because of some reasons decided not to cross, you could question his loyalty. And finally, if you cross the river on yourself, the party respect towards you raises and the total loyalty too. The NPCs are saying: "You are the bravest man I''ve ever seen, and I''ve seen many, believe me..." and so on.

So everything the player does, says or asks for is dictated by the need for cooperation with other players (npcs, real players, etc).

My 2 cents... or more...

Boby Dimitrov
boby@shararagames.com
Sharara Games Team

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Ronin_54    122
I think the player should not have too much choice about whom follows him. Some NPC''s might actually follow him regardless of what he/she does. Perhaps the NPC has a crush on the character? Or generate a random quest involving the "Mysterious Stranger" from fallout :p

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Ketchaval    186
Just to clarify what the concept behind this thread was (even though it wasn't expressed very well, and the B&W example was very misleading.

Quoted from:

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


Original article by, Paul O'Brien.

----------------------------------------------------


When viewed with a modern eye, obstacles like this make clear how different is the stance of modern IF from its ancestors. Dungeon set itself up unambiguously as the player's antagonist, and it wasn't particularly concerned with telling a story, nor even with describing a world. Plot is nonexistent, and fabulous treasures are described with perfunctory lines like "You see nothing special about the sapphire bracelet." Instead, Dungeon puts its energies into confusing and confounding the player, and wacky map connections are but the tip of the iceberg. Along with the aforementioned mazes, there's the light source, which always runs out at the worst possible times. There's the Round Room, guaranteed to tangle any map. There are the "secret word" puzzles, some of which still perplex me to this day, even though I know how they operate. And of course, there's the thief, whose annoyances are both numerous and legendary. Dungeon wants nothing more than to see you fail, and it's not overly concerned with how much fun you might be having. As Robb Sherwin asserted on rec.games.int-fiction recently [2], "Zork hates its player."

Today's IF, by contrast, works a bit harder to collaborate with the player, with the aim of creating a shared experience, both in setting and plot. Even the Zork games moved in this direction, at least in comparison to Dungeon, mitigating some of the latter game's greatest excesses by straightening out many map connections, allowing more flexibility with the permanent light source, and providing a bit more description from time to time. The ways in which Infocom itself engineered the shift from "text-based puzzle games" to actual interactive fiction is a subject for another article, but what's become clear is that where the emphasis was once on opposition, it has shifted steadily to cooperation.

To my mind, this shift is both appropriate and necessary, and what playing Dungeon illuminated for me is that this movement towards collaborative IF is not the same thing as the concurrent movement towards "literary IF", though they are often confused for one another. I can envision a game that, like Dungeon, has no particular literary pretensions, but unlike Dungeon, isn't trying to undermine its player through the use of arbitrary techniques like twisty map connections and unreliable light sources. I would assert that collaborative IF doesn't need to tell a story, and it certainly doesn't need to aspire to literary greatness, but it does need to work with the player to create a rich, interactive world, and it does need to be concerned with giving the player a positive, fun experience. Of course collaborative IF can be puzzleless, but it needn't be -- puzzles can be part of the fun, as long as they aren't geared towards forcing restarts after 800 moves, or making the player do tedious, menial work.


Edited by - Ketchaval on July 14, 2001 4:21:22 PM

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Aribu    122
I think both concepts introduced in this thread are interesting. Have a quality AI for NPCs in, especially, RPGs could definitely make a world more lifelike.

One way to have the ''best of both worlds'' in NPC AI is to have the NPCs that can be members of the party have basic behaviors that the game designer intended as their personality traits. These are modified throughout the game based on events and character actions, much as described before. However, I believe that scripting behaviors, if you wanted to play god, would alienate like 99% of all users of an RPG. Instead, the programmers could design an optional ''AI'' interface where the player can adjust the strategies, techniques and personalities of the NPCs using options. There could be many, with some being quite advanced, involving changing actual values, not just checking a box. This would get it out of the ''programmer fetish'' category, and back into more of a game, just with some optional features that do not have to detract from the overall experience of the story.

As for the other, initial, concept introduced: I hate just about every dungeon in every RPG. They are illogically planned death traps. Even ''fortresses'' where people are to live have floorplans that wander aimlessly with pointless dead ends.

While this may be off the point, non-party characters need more life. They may as well simply be objects that move and sometimes get in your way. Most have no lives. Towns in games always seem dead and pointless...one may as well be another. In a project I''m working on, there will be a slightly more advanced villager AI than usual, which I believe that, even in its relative simplicity, it will add a great deal to the immersiveness of a game. (Actually, if you''re interested in working on a game where story and the world is most important, let me know.)

Anyway, those are my thoughts.



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Guest Anonymous Poster   
Guest Anonymous Poster
Another possibility that arises when you allow your party members to think for themselves. Perhaps an NPC joins the party under the assumption of helping them with a quest, while he is really spying on them or setting them up to take a fall.

Maybe he is waiting for the right moment when you are injured in battle to stab you in the back. He/she would follow orders up until that point. Possibly in collaboration with the band of gypsy trolls that want to loot your belongings and eat you for dinner.

If you let the computer do everything for you it might take away some of the fun, but at the same time if you are forced to do every single common sense activity yourself you get distracted from the parts that are supposed to be fun. lol

I mean, let''s say you are leading a party of 5. The guy in the back gets jumped by some goblins while you are attacked by bow-and-arrow toting something-or-others in the front. The guy in the back is getting hacked up on the brink of death. He is carrying a few healing potions. In most RPGs that I have played it is up to the player to command his party to use their healing potions at the right time. If I take the time to command this poor sod to drink his potion, I''m gonna be getting pelted with arrows in the meantime. If I am that party member certainly nobody has to tell ME when to drink the potion!

Maybe the guy is out for himself more than he is out for the party. Depending on the personality and loyalty of the character maybe he will drink a potion after sustaining a few scratches or he might wait until he is on the brink of death so as not to waste the valuable juice. Maybe he is of a religion which forbids the use of the potion and he will refuse to drink it even if so ordered. Or maybe he knows that on the other side of this dungeon is a well full of healing water and there is no point in taking the chance of being skimpy now

As long as you have complete control of the main character in the story you should not have to do everything for every member who joins the party. And members of the party should not necessarily be bound to obeying your every order. In reality that just doesn''t happen. Especially when death is the price of failure and you are dealing with wishy-washy and possibly deceitful personalities. Maybe if our character were the king of the land or head of a religious order, his underlings might go on a certain death mission at his request, but nobody is going to do so for an adventurer that is lookin to find a magical artifact or track down the 3-headed walking eel that murdered his brother and stole his magical bottle of pickle juice.

In Baldurs Gate II there is some of this to a degree. Some of the characters will refuse to fight if they are injured and some will disobey your orders or start fights with other members of the party. That is the only reason I have ever kept a game of 2GB on my hard drive for more than a brief test! lol But after playing it for a few days I realized that there was not quite enough of it to keep me interested. Listening to party members squawk at each other got annoying with no bloodshed to make it interesting! lol

Seeya
Krippy

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Aribu    122
I really like the idea of better AI in games to control actions of NPCs. The thing is, most of what can be done to improve things is relatively simple programming. In a game, you don''t have to use computer science research fodder to make something seem more intelligent.

I do not like it, however, when the computer AI makes annoying NPCs who just seem crazy, which is even easier than making them seem smart.

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