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Wavinator

Ways To Represent How Something Works

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Without forcing the player to watch in detail, how would you visually convey this sort of process: Traders bring food to the city, which is given first to the rich, with the poor getting whatever's left; but the food supply is cut off and people are starting to riot, which is weakening the power of the local king. I'm looking for some way of presenting knowledge a character would have which would be different from place to place. The information would tell a player how to get something done (such as where to buy illegal arms), who's in charge and where they get their power from, and how to break something up or change it (like representing that people are oppressed by a dictator or addicted to a drug). I was thinking of representing things visually with icons in a manner similar to those old diagrams of the water cycle that show moisture turning into rain. Bubbles would connect icons of items to characters, and different styles of arrows would link them with more abstract concepts like "morale" or "fear." Bubbles would get filled in as you talk to people or use character skills with a result being that sandbox style goals would be visible at any time (because you could see "how the world worked.") If I could come up with some sort of proper representation I'm thinking that I can visually represent an abstraction of different problems, situations or even cultures in game world I'm working on. Any thoughts?

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If you wanted something perhaps a little less abstract, you could look at having some kind of news channel.

In this way you could have news stories for the important points that you wanted to convey, with ongoing updates for evolving info or knowledge that you want to feed the player over time.

I'm not sure if it fits your setting or not, but it wouldn't be too hard to fit something like this into a science fiction setting I think.

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Original post by Warshade
If you wanted something perhaps a little less abstract, you could look at having some kind of news channel.

I'm not sure if it fits your setting or not, but it wouldn't be too hard to fit something like this into a science fiction setting I think.
Even in other settings it could work. In a mediaeval setting, you would have a town crier presenting the 'official' version of the news, and a gossip at the local tavern presenting the 'unofficial' version of the news - with the benefit that the player has to read between the lines of both to figure out the real truth.

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Have you thought using a dynamic variation of an entity relationship diagram?

Here are a few example images:

http://infolab.stanford.edu/~ullman/fcdb/ito/er.gif
http://www.fmc-modeling.org/images/quick-intro/TravelAgency.ERD.gif
http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3601/3600883265_90a5972298.jpg

You could jazz it up with different icons and colours with different meanings. Add some animation perhaps to show changing factors or points of interest.

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Original post by Warshade
If you wanted something perhaps a little less abstract, you could look at having some kind of news channel.


This works for very straightforward stuff and is what normally fills the pages of a in-game journal. But if you had a lot of instances of situations you wanted to keep straight it would either necessitate watching a lot of news or rereading a lot of journal pages.

But picture a setting where there are dozens upon dozens of locations, each of which have their own situations. How do you keep it all straight? Even worse, what if you take a break from the game and come back, forgetting what the news or journals said?


Quote:
Original post by TechnoGoth
Have you thought using a dynamic variation of an entity relationship diagram?


These are really dry but as you said they might benefit well from flashy icons and animation. I was also thinking each node could be clicked on in order to get more detail about it and that maybe it could be filled in by what NPCs in the game world tell you.

Another complication: An entity map would represent an absolute rendering of how things work. Do you think they could be used to represent information that's fuzzy/hazy? Maybe use a flowchart concept where things that are unknown appear differently than things that are known.

And do you think it would undermine the concept if links could be wrong?

(I don't, btw, know exactly how to present this to the player-- something on their character sheet, maybe, but that just seems so WEIRD!)


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Original post by Wavinator
Quote:
Original post by TechnoGoth
Have you thought using a dynamic variation of an entity relationship diagram?


These are really dry but as you said they might benefit well from flashy icons and animation. I was also thinking each node could be clicked on in order to get more detail about it and that maybe it could be filled in by what NPCs in the game world tell you.

There's a reason why technical manuals and textbooks are dry... The information you're presenting to the player is itself dry. If the knowledge that the player will have difficulty playing without this information isn't enough to motivate him to read it, then your game probably just isn't the player's cup of tea.

Quote:
Another complication: An entity map would represent an absolute rendering of how things work. Do you think they could be used to represent information that's fuzzy/hazy? Maybe use a flowchart concept where things that are unknown appear differently than things that are known.

And do you think it would undermine the concept if links could be wrong?

a square --IS--> a rectangle
a rectangle --CAN BE--> a square

^ In my diagram above, do you think the relationship from rectangle to square undermines the relationship from square to rectangle? (Hopefully) most people will understand , and if you agree that "dumbing down" a game at the expense of the hardcore audience is short-sighted, then don't worry about the rest.

Quote:
(I don't, btw, know exactly how to present this to the player-- something on their character sheet, maybe, but that just seems so WEIRD!)

It's just an arbitrary collection of interrelated information. I would handle it the same as the character sheet - on its own screen, linked to from the HUD.

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Finally a use for a character's intelligence (your ability to learn new information) and wisdom (your ability to interpret the learned information).

I wonder if this is a bit of a chicken-or-egg dilemma in that you may have to first decide how to properly code these relations and then develop a way to visualize it.

Have you played the Wolverine: Origins? Though I'm sure it's not the only game to use a "help" feature like this, it has a "feral senses" mode where the screen goes to black-and-white but the path to be followed or the item to be manipulated jumps out in color. (I also think it highlights weak spots on enemies.) Selecting this help mode would reveal the known information to the players.

Help mode -> desired items

This would reveal what your character knows about the nearby characters in regard to the items they desire (based on your intelligence score). With a high enough wisdom score, nearby characters that own the desired items would be revealed. Perhaps the path from demand to supply would be revealed.

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Original post by Wavinator
Without forcing the player to watch in detail, how would you visually convey this sort of process: Traders bring food to the city, which is given first to the rich, with the poor getting whatever's left; but the food supply is cut off and people are starting to riot, which is weakening the power of the local king.

I'd make a mission for the player among poor people, and among rich people, and also among the traders, and have those different people tell the player about their view of things. The missions could be performed in any order to get the entire picture.
Assuming you have a game with characters who can talk to the player (either in text or in voice), that is.

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Original post by Dathgale
There's a reason why technical manuals and textbooks are dry... The information you're presenting to the player is itself dry. If the knowledge that the player will have difficulty playing without this information isn't enough to motivate him to read it, then your game probably just isn't the player's cup of tea.


Yeah you have a point. Since I haven't seen this done elsewhere I won't really have a basis to judge it until I actually get some code working.

I had thought of it in terms of a player thinking something like, "Who's in charge here?" or "Why is the Undercity so poor?" I wanted this to motivate them to think, "If I changed this thing (say, crime) that's causing this other thing (say, demoralized populace) then I can get this effect (say, increased status or production of some good)."


Quote:

a square --IS--> a rectangle
a rectangle --CAN BE--> a square


Hmm... okay I'm trying to fit this into what I'm thinking. Let's say I'm trying to represent a chain of potential causes that relates to people getting lung damage on a new colony. I need to show that it's maybe the air filters in a new factory, maybe something in the soil or maybe saboteurs releasing toxins.

I could have facts, such as "some factories can cause disease" versus "this factory is causing a disease." Or I can have facts like "some anarchists want to bring down the colony" versus "this specific person is an anarchist."

If something is known to be the cause of something without a doubt, it can be a certain shape, or have a certain type of line associated with it. If it's more indeterminate, maybe the shape is less solid (more "fuzzy") or the line is less direct (or more transparent).

Lies, prejudices and plain ignorance can be mapped as solid lines that are simply wrong or shapes that are rigidly defined when they should not be. It could almost work like placing a confidence value, though at the moment I have no idea how it would look or how difficult it would be to pack together and arrange.


Quote:

It's just an arbitrary collection of interrelated information. I would handle it the same as the character sheet - on its own screen, linked to from the HUD.


Though I don't want it to be so limited, this could very well work under a VR/cyberpunk motif, sort of like a depiction of "infospace."


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Original post by Silvermyst
This would reveal what your character knows about the nearby characters in regard to the items they desire (based on your intelligence score). With a high enough wisdom score, nearby characters that own the desired items would be revealed. Perhaps the path from demand to supply would be revealed.


I had not thought of this as a kind of help mode but that could work just as well, especially blended with character skill.

I've been planning on presenting levels somewhat abstractly, say as a city map or ship schematic. Maybe a kind of overlay would work on top of this, where the level goes a bit out of focus and things like states within different parts of the level arise with connections displayed. Lots of gang violence in the nothern end of a city, for instance, might show up as red gun icons. If you know that a specific person is behind it, but not who, the gun icons link to a shadowy face. If you know who they link to, but not where he/she is, their face floats over the area. Finally, if you know who and where, there's a specific, clickable link that lets you go to their location and interact with them.

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