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real ingame chemistry proposal

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i have a neat idea that i would like to throw out there and have everybody give me their opinions. i was thinking that usually games have preset "materials" i guess you could call them. ie. do you want your armor to be a) steel, b) iron, or c)titanium. where steel wieghs this much and gives this much protection, iron weighs this much and ... etc. and the user simply picks one of these preset materials. well, what if we could have, oh, say 64 basic elements in our game (i just came up with the number 64, but follow me). and then the user could research and try and put elements together in certain order and try and find new chemical materials that would, oh, weigh less but give same protection for example. so there would be a HUGE amount of materials just waiting to be discovered. then when you and your friend fight, your entities in the game could be very diverse depending on which chemicals each of you have stumbled upon while researching. if done right, this could lead to a very high level of replay for the game. a way i could think of to do the ingame chemistry thing is to somehow create a function that would take the string of chemicals and figure out their properties (properties could be anything you wanted i suppose). this function should also be designed so some computer "hacker" couldnt cheat and know the end result chemical properties he wanted and find which chemicals in what order produced the desired result. (we could probably take some information from encryption algorithm developers to figure this part out). what do you think? - jeremiah http://fakemind.com Edited by - fakemind on November 19, 2001 11:52:55 AM

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and they use these materials they invented (with the chemicals) to make armor and stuff?
this sounds pretty cool.
to give the ultimate replayability, have the program make up which combinations make what material each time the game is restarted (they stay the same if you save and go back later, but when you start a new game they change).

--- krez (krezisback@aol.com)

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they could use the materials for armor, or a more powerful explosive, or whatever. it would all depend on the properties of the material (sequence of basic chemicals).

i thought about having it randomize what the basic chemicals produce each game. im still not sure about online multiplayer support for this though, since you would need universal outcomes in this case. also, lets say you have researched for a while and found an awesome material that you want to use against other people and it would be your "secret weapon" or whatever. anyway, how could we get it to work but still keep the people you are playing against from knowing how to produce the same material?

- jeremiah
http://fakemind.com

(editted, had some more ideas)

Edited by - fakemind on November 19, 2001 1:15:49 PM

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It''s a good concept, but you''ll have to make it so that the player can actually predict what the end product will be like, ie, if you have a list of made up elements, the player wouldn''t know shit about what should go with what, hence it will be pure chance whether he/she gets a good combination.

Instead, how about making up a mini periodic table, using the same sort of rules... That would give enough insight into which elements could chemically go with which other elements, yet they wouldn''t be able to recognise names actually used in real life for explosives etc, as the names will be made up.

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hmmm...i made a program which you could make compunds out of stuff on the periodic table and would name them, but it kept giving me the proper name for water

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Intriging idea. It would allow the play to become completely customizable. There is one drawback, you assume the player knows chem. It would be neat if it were just alloys that you could make, but that would limit you to about 10-15 elements. Explosives and the kind of stuff are quite complicated and involve lots of thinking. Still a neat idea.

~mse61

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I think it''s alright for the player to have to know a little chemistry. Or perhaps the game could have a small chem primer. This could be a valuable teaching tool if implemented properly. It''s been too long since I''ve played a game that actually taught me a skill as I was enjoying myself.

FragLegs

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in UltimaIV you had to mix up "reagents" in the proper order and concentrations to make magic spells. i played that game before the internet was readily available, so i had to figure out all the combinations myself (although a few were given away by NPCs). this was with no knowledge of chemistry; if you are not using real-life components, and real-life chemistry (electron shells, valence numbers, ionization energies, etc) then you don''t have to know any real-life chemistry.
fakemind: sorry, i missed it when you said this would be a online game. the formulas would have to be constant then.
oh, and you should allow for certain mixtures (the ones that are found through trial-and-error) to blow up in the would-be chemist''s face

--- krez (krezisback@aol.com)

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Yeah this is a great idea. I am actually implementing that in my game right now, I just need to work out the graphics before I go into it seriously. But if you wanna see my VB game where you can make your own spells just by combining different things, ask me I was also thinking of doing that with spells, too. Let''s say you cast ice blast and then you cast meteor shower. You''ll get the new skill/spell Ice shower! =P Good luck to you.

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hmm, interesting ideas... .

a mini made-up periodic table is a good idea. i also like the idea of the risk of trying new "mixes". like if you were trying to find a more powerful explosive for you to use in the game theres the risk of it being too unstable and harming yourself.

now how would the player go about experimenting with new materials? if we had 16 base chemicals (our made-up periodic elements) .. two combined would give 256 (assuming you cant mix a material with itself: 240), three combined would give 4096 (3360), and four 65536 (43680). you could even incorporate into the game super-awesome elements that require like 6 elements put in the right order: 16777216 (5765760). with these amount of combinations, its not plausible to have the players manually combine elements, there would have to be some sort of automation. i wouldnt want to try each of even 65536 combinations manually, and id probably loose track of which ones ive tried and which ones i havent. lol. so how could we automate the mixing process but still keep it fun and interesting and actually involve the player to think about which "mixes" to try?

- jeremiah
http://fakemind.com

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When I said use a mini periodic table, I also meant the chemistry that went with it, ie, valencies etc, so that for instance, group 1 bonds well with group 5 I think ( the flourine group - it''s been a bit since I did chemistry ).

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sorry, my post got cut short because i wanted to leave work more than i wanted to keep typing
but anyways, i think UltimaIV had a great system: the different "reagents" did different things, so you could learn that "black pearl" made a long-range spell, and "nightshade" had a "kill things" effect; sulphurous ash either added a "light" or "firey" effect. so, knowing this, you could make an educated guess as to what to put in a spell to make it have the proper effects.
i am not saying that you should copy this system, but i like the idea that you can learn what some of the individual elements do; in a more complex system, you could have interactions between the elements also (ie. element1 is explosive, element2 is poisonous, but element1+element2 have some chemical reaction that causes healing). this way, after learning some stuff about some of the elements, the players can research and experiment based on their knowledge, but they had best be careful with their mixing. the addition of these special combinations will keep it interesting, so that a player might assume that adding tons of element1 to everything to make it blow up could eventually mix it the wrong way and end up healing an enemy and learn a whole new thing.
as far as the many many combinations, a whole lot of combinations would do nothing useful (either fizzle, turn some color, just sit there and make you wonder if you should drink it or not). this is something i learned when i got a hobby chemsitry set when i was little. there is a lot more to being a mad scientist than mixing random things and hoping for something to happen
damn, that would be neato.
i don''t think you should go as far as valence electrons and stuff; this is just personal taste, but that sounds too much like high school for it to be fun. you can make a believable and fun system without forcing the players to learn annoying details.

--- krez (krezisback@aol.com)

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whether or not base elements mix well would be determined in the non-reversible mixing function that produced the characteristics (properties) of the resultant. im shur we would need some in game chemical rules so the player would have some idea what to try and mix to produce a desired material. there also needs to be some results that are unexpected as throughout history chemical-mistakes have been sustantially helpful to the world. i still havent thought of a good way for the player to experiment and develop new chemicals quickly but not just brute force. i think automation is needed because of the high number of possible mixtures.
if the automation process could try 1000 mixtures a second, it would take about a minute to find all 4 element mixtures, so after a minute the player would know all 4 element mixtures, what fun would that be? i dont think slowing it down would work, cuz then the game would simply be reverse engineered and sped up by some user so they could get an edge over everybody else. perhaps the non-reversible mixing function (MF from here on out for "mixing function") would be some sort of hash function that in itself could be designed to take a while to process? the MF could take a string of elements in a specific order, and produce a n-bit output that contains the properties of that mixture. properties could contain explosive power, mass (weight), armor-protectiveness level, PH level (a strong acid might be useful, but then youd need to find a strong base so you could hold it), or perhaps even a new type of sensor for the bot (in my game your entity is a robot you design and build and program the A.I. for, which can run semi-autonomous or autonomous).

i dont know. these are just ideas im throwing out. more heads are better than one. (depending on who the head belongs to i guess).

what do you all think?

- jeremiah
http://fakemind.com

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great ideas krez. having most mixtures "either fizzle, turn some color, just sit there and make you wonder if you should drink it or not" (hehe) would make it more realistic and fun. i also really like the idea for the user to know some idea about basic properties like you said but add in some "randomness"...

quote:

the addition of these special combinations will keep it interesting, so that a player might assume that adding tons of element1 to everything to make it blow up could eventually mix it the wrong way and end up healing an enemy and learn a whole new thing.



i completely agree.

i havent really thought much about how to impliment the MF, although its probably the most important part of the whole system. any ideas?

- jeremiah
http://fakemind.com

Edited by - fakemind on November 19, 2001 7:22:19 PM

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Guest Anonymous Poster
http://www.foresight.org/Conferences/MNT9/Abstracts/Parker/

These people may know some things that would interest you. Certainly their work is the most relevant application of my own interest in this area that I''ve ever seen.

ld

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not to be a stick in the mud, but why do you want the players to have the computer mix batches of chemicals automatically? wouldn't this take the whole point out of doing this system? even if it takes some amount of time, a player can set it up to mix several things in different orders and the go take a nap.
if they know a formula will work, they should be able to have it mix a certain amount (mix 15 pounds of element1 and 10 pounds of element2 to get 25 pounds of, um... well, whatever)... but just telling the computer "mix all possible combinations of elements 1 through six and report back" would take the fun out of it.
that's just my view on it though.

um, just out of curiousity, what type of game is this going to be? the only thing i picked up so far is that it is online and has robots.

--- krez (krezisback@aol.com)

Edited by - krez on November 19, 2001 8:46:22 PM

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nobody is a stick in the mud simply for having an opinion. *smiles*

----

the game is one ive been wanting to make for years. its not going to be a multiplayer-only game, just that an online multiplayer play mode will be there. the game is going to take place in a top-down tiled world. first of all you will get to design your robot. its transportation (tread, hover, wheeled, etc), its weapon, its armor and shield if any (armor = material on robot to protect it, shield = energy field .. think star trek), its sensor to locate other objects and robots (heat, movement, etc), and other tangible features. then you will have to program the artificial intelligence of your robot. i guess you dont have to, you could run your bot manually, but it wouldnt be as good as if it had A.I.. anyway, the scripting language for your bot''s A.I. will be similar to C, and will be based off a finite state machine. in semi-autonomous mode you give orders to your bot of when to switch modes, and you can also send coordinate points to your bot with the mouse. (ie. switch your bot to "attack" mode, and then click an area you want him to focus around). in fully autonomous mode your bot will run complely on its A.I. alone. there will be a 1 player mode that will basically have a progressing adventure where you will be able to re-program your bot between stages and change his physical attributes as well, depending on the task at hand. in multiplayer mode your bot will fight against other bots to see who is the best of the best, and this is where the multiplayer mode will come into play. connect to your friend and have a battle. there could even be teams where you program/design a group of, oh, say, 5 bots against your friends 5 bots. imagine a battle of 10 bots each designed and programmed to a particular strategy where each bot can communicate with its teammates or try and jam its opponents radio frequencies. with fully customizable bots, weapons, and other features thanx to things such as in-game chemistry as well as other features im going to add. (ie. another feature is a way to have the players be able to design their weapons, so there will be no "you can only pick these 20 pre-set hard-wired-into-the-game weapons", you''ll get to design your own based upon basic components)

anyway, thats the idea of it, keep in mind ive just started. so far ive got a robot running around a tiled world, so im just to the point of "its working, now i need to add in all the features".

----

now back to in-game chemistry:
well, the imphasis is not going to be so much as the player mixing elements and finding different materials on its own, but rather the vast variety of chemical resultants that will make each players bot unique. kind of like each player will have a different set of elements they have researched themselves, which i think will add in a huge replayability to the game and keep each individual robot special.
i guess, for my game at least, the in game chemistry is simply a way to keep it new, afresh, a high amount of replayability and unique-ness to the players bot, and not necessarily a big part of the game. .. i hope that makes sense, sometimes things make sense in your head, but not when you try to communicate them.

- jeremiah
http://fakemind.com

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very interesting...
definitely not a game for those people who just like to run around killing stuff (unless they also have an intellectual side).
scripting the AI with a c-like language? ouch seriously, though, this sounds like fun (do i sound like a dork now?).
when you have a website up about this game (if you do) be sure to put a link here so i can check it out. this sounds like one that i will want to follow.

--- krez (krezisback@aol.com)

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I only have a limited amount of chem knowledge but I don''t see how that can work with the player just screwing with chemicals. The sheer amount of combinations out there would mean the player would have very little luck with trial and error and would need too much chem knowledge to have even a chance at getting something. However if you simplified it like Ultima IV then by all means go for it.

However I propose an alternative:

Go ahead and make a fairly realistic (or not, concept is the same) chemistry system, but have it so that you need to get scientists to research different materials. Then instead of the player getting frustrated, the game does that and the player gets the satisfaction of the end result. If you add an element of randomness into the algorithm that finds these materials, each person will still be discovering different stuff but the frustration factor won''t be there. And people could also manually make the materials, so you would have people online posting differenting materials and trading them and stuff, that might be cool. Or I''m a fool, and this is a bad idea, I don''t know.

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I like the idea of each base element having a vague property, like "kills stuff" or "makes stronger." Then the player has a little lab with a chemical mixer. They can put, say, 1 to 5 units of one chemical in the left side and 1 to 5 of a second in the right side, hit the go button, some nifty graphical effect happens and BAM they have some amount of a resultant chemical.

They don''t necessarily get the same amount of stuff back, either. Like 3 units of chemical A and 4 units of chemical B might give you 3 units of chemical A3B4, etc.

Now, there would be a very well defined set of rules that determine what each combination does. But you wouldn''t tell the player what it was - the fun would come from experimenting to figure out which element was the "make stronger reactions" chemical and whatnot.

So each chemical would have basic properties as to its effects on "stuff" (other robots, etc) and basic properties as to its effects on chemical reactions. "stuff" properties would include explosiveness, corrosiveness, stickiness, and, uh, vandalismness (lots of neon green and pink robots going around - fine, I couldn''t think of another property ;p) The reaction properties would have the same 4 (or whatever number of "Stuff" properties) columns and mathematical formulas for calculating strengths of resultant chemicals. Ok, that was written pretty poorly, so here''s an example to illustrate:

Chemical 1: Polydorkaphone (Pd)
S-Properties
E: 1
C: 1
S: 8
V: 10

R-Properties:
E: E_t + E_o
C: C_t + C_o
S: S_t + S_o
V: V_t + V_o

So, this chemical is basically neon glue that makes other robots look like statues in a city of radioactive pigeons. The R-Property formulas are all "t+o" which stands for this+other. So if you add this chemical to another chemical the resultant properties will simply add together.

Chemical 2: Soboredazine (Sb)
S-Properties:
E: 10
C: 0
S: 0
V: 0

R-Properties:
E: E_t + E_o
C: C_t + C_o
S: S_t + S_o
V: V_t + V_o

So this is just TNT. It also has the same simple reaction properties of t+o.

Now here is how the mixing works:

Pd + Sb would simply be:
PdSb:
E: 11
C: 1
S: 8
V: 10

because the averages of the R-Property functions would give those results.

Now, say you want a chemical to exhibit odd behavior if a certain limit is reached. For example, Sb is highly explosive unless mixed with a certain amount of stickiness, in which case it becomes SO sticky that it holds the explosion together and both kind of cancel out. You just need to make the R-Properties a little more complicated:

Reaction Properties:
E: if (S_o > E_t) 0; else E_t+E_o

and etc. If you wanted to make a chemical do something odd like decrease in stickiness when another was added to it, you could say:

Reaction Properties:
S: S_t / S_o

or something like that. This is an extremely versatile system because of the different ways that the formulas could be mixed. When averaging the result you could simply weight by the number of units of each chemical to give biases towards whichever they put in more of, or use a more complicated system.

The trick would be calculating resultant Reaction Properties. Averaging formulas is obviously more complicated than averaging numbers.. if you were to use this method you could do something like assign a dominance level to each chemical and simply use all of the more dominant chemical''s reaction properties instead of trying to find a compromise.

Anyway there are some unflushed out ideas in here but I think using this method would be really, really cool. If you created a reaction formula generator then it would be easy to come up with a new set of elements in each game, so the process of research would not be lost after the first play. You wouldn''t want to have too many base elements (probably having the same number of elements as you do properties, in this case, 4, would be good) because then the research would get very difficult. But the inability to mix more than 2 at a time would keep research simple for people that really just want a more explosive robot. It would be pretty simple to figure out the basic qualities of each chemical at the initial level. But other people who are more interested in this puzzle aspect of the game than other areas would also have the challenge of figuring out not only the S-Properties but the R-Properties. In some games (with the randomly generated properties and all) they would just get the satisfaction of solving the puzzle. They could use the information for trading purposes, and whatnot. I think the whole idea of trading information is really insanely cool, but that''s another story altogether. In other games, though, they might get lucky and find some really kick ass chemical. Sweet!

Heh, what a cool idea.

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how about these for properties?

01* stickiness (coat gernade so it sticks to its victim; keeping some materials stable; squirt on floor for tar trap; etc)
02* ph level (acid; base coat to protect against acid; etc)
03* mass/weight (this is common sense)
04* burnability (low= burns long and hot, medium = rocket fuel, high = explodes quick)
05* strength (armor; blades dont dull so often; etc)
06* heat (would this be a good heat sink?)
07* magnetic (does it conduct magnetism very well?)
08* electric (does it conduct electricity very well?)
09* roughness (traction; aerodynamics; etc)
10* energy (in my game this would be good as your robot powered by a piece of material that generates raw energy for you)
11* bouncy (ability to take damage and reverse it; bouncy gernades?; rubber coating to take some of the impacts; etc)
12* state (liquid, sold, gas, or plasma; would determine what this element is; useful for smoke screens; liquid or solid fuels; etc)
13* type (for special weapons; tractor beams, sheilds, cloaks, energy blasts; this property would keep it interesting even more!)
( and im shur i could think up a couple more )

i like the idea of not getting: 1 kg + 1 kg = 2 kg. this way some very good materials might require a lot more regular materials to make, since they're more valuable. in a sense they would "cost" more to make. (in my game you create things via a energy-to-mass converter, so it would cost you more energy to make "rare" materials because you would have to create more base elements to mix to get the desired resultant.)

im going to start coding on my "in-game chemistry" monday when im back home at my computer, but i still dont have any good ideas for a mixing formula that is non-reversible. (to deter hackers from knowing exactly what to mix to get an end result by reverse engineering the mixing formula). it needs to be non-reversible, let the player know a little bit of what to mix to get a desired result but still add in unexpected results.

this is the main part of the whole system, and i dont know. im going to go look into hashing functions, maybe they will provide some ideas for me.

- jeremiah
http://fakemind.com

Edited by - fakemind on November 21, 2001 9:32:14 PM

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I think if you''re going to have sooo many properties that you''ll have to at the very least provide some hints about what they are, and how to manipulate them. Maybe some recovered chemistry (alchemy?) tomes from an ancient civilization (oooh maybe the ancient civ could be now and your game is in the future, eh?) or something.

As for hackers using the binary to figure out how the chemical processes go:
1 - that''d be pretty tough, and you wouldn''t have to worry about it until your game gets really popular
2 - one easy solution is just to do all chemical calculations on the server, and send results to the players afterwards. Then just don''t distribute the server binary. This way hackers have nothing to "reverse engineer" and the only way to figure out how the chemical stuff works is to actually try it with your chemistry lab that you provide in the game.

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I must say this is an interesting idea ... programmers have put a lot of effort into getting realistic physics in their games - why not have realistic chemistry as well?

I wonder though, would you have a predetermined number of mixes or could you set each element up with the correct valencies and calculate chemical reactions on the fly? For example, the Ultima IV reagent system - the spells fizzled if you mixed the wrong components. But surely if you mixed up, say, sulfurous ash with black pearl in the wrong quantities without other suitable reagents, wouldn''t it blow up? or ash and spider silk might burn away.

If you could come up with some chemical system, you might be able to invent spells the designers didn''t anticipate - or build a lightweight waterproof suit of armour out of some sort of plastic substance your character discovered by accident :-)

--

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