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Aug 07, 2005

Comments

1.

Nate: Does knowledge of cheating or unfair play matter to players? If yes, then the harder question then is, when not?

Yes. Morever, the knowledge that play is deterministic matters too.

It matters because most of us have an innate desire to win and some other similar psycological desires. I don't have direct answers, so I'll give examples of what I mean.

Example #1: If I knew that the AI player is the perfect card counter, I wouldn't play. But if the AI "cheat" to play at my level, then the knowledge of such is a reassurance.

Example #2: Some games with random elements are actually deterministic in their random number generators. A great example is Civilization III where an AI spearman beats my tank each and every time I reload the game because the random numbers generated were preset.

Hmm, I'm trying to think of an situation where the knowledge does not matter. It escapes me. I'll come back later if I have any.


Nate: Perhaps then, the lesson is: cheat on the explicit, but don't touch the implicit third-rail!

I think there should be an addition to Asimov's Law of Robotics: Thou shall not cheat unless it is for the benefit of humankind. My sentiment is expressed in example #1.

There is much for MMORPGs to learn from LARPs as LARPs have coded rules but also have the flexibility to adapt to new situations.

So the rule may be reverse: don't touch the core rules, but feel free to embellish and add "character" or in another view "soul". Many have done so with D20 system. Many have done so with Mods of various games.

So, I don't agree with Wyett Chang's conclusions. It's not about challenge; tt's about the experience. Would I rather watch 5 strangers play poker on TV or watch celebrities? Would I play with 3 identical instances of the same AI in hearts or 3 AI's with different strategy and tactics?

I have an innate desire to know the AI.

Don't you?

Frank

2.

1. I’m mostly po’ed about City of Heroes these days, so whatever I might write is likely motivated by that. Case in point: here and now.

2. The only thing I really remember about Will Wright’s spore presentation/powerpoint online version (I did not see it live) was his claim that the *illusion* of human-like AI is much easier to achieve than the reality of human-like AI.

3. In fact, of course, the illusion of human-like AI is the only thing we may be *capable* of achieving. And I’m beginning to believe it is the only thing we actually do achieve in our own, human-in-fact heads.

4. Humans anthropomorphize everything. It’s built-in. Thus, pet rocks and human faces on Mars. Players, as you note, always complain that computers cheat just as though computers were human and capable of doing so. Certain games are “smart,” certain games are “stupid,” etc.

And now the two examples from City of Heroes.

* In City of Heroes -- like in all, it inevitably seems, mmorpgs – things are getting nerfed. Characters are being put into, its called, “balance.” This means that characters that were previously uber are now less so, and characters that could previously destroy zillions of minions can now, in the same amount of time, only destroy a half a zillion. And players are complaining about it. This makes them feel, they say, less “heroic.” I tend to agree. What matters in the virtual world is not the reality of the challenge but the experience of the challenge. And, if that experience of the challenge is an illusion, it doesn’t even have to be, all the time, a very good illusion. It can be a sort-of-okay illusion and still be fun.

* In the totally borked current City of Heroes pvp system, certain characters are uber. Ice/energy blasters – just to name names. Other characters are not. SR scrappers – just to name names. (Disclaimer: I play neither of these characters.) Now, inevitably, players of ice/energy blasters will consider their play (not their characters) uber. They will enter the pvp arena of CoH and mercilessly destroy all SR scrappers and/or any other less uber characters over and over again, attributing each and every victory to their clever and devious strategies rather than to the much more obvious, borked pvp design. There’s no AI involved here. There’s no challenge. There’s plenty of illusion. And, at least for the players with the uber characters, regardless of reality, there’s plenty of fun.

Now, if, as in the Will Wright comments above (#2), it is easier to *design* the illusion than the reality – primarily because (#4) players give you so much help – then why do designers spend such long and costly and misguided time designing (or, as in the case of City of Heroes, trying to design) the reality of challenge? Given the pressures of time and money and fact, won’t all designers eventually just go for the illusion?

I’ve been trying to say this over and over again for some time: Whether we know it or not, the illusion wins. Or, even better: Because we *can’t* know it or not, the illusion wins. Because we can’t design the reality to begin with; because we can’t tell the difference between the two anyway; because, given the always uninformed choice, we choose the illusion.

3.

dmyers wrote:

"* In City of Heroes -- like in all, it inevitably seems, mmorpgs – things are getting nerfed. Characters are being put into, its called, “balance.” This means that characters that were previously uber are now less so, and characters that could previously destroy zillions of minions can now, in the same amount of time, only destroy a half a zillion. And players are complaining about it. This makes them feel, they say, less “heroic.”"

Exactly my sentiments. Setting does matter: I don't necessarily expect that one of the Three Musketeers (to use one example) will be able to mow down thousands of henchmen--I do feel that Superman should be able to. That's a big part of the reason I left CoH. It just didn't feel very true to its source material. Any comic book reader knows that the big, interesting battles are between super heroes and similarly powered super villains--in other words, their peers. It just felt slightly ridiculous to me, from a comic book perspective, to spend all my time battling the cannon fodder.

On the other hand, I don't feel that way about World of Warcraft. It boils down to my subjective expectations of what the genre is supposed to offer.

4.

'Example #2: Some games with random elements are actually deterministic in their random number generators. A great example is Civilization III where an AI spearman beats my tank each and every time I reload the game because the random numbers generated were preset.'

Just a point but there is an option to turn the random seed preservation (iirc) off in Civ III. The face that a spearman beats a tank is annoying enough as it is.

5.


Frank> I have an innate desire to know the AI.

Dmyers> Humans anthropomorphize everything.


Do you have an innate desire to *know* or is it really to anthropomorphize albeit on some more literal/algorithmic level?


the illusion of human-like AI is the only thing we may be *capable* of achieving

I think there are also granularity/LOD considerations. If you were a space alien and observed human life in a village from 10k feet (without any other inputs) - you would have a very different view of human behavior than if you lived among us.

6.

Nate,

LOD is important. The more I looked into the details the more I expect complexities. Example zooming into a picture all the way down to the subatomic level.

We're probably better at recreating AI Life (group behaviors) than we are at creating individual personalities.

And my point about "Knowing" the AI is both anthropomorphizing and understanding the granular details. Anthropomorphizing because that's how I relate to behaviors (I know human behavior best). Understanding the details because that's how I study and learn about the wonder of the universe.

So in a group of online poker or online bridge, some may have no desire to know or care about who the other players are, but when I play I want to know. And I think that many social players would like to know too.

Frank

I'm not a pyschologist, but

7.


Frank> So in a group of online poker or online bridge, some may have no desire to know or care about who the other players are, but when I play I want to know. And I think that many social players would like to know too.

Are you suggesting that players who like to socialize with other (known) people, might also want to empathize with the AI on some "social" -- perhaps thats too strong, then -- "mechanical" level? Abstractly, I might guess the common link would have to do with wanting to know and understand intent behind behaviors. Nonetheless, I suspect motivations/interests behind social play is broader than just this.

8.

I don't know Nate.

It's like after getting to know a mechanical thing for a while, the mechanical thing usually develop nuanced "behaviors" over time which you can use for identification. Unfortunately code and certain virtual worlds are just static. In this case static AI doesn't exhibit differential "behaviors" that I can pinpoint.

For example, you have this old used car with a certain "personality" and you call it "Betty" as it reminds you of your ex-girlfriend. You start anthropomorphizing the car. Same goes for the tradition of naming a typhoon.

So, it may not be just about intent, but just about identifying patterns and giving names to the patterns: Dances with Wolves, Sitting Bull, Butterfly Effect.

AI Instance #1, AI Instance #2 and AI Instance #3 just doesn't work for me.

There is also a sense of knowing the creater via the creation and a certain level of appreciation for the complexity of the personality or AI programming.

Example, did the programmer program a good enough AI that doesn't have to win by "cheating"? Did the programmer create a personality with strengths that I should defend against or weaknesses I can attack? Playing a perfect card counter is just not my kind of fun.

Frank

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