elements of a social warfare mud
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Spazmatic



Joined: 18 May 2005
Posts: 76
Location: Pittsburgh, PA

PostPosted: Wed Mar 29, 2006 11:33 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

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I don't think it's principally the element of chance that needs be present to ensure a feeling of victory or achiement, but rather rules in themselves.


IThe inclusion of chance is an outgrowth of the inclusion of rules. Rules without chance are too predictable, so we add modifiers and die rolls and so forth. If achievement results from the presence of rules, then unpredictable achievement results from the presence of rules with chance. To put it another way, you need adversity, and if that's not provided by other players, it had better be provided by something.

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Any solution to the problem of developing better, more detailed dialogue will increase the complexity of the system, and thereby the costs.


The traditional approach to dialogue-option conversation systems doesn't really involve increasing the complexity of the system. The cost is purely in terms of non-systemic work.

Let me emphasize just how extravagant a cost we're talking about.

Let's say we start with a basic, traditional approach. When you try to get past the guard, you either show him your invitation or he doesn't let you in. Two lines of text (one for each case).

Now, under the new system, for dialogue options alone, we need b^d lines of text, where b is the branching factor and d is the depth of the conversation. I don't think it's really a conversation until you have a few back and forths... Even the "Hi" "Hi" "How are you?" "Good. You?" "Good." conversation has a depth of 3. So, let's say we have a depth of 4.

Now, let's say we have a branching factor of 5. That is, you have one option that proceeds along the smooth-talk direction, one along the intimidation direction, one along the flirtation direction, one that doesn't lead anywhere (failure direction), and the "I have the invitation" direction.

So, at the moment, we have 5^4 lines of text, just for the dialogue options. Each one needs to be paired with at least 2 responses (success, failure), which means we now have 3(5^4) lines of text.

Before: 2 lines of text.
After: 1875 lines of text.

You would need 1875 lines of text to create fully unique dialogue for one NPC at a conversation depth of 4 with a branching factor of 5. Note that both b and d are rather low, too. You could make sacrifices (draw text for the options from a pool, for example, and recycle response for different NPCs), but you are fundamentally trading off the diversity of NPC interaction for the amount of work. And, well, the additional work required relative to the work for a similarly traded-off non-option-based system (After/Before) isn't going to improve. The ratio is terrible no matter what.

Notice, also, that the complexity of the system didn't actually increase. That is, all we've really done is thrown in a handful of if statements. The vast majority of work is creating dialogue. There are other ways to handle this problem by increasing the complexity of the system, and thereby decreasing the non-systemic work required. However, they are not magic bullets, and often don't even apply. It's not some small increase in work... It'd generally be easier to add 25 totally distinct guilds than an additional branch of dialogue options across the mud.

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Say then, that NPCs with dialoge generate not only their own speech but also the possible answers according to the personality traits chosen.


This is very hard (generating believable text). The general version of this problem is an open topic that receives lots and lots of funding. Entire academic and corporate departments work on dialogue generation.

It's easier if you restrict the domain, or have the benefit of background knowledge, and so forth. It is, however, still very difficult. Dialogue generation for muds is an area I've been toying with over the past few years, and while it's feasible under certain restrictions, many of those must be engineered into your system to begin with.
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Massaria



Joined: 14 May 2005
Posts: 31
Location: Denmark

PostPosted: Fri Mar 31, 2006 12:24 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

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Rules without chance are too predictable, so we add modifiers and die rolls and so forth. If achievement results from the presence of rules, then unpredictable achievement results from the presence of rules with chance.


It's certainly true of many games, possibly even muds in general, but I don't think it's a hard and fast rule. Take chess - there's no element of chance, but it's not at all predictable. Sure, good players will beat poor players consistently, and some board positions can be accurately predicted to a certain outcome - but chess may still have unpredictable outcomes.
I don't see any reasons why a chance-less combat system couldn't work in theory. It may not be a design that just leaps into your lap, but that doesn't mean it couldn't be unpredictable and fun.

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Now, let's say we have a branching factor of 5. That is, you have one option that proceeds along the smooth-talk direction, one along the intimidation direction, one along the flirtation direction, one that doesn't lead anywhere (failure direction), and the "I have the invitation" direction.


The idea wasn't to increase the depth of the dialogue, but to change the content of it according to character personality. I don't think it would actually change your example in regards of workload, but I'll leave that to those who know how to figure it.
In stead of a dialogue with a depth of five, have it at depth 1 but with five different initial reactions?

Quote:
This is very hard (generating believable text). The general version of this problem is an open topic that receives lots and lots of funding. Entire academic and corporate departments work on dialogue generation.


Nod. I know. That wasn't really what I meant - sorry for the confusion.
I just meant that it'd choose from some sort of list of responses - not really, truly generate the words - just prioritise answers it's been given by writers, using code given by coders Smile
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shasarak



Joined: 29 Jun 2005
Posts: 134
Location: Emily's Shop

PostPosted: Fri Mar 31, 2006 12:24 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Explicitly pre-programmed conversation branches are never going to work. Instead the player should be able to use a variety of social combat tactics, freeform, and may or may not achieve his objective. Imagine he has to find some sheep.

(Player input in regular font, game output in bold).

You look around the market square. Ahead you spy the lissom figure of Jenna Tharyn, daughter of Garr Tharyn, the local land-owner.

greet jenna cordially

Jenna looks at you from under long eyelashes. "Well, hullo, stranger, what can I do for you?"

ask jenna about sheep

Jenna frowns. "Sheep? What a strange thing to ask about. Not really my area of expertise, I'm afraid." She turns to go.

flirt gently with jenna

Jenna's manner softens.

flirt with jenna

Jenna puts her head on one side and giggles coyly.

flirt explicitly with jenna

Jenna gasps in astonishment, but then leans close and whispers in your ear "whatever you want!"

ask jenna about sheep

Jenna says "Oh, well, you should probaly ask Garm the Shepherd, he knows all about sheep. He leaves to east of town in a stone hut."

e

You leave east. Jenna shouts after you "hey, where are you going?!"


And so on.


You obviously need to give the player some feedback about how any particular tactic is working, and learnable skills might include not only flirting, but also assessing a person to see which tactic they might respond to. Jenna, for example, being the landowner's daughter, would probably not respond well to threats - she might get angry, call the guards over, and have you arrested. But a really serious threat (along the lines of actually putting a knife to her throat) might well get her attention. In the above example, flirting worked well - but that was because the player's character was attractive and female, and it happens that Jenna prefers the intimate company of women to that of men. Jenna is also clearly fairly "up for it" - had she been less so, then explicit flirting would have angered her. Other options might reasonably include things like flattery, deceit, arrogance, kindness, bribery, etc. with perhaps subtler options like using courtly language or working class patois, etc.

This can potentially make for quite complex interactions and quite long "conversations" that require just as much careful decision-making as branching scripted conversations, but with much less scripting effort up front.
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Vopisk



Joined: 22 Aug 2005
Posts: 99
Location: Golden Valley, Arizona, USA

PostPosted: Sun Apr 16, 2006 9:08 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Been a while, but I'll kick the dead horse again, but I think Shasarak hit the nail on the head with his last post.

To emphasize here, most games that I've played that feature any sort of in-depth "players ask questions, npcs answer them" system usually has the MOBs spout off the same lines when it comes to answering a question that they don't "know" about. The player (myself) doesn't care that these responses are the same, it is a trigger for our brains telling us that this person doesn't have the answers we seek and we should go somewhere else, it would be a severe pain in the neck to have to read through some lengthy and unique response from each mob just to learn that they don't know what I want to know.

Therefore, we can eliminate a whole "branch" off of the conversation tree for the "lack of knowledge response". I think the same thing can be done for such things as "adamant rejection" or whatever else, so long as it falls into the "negative response" category. If I repeatedly attempt to flirt with women and always fail miserably (because my skill is too low or my character is rather ugly or whathaveyou) then I would not be at all surprised that the vast majority of them smack me and scream "You pig!" Once again, we're lopping branches off the of the tree by only having to script a few maybe even 10 or less "stock" negative responses to each different type of, let's call it persuasion skill.

Sure, the overall lines of text might still multiply rather quickly if we have many different forms of persuasion, or if we really nitpick the level of success or failure, but we have to write lots of lines for skill success/failure, ad naseum so why are we cutting it short with mobs?

Basically all we need are the dialogue-specific lines as Shasarak mentioned to be unique, which is what you're going to have to write even if you just script the mob to respond everytime the player types "sheep" in the same room. However, and I speak from experience, it is utterly annoying when I happen to say the wrong word in a conversation with a PC in the same room as a MOB and trigger some big long discourse from the MOB about how the King is an evil tyrant and someone should really dethrone him.

So what we need is a system where we can choose who specifically we are interacting with and use that as the basis for the MOB's reaction, then we need to know exactly what that mob knows about and the triggers that will set them down those roads and finally, we need a set of variables that will determine what means of persuasion our mob is susceptible to and what their response will be if we succeed or fail. Simple one-liners like Shasarak mentioned will do splendidly for showing that we are wearing down our prey with our flirtation until we bring them to a level where we have won them over and can get the information, goods or whatever else we seek.

In a lot of ways and perhaps entirely, it's not so far off from an actual haggling system. Whereby, rather than just "getting a better deal" because we have the barter/haggle skill, we have to actually perform our skill when trying to get that better deal.

This might not be an important feature for most muds, because of any of a number of reasons, but for one that was seeking to emphasize social interaction and institute means of "social combat" so to speak it's at least a start.

On a side note, something that just occurred to me, this would really allow for a greater level of "non-combatant" characters as well, as the politician really could talk his way out of those sticky situations without having to resort to violence if that were his character.

Of course, we still have the problem to confront of how we deal with these problems in regards to players, but starting with the MOBs seems as logical a place as any to me.

My two cents, something to chew on,

Vopisk
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