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1025834 Posts in 41112 Topics- by 32714 Members - Latest Member: glintycreative

July 23, 2014, 08:02:43 AM
TIGSource ForumsDeveloperCreativeDesignA ludologically constructed conversation game
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Author Topic: A ludologically constructed conversation game  (Read 4052 times)
Anthony Flack
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« on: May 14, 2009, 04:43:39 PM »

Spun off from the front page discussion - I wonder if it actually would be possible to create a conversation-based game that was designed to be ludologically satisfying? I can't think of a less arsey way of saying that, but what I mean is basically this: You create a set of rules, a system of opposing forces, that creates a state of complexity which the player can influence in meaningful ways with their choices. You are working towards a win condition and there is at least one other force pushing you back into a fail state. The game would be different each time you play, and it would have to be balanced enough that the choices you made would be meaningful. I used chess as an example. You know, a GAME game. And it should be a proper good one, without any obvious strategic exploits.

(I don't know if it would work, but I don't see any reason it couldn't be possible, if you found just the right model to use. It would probably be really, really hard to do well. But maybe it could be done? I don't know. I just thought it was an interesting idea. Anyway...)

What I'm suggesting is thinking about the data in the conversation model as an abstract model first; as a set of rules that can be formed into a game that works, and can be balanced and checked for exploits. And then kind of parsing it into something else. Using chess as a model would be a stupid idea, but I'm going to go with it for now because I don't have a better suggestion.

Imagine that each piece on the chessboard, instead of being a knight or rook or whatever, represented a philosophical argument, or a feeling, or a fact or statement, that could be put into play, and used to counter other pieces, but was also vulnerable to being shot down or used against you. And your next move was presented to you as a choice of what you are going to say next. In the chess analogy, the king would represent your core position; your win/lose condition. Maybe you're trying to win a philosophical argument. Or conduct a hostage negotiation. Maybe this is a discussion about whether your relationship is going to break up or not. The pieces that you "take" could even be parsed as compromises or concessions you made along the way, so it isn't as simple as a straight win/lose.

I guess that, in order for the game to work and not be illogical, it would need to be about something that was not empirically right or wrong. The most important thing is that it can be played in a way that makes for a ludologically satisfying game, and not just a puzzle.

If it actually worked, you could develop it further by integrating it into a larger setting - where you interacted with a world, found information and "did stuff" as well. Your actions would provide you with "pieces" to use in your conversational game - but also create counter-pieces that could be used against you.

As an aside - I always wished that the courtroom scenes in the Phoenix Wright games were more dynamic. Imagine a game where a really clever lawyer could win with less "facts" on the board, for example. Friggin' hard to design, I'm sure... but impossible? Maybe not?
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Anthony Flack
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« Reply #1 on: May 14, 2009, 05:03:40 PM »

An example mechanic: you can counter an accusation with a statement, but doing so commits you to a position which you must defend.
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Alec S.
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« Reply #2 on: May 14, 2009, 05:40:38 PM »

I think this is a very interesting and important design challenge.  Role Playing and Adventure games could be greatly improved by a conversation system, and branching dialogue trees are rather flawed.

I think the primary way to go about designing a conversational game would be to break it down into verbs, then figure out how those verbs connect and relate to each other.  This would also involve creating certain values to measure certain aspects of the conversation state, which the verbs could then affect. Next these relations between verbs and values would need to be implemented in an algorithmic form, and finally there would need to be a intuitive representation (ie.  plain English phrases) over that which the player can interact with.

A few verbs to start with:
-Accuse
-State position
-Present fact
-Counter argument
-Raise repercussions 
-Appeal to emotion

A few values:
-Convinced Level
-Defensive (ie. how much the character is on the defensive)
-Emotional State

One way that a system could work is each character has a point they're currently trying to argue.  The point is set by either accusing or stating a position.  Accusations put the other person on the defensive.  The players must use actions such as presenting facts, using counterarguments, raising repercussions, and appealing to emotion to defend their point, argue against the other person's point, or effect one of the values (For example, an appeal to emotion could effect the opponent's emotional state).
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« Reply #3 on: May 14, 2009, 06:29:44 PM »

Have you played Siboot?
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Anthony Flack
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« Reply #4 on: May 14, 2009, 06:55:47 PM »

No! I'd never even heard of it (this is a new area for me). The Wikipedia article suggests it might be worth investigating?
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« Reply #5 on: May 14, 2009, 06:57:04 PM »

yes, it's something like what you describe. it's primitive, but it's definitely something that makes conversation into an interesting game (it's about denial of information, trading of information, gossiping etc.)
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« Reply #6 on: May 14, 2009, 07:09:30 PM »

This is an intriguing idea. Your analogy was quite nice too.
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RadLab
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« Reply #7 on: May 14, 2009, 08:25:41 PM »

Quote
I wonder if it actually would be possible to create a conversation-based game that was designed to be ludologically satisfying?

The player must know/learn how he can win. How to react given a specific context.

I would base such a game on card game rules (and add lots of stuff to make it sound more like what it is than a card game).

Each argument, counter-argument, insult, compliment, etc, would be a card that can be played only once in a conversation.

You could add "speech cards" to you deck by investigating, learning (from previous conversations), reading and experience...

A player could only play any card. Being speechless or changing the conversation's knowledge field without a good card would be BAD.

Exemple of speech card types:
- Knowledge about ...: speak about a specific subject, may change the current knowledge field.
- Insult: Blocks the current knowledge field until the end of the conversation.
- Flatery: passing turn without being speechless.

Exemples of knowledge fields:
- Science
- Personal Life
- Society
- Culture

Exemples of subjects:
- Anatomy
- Love
- Politics
- Theatre

When the knowledge field would be science, if your adversary would talk about anatomy, you would gain points by replying with mechanics, but you would gain more by talking about sports (and the current knowledge field would become "Culture").

Using normal games cards, the game would look like this:
- I play 2 of clubs.
- You play 5 of clubs.
- I play 5 of spades.
- You play Joker, then 3 of diamonds.
- I can't play.
- You take the played cards as points and put them aside. You play 6 of diamonds.
- And the game goes on...

To that, you add the possibility to choose what you say about the selected subject, to know your opponent (and prepare yours cards) and to gain new cards as the game goes on.
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Alec S.
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« Reply #8 on: May 14, 2009, 08:44:16 PM »

I like some of the ideas you have there, but I don't quite see how it fits in with the card game.

I also think that it would be wrong to try to map conversation onto a previously existing rule-set.  It would be better to try to analyze conversation and break it down into its own rule-set.
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Anthony Flack
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« Reply #9 on: May 14, 2009, 09:30:23 PM »

I think the main problem is that you're trying to construct something that does two difficult things at once - functions as a satisfying game, and is able to be parsed into a sensical conversation. So I imagine there would need to be a fair bit of juggling back and forth before you hit on something that could work with one foot in each camp.

"Break a conversation into elements, use those elements to construct a game, and then see if you can parse an instance of the game back as some representation of conversation again" seems like a sensible starting point, but you never know...

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« Reply #10 on: May 14, 2009, 11:21:43 PM »

Miroslav is attempting something like this.

What about existing (non video) games that are based around conversation? Have you ever played that game where responding with a 'yes' or a 'no' means losing? And... for some reason I can't think of any other examples, but I know there are a few.
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Alec S.
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« Reply #11 on: May 14, 2009, 11:36:44 PM »

What about existing (non video) games that are based around conversation?

Well, one could argue that Structured Debate is a game based around conversation.
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« Reply #12 on: May 15, 2009, 12:03:41 AM »

I'd like to add something regarding the "opposing forces" idea in the beginning of the first post.

I do not think that making the playfield simply "polar" is interesting and satisfying. It certainly is easy to understand, because humans of this culture (sadly) are so familiar with it. But it really "isn't as good as everyone says it is" Wink

It's main problem is that it only understands opposition. Oh, sure - it allows an abusive relationship, and it allows situations in which both forces are "submissive" (which then strangely many consider as "friendly" or even "mutualistic") - it doesn't however change, that plain oppositional polarities only know war between forces, and thats it.

Think about it: You have all those games which try to give you "choices" - most annoyingly that "moral choice" crap, in which all you can do is choose between "pro" and "contra", between being "nice" and being "mean", being "egoistic" or "altruistic"... be honest, hasn't this always felt a bit primitive and naive?

I'll try to give you a different perspective, so that you can "see" the problems of the polar approach from a different angle. Some of you probably once heard about the 2D "Territorial map" which is sometimes used in communication psychology, right? If you dont remember or know it, its like this: We have two agents. Every agent gets assigned a value (so that you have two). That way, even if we stay at binary logic, you get four choices - the well known "I'm good,  you're bad", "I'm bad, you're good", "We're both bad" and "We're both good":

Now, the point here is: This isn't actually about psychology! Sadly, not many people understand this. It really is quite simple: You have a statement which consists of two values, which can each be positive and negative. Still doesn't ring a bell? How about this: A but NOT B, B but NOT A, A AND B, A NOR B.

This is something which applies to a lot of things. You can basically apply it whenever two aspects are relevant to a "rating". When are at least two aspects relevant? Well, basically in any kind of relationship. When i say relationship here, i do not just mean a personal relationship between humans, but any kind of relationship.

To give you a really primitive example in a game: The player may choose to reject/fight something, he may choose to accept/integrate into something, he may choose a free "alliance" in which both still retain their autonomy, or he may choose to simply avoid/noninteract with it. Doesn't this kind of choices sound a bit more interesting, than plain "friend/foe", "good/bad", etc. choices? Smiley

- Lyx

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Lyx
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« Reply #13 on: May 15, 2009, 01:18:44 AM »

P.S.: Since you do seem to be interested in having some kind of "strategy" and stuff, it may be interesting to point out that two-player games in game-theory (NOT videogame theory) follow the same schema - i.e. "win-lose", "win-win", "lose-lose", etc. In other words, this really is a scheme which from a programming POV allows to make a lot of connections which the AI can analyze. It's just plain first-order logic - the "datastructure" is compatible with all kinds of things.
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Anthony Flack
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« Reply #14 on: May 15, 2009, 05:09:15 AM »

Okay, apologies if this is a little bit rambling:

The reason I'm interested in strategy is because I wanted to look seriously into reasons WHY you might want to model complex social interactions in a game system. If it's simply to provide NPC agents that don't break immersion, then I have some serious reservations about that approach. And if you just want to model a system just to see what it does, and let the player poke at it, I guess that's fine although it seems more like a programming exercise than something that would necessarily be interesting to play with. And if you're NOT playing with it, it might as well NOT be a full-blown interactive element in your game.

I mean, it's all very well creating a complex conversation model, but what if the player finds an optimum strategy through that system that leads predictably to a win state? I guess you could call it an art game and say that was part of your intended message. But a dynamic system that can be predictably stabilised isn't a very interesting dynamic system. You want your system to be poised at the point of complexity, halfway between stasis and chaos. So we need to consider the system in terms of strategic balance in order to build something capable of maintaining that unstable equilibrium in an interesting way. That's why I think in terms of opposing forces - creating the right mix of positive and negative feedback to create an unstable (and therefore interesting) game state. Besides, every meaningful decision you make in life is a competition between opposing forces.

Ideally, what you want is a system where the player is making choices that have the possibility to effect the outcome, both positively and negatively, in a way that requires proper consideration, rather than applying rote responses.

But although I use win/lose in this context, I don't mean to imply that your goal be strictly adversarial with regard to the NPC character. Merely that you, the player, have some kind of goal that you're working toward - it could be framed as a mutually beneficial outcome for both characters that you're trying to achieve. Perhaps you would be free to pursue any one of a number of outcomes, on several poles - just so long as the path towards your goal was strategically interesting.

I don't tend to think of these things in terms of win/win, win/lose on two axes, because in a single-player video game, the human player is the only true agent, and the NPCs are yet more elements of the game. You might want want to create a game system which is symmetrical (as chess is symmetrical), with both the player and the NPC following the same rules - but since it IS a single player game, you don't have any obligation to do so. You could treat it more like a game of solitaire.
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