Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Games

Simulating Emotions Within Games 47

Posted by Soulskill
from the dreams-of-electric-sheep dept.
Gamasutra is running an opinion piece about the way video games handle simulated emotions. Most often, an non-player character's emotional state is used to either tell a story or to drive gameplay. The author suggests that as both concepts become more complex in modern games, the simulation of emotions must also become more dynamic to remain interesting. Quoting: "Most of our emotional simulations use a simple sensation/calculation/behavior loop. Someone says or does something to a character; this influences his emotional state; he acts upon his feelings. His emotional state then reverts to a more neutral state over time (I was angry half an hour ago, but I've calmed down now), or changes again in response to another sensation. If these systems are really simple they produce absurd results: a character is furious one moment and cheerful a second later, like a Warner Brothers cartoon character. This is the kind of thing you get with finite state machines. This approach doesn't take into account the fact that behavior itself changes emotions. Behavior is not merely an output to be exhibited; it also affects how we feel. It feeds back into our emotional state."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Simulating Emotions Within Games

Comments Filter:
  • First Post! (Score:3, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 29, 2009 @08:08AM (#26651707)

    Emotional state - pleased and surprised.

  • by Schiphol (1168667) on Thursday January 29, 2009 @08:20AM (#26651787)
    The summary (and TFA as well) seem to be committed to the following two points:

    1. Finite state machines will be unrealistically simple when simulating emotional responses.
    2. Behavioural-feedback is a necessary condition for realistic emotional displays.

    Point number 1 is unwarranted. Finite state machines may elaborate their input at an arbitrarily high level of complexity -finite may still be very large. Part of such an elaboration, of course, may be inner transitions between states that effectively amount to behavioural-feedback. There is nothing intrinsically un-dynamic to FSM.
    • ...praise their divine noodliness instead !

    • by Hoplite3 (671379)

      I agree. There's no reason you can't have feedback in a finite state machine.

      But the harder problem I think is properly displaying these emotions to the player, especially with subtle distinction. I've only seen one recent game (Mass Effect) that could occasionally use some small facial tics to give away emotional information. Changing dialogue would be very rewarding to the player, but difficult for the developer.

      • by Yvanhoe (564877) on Thursday January 29, 2009 @10:10AM (#26652669) Journal
        Dwarf Fortress uses ASCII characters to display the actors and their various states. It is incredible how effective it is. IT is not about the graphical feedback, it is about the behavior : once you see someone moving erratically and throwing everything around, you know that something is wrong with him. When you see two ASCII character sleeping side by side in the same room, you suspect that something is going on. It is not about attitudes, but behaviors.
        • When you see two ASCII character sleeping side by side in the same room, you suspect that something is going on.

          I suspect of ASCII pr0n.

      • by John Allsup (987)

        Emotions are continuous in nature, and cannot truly be emulated with a device that is discrete in both space and time.

        • Emotions are continuous in nature

          What nature are you talking about? In the nature that I live in, everything is quantized [wikipedia.org]. It just appears closer to continuous when averaged over trillions of particles.

          and cannot truly be emulated with a device that is discrete in both space and time.

          A sufficiently powerful digital computer could simulate everything down to the Heisenberg detail level, at which point the uncertainty of natural dithering [wikipedia.org] becomes measurable. But all we need in a game is enough detail to fool the player.

        • Fricking newage babble. Emotional states can be quantized as well as any other mental state. I'd normally say, "They just look that way" but they don't even appear continuous internally!

          Emotional states change all day long, and it is perfectly cromulent to say "I was sad this morning, but I feel better now"

          • Fricking newage babble. Emotional states can be quantized as well as any other mental state.

            I am not sure what other mental states you are referencing, but I'm going to forge ahead anyway and claim that any quantization of an emotional state is simplistic, though it may prove useful to science and in communication.

            I'd normally say, "They just look that way" but they don't even appear continuous internally!

            Emotional states change all day long, and it is perfectly cromulent to say "I was sad this morning, but I feel better now"

            Such a statement, although accurate to an extent, is overly broad. First of all, "continuous" is not the same as "static," so your remark that emotional states change all day long does not contradict the GP's point. Second, your use of the word "feel" is illustrative because it reflect

      • by Creepy (93888) on Thursday January 29, 2009 @11:19AM (#26653569) Journal

        Dialog changes are fairly rare, and usually only in RPGs and Adventure Games for the exact reason you mention - they are a pain in the rear to program. One upcoming game that is supposed to have an "emotion engine" is Heavy Rain [wikipedia.org].

            I personally don't think an emotion engine is as important as emotionally attachable characters with appropriate dialog. For instance, the ancient game Below the Root [wikipedia.org] is probably the earliest and best example of a game with characters that had emotional states, and in fact, some characters you could play could detect the state and know if that person meant good or ill and whether that person trusted you or not (or was afraid, etc). I was absolutely fascinated by that game in the mid 1980s - despite being aimed at children, it was entirely different than any game I'd played up until that time - largely non-violent, side scrolling, based on character interaction and puzzle solving, and had three very different protagonists (two were female, one male, which was unheard of). I think it's target market of children was wrong - I was a teen and spent more hours playing it than many other games I had.

        I think it's more important how you feel about the characters in the game than how the characters feel about each other. Dogmeat is an endearing character from Fallout, despite often being reduced to a bloody pool more often than not (and forcing a reload! --- NOOOO - you stupid mutt). Other times, characters are added and designed specifically to elicit an emotional reaction, like (Pre-searing) Gwen in Guild Wars or the Little Sisters in Bioshock.

  • It's for games? Yeah, I believe that.
  • by M1rth (790840) on Thursday January 29, 2009 @08:56AM (#26651981)

    What I find stupid is the fact that emotional states in games with any sneaking component revert way too quickly.

    "Hey, I saw an intruder! Hey, he ran away and hid!"... 30 seconds later... "*whistling merrily on patrol back in 'no intruder' state*".

    In many games, the enemy will walk right past a dead body, which is now an "object", over and over again.

    Much more realistic would be, once you've been spotted once, for the "alert flag" in some radius (shout range, alarm range if they hit one, etc) to go to a default "middle alert" and simply stay there. It's your punishment for being seen, AND it'd be much more realistic. And it wouldn't, if implemented properly, require any more processing power either.

    • Ah, the old realism vs. gameplay argument.

      You should try playing some of the thief games, dead bodies provoke quite a reaction in that.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Creepy (93888)

        Thief? Heck, the sequel to the original stealth game, Beyond Castle Wolfenstein [wikipedia.org] had this - part of the gameplay was dragging bodies out of sight so the guards wouldn't see them (the first game I believe had body spotting, but not dragging). If a guard spotted a corpse they'd immediately run for the level alarm and if that happened, you'd have SS all over.

        The real issue is, for sake of gameplay, the finite state machine is usually reset or else you'd be hiding for hours or days of gametime, which isn't muc

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Vario (120611)

      This would be easy to implement and some games show a similar behavior. Still this is not widespread because it just does not add to the gameplay.
      A longer timeout for alertness would just mean, that you need to wait in a dark corner for a long time until the enemy finally goes back to "no alert". I certainly don't want to be punished for a tiny mistake by having to wait forever.
      In a simulation rather than a game the enemy should not only react by increasing the alertness but calling for additional patrols,

      • by argent (18001)

        This would be easy to implement and some games show a similar behavior. Still this is not widespread because it just does not add to the gameplay.

        I suppose it depends on how much realism you expect from a game. And how much realism the game otherwise provides.

        When the characters are abstract specters and you're a yellow ball, you expect them to behave crazily. When they're high resolution avatars with simple AIs, it makes it harder to keep those suspenders of disbelief on when they act brain-damaged.

        • by tepples (727027)

          When the characters are abstract specters and you're a yellow ball, you expect them to behave crazily. When they're high resolution avatars with simple AIs, it makes it harder to keep those suspenders of disbelief on when they act brain-damaged.

          Which is why cartoonish art styles are still relevant in video games of the 2000s. When your NPCs' emotions are as shallow as they are in a game like The Sims or Animal Crossing, you want their appearance to match [plasticbamboo.com].

    • by Moraelin (679338) on Thursday January 29, 2009 @09:32AM (#26652241) Journal

      If you think that's bad, I humbly submit the following personal anecdotes:

      1. Oblivion. So there's this mess of cultists and the high priest is right in front of them preparing to sacrifice someone. Being the sneaky barsteward I am, I plug him right in the head with an enchanted bow. So not only he does a spectacular back-flip in front of everyone, but he bursts into a very bright and spectacular flame too.

      So the cultists freak out and start running around, don't find me. One minute later, they calm down and one of them goes, "It must have been the wind."

      I don't know what kind of weather they have down there.

      2. NOLF 2. So they had actually gone through the trouble of scripting reactions when an NPC finds a body. They'd shake it, ask stuff like "are you alive, comrade??", flip out and search for the killer, etc. Must have been fun in the original version.

      Except some retard decided to replace all corpses with backpacks in the German version. You can probably see where this is going.

      Yep. Some soldier would find a backpack on a bed in the barracks, freak out, and go "are you alive, comrade??" and the whole circus. To a backpack. WTF.

      • by Creepy (93888)

        Oblivion and Fallout 3 have issues like that all over the place. It bugged the crap out of me when I walked into a necromancer lair wearing a necromancer robe and was still flagged as hostile by the cult lackeys - like they would know. Fallout 3 has the same sort of problem - if you're wearing gang armor you should not immediately be seen as hostile... I'd at least expect to get somewhat close before being identified as not an ally. And really, IMO humans should never be seen as a hostile faction to othe

      • by tepples (727027)

        Yep. Some soldier would find a backpack on a bed in the barracks, freak out, and go "are you alive, comrade??" and the whole circus. To a backpack. WTF.

        I think developers leave this in on purpose, as a thinly veiled protest against German BPjM classification.

        • by Chabo (880571)

          Kinda like how in the German TF2, the body parts are gift-wrapped presents. :)

          "Hey kids, blow up your friend with a pipe bomb, and you'll have a second Christmas!"

    • by Chabo (880571)

      From Yahtzee, on STALKER: Clear Sky

      The mystical quicksave key is a dark and mysterious power that can change the very fabric of reality.

      I was ambushed by a bunch of jerks on my way somewhere, killed one or two, hit behind a rock, and quicksaved. But then three of them all threw grenades and I ended up with a cloud of shrapnel instead of a face.

      After I quickloaded though, they suddenly didn't seem to care. I was able to walk up and affably chat to them about how their day was going. One of them even offered to guide me through the forest, but halfway through he ran off, yelling "That's him! Take him down!"

      I couldn't see anyone else around, but it seems he was talking to my processor because at that point the game crashed.

      http://www.escapistmagazine.com/videos/view/zero-punctuation/271-S-T-A-L-K-E-R-Clear-Sky [escapistmagazine.com]

  • by Punto (100573) <(moc.liamg) (ta) (botnup)> on Thursday January 29, 2009 @09:44AM (#26652343) Homepage

    a character is furious one moment and cheerful a second later

    So it's a woman? what's the big deal? actually, they seem to have the hardest part figured out already!

  • at first, I read that as "Simulating Emoticons Within Games". Why the heck would I want to simulate emoticons?
    • I was even worse... "Stimulating Emoticons Within Games".

      I thought it was about some sort of naughty easter-eggs or something...

  • If these systems are really simple they produce absurd results: a character is furious one moment and cheerful a second later, like a Warner Brothers cartoon character.

    Or Basil Fawlty?

  • I certainly don't. NPCs annoy me, so I shoot them!!

  • :-(

    Im smiling on the inside

  • Games do well enough for now at expressing emotion within the limits of graphics/voice acting/script

    What I'd like to see are:

    1. controls sensitive and natural enough that your character is able to clearly express how you are feeling with no effort on your part. If it's done well how your character moves and his expression will change without you even realizing it

    2. NPCs that then respond to your emotional state at the time.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Just what I need, bots that call out insults during my kills, and then follow with a tea-bagging and jumping on my "corpse" on the occasions that they manage to score a kill.

    I think I prefered it when they only ran around in circles, unless the AI routine tells them where I am.

The meat is rotten, but the booze is holding out. Computer translation of "The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak."

Working...