Designing a Fictional Language

 
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Jaregarde



Joined: 13 May 2005
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Location: California, USA

PostPosted: Tue Oct 18, 2005 10:14 pm    Post subject: Designing a Fictional Language Reply with quote

I've been thinking about something for a while after reading the "Dynamic social system -> eliminate 'emote' !" thread...it's sort of a radical idea, but I think it would be interesting.

How about, instead of trying to make machines understand English, we design a new, fictional language from scratch that can be understood by the game AND can be learned fairly easily by the players? By creating a unique language, we can easily do away with the problems that make English unsuitable, by removing ambiguity and also making it so that it has a small enough vocabulary that it can be parsed efficiently by the computer. So, in theory, everything in the game would be in this language, and before players would speak or emote or anything like that, their words would have to be checked to make sure they make sense. This would bring some cool advantages, though. In this way, absolutely everything in the game would be tangible, so anything anyone says or does can receive an intelligent response from an NPC. It's also another opportunity to expand on a world theme by having a unique language. Best of all, it can be done without placing huge constraints on player creativity, because, I believe, even if the language has only a small vocabuly of simple words, the words can be combined to express complex ideas. I think one of the reasons English is unsuitable is that it has a whole bunch of useless words. We can say something complicated like "defenestrate" when it's just as easy to say "throw from window."

Well, anyway, that's it. I hope my post there was half-intelligible. I welcome any thoughts or ideas on this.
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eiz



Joined: 11 May 2005
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 18, 2005 10:21 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

There are constructed languages designed for this purpose. Suffice to say that expecting players to actually learn this is outrageous. It still takes a nontrivial amount of effort.

Though you might be able to get away with building an educational MUD specifically for people interested in learning a constructed language. IIRC, there is (was?) a MUD written in Latin for this purpose, too.
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Vopisk



Joined: 22 Aug 2005
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 18, 2005 10:24 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm sure I'll catch flak for this, as I usually do, but I'll throw it out. The idea is already created for you, you don't need to invent the language, use IngSoc's "Newspeak" and you're set. The entire idea is to simplify the language down to the most primitive level, therefore, they can controll the masses, however, since Orwell imagined this before computers were invented, it's a very natural idea for a NLP to speak or convert normal english strings into "newspeak" before considering what they say. Basically, you chop most of the adjectives and adverbs that have multiple synonyms and you get rid of the "qualifiers" so everything is either good, ungood, double-plus good or double-plus ungood. Everything you could possibly need to say about something being good or bad all wrapped up and handled for you.

This idea can allow players to continue to speak normal english as well, if you spend some time programming the computer to know that terrific means "double plus good" then you're set. The computer can just make one thing mean another, easy as pie.

Anyway, don't have a lot of time to spend on this idea, so think it over, let's hear some responses and I'll make a more educated response later.

Vopisk

Edit: For those who don't know, I'm referrencing the book "1984" by George Orwell. Smile
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Spazmatic



Joined: 18 May 2005
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 18, 2005 11:42 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
IIRC, there is (was?) a MUD written in Latin for this purpose, too.


http://labyrinthus.latinus.imp.ch/

I agree with eiz too. Not only are new languages difficult to learn, forcing a new medium for interaction is bad UI design and, actually, no different from learning a bunch of commands and the command grammar.

If you want to address NLP, I think you're better off picking some algorithms, adding some help files describing what your parser understands, and praying players manage to get by.
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Tyche



Joined: 13 May 2005
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Location: Ohio, USA

PostPosted: Wed Oct 19, 2005 4:23 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Vopisk wrote:
The idea is already created for you, you don't need to invent the language, use IngSoc's "Newspeak" and you're set.


Besides simplifying it makes expression of certain ideas impossible. Implementing doublethink would be useful as well.

Bubba asks, "How come fireball damage was nerfed from five dice to three dice?"
Tyche says, "Fireball has always used three dice."
Bubba exclaims, "No it used five dice! I'm sure of it"
Tyche asks, "Have you ever been to room 101?"
Bubbe exclaims, "I love Tyche! 2+2=5 I have always loved Tyche!"
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eiz



Joined: 11 May 2005
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PostPosted: Wed Oct 19, 2005 7:58 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Vopisk wrote:
I'm sure I'll catch flak for this, as I usually do, but I'll throw it out. The idea is already created for you, you don't need to invent the language, use IngSoc's "Newspeak" and you're set.


I'd have to recommend against that on account of the fact that "Newspeak" is not a real language. =)

Spazmatic wrote:
I agree with eiz too.


I actually think it would be a nifty project, just not for anyone but language dorks. I'm not really into natural languages, having spent far too much of my life talking to computers, but... predicate logic! That is bad ass.

Actually, as it turns out there's a MUD server with Lojban support already. Go figure.
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Spazmatic



Joined: 18 May 2005
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PostPosted: Wed Oct 19, 2005 2:40 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
I actually think it would be a nifty project, just not for anyone but language dorks.


We've still got to find a way to populate the KB. Hmm.
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Vopisk



Joined: 22 Aug 2005
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PostPosted: Wed Oct 19, 2005 11:12 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Newspeak is most certainly a real language, George Orwell, the author of 1984 invented it and it has all the rules and conventions laid out. In the current Signet Classic edition of the book you can find his essay about newspeak and the laws governing it at the back. Using those laid out tools, one could easily make a parser to interpret most english into newspeak, hopefully with the benefit of allowing the computer to understand what the user is trying to say.

And to address Tyche's concern, yes in the book, the invention of the language was to remove certain ideas entirely from peoples' minds by not giving them a manner in which they could relate the idea, thus "mind criminal". However, we simply still let in everything, only dumbed down to the point where the computer only has to understand a few simple words that all can be tied to the bigger words that people may use on a day to day basis.

If the community will discount me, I don't really mind. I'm used to it. However, the idea could be used and implemented, rather easily though there would of course be <i>some</i> elbow grease involved. However, if others are more interested in forcing characters to use completely made up languages that they would have to learn prior to ever being able to play the game then certainly, or perhaps, it's better to scoff and laugh rather than address an issue that seems to be only danced about by most of the game development community at large, language parsing.

Either way, I've said what I've come to say, let the dancing continue.

Vopisk
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eiz



Joined: 11 May 2005
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PostPosted: Wed Oct 19, 2005 11:38 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Vopisk wrote:
Newspeak is most certainly a real language, George Orwell, the author of 1984 invented it and it has all the rules and conventions laid out.


I've read it, and it certainly does not have "all the rules" laid out. A few pages in an appendix does not constitute the definition of a language.

Vopisk wrote:
However, the idea could be used and implemented, rather easily though there would of course be <i>some</i> elbow grease involved.


As Spazmatic alluded to, syntax is only one part of the natural language problem. Once you have a parse of a sentence you have to assign some kind of semantic meaning to it. Given that the original poster's suggestion was to write 'everything in the game' in this language, such a task could hardly be characterized as "easy."

Vopisk wrote:
However, we simply still let in everything, only dumbed down to the point where the computer only has to understand a few simple words that all can be tied to the bigger words that people may use on a day to day basis.


There are many agglunative natural languages. It doesn't automatically make them easy to parse.
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Tyche



Joined: 13 May 2005
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PostPosted: Thu Oct 20, 2005 6:48 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Vopisk wrote:

And to address Tyche's concern, yes in the book, the invention of the language was to remove certain ideas entirely from peoples' minds by not giving them a manner in which they could relate the idea, thus "mind criminal".


It wasn't a point of concern, it was a humorous observation. Many muds are already largely run as dictatorships, so in a sense it's a sardonic or satirical view. Explanation has ruined my joy at posting it. Wink

Vopisk wrote:

However, we simply still let in everything, only dumbed down to the point where the computer only has to understand a few simple words that all can be tied to the bigger words that people may use on a day to day basis.

If the community will discount me, I don't really mind. I'm used to it. However, the idea could be used and implemented, rather easily though there would of course be <i>some</i> elbow grease involved. However, if others are more interested in forcing characters to use completely made up languages that they would have to learn prior to ever being able to play the game then certainly, or perhaps, it's better to scoff and laugh rather than address an issue that seems to be only danced about by most of the game development community at large, language parsing.


I'm very interested in smart powerful command interfaces. I think my posts on those topics reflect that. While newspeak may be a neat thematic feature, I don't believe it's a solution to command interface parsing problems. Those problems are not really quantitative. And many of these problems I think of as satisfactorily "solved" actually, regardless of whether they happen to have been implemented specifically in muds.
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