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Experimental Video Game Evolves Its Own Content

Soulskill posted more than 5 years ago | from the ontogeny-recapitulates-giant-lasers dept.

PC Games (Games) 167

Ken Stanley writes "Just as interest in user-generated content in video games is heating up, a team of researchers at the University of Central Florida has released an experimental multiplayer game in which content items compete with each other in an evolutionary arms race to satisfy the players. As a result, particle system-based weapons, which are the evolving class of content, continually invent their own new behaviors based on what users liked in the past. Does the resulting experience in this game, called Galactic Arms Race, suggest that evolutionary algorithms may be the key to automated content generation in future multiplayer gaming and MMOs?"

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Dynamic world (3, Interesting)

sopssa (1498795) | more than 5 years ago | (#28622651)

This is actually what I've wished for long time that MMO's would have. For example in WoW, once you've seen one place it will always be like that.

It would be great to have kind of an ecosystem which would evolve on its own and when players help (or destroy) it. For example, there would be two or three independent towns controlled by NPC's living closely that you could build relationships with. Once one of the towns needs more resources, likes to expand or for whatever reason, it would go in war with another town. Player couldn't directly control it, but you could influence it indirectly. Taking it further, when you could really succesfully frame the other town for hostile act's, you could cause a war between them if they see so.

I know it makes it easier to design and create content when everything is static, but in this case some of the content and the actual gameplay would be created by itself. It would also be *a lot* more interesting when you could directly or indirectly affect the world. Doing a run against some giant badass boss dragon and decided to quit it and run away? Now no, that badass boss dragon wouldn't just get back to its place once you've just a little bit out of its attack range. It would actually be *pissed* at your group and follow you, tearing apart the environment when you try to run away from it. This creates even more tension, as other players and NPC controlled towns would be pissed at you for causing that.

I've always also thought that why there's no king's or province leaders in WoW or other MMORPG's. Other players could elect you into it or you could steal it from existing king. Obviously the other faction would first need to break thru the provinces to capitol city like Stormwind, fight your way thru the guards and other players finally to the king's castle and then have a huge fight there. If you succeeded with that, you would still need to defence the place and continue gaining control over it. Or you could take the spy approach, gaining trust and getting in ranks to work with the king, finally to just to backstab him when its the perfect moment to do so.

There's so much you could do with dynamic content or world where player actions actually matter. Now everything is just pretty static, grinding to kill enemies that just pop up back 5 mins later or doing mindless quests. I would really welcome some MMO where it would be more like a sandbox for players and the world. EVE Online actually works a bit like this and that's why its always interest me, even tho I'm not really into space genre. Would be great to see such fantasy MMORPG, or even modern day MMORPG.

Re:Dynamic world (3, Insightful)

blahplusplus (757119) | more than 5 years ago | (#28622807)

"This is actually what I've wished for long time that MMO's would have. For example in WoW, once you've seen one place it will always be like that."

Actually for some games this is a good thing, we already have algorithmically generated content creation in random maps, and it's hit and miss depending on the genre of game, i.e. you wouldn't want crappy lopsided distribution of resources in an RTS for example.

The problem with evolutionary algorithms that I can see that is that games are the result of a "vision" I doubt a vision would remain cohesive under a competitive process.

For instance in many games that have player created content, one could consider that an evolutionary algorithm (the players) in their own right, and then other players pick the best levels from among the community and assemble them in level packs. The problem becomes though that some levels that are downright shit become popular, as we've seen with summer blockbusters like Transformers: Most people have mediocre tastes, and I'm not sure a player driven world of clueless players would produce anything anyone would want to visit.

Re:Dynamic world (4, Insightful)

SatanicPuppy (611928) | more than 5 years ago | (#28623117)

I think the best way to do dynamic content in an MMO is to build a static framework (e.g. a world) and allow people to expand and create content from there.

Now, in my world, it would go like this: Your class, relative wealth, and profession would all have attendant properties and buildings. Some of them you could purchase for limited money generation: you're a smith, you need a smithy and a mine. You build the smithy, because you have to have one to make items, and then you prospect until you find a good spot, and you buy/build a mine, because it's cheaper than buying all your own ore.

Now, obviously, these buildings are vulnerable. You put the smithy and a shop (to sell your wares) in a big player-run city, where everyone who has buildings pays taxes that pay for NPC guards and defenses, so that's taken care of, but what about the mine? The mine is (obviously) outside the city, and not protected by the city guards. So you skim off some of your mining profits to pay NPC mercenaries to defend it.

Voila. You have player cities with guards, and dungeons with mobs, all at once. Make the shops able to be stolen from, and you have room for thieves, and let the players put in traps, fancy locks, etc. There is tons of stuff you can do. Obviously you're going to want to strike a balance. No fun to be a shopkeeper if you get cleaned out all the time. No fun to be a thief if it's too hard to break into a shop, and then there is nothing worth stealing...But that's just fine tuning.

See how logical and easy that is? And the person who built the buildings has a vested interest in keeping them going, paying for upgrades, replacing guards, etc. Everything can expand from that. Different types of buildings for different types of benefits to different groups. Military buildings for military bonuses, commercial buildings for commercial bonuses, etc, etc. You can throw in some PVE content: military group builds a building on the border with a non-human race, and kicks off a war with the orcs, or whatever.

Limitless possibilities, and everything that you do in the game matters. You clear a dungeon, it's gone, or empty, until someone rebuilds it, and then it won't be exactly the same...Depending on who builds it it could be completely different. You'll have done something unique, and how often does that happen in an MMO?

Re:Dynamic world (4, Funny)

maxume (22995) | more than 5 years ago | (#28623183)

Being a smith in that world sounds incredibly boring. Does he have a computer in his smithy that he can play Tetris on?

Re:Dynamic world (2, Funny)

jez9999 (618189) | more than 5 years ago | (#28623343)

Sod Tetris, I'm bored with that. Does he have a computer he can play World of Warcraft on, and be something more interesting than a smith?

Re:Dynamic world (4, Interesting)

SatanicPuppy (611928) | more than 5 years ago | (#28623355)

Shrug. Some people like playing crafters, and you can add a frickton of strategy stuff to it.

I'd love to see a crafting system than was complex and open-ended. Hell, make it so that you have some sort of skill-based mini game (like Tetris?) that effects the quality of things you're trying to craft, so it's not just about the level of grinding you've done on the skill, but also on actual skill.

On top of that, you have the whole "defend my stuff" part of the game, which moves toward traditional strategy elements. You're recruiting and training units, you're building defenses. You're making alliances with other players to defend each others stuff.

That sounds a hell of a lot more fun to me than just another MMO level/loot grind, where crafting is something you do when you're tired of killing stuff, and has very little actual effect on the game. I'm so tired of that I can't even convey it.

Re:Dynamic world (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 5 years ago | (#28623461)

Why not just take up pottery or some other craft that results in actual physical objects?

(I barely play games anymore, with a strong bias towards games that last less than 5 minutes (the games generally stay interesting for far longer than 5 minutes, it just takes 5 minutes to play a round))

Re:Dynamic world (4, Insightful)

Otto (17870) | more than 5 years ago | (#28623557)

The problem with an open-ended system is that it is always unbalanced. At some point, the system evolves to the point where it makes more sense to be a smithy than to be a baker, or whatever. One profession/class/rank/item always tops out and becomes unbeatable. The only way to balance this is to either a) have mods who arbitrary slap people down by pushing the values this way or that or b) introduce a changing ruleset to balance things out through game events or some other "magic" process.

Either way, the players will find these changes "unfair". "I put all this effort into making this high ranking person, and your changes made me lesser!" is the basic gist of it. The problem of it is that they're correct, the changes did make that person lesser, in order to balance out the game.

Re:Dynamic world (3, Informative)

SatanicPuppy (611928) | more than 5 years ago | (#28623691)

Balance is absolutely the challenge, but that's the case with every game.

Fricking WoW has been trying to balance it's handful of character classes for years now, and they're not getting anywhere. There is always a "most powerful" class/spec combo which all the hardcore people are using, and every major patch sees some class get nerfed or buffed.

Does that mean WoW isn't a successful game?

Re:Dynamic world (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28625097)

actually in an interview that was posted on /. (I don't have the link forgive me) a programer was asked about balancing and he blatantly said they do not try to balance everything they just try to keep it fun. It is after all a game. and as a simulation of a fantasy world one must accept that it will not be balanced as that is not reality. Life is unfair and rarely are people "balanced" with anyone else.

Re:Dynamic world (3, Insightful)

TrippTDF (513419) | more than 5 years ago | (#28623809)

At some point, the system evolves to the point where it makes more sense to be a smithy than to be a baker, or whatever.

Welcome to real life

Re:Dynamic world (1)

dzfoo (772245) | more than 5 years ago | (#28625505)

Yeah, but real life is booooooring. I ain't paying for that! pshaw!


Re:Dynamic world (1)

wjousts (1529427) | more than 5 years ago | (#28624229)

Another problem is that I would imagine such a system would become closed and very hard for new people to get into. Once groups of bakers and smithies have banded together for mutual benefit, it's going to be very hard for others to break in.

Re:Dynamic world (1)

WNight (23683) | more than 5 years ago | (#28625417)

But that's the answer, not the problem.

For everything there is a cost. Banding together around a large factory-process isn't very agile, so while there would be a niche for in-character guilds they would by necessity not be doing the expensive one-off commission armor, etc.

And yes, smithing is probably more lucrative than baking - if there's only one in town. But that economic process is how the game would auto-correct if it was left to do that.

Re:Dynamic world (1)

LiquidAvatar (772805) | more than 5 years ago | (#28625077)

Your "changing rule set" option could be automated, to a fair extent. Make it so that NPCs are also patrons of shops and they have certain needs (the NPC population of a city needs to buy X baked goods, Y smithed goods, etc.). If one profession (say smithing) gets unbalanced and too viable, more players will migrate towards it. This will create a glut in the market and a shortage in the other professions. As there are always NPCs who need a certain amount of resources from those other professions, those items increase in value and thus the market is corrected. I hope.

Re:Dynamic world (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28625721)

Nevermind NPCs (though that is a good idea); you can accomplish the same thing with player character needs. Warriors need swords, right? This creates a huge demand for smiths. The usual scenario of "makes more sense to be a smith than a baker" happens. Two forces can counteract that. First, supply/demand plays hell with a smith's profitability. More smiths --> more swords on the market --> prices of swords go down. Also, more smiths --> more materials mined --> materials become scarce. Second, warriors have plenty of swords now, but they gotta eat too. Newcomers and unsuccessful smiths find that the profession is just not profitable anymore, but there's a huge market for bakers. So, people start doing that.

All this cause and effect and economic modeling could be entirely automated. No need for some admin to nerf an ability; it will happen gradually and inevitably. If the game provides enough classes to create a decent ecosystem, then the pendulum will swing a few times and finally come to a resting point at an ideal place, or maybe it never stops swinging but always hovers near the ideal. Then, when newcomers start showing up, their decision might be driven by what's profitable at that time.

Re:Dynamic world (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28625357)

The problem with an open-ended system is that it is always unbalanced. At some point, the system evolves to the point where it makes more sense to be a smithy than to be a baker, or whatever. One profession/class/rank/item always tops out and becomes unbeatable. The only way to balance this is to either a) have mods who arbitrary slap people down by pushing the values this way or that or b) introduce a changing ruleset to balance things out through game events or some other "magic" process.

Either way, the players will find these changes "unfair". "I put all this effort into making this high ranking person, and your changes made me lesser!" is the basic gist of it. The problem of it is that they're correct, the changes did make that person lesser, in order to balance out the game.

Some jobs are more profitable than others... how is that not like the real world? To solve that problem, devs should look to the real world for guidance. If smithys have more power, why does anyone become a baker? They prefer the act of baking to the act of smithing. In the MMO Yohoho! Puzzle Pirates, each crafting job you can do has a different puzzle mini-game associated with it. That way there IS incentive to take up different jobs - yeah, you COULD be a smithy, but you're much better at the baking game and find it more fun. The solution isn't in trying to make each class objectively balanced, which will never happen, but rather to differentiate classes enough to give people subjective reasons to choose one class over another.

Re:Dynamic world (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28625419)

The problem with an open-ended system is that it is always unbalanced. At some point, the system evolves to the point where it makes more sense to be a smithy than to be a baker, or whatever.

A successful system would mean that as the supply of baked goods dried up, prices would go up, making it viable to be a baker again. Only one example i know, but you get the picture.

Supply and demand? (1)

mahsah (1340539) | more than 5 years ago | (#28625581)

But at some point, if everyone is a smithy, won't supply outstrip demand sending prices falling and making other professions more lucrative?

Re:Dynamic world (1)

ReverendLoki (663861) | more than 5 years ago | (#28623921)

. Hell, make it so that you have some sort of skill-based mini game (like Tetris?) that effects the quality of things you're trying to craft, so it's not just about the level of grinding you've done on the skill, but also on actual skill.

On top of that, you have the whole "defend my stuff" part of the game, which moves toward traditional strategy elements. You're recruiting and training units, you're building defenses. You're making alliances with other players to defend each others stuff.

That is beginning to sound a little bit like Puzzle Pirates...

Re:Dynamic world (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28625281)

It's starting to sound a LOT like Puzzle Pirates. And I can't really see that as a bad thing.

Re:Dynamic world (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 5 years ago | (#28625929)

Just to clarify, I threw in the stuff about how little I game to point out that I may not have a particularly useful perspective on this discussion, not to be Mr. "I haven't owned a TV for years".

Re:Dynamic world (2, Interesting)

Jim_Maryland (718224) | more than 5 years ago | (#28623851)

While I can appreciate StatanicPuppy's idea, I agree that it would become boring after a while. I play games to get away from work (OK, may call grinding experience/reputation/gold as work still). If a game were to implement your concepts, would you envision the guards, shop owners, etc... to be NPCs or other players? If NPCs, the amount of space in the game world would have to be huge to accommodate all players wanting to setup towns. If real players, what happens if you have all East Coast players as your guards and they log out around midnight? Do the West Coast players come in and wipe you out when a majority log out? The concept you are describing sounds more like a simulator.

Re:Dynamic world (1)

Rastl (955935) | more than 5 years ago | (#28625003)

Personally I like to play games where I create things so this kind of environment would be perfect. I would get the enjoyment of creating and running my little part of the larger world and the players who prefer other aspects would have a place to re-equip, etc. Not everyone likes to go out and kill things.

That being said, if I had to spend massive amounts of time there to make it work then I wouldn't do it. That's one of many reasons I don't play online games. I don't have the time or inclination to sit at the computer for hours on end playing a game and paying for the privilege.

Re:Dynamic world (3, Funny)

Minwee (522556) | more than 5 years ago | (#28623331)

Having the players make their own content worked pretty well for City of Heroes, didn't it? What could possibly go wrong?

Re:Dynamic world (3, Interesting)

SatanicPuppy (611928) | more than 5 years ago | (#28623589)

It's amusing, because when I first wrote that rant, it was in reaction to the utter cock-up that CoH made of the player generated content thing.

In CoH they let people generate their own missions, and they rewarded people based on how well OTHER PEOPLE liked their missions! What the fuck? What was the cost to the player when 100 people ripped through their level-farming mission like a fat guy through a door made of bacon? They were rewarded.

Oh god, could you do anything worse than that? What content did they think was going to be created?

In my system, the player gets benefits from building buildings/dungeons/whatever, and loses benefits when other players run roughshod over their stuff. The player would have a strong motivation to protect his stuff, and make it as hard as possible to beat.

It's not just about crafting either. Say you want to set up a dungeon full of bandits who raid nearby player junk. Why not? Player housing that gives bonuses based on the junk you've got in your house. You raid someones mine and trash it, and the miner gets pissed of and pays some thieves to loot your house, killing your bonuses.

It's about making the content created a needed and good thing for the character, and giving them bonuses/money/skills/whatever based on what they've got, so that they have an incentive to expand it and protect it.

Re:Dynamic world (2, Insightful)

NeutronCowboy (896098) | more than 5 years ago | (#28623565)

I actually thought about your dungeon suggestion in the context of Gnomeregan in WoW: a level 80 can wipe every single mob in there at once, but the gnomes still don't take their city back. Would be fun if that could happen... of course, the problem would be that a very specific leveling and gearing point is gone from the game. And Gnomeregan is the only close dungeon in that range for gnomes and dwarves.

That kind of MMO requires two more things: a complete de-emphasis of PvE for leveling, and a de-emphasis of PvE for acquiring required gear to do other content.

Considering that both are the key crack components in WoW, I doubt we'll see that. Unless of course someone wants to make the not-WoW MMO, but I won't hold my breath for that.

The other problem with evolving worlds: endless opportunity for griefing. There's enough griefing in WoW, and it's basically completely locked-down from that perspective.

Re:Dynamic world (2, Funny)

Canazza (1428553) | more than 5 years ago | (#28623749)

Gnomeregen wouldn't be missed honestly. That and Ulduman. They're so un-loved that the Alliance would rather walk to Scarlet Monastry, across a lake and through Horde territory, rather than do the two instances within 2 minutes of Ironforge.

A point I've always made about WoW was how static it was. They've been rebuilding Redridge for 4 years now.

WOTLK went some way to address this using 'phasing' - in that your progression through quests changed the landscape (the biggest, most obvious change being the Wrathgate quest chain) and it is, imo, the best system usesd in an MMO so far to give a sense of the progression of time.
WAR doesn't progress, it resets weekly.
As for CoX, I'd like to see the finalé to that game be the utter destruction of Earth as all their heroes have been plugging themselves into a VR Simulator constantly, totally neglecting the real world :P

Re:Dynamic world (4, Informative)

ReverendLoki (663861) | more than 5 years ago | (#28624001)

This is something Guild Wars tried to address in their approach. By making gaming areas instanced and meet-up areas MMO, a player's actions can effect the game world on a slightly grander scale. The state of the instance is decided based upon the previous actions of those entering it.

The thing is, I feel they didn't capitalize on this opportunity nearly enough...

Re:Dynamic world (3, Interesting)

moderatorrater (1095745) | more than 5 years ago | (#28623625)

Make the shops able to be stolen from, and you have room for thieves, and let the players put in traps, fancy locks, etc.

The only problem I see there (and I don't think it's necessarily a deal breaker) is that the designers have competing interests: the thieves have to be able to max out a skill, but if a thief can always steal from the shop then there's no incentive to open the shop in the first place. Either the shop is impossible to steal from, thus making the thief feel slighted, or the thief can steal from the shop, which means that all thieves which max out their skills can steal from the shops. And if you make it a progression, where lower-level shop owners are more easily stolen from than more senior shop owners, then you have a situation where thieves always steal from lower level shops, making it so that the only workable levels for owning a shop are extremely high.

I would probably resolve that issue through making it so that either the shops can't be stolen from at all, or else there's a limited scope in what can be stolen. For instance, there's a certain amount of gold on hand from items being bought and sold. Only half of that gold can be stolen, thus ensuring that there's something to steal but the shop owner can't lose everything. Or maybe shops earn latent income through the assumed purchases made by NPCs, and it's only this income which can be stolen from. Or maybe it's only custom made weapons, and the regular stock can't be stolen from, etc. Because anyone and everyone can get to the highest levels of thievery, there has to be an artificial barrier when it comes to thievery between PCs.

Re:Dynamic world (2, Interesting)

SatanicPuppy (611928) | more than 5 years ago | (#28623791)

I was thinking limited scope myself: the thief can break in, but they can't clean the entire place out (for whatever reason). If they could clean the entire place out, right to the ground, then it would completely suck to be a crafter. Or, as a crafter, maybe you could pay for theft insurance? I also think there needs to be some kind of diminishing return, so that it doesn't make sense for an upper level thief to grief the lower level shopkeepers.

There are a couple of ways it could be done, but I think the whole thing depends on that sort of arms race between the thief and the shopkeepers, where they're constantly expanding their efforts to stymie the other person. That's what would make it a cool game: if the thieves had a huge advantage, then it would be terrible to be a shopkeeper, and vice versa.

Re:Dynamic world (1)

PatLam (1389819) | more than 5 years ago | (#28624393)

There's a few solutions avaiable. Take for exemple the smithy, you could give a player a weight limit or a "items carried" limit so that you can't go to the shop and run away with 50 swords or 20 chainmail armors. Neither could you run away from a bakery with 50 loaf of bread...

Feedback (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28624787)

Where do the thieves fence the items? If you allow them to sell the items to an NPC, then yes, there will be very few shopkeepers. On the other hand with so few shopkeepers, if there is no other easy way to get the items their prices could be raised very high. Thieves and shopkeepers should reach an equilibrium.

The lack of a jail or the ability to cut off a thieves hand is another reason there could be rampant stealing. To prevent griefers and cut down on the stealing make it so you must pay real money for each character you create. Then allow the elected king to execute characters permanently and implement character debilitating punishments.

Re:Dynamic world (1)

sam0737 (648914) | more than 5 years ago | (#28624899)

I think the best way to do dynamic content in an MMO is to build a static framework (e.g. a world) and allow people to expand and create content from there.

I built the Earth and the Universe in the same way. It's not a good idea, I'm telling ya...


Re:Dynamic world (1)

brkello (642429) | more than 5 years ago | (#28624915)

*sigh* Yeah, well the fine tuning would be the rub. All of these idea would be hideous to implement. How strong can the guards be? How can you prevent players from instantly destroying any content as soon as it is created? How do you make it fun? It sounds like you are just trying to recreate real life which is what we are trying to escape. If thieves are slightly over-powered, then everyone is going to steal. If it is really hard, or consequences are high, no one will play it. Once again, all you have created is a sandbox. All you have created is another niche game like Eve. Worse, it is more complex to implement so I really don't see the profit in the idea.

Re:Dynamic world (1)

MobyDisk (75490) | more than 5 years ago | (#28625775)

Here's why that doesn't work: Nobody wants to be a smith because that's not fun. That's a profession.

Existing MMOs handle that by making everyone be a warrior, mage, etc - PLUS they choose a profession. The profession is handled automatically with things like "You are a level 10 chef, because you have cooked X number of items" which of course, involves gathering items by killing them and clicking the "Cook" button.

How to achieve this: Dynamic world (3, Interesting)

StCredZero (169093) | more than 5 years ago | (#28622953)

I've been thinking along these lines quite a bit. Here's what I've come up with:

Let your players design their own ships. (For the Space games. Armor/Mounts/Minions for the others.) The appearance of the items will determine the stats according to some simple geometric rules. (Examples: A part of the hull which is angled back will have more armor resistance from certain directions. The larger your ship is in any direction, the slower it can turn, etc.) There will also be "design points" players can spend. The player will then submit the design by spending the in-game money for a "research project." During this time, the item will be submitted to a user-driven forum much like /. or reddit, and the top vote-getters during their "research period" will succeed in their research projects and actually get prototyped. Players are rewarded for designing cool ships by being given the opportunity to license their designs for a royalty.

Now here's the kicker -- the stats of ships of a certain design will shrink over time. So players who want the best ships will constantly have to seek out new designs. (All items would be temporary in this scheme. Nothing would ever be permanently bound to any player.)

I'd also like to see opportunities for players to legitimately program their own bots/minions. The code could run on a specialized VM only on the servers, so you could sandbox them and enforce DRM. Then the scripts could again be licensed. Balance this out by having genetic algorithms constantly evolving the monsters. Also, this would co-opt farming and macros, and make them a part of the game. (And subject to game balance by he devs.)

Don't try to fight the forces of evolution and economics and the scheming of crowds. CO-OPT them!

Re:How to achieve this: Dynamic world (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28625313)

This is an excellent idea. I would like to subscribe to your newsletter.

Re:Dynamic world (4, Informative)

aaaaaaargh! (1150173) | more than 5 years ago | (#28622969)

I agree with you and also would like to see more games with automatically created and evolving content. Unfortunately, game studios still seem to shy away from dynamic content because the behavior of dynamic systems is generally hard to predict. Some might fear that the game world suddenly becomes unstable and drops into chaos. But the game studios could hire more people with a strong physics/dynamic systems modeling background to deal with these problems.

  Another problem is that games with good dynamic content have a very high replay value, whereas it seems that most game studios would prefer people to buy a new game or expansion pack right after they have finished the old one---or even earlier, as one might infer from the sloppiness with which later levels are often designed in comparison to the first few levels.

Re:Dynamic world (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28623011)

Too many other players will interfere with things like that.

What happens with other players start interacting with your two towns?
It'll simply boil down to how many people are supporting each town to what degree.

Taking over cities? Considering the number of people with the pvp bear mounts for killing the faction leaders, if there was anything useful to gain you'd have even more raids going into cities to take it over for a brief period before another group comes through.
Most likely that'll just disrupt game play for a lot of uninvolved people.

Though some more dynamic content would definitely be appreciated, implementing things as grand as you're talking about would be horrendous on an existing game in both time involved and negative impact on the game for other people.

WoW has this now (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28623211)

They've introduced things in original WoW (pre-first expansion) where the world would make a one-time change based on players on the server completing certain tasks (including certain little tasks tens of thousands of times). And the newest expansion also has something called "phasing" which allows individual players to see different versions of content in the same place -- i.e. you are told to go and kill guys and they are actually gone when you are done.

Re:Dynamic world (1)

brkello (642429) | more than 5 years ago | (#28623227)

This is and always will be a horrible idea. The only way to do anything like what you are talking about is Eve where the player controls almost everything. In something like WoW, people would just destroy everything making it so that the majority of players will not get to see the content since someone would have already killed the king and probably immediately any new leader was put in place it would be killed again. These ideas work better for single player/small number cooperative games since people can then do whatever they want without every forest being destroyed or every princess being saved.

That being said, WoW already comes as close as you can get by having different phases in some zones. So at first, the camp is under attack, then you stop a large wave, then you push it back, and the town is safe from then on. The thing is, the actions only change your world and everyone else still has the world they had before. So if you are on a different phase, you are unable to see or interact meaningfully with that character in that zone.

But if they did it your way, by the time you got to a high enough level to see the zone, someone would have already made it safe or destroyed it so you couldn't participate. It would just be too complex to design an MMO that way. It would be a game for the griefers (like Eve) and would not be all that enjoyable (like Eve).

Re:Dynamic world (2, Funny)

castironpigeon (1056188) | more than 5 years ago | (#28623275)

Actually you'd end up with everyone starting as a scantily clad max level female nelf/belf hunter. All the major towns would be burnt to the ground, there would be a huge rainstorm, and all gameplay would afterward revolve around PvP mud wrestling.

Re:Dynamic world (3, Funny)

Talderas (1212466) | more than 5 years ago | (#28623385)

Your idea intrigues me. I would like to subscribe to your newsletter.

Re:Dynamic world (1)

meiao (846890) | more than 5 years ago | (#28623587)

You should try wurm online (
It is a persistent rpg where users found cities and help each other.
Haven't played it since it came out of beta (i think it is out of beta now).

Re:Dynamic world (1)

Trojan35 (910785) | more than 5 years ago | (#28623697)

I think that unless you continually change the rules, playerbases are smart enough to figure out the formulas behind things and turn it into a grind. My recommendation? A MMO where the rules change monthly. It wouldn't appeal to the hardcore raiders, but I'd sure like it.

I guess that's kinda pulling from the Roguelikes, but I did enjoy those too.

Re:Dynamic world (1)

nedlohs (1335013) | more than 5 years ago | (#28624049)

It all sounds good but in practice will never work because too many people are idiots or dickheads.

If you implement an ecosystem someone will kill every last rabbit and break the food chain so that everything dies.

The dragon in your example would be led to the newbie spawn area about 41 seconds after it appeared.

Every town in the game would be razed.

And so on.

If you stop them from doing so then you haven't really got a world in which the players can affect things so much after all.

EVE online is the closest I've seen but it's essentially pure player based. There's no NPC empire trying to expand in 0.0 space.

Of course I haven't met an MMO I didn't get bored with before the free trial ran out. OK EVE went a little over and I actually paid for a month.

I keep looking because I'm a sucker, and hope someone will pull it off.

Re:Dynamic world (1)

mattwarden (699984) | more than 5 years ago | (#28624283)

This would have a market, but not all games could do this. There are still a TON of gamers who for whatever reason get enjoyment out of just running through the motions and increasing the value of their character. An ever-changing game can not have walkthroughs in the same sense.

Re:Dynamic world (1)

jmerlin (1010641) | more than 5 years ago | (#28624465)

The set-in-stone nature of most video games plays hand in hand with things that companies often do; copyrights. When you make a game, you have copyright over the materials (sounds, textures, maps, models, what have you) unless otherwise indicated.

Now for randomly generated maps, you can still copyright the textures and so forth used.. but you can't really copyright the map itself (so if I save a generated cached copy of a map from your game to a static map file to re-use.. say in an emulated version of the game.. you don't have a copyright to this material!.. granted I replace the textures etc etc).

How might this impact copyright law as it stands? Server emulation? Circumvention of securities that might be deemed as "copyright protection" that prevent you PRIMARILY from using cheats in-game but one can claim inadvertantly they protect copyrighted material.. but if the game-content is constantly evolving and changing, is there a copyrighted material to protect?

If a game truly grows and evolves as people play it, it stands to question "who owns it". The developers? Or the players who molded the system into what it's become? We commonly see phrases in EULAs of online games to the effect of "you recognize that all virtual items in [insert over-hyped game here] are property of [insert megarich company who doesn't care about its customers here] ....". How can evolved content based on the interaction with a user still fit into a clause such as this? This item DID NOT EXIST before that user played the game.. so what then?

Re:Dynamic world (1)

Scoth (879800) | more than 5 years ago | (#28624861)

You may be interested in trying a game called Wurm Online. Its almost completely crafting - based with some very complex setups. Its main weakness is there is essentially no dev content outside the terrain and, on the pvp server, a vague faction war. Absolutely everything else is player driven. The land is completely terraformable. I've enjoyed it as an alternative to Wow type games.

Here []

Re:Dynamic world (1)

MobyDisk (75490) | more than 5 years ago | (#28625739)

You should try playing Eve online. Join one of the big corporations.

Re:Dynamic world (1)

nizo (81281) | more than 5 years ago | (#28625799)

..that badass boss dragon wouldn't just get back to its place...

This reminds me of a scene on a MUD some time ago where a player was given a book (normally impossible for a normal player to pickup, however a wizard gave it to him) that summoned a rather nasty demon when read. Said player promptly ran through town summoning demons; the player death toll was rather high.

Prediction (0, Offtopic)

davegravy (1019182) | more than 5 years ago | (#28622705)

I foresee a lot of pron-related content in this game's future.

Chaching (1)

sonnejw0 (1114901) | more than 5 years ago | (#28622733)

Sounds like a brilliant way to make money, at least. Horray for microtransactions!
What are the implications of buying virtual items with credit, anyway? Buying nothing with nothing. It boggles the mind.

Jane (1)

TheRedSeven (1234758) | more than 5 years ago | (#28623361)

It worked for Ender in Ender's Game [] with Jane. She was the artificial intelligence brought into existence through the video game that Ender played while on the Battle School, and later made him zillions of dollars.

I need to start playing this game and hope for the best.

Great idea for a business (4, Funny)

dan_sdot (721837) | more than 5 years ago | (#28622767)

Now you just need to create a video game that purchases and plays its own content and it seems like you might have quite a booming business on your hands.

It's all fun and games (1)

gubers33 (1302099) | more than 5 years ago | (#28622785)

Until the guns evolve too far to the point where they believe they are better than their users and and revolt. My money is on the weapons winning, they will recruit Arnold.

Re:It's all fun and games (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28623735)

Not to nitpick, but you spelled Ahnold [] wrong.

Logical conclusion (3, Insightful)

Explodo (743412) | more than 5 years ago | (#28622825)

Every gun will be a physics bending super shotgun that scatters with super-high density in all directions at once obliterating every enemy within two miles with every piece of shot being a smart projectile that can turn corners and hunt your enemies! BOOM HEADSHOTx1000!

Re:Logical conclusion (1)

lordandmaker (960504) | more than 5 years ago | (#28622915)

A BFG9000, then?

Re:Logical conclusion (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28622959)

That's not OVER 9000 enough.

God dammit, I can't stand when 4chan's down. What else am I supposed to do at work?

Re:Logical conclusion (1)

Talderas (1212466) | more than 5 years ago | (#28623411)

Develop a campaign setting for a Pen and Paper RPG. I figure you get what? 7 hours of your 8 hours of work devoted to 4 chan, so by the end of the day you should have a pretty good concept hammered out.

Re:Logical conclusion (1)

zepo1a (958353) | more than 5 years ago | (#28623277)

I believe, if you were far enough away, you could survive being hit by the BFG9000. Didn't the power diminish over distance?

Re:Logical conclusion (1)

lordandmaker (960504) | more than 5 years ago | (#28623381)

Yeah. And it didn't go round corners, either.

Re:Logical conclusion (1)

4D6963 (933028) | more than 5 years ago | (#28623029)

Unless you have a system to keep the weapons balanced, like a point system to share between accuracy/recoil/reload time/clip size/damage/etc...

You could imagine that you could have an algorithm that would figure out on its own the right weights to that point system based on the users' preferences.

Re:Logical conclusion (3, Insightful)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 5 years ago | (#28623243)

And that leads to what we already have in all MMOs: One perfect setup with the rest being crap.

Let's take the average "power gamer". His goal: Becoming stronger. His way: Acquiring equipment that makes him stronger. Which equipment is that? The one that abuses the game bugs and loopholes in the ruleset the best.

In other words, this is not a simulation of evolution, it's a simulation of business.

Re:Logical conclusion (1)

iCodemonkey (1480555) | more than 5 years ago | (#28623167)

so where does this leave spawn campers? please say "as steaming piles of flesh"

Re:Logical conclusion (1)

Hurricane78 (562437) | more than 5 years ago | (#28623471)

You forgot that it is a fight for limited resources (and tools?). Which makes it impossible to create something like this, and is the point of the game.
You have to be the most efficient, get the resources faster than anyone else, and then use the results in the best possible way.

Coming soon, Google Bombs for MMOs (1)

Proudrooster (580120) | more than 5 years ago | (#28622933)

I can envision it already... smart kids with nothing but time will figure out the algorithms and then manipulate them for humorous purposes.

NEAT (4, Informative)

theinvisibleguy (982464) | more than 5 years ago | (#28622985)

This game has come a long way since I saw a demo version in my AI class at UCF, the techniques have a lot of potential to be utilized in other video games as well for dynamic content creation. The NEAT algorithm (NeuroEvolution of Augmenting Topologies is really cool too, in fact I believe it's open source and can be found at Professor Ken Stanley's UCF website.

Re:NEAT (1)

Unending (1164935) | more than 5 years ago | (#28623823)

Good to see more NEAT stuff I worked on NERO while I was at UT.
GAR looks pretty cool glad to see some of the ideas we discussed back then being put into action.

Re:NEAT (3, Interesting)

castorvx (1424163) | more than 5 years ago | (#28624493)

It has also been used for various other things. My girlfriend is actually a part of that research group (EPLEX - [] ) ... It has been used for all kinds of things. Everywhere from evolving complex pictures [] to music generation to our future overlords: hyper evolved zombie dancers [] .

Oh my... (1)

greyhueofdoubt (1159527) | more than 5 years ago | (#28623033)

After a dozen or so generations in the wild trying to please teenage boys, the game will either evolve into:

-Shutting itself up in its room, burning incense, and listening to further down the spiral over and over again


-This: []

But, you know, best of luck to the developers. Quick question: If the game evolves disruptive or offensive content, are the developers liable for it?


Win-crap (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28623055)

Win-only, dotnet based - throw this crap into the bioreactor, plz

Remember the lesson of Syndrome: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28623061)

When everybody's special...

nobody is.

Such an automated technique might be especially suited to Virtual World or Massively Multi-Player (MMOG) games in which large amounts of content are required and unique content is coveted by players.

Kinda like the fantasy game (1)

ImprovOmega (744717) | more than 5 years ago | (#28623119)

In Ender's Game, that Ender keeps going back to over and over.

The moment some kid gets past the giant's drink into the end of the world - well, we really need to shut it down before it becomes a world spanning AI is all I'm saying.

Top tags (1)

ubrgeek (679399) | more than 5 years ago | (#28623189)

Could someone please add the tag excessivebuzzwords to the article?? I feel like the synopsis was created with the old Dilbert business plan jargon generator.

Sandbox where you don't expect it. (1)

Tei (520358) | more than 5 years ago | (#28623237)

One way to design a RPG, is using a database, where you manually create the characters. This takes time, but is interesting. Another is a algoritm that randomly create items. It works. I think Diablo used that system.

Procedurall created stuff may work in more ways than just "enviroment heightfields". Like... how the Director in L4D create a changing enviroment for players.

Really, is something very interesting to explore, for players and for devs.

Users can do so much more than just create content (1)

HalAtWork (926717) | more than 5 years ago | (#28623267)

It would be a great idea to create unique single player game AI by making players substitute for monster AI. Players would get online with a game, say, an FPS. When your character enters a room that has enemies, the game can check if other players are in that same area online. If two characters are supposed to be fighting, do it like America's Army and make both sides appear as if they're the "good guy", except limit the health for the enemy character so that both can appear to have won in their own game, since it's a single player game. However, the enemy you have just fought would have had some sort of unique player-based AI.

By extension, perhaps player behavior can be scraped for other things, such as basing an NPC on the dialog tree choices that a user chose in their game, and have two users "talk to each other" without knowing it.

Cool but does anyone remember... (1)

DnemoniX (31461) | more than 5 years ago | (#28623317)

I took a look at this game, and well it looks kind of fun. Sometimes you just want to fly around and shoot stuff. It brought back memories of the late 90's. I worked for as a contractor at a large hospital. In our downtime a few of us would gather and play a space based lan game. It reminded me quite a lot of this game, a top down space shooter. For the life of me I cannot think of the title. Does anyone remember the name of that game?

Re:Cool but does anyone remember... (1)

Mursk (928595) | more than 5 years ago | (#28623927)

I'm guessing SubSpace. []

Re:Cool but does anyone remember... (1)

DnemoniX (31461) | more than 5 years ago | (#28624167)

Yes!!! Thanks now I can move on with my day!

Re:Cool but does anyone remember... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28624821)

It's not Subspace [] , is it? That game has since been reverse engineered, a new server and client developed for it, and the community is still alive and kicking.

Evolution (1)

Aladrin (926209) | more than 5 years ago | (#28623403)

Having the game auto-evolve the weapons based on user response is very neat, but is it the best way?

Wouldn't have the users be able to make their own decisions about it and set up their own weapon be better? It involves the users in more points, and gives them control over the system instead of hoping the weapon becomes more like they want. It allows for more play-styles as well.

Re:Evolution (1)

n30na (1525807) | more than 5 years ago | (#28623701)

I think the mystery is half the fun. Also, it's hard to allow users customization without keeping the options more limited/having possible balance issues, i'd think. Plus, it's /cool/.

Hrm. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28623447)

This is what PowerUp Forever [] should have done.

DOD is crowd sourcing weapon development (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28623493)

The obvious thing here is that this is a military sponsored research program which is crowd sourcing weapon development. The DOD has been exploring these avenues for awhile now, and it is brilliant. It won't be a one to one relationship between video game weapons and real world weapons, but they will gather important insight into the tactics and needs of players and how they are addressed by various weapon capabilities.

Finally (1)

Reason58 (775044) | more than 5 years ago | (#28623663)

Finally, a game that literally caters to the lowest common denominator.

Generic (1)

somenickname (1270442) | more than 5 years ago | (#28623743)

The problem is that this will create something that aims to be "the best". It doesn't address the problem of "what I want", it addresses the [non-]problem of "what everyone wants" and so you will still end up with homogeneous sets of things to acquire at the end of the day. Real customization of content should be player generated and not based on a system of pre-teens trying to find the most amusement in how easily they can wtfpwn some other pre-teen.

Oh oh (1)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 5 years ago | (#28623943)

"Whaddya mean all my bases belong to you?...You'll do what to my dog?"

Magic the Gathering (1)

Luyseyal (3154) | more than 5 years ago | (#28624043)

This reminds me of Magic the Gathering where they issue new cards every year that are better and if your deck doesn't have them (i.e., you don't keep buying more cards) then you lose the arms race.


How logn have you got? (1)

jambox (1015589) | more than 5 years ago | (#28624485)

I doubt this will make so much difference. GAs are potentially extremely powerful (obviously - human biology is evidence of that) but they need to be iterated an astronomical number of times to divine anything useful. So the problem with plugging them into human beings is that we would have to provide a huge amount of feedback to make any difference to the outcome of any complex system.

Hmph (1)

Well-Fed Troll (1267230) | more than 5 years ago | (#28624989)

I see your need for a huge amount of feedback and I raise you the the time wasted on a small MMO.

In a word: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28624539)

Does the resulting experience in this game, called Galactic Arms Race, suggest that evolutionary algorithms may be the key to automated content generation in future multiplayer gaming and MMOs?"

Answer: No.

Reasoning: Simple. Without some type of controlling force or entity, the general population will simply create random and chaotic environments. This is true in the real world and in video games.

To expound a bit- Dynamic worlds and competing, "evolving" AI systems are not new, even in the video game context. This is not news.
The critical issue is not figuring out how to make such a world. The critical issue is that anytime the content evolves or changes, you now have to push that information to everyone playing the game. This isn't such a big deal if you have small changes and only a couple users, but say, for example, that WoW implements a system where the terrain changes dynamically, you have to push all that data out to millions of users, in real time. THAT is a very big problem due to the sheer amount of information & limited bandwidth issues. If everybody was riding a 20meg connection it would be more feasible, but when your average person is lucky to max out at 8megs it gets really tricy. And that doesn't even consider the additional upload capacity the game servers would have to pay for on top of things.

So to sum it up, we will see this type of thing become more common as bandwidth increases over time. Just don't expect anything "revolutionary" in the near future.

The other issues, that others have pointed out, is that when you either crowdsource a project (let the community help develop) or use an AI routine to do the same, you begin to lose cohesiveness and a solid theme. Often in MMO's, a big part of the game is the story & themes that run through them, and you really need a human to at least coordinate, if not manage completely, game-world changes to keep things focused and on track.

Here's an example- let's say you start a new MMO with a nice, beautiful world, but no cities at all. And then give the players completely free reign to build structures. What you end up with is a random hodge-podge of buildings that don't really resemble cities at all, all over the place. This also happens in the real world when you have no communication or city planning, just look at some 3rd world slums that have no oversight. Roads and services are non-existant, etc.
The solution is to pursue a combination of both- you create some areas in the game that are modifiable by the players in a somewhat limited fashion, and give the AI routines a limited scope of control that they can operate within. Then the human game content devs can control and keep things moving in a good manner.

But all this speak of OMFG it's Ender's Game in RL is just silly. Remember, even in that book, the AI that ran the game was actually a sentient entity in of itself. So unless these guys can claim they have achieved TRUE sentient AI, this is just a bunch of hype.

Space Exploration Games (1)

aGF2c2hleA (1370123) | more than 5 years ago | (#28624737)

I always thought this would kick ass for space exploration games like Star Control 2 aka Ur-Quan Masters (open source) [] .

Players could upload screenshots or exportable files of game-generated planets, ruins, structures, races, etc.

If developed right and with the right pay structure such a game could probably bring in revenue for quite awhile since the content would/could be limitless and always fresh.

Very exciting IMHO

I always wanted to do... (1) (760528) | more than 5 years ago | (#28624751)

I always wanted to do an MMO based on a similar concept where you'd have some basic content for a fun game.. i.e. a single ship type flying through an infinitely large universe, then have users generate the rest of the content for you. It would be a very kewl concept, but its exceptionally hard to keep balanced. the kind of ideas i had though were along the lines of:

1) users generate content
2) users deploy content to test system
3) users vote on content (in or out)
4) content goes in, but sucks
5) modified content generated by users and deployed to test system
6) users vote on modified content
7) modified content goes into the game
8) code devlopers get some in-game reward for their efforts (i.e. 6 month patent on their design allowing only them to sell it in-game)

Now, it'd work best as FOSS because users could run their own servers and develop code onto it (plus, the community could be involved in the game right to the core - i.e. linux ports and so forth that companies seem to be really bad at), but i personally think that you'd need some kind of "we own the game" company to run it, partly to ensure continuous development, but also to avoid a constant battle of sharding servers (i.e. have a license that allows people to run servers, but not allow them to make money off them). I know that sounds very anti-gpl, but when it comes to things like that it would be hard to make it work in a way that doesnt end up with a tonne of small semi-thriving community serves (i.e. they voted my idea down, so im running my own server).

Then again, maybe it could become like irc networks (multiple servers run by multiple people connected together), and have say "Efnet" where some group of users has a set of functionality they like and "freenode" where they like different types of functionality.

I'd always wished EVE had adopted some strategy along the user generated content lines, i thought that was a perfect game for that type of thing (hell, the game is already based on python, developers would have no trouble picking it up and running with it)

VYou fail it? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28624929)

other members in for suucessful was 4t the same

I for one welcome... (1)

SpoodyGoon (1574025) | more than 5 years ago | (#28625345)

I for one welcome our new gaming content overlords who are now self aware thank you very much.

Where's the Bandwidth? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28625503)

As with many researches and professors who are isolated in their perfect utopian world, these people have failed utterly to address the major problem preventing the widespread use of such systems.

In one word: Bandwidth.

Take a world like WoW. We don't need years of R&D to make that game contain 100% dynamic landscapes, for example. They could add full erosion, weather, forest growth/retreat, etc. all in 100% realtime. That part isn't a big deal... it's processor-intensive but Blizzard has suitable server farms that could run those routines. Putting such a system on a single person game is still prohibitive since it takes a lot of load to process all that data.

The issue is, let's say someone cuts down a tree in the forest. Now you have to push that update to everybody within range of that object immediatly. Then you have to, at some point, push it out to everybody else. But a lot of people aren't online, so now you have synch issues to deal with. The end result being that any change results in a massive amount of data having to be pushed out to millions of people. In fact, because you don't know if the player IS synched up with the live data, you have a huge increase in overhead due to constant sych checking between the servers and the players.

So while I'm sure these guys are patting themselves on the back, stirring up hype & hoping for research funds or job opportunities/investors, until they solve the issue of getting the dynamic changes to several million players, it's pretty much a moot project.

Star Trek Online taking the right steps? (1)

WSOGMM (1460481) | more than 5 years ago | (#28625975)

I think there are a few MMOs taking the right steps, and I suppose EVE has always been a good example. But the MMO that has most recently caught my eye is Star Trek Online (STO). They want to try to make space feel infinite, but with limited development time, that's impossible. They've come up with this 'procedurally' generated content thing that looks like it might do the job. I'm not sure how much you can influence the actual world, but I think the game generates planets and star systems as players 'discover' them. And I'm pretty sure they stay that way for all players. You go down, explore the planet, discover a new race (which gets put into the game's database), and influence them as you please.

The potential STO has is mind blowing; however, the game hasn't been released yet (it will be soon, I think), so I'll wait to drool over it for now.

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