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Hajo
Demon Hunter


Joined: 30 Sep 2003
Posts: 779
Location: Between chair and keyboard.

PostPosted: Tue Nov 23, 2004 2:29 pm    Post subject: [quote]

Mandrake wrote:

Quote:

Indeed we try to create worlds, but look at the difference between our wimpy creations and the real world. We are dust. We can't even create an NPC who speaks properly. Our worlds are empty and lifeless


No, they are not. If your NPC does not speak properly, that is not my fault. Any creation of mankind is a world. It is a universe for us to explore. I read a novel, that is a universe, it is a life. I watch a movie, read a comic, watch a sitcom. These are levels of worlds and universes that exist and become real while we experience them.


I agree that we create worlds. I want to hook back to this point, because I hope further discussion will help us to create better games.

The background of my words was this:

I really think our games (not only yours or mine, but all that I've seen so far) suffer from a few problems. The core problem is:

The worlds are not alive. Players soon recognize that the worlds are mechanical, and most of the events are either predetermined or follow simple rules.

By "NPCs can't speak properly" I really meant that they don't speak. We usually give them premade chunks of text, that they spit out as response to some events or other kind of input. This isn't speaking. The NPCs are empty, lifeless. At the very best they are puppets with a story tacked on.

I'm seeking for ways to change this. Making an NPC speak seems to be impossible with current technology and knowledge. if you know better, please let me know. There have been things like Eliza and Lector, which is very close to a speaking NPC, but they are still too limited.

I'm seeking for ways to make the worlds more alive. My current plans are to give the NPCs more AI. I hope that an AI that has ideas, plans and excecutes the plans will give the worlds a somewhat sensible touch. But still my NPCs are simpler than ants, yet they already help a little bit.

If you have ideas how to make the worlds more lively, please let me know. I'm very interested in this topic, although I'm very unsuccessful in improving this aspect of my games.
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Mandrake
elementry school minded asshole


Joined: 28 May 2002
Posts: 1341
Location: GNARR!

PostPosted: Tue Nov 23, 2004 3:04 pm    Post subject: [quote]

Why don't we move this conversation over to writing?

Anyway, I have to disagree with you on that point. You are talking about two things here- Immersion and Suspension of Disbelief. NPC's may be wooden- but they don't have to be. Sure, most of the time they spit out prefabricated text- but that should not be a point of where the player loses suspension of disbelief. But, if you are talking about creating a world in which we experience, I'd have to disagree- a world in which you experience and believe to be real (in the sense that you are completely immersed, not in the sense of being crazy) is something I think not only is possible in an RPG, but has happened. For example- in Ultima 6 & 7 the NPC's not only walked around town, but also went to work, at dinner at night, went to the pub and relaxed after work. Or they would walk down the beach. And they *knew* what they were doing.

In Ultima 4 the game used a very effective conversation tree (simple chat type program. response to keywords) that made you feel like you were actually talking to someone. The conversation actually kept going, like a real conversation. Example.

(NPC is in quotes, PC is not)
hi
"Hello traveller"
job
"I'm a bar wench, I wait tables for a living. Would you like anything to drink?"
drink
"We have a good special today. Grog for only four gold!"
day
"Oh my day is going fine. But I thought I saw something strange happen earlier"
strange
"It was the oddest thing. A drunk all dressed in black was trying to sneak into the castle. Very poorly at that"
drunk
"Well, the odd part is, he look liked one of the town friars"

Etc, etc, etc. But it gave you a feeling of how a real conversation works. Ideas flow from one place to the next. Another way to accomplish this in a more simplistic fashion is to focus on a linear story with very well drawn characters. Much like a novel or a movie, it will feel real (even though the player is restricted) and seem more like it is actually happening.

We can create worlds. But it is also a two way street, we need to help enforce suspension of disbelief, but the player also has to be willing to suspend it. Many people think their Sims are real, even though without supervision they will most likely wet themselves and then starve themselves to death or catch on fire. Yet somehow- people look past these flaws.
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Hajo
Demon Hunter


Joined: 30 Sep 2003
Posts: 779
Location: Between chair and keyboard.

PostPosted: Tue Nov 23, 2004 3:44 pm    Post subject: [quote]

We can move this over to writing. I assume you're a moderator and can do that?

Quote:

For example- in Ultima 6 & 7 the NPC's not only walked around town, but also went to work, at dinner at night, went to the pub and relaxed after work. Or they would walk down the beach. And they *knew* what they were doing.


Cool. My AI is starting gro to something very similar. NPCs have currently 7 desires:

# 1 = Eat/Drink
# 2 = Sleep
# 3 = Hygiene
# 4 = Play
# 5 = Learn
# 6 = Work
# 7 = Social

They choose one, and try to find a place to do it. NPCs can have predefined places (e.g. if an NPCX has a home assigne he'll try to sleep there), others look for hotspots on a map (e.g. a well to drink or wash themselves).

This works very well and really gives the impression of a lively world. I'm currently using kind of emoticons or "think bubbles" to let the player know what the NPC is going for currently.

My dream is to link this to the NPC dialogs. If an NPC knows what he does and why he does it he should be able to do some smalltalk about it. But I'm completely stuck on that :(

Quote:

hi
"Hello traveller"
job
"I'm a bar wench, I wait tables for a living. Would you like anything to drink?"
drink
"We have a good special today. Grog for only four gold!"

It gave you a feeling of how a real conversation works. Ideas flow from one place to the next.


Very nice example :)
I should have played more of the Ultima series.

Writing is something I'm really bad at. I'm not sure if I ever will create nice dialogs - I recognize good ones if I see them, but if I sit down and try to write by myself I just create boring stuff :(

Quote:

We can create worlds. But it is also a two way street, we need to help enforce suspension of disbelief, but the player also has to be willing to suspend it. Many people think their Sims are real, even though without supervision they will most likely wet themselves and then starve themselves to death or catch on fire. Yet somehow- people look past these flaws.


"The Sims" are one of those games that come closest to my idea of a lively world. I've heard "The Sims 2" need less caretaking, but it won't run on my PC, so I can't try it.

Creating worlds - some impression from my inside worlds:

http://www.simugraph.com/en/gallery/sketches2.html
http://www.simugraph.com/en/gallery/sketches3.html
http://www.simugraph.com/en/gallery/sketches.html

Hehe, now this belong to "writing" and "painting" ;^)
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Nephilim
Mage


Joined: 20 Jun 2002
Posts: 414

PostPosted: Wed Nov 24, 2004 5:44 am    Post subject: [quote]

I think it's useful to point out that Ultima IV did not use a conversation tree. It was simple text-response, and it only looked at the first four letters of what you typed.

In other words, you could also have this conversation:

Quote:
hi
"Hello Traveller."
drun
"Well, the odd part is, he look liked one of the town friars"
job
"I'm a bar wench, I wait tables for a living. Would you like anything to drink?"
stran
"It was the oddest thing. A drunk all dressed in black was trying to sneak into the castle. Very poorly at that"


My point with this is not so much to talk about the historical implementation of Ultima IV, but to drive home the fact that you really don't need your conversation engine to be very sophisticated to convey meaningful conversations.

Obviously, in practice, the above conversation wouldn't happen - but it's not the game engine precluding that. It's the writing. The leading of the player through the conversation was done entirely in the text, not in the engine. You communicate so much character and tone with the actual dialogue that even a rudimentary conversation structure goes a long, long way. Let your writing, not your engine, be what engages the player.
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white_door
Icemonkey


Joined: 30 May 2002
Posts: 243
Location: New Zealand

PostPosted: Wed Nov 24, 2004 8:32 pm    Post subject: [quote]

Techinically Ultima 4 might not have been a conversation tree in terms of its programming, but it was one in terms of its logical layout. You only could find out keywords as they came up in parts of the conversation. Often times the conversation would branch out with one or more topics, by giving you two keywords in one statement.

But going back to the main topic, does complex NPC conversation (for every NPC) really help in making your world alive?

Its only interesting or plot characters that will have interesting things to say. And yes, having control of a conversation can be really fun, but does it really add anything to it? If there are different results to the plot based on the conversation path choosen, it can really add another level to the strategy in a game ... However I don't see it a mandatory for an emersive experence. There are other methods for making a world come alive.

Getting the NPCs to move to different places at different times, is cool but something even more important is NPC placement. Some games have the NPCs just wandering around random locations where it doesn't particularly make sense for them to be. Even if you imagine the PC has walked into the town a single frozen point in time... what would everyone being doing at that exact moment? If you have the NPCs move around during the day.. this just becomes more important, it doesn't change the issue. And what would they say to a complete stranger who walked up and tapped them on the sholder?

I mean what would happen if you walked around a strange town talking to every stranger you came across? I think most people would have a series of standard responses like, "What do you want?", "Piss off!", "What's your problem", "Fu..", etc...

Actually I played an interactive fiction (text adventure) a few days ago that had a really nice conversation system. It had the following features, You could choose a line to say involving the current topic of conversation. (1,2,3,...etc) And as you spoke new options would be added to the current topic and old/invalidated options would disappear. (this was paricularly the case when given two ways of saying the same thing) The conversation would naturally change topic as you spoke, however you could also choose to change the topic to something else. (through the use of the "topic <topicname>" command) Sometimes the npc would choose to bring up a new topic, if something happened.. like an interesting person walked into the room. You could also show/give items to the NPC would could result in a new topic being discovered. Finally you could only speak to people you had been introduced to, people you had been told to speak to, or people who had spoken to you first.

So while each option to say and the NPC's response to it was predesigned ... it was extremely interesting and almost felt like having a real free flowing conversation with someone. Also including the social taboos who you could of speak to was very cool. While you can techinically do anything you want, there are some things certain people just can't do due to fear or taboo. At one point in the story.. I chose one option but the character ignored me .. and said something else, because she just couldn't bring herself to say that.

anyway if you want to try it out: http://home.mindspring.com/~emshort/pytho.htm

Personally I agree with your statement that natural language processing is pretty much a waste of time, chatterbots are just too stupid to mantain the illusion of a real character.. even one liners are better.
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Hajo
Demon Hunter


Joined: 30 Sep 2003
Posts: 779
Location: Between chair and keyboard.

PostPosted: Thu Nov 25, 2004 8:32 am    Post subject: [quote]

white_door wrote:

But going back to the main topic, does complex NPC conversation (for every NPC) really help in making your world alive?


Now that we've discussed the converstaiuon problem, what else can we do to make our games worlds more lively?
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white_door
Icemonkey


Joined: 30 May 2002
Posts: 243
Location: New Zealand

PostPosted: Thu Nov 25, 2004 7:51 pm    Post subject: [quote]

I guess in my mind there are a list of factors which can help make a game world seem real:

* NPCs - placement, conversation, and movement
* Simulation of world - NPCs having lives, weather & water features, day/night, items having weight and/or volume and background animations on maps.
* Design of world - orginality and plausibility in the design and reasons for things like the landscape, the towns, and the enemies. Also the design and style of the artwork.
* Interesting and involving side plots and quests. This is actually pretty important... its really good for making the player feel like there are lots of little things that are going on all around in the land, also helps distract them.
* mini-games, I hate them when required.. but as optional stuff.. it can be pretty fun... I'd love to build a simple poker game into an RPG and allow bets and stuff at any tavern/inn.
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Mandrake
elementry school minded asshole


Joined: 28 May 2002
Posts: 1341
Location: GNARR!

PostPosted: Sun Nov 28, 2004 6:44 am    Post subject: [quote]

Quote:

* mini-games, I hate them when required.. but as optional stuff.. it can be pretty fun... I'd love to build a simple poker game into an RPG and allow bets and stuff at any tavern/inn.


I dunno- I'd have to disagree with this, since mini-games seem to destroy immersion factor for me.

The way I see it is that there are 2 types of immersion- one for linear plot (story based) and one for non-linear (world/exploration based). One thing I have noticed is that the more you move away from the one, the more you move towards the other, and it's all basically the idea of player freedom versus story depth. A nonlinear story will never have the depth and breadth as a linear one. A linear story will never have the complicated and realisticly portrayed wolrd as a non linear one.

How the two protray immersion is fundementally different. It is all based on what draws the player in, and what keeps him in. In a linear story based game it's the plot and characters. The player gives up freedom in order to be rewarded with a good story. Anything that hinders this inhibits immersion. In a non-linear game exploration and player freedom (as well as world detail) are what draws the player in. Anything that inhibits this restricts immersion.
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Rainer Deyke
Demon Hunter


Joined: 05 Jun 2002
Posts: 672

PostPosted: Sun Nov 28, 2004 7:51 am    Post subject: [quote]

I can think of plenty of games which are neither immersive in the story sense nor immersive in the exploration sense, which indicates to me that the two are, if not fully compatible, at least not polar opposites. Actually there are very few games that are completely on one side - most nonlinear rpgs provide some sort of plot, and most story based rpgs have some optional side quests. Personally I'd like to see more games that try to bridge the gap.
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white_door
Icemonkey


Joined: 30 May 2002
Posts: 243
Location: New Zealand

PostPosted: Sun Nov 28, 2004 11:56 pm    Post subject: [quote]

For me... being forced into an arcade minigame is horrible.. but being able to optionally take part in a game or use a game machine in some room... adds to the game.

Mandrake wrote:

A nonlinear story will never have the depth and breadth as a linear one. A linear story will never have the complicated and realisticly portrayed world as a non linear one.


I disagree here. Although they are both different factors for different kinds of imersion as you say, and yes, its rare to see games where they are both included fully. There are, however several that have done this. Therefore I believe this is just a design or time issue and its not a question of can it be done or not be done.

In truth, as you make a game more linear... you have more time to make it deep. And as you make the game's world more complex and simulatory.. you have less time for things like character developement. So most people just focus on one or the other. But I think it can be balanced fully and completely and gain the advantages of both.
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Mandrake
elementry school minded asshole


Joined: 28 May 2002
Posts: 1341
Location: GNARR!

PostPosted: Mon Nov 29, 2004 3:27 pm    Post subject: [quote]

Quote:

I can think of plenty of games which are neither immersive in the story sense nor immersive in the exploration sense, which indicates to me that the two are, if not fully compatible, at least not polar opposites. Actually there are very few games that are completely on one side - most nonlinear rpgs provide some sort of plot, and most story based rpgs have some optional side quests. Personally I'd like to see more games that try to bridge the gap.


But- a non-linear game will not have the plot that a linear game has. We are talking about immersion here- and the immersiveness of a non-linear game's plot is not as immersive as a linear one. I think the reason why they are polar oppisates (and will always be polar oppisates) is that it is a tug of war with player freedom. Games that promote exploration, character creation (and creativity) and deep world design give the player a lot of freedom to explore the world with. This is necassary, since if you restricted the player's freedom the game won't seem as real and not as immersive. OTOH, a plot based game the player has less freedom but if the story is good he is still immersed. If you were to give him/her more freedom in a plot based game it would be hard to balance that and still keep the plot immersive.



Quote:


I disagree here. Although they are both different factors for different kinds of imersion as you say, and yes, its rare to see games where they are both included fully. There are, however several that have done this. Therefore I believe this is just a design or time issue and its not a question of can it be done or not be done.

In truth, as you make a game more linear... you have more time to make it deep. And as you make the game's world more complex and simulatory.. you have less time for things like character developement. So most people just focus on one or the other. But I think it can be balanced fully and completely and gain the advantages of both.



Well there is one game (for me) that did bridge the gap. Ultima 7. Don't think I'll ever see a game like that again though. It had brilliantly drawn characters, a well written (and engrossing) story, and complete player freedom (even freedom with realistic consequences....). But, like I said, I don't think we'll ever see that again.
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biggerUniverse
Mage


Joined: 18 Nov 2003
Posts: 326
Location: A small, b/g planet in the unfashionable arm of the galaxy

PostPosted: Mon Nov 29, 2004 7:10 pm    Post subject: [quote]

I'd say that any nonlinear game has a plot, and it's the plot of the user moving around in the world. You immerse them when you can show that you understand what they are doing, and create a feedback loop.

This is perhaps a blatant, huge generalization, but it's what we forget when we want to tell a story to the play. That story is a dictation, whether we like it or not, we are forcing them to play our story, not theirs. That's why people like nonlinearity.

So how do you make a plotless, goalless game, and then create the plot and goals based on what the player does?
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Mandrake
elementry school minded asshole


Joined: 28 May 2002
Posts: 1341
Location: GNARR!

PostPosted: Mon Nov 29, 2004 7:34 pm    Post subject: [quote]

Quote:

I'd say that any nonlinear game has a plot, and it's the plot of the user moving around in the world. You immerse them when you can show that you understand what they are doing, and create a feedback loop.


Now you're just arguing semantics.

Quote:

This is perhaps a blatant, huge generalization, but it's what we forget when we want to tell a story to the play.


Depending. Players have been known to give up freedoms for a good story being told to them.

Quote:

That story is a dictation, whether we like it or not, we are forcing them to play our story, not theirs. That's why people like nonlinearity.


Not everybody likes non-linearity. Even with non-linearty there needs to be a sort of base direction, or else the player gets lost. Basicaly, all games are, are group-based story-telling games. The group exists of players and game designers. Both have a list of freedoms, wants and needs. Now, How good the story is depends on how well the players and the game designers interact, and how well they can tell a story together.

The main point being- it's hard to do both. You can't tell a story with a player and have the player tell the story at the same time. You need to limit the player or limit the story teller (game designer) for order for this to work.

Quote:

So how do you make a plotless, goalless game, and then create the plot and goals based on what the player does?


You don't. In a plotless, goaless game You let the player tell the story. Again, this boils down to the dymnic struggle of player story dictation versus game designer story dictation. Of course in a linear story-centric game (ie: where the game plays like a novel) you are forcing your story down the players throats, leading them around by the dick, and taking away their freedoms. But, a good story is where the player forgets this and lets you do it, as long as they can play some minor wander around and talk to NPC's and fight monsters portion of the game.

What my original intent was, not to start an arguement but instead to point out the two different dynamics of game immersion and interaction AND point out that both need different forms of immersion. What *works* for immersing a player in a non-linear game will not work in a sotrycentric game. And vice versa. The *way* they bring the player in and hook them is different.

For example, being immersed in Nethack or the Sims is completely different from being immersed in Chrono Trigger or Final Fantasy 7. They both contain different rules of immersion and different ways to transport the Player into a mythical realm.
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Mandrake
elementry school minded asshole


Joined: 28 May 2002
Posts: 1341
Location: GNARR!

PostPosted: Mon Nov 29, 2004 7:40 pm    Post subject: [quote]

Quote:

hi
"Hello Traveller."
drun
"Well, the odd part is, he look liked one of the town friars"
job
"I'm a bar wench, I wait tables for a living. Would you like anything to drink?"
stran
"It was the oddest thing. A drunk all dressed in black was trying to sneak into the castle. Very poorly at that"


BTW- Nephlim, this wouldn't have happend in U4. They needed to bring up the word you used first before you could use it. Which was my point. You couldn't ask about strange before she mentioned it. You couldn't ask about drun until she mentioned it. If you did, they would just spit out some "I don't understand" text.
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white_door
Icemonkey


Joined: 30 May 2002
Posts: 243
Location: New Zealand

PostPosted: Mon Nov 29, 2004 10:02 pm    Post subject: [quote]

Yes Ultima 7 was one, another was Planescape: Torment..

In Ultima 7, they had a completely free and open world with a linear plot threaded through the world.. that the player was free to follow at their own pace.

Torment used what I like to think of as.. non-linear bubbles in a linear plot. So you would have an exploration section to the game followed by a fixed plot event, and then back to the exploration section.

During the exploration the player was bound to exploring a fixed number of areas at any given moment... However with in these areas would be total free will... this was handled through a large number of optional conversations, events or quests that could take place. Also you could have conversations with each of your party members at anytime... that could change your relationship with them, allow you to learn more about them, or even allow them to improve themselves through your insight.

After each fixed plot element, either the exploration area would expand to allow them explore more, or the game would transport them to a new area. In addition, new quests elements would be added.

Even within each fixed plot events there were multiple solutions to each problem. And multiple conversation paths that could have long term effects on the game. Including the end of it.

They had a massive world with so many details and so many pathways and options to do.. However at no point was I confused about the plot or what was happenning next. So I was both engrossed by the feeling that I was in a free moving world and at the same time.. drawn in by the twists and turns in the plot.

It might be impossible for a game to be both linear and non-linear at the same time.. but Torment was both linear and non-linear at different moments. And this just rocked. And if it was done once it proves it can be done, and could be done again.
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