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Classifying Players For Unique Game Experiences 167

Posted by Soulskill
from the in-soviet-underworld dept.
togelius writes "Whenever you play a game of Tomb Raider: Underworld, heaps of data about your playing style is collected at Eidos' servers. Researchers at the Center for Computer Games Research have now mined this data to identify the different types of player behavior (PDF). Using self-organizing neural networks, they classified players as either Veterans, Solvers, Pacifists or Runners. It turns out people play the game for very different reasons and focus on different parts of the game, but almost everyone falls into one of these categories. These neural networks can now quickly determine which of these groups you belong to based on just seeing you play. In the near future, such networks will be used to adapt games like Tomb Raider while they are played (e.g. by removing or adding puzzles and enemies), so you get the game you want."
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Classifying Players For Unique Game Experiences

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  • by sopssa (1498795) * <sopssa@email.com> on Wednesday August 12, 2009 @08:57AM (#29036755) Journal

    It turns out people play the game for very different reasons and focus on different parts of the game, but almost everyone falls into one of these categories.

    Yep, I've noticed this too. I dont get why, but some people tend to stare the ass more, while personally I like to enjoy the boobs.

    Did this research notice if there were any deaths caused by getting discracted when you jumped and the camera got into such position that you tried to get a nippleslip or see the panties?

  • by RemoWilliams84 (1348761) on Wednesday August 12, 2009 @09:05AM (#29036855)

    After seeing how Tivo and Netflix recommendations go sometimes, I'm not sure I want a game changing itself because it thinks I know what I want. Not to knock Tivo or Netflix, they are accurate alot, but sometimes they are way off base.

    Besides, if it knew what I really wanted, everything would just end up having tits.

  • by NervousNerd (1190935) on Wednesday August 12, 2009 @09:07AM (#29036899) Journal

    Whenever you play a game of Tomb Raider: Underworld, heaps of data about your playing style is collected at Eidos' servers.

    Thanks for the heads up, so I won't buy it. I personally don't like having everything I do monitored in some way on some server with a shady privacy policy.

    • by J_DarkElf (602111) * on Wednesday August 12, 2009 @09:37AM (#29037277) Journal

      Then don't buy the Xbox version. If you RTFA, it mentions that the data collection was done through Xbox Live.

      Of course with its achievements etc. Xbox Live is always tracking everyone in the first place, Eidos' data collection is a logical next step. If you're paranoid, avoid Xbox Live, PSN, and any similar system (including Steam on PC unless firewalled).

      Or of course just pull the network plug of the PC or console...

      • by RobotRunAmok (595286) on Wednesday August 12, 2009 @09:58AM (#29037605)

        ...but how does it track when my 8-year-old daughter loads the disk and plays "Lara Croft: Monkey Chaser" ? I'm guessing they need a way to throw out that data, or else risk creating the new, bogus, player category of "Spastic Insomniac."

        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by aleandait (1617473)
          subversive behaviors do not just represent outliers; it can be very interesting to look at players that don't fit clusters, these are the players that invented rocket-jumping and bunny-hopping, so it might be really interesting to look at "monkey-chasers", "spastic insomniacs" and all profiles not fitting the big clusters as they might be early-adopters.
    • by Applekid (993327) on Wednesday August 12, 2009 @10:35AM (#29038101)

      Unless you're planning to write your social security number with bullet holes in the wall, I think you might be overreacting.

      Using my play data to serve ads? No, thanks, I'll pass. Using my play data to realize I hate having to kill things in Tomb Raider? Sounds like a win to me.

    • by Darinbob (1142669)
      This sounded like a single player game. Is the new wave now to require internet connections for everything?
    • Whenever you play a game of Tomb Raider: Underworld, heaps of data about your playing style is collected at Eidos' servers.

      Thanks for the heads up, so I won't buy it. I personally don't like having everything I do monitored in some way on some server with a shady privacy policy.

      What, you mean like EQ2 and WoW do?

      Apparently every single thing to take place is recorded by EQ2. A while back some giddy scientists got their hands on the massive amount of data, to run algorithms on it.

      And if you don't think Blizzard does the same thing...hah...get real. :P

  • by broknstrngz (1616893) on Wednesday August 12, 2009 @09:09AM (#29036933)
    How about the naked Lara Croft modders? Which slot do they fall into?
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Solvers: Solved her tight clothing getting in the way.

    • by Andr T. (1006215) <(andretaff) (at) (gmail.com)> on Wednesday August 12, 2009 @09:36AM (#29037263)

      How about the naked Lara Croft modders? Which slot do they fall into?

      Tricky question, don't you think? /. is a family-friendly website and nobody should answer that question.

      (Insert 'you must be new here' joke now)

      • by vlm (69642)

        Tricky question, don't you think? /. is a family-friendly website and nobody should answer that question.

        Could be worse, first time I read it as "naked (Lara Croft) modders" and had a nasty vision of some very chilly dude designing new levels in his basement, instead of "(naked Lara Croft)-modders", which is probably what the author intended.

    • The secret fifth option, Wankers.

      (Literally, not derogatorily!)

  • by HBI (604924) <(moc.liamg) (ta) (enidarapk)> on Wednesday August 12, 2009 @09:11AM (#29036955) Homepage Journal

    ...15 years ago. They change the names and claim it as unique research?

    • by jtogel (840879)
      Can you point me to the paper? As far as I'm aware, he did a taxonomy based on qualitative observations of the game; this is a quantitative study, with the categories found purely by machine learning and a large dataset.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by am 2k (217885)

      ...15 years ago. They change the names and claim it as unique research?

      No. Bartle's taxonomy is only really relevant for MMORPGs and MUDs. This one is mostly for first person shooters and similar games.

  • How about having a little confidence in your designers and letting me play the game THEY made?

  • They seem to have forgotten about the metagamers [slashdot.org] :)
  • Almost everyone? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by noname444 (1182107)

    Using self-organizing neural networks, they classified players as either Veterans, Solvers, Pacifists or Runners ... but almost everyone falls into one of these categories

    I didn't RTFA but wouldn't everyone fall into one of the categories? I mean, it sounds like the system does just that: puts the player in one of the categories.

    • Re:Almost everyone? (Score:4, Informative)

      by jtogel (840879) <julian@togelius.com> on Wednesday August 12, 2009 @09:31AM (#29037175) Homepage Journal
      The categories did not exist prior to the data; they were found by unsupervised learning algorithms in the data.
    • Re:Almost everyone? (Score:5, Informative)

      by Sockatume (732728) on Wednesday August 12, 2009 @09:35AM (#29037237)

      The system discovers the categories. The analysis finds groupings of players who behave in similar ways through the game, and the researchers named those after-the-fact. There's no a priori reason why the players should group at all, though - the study could've equally found that only a small percentage of players clustered and the majority were radically different from each other.

      • by sznupi (719324)

        But...I seem to remember there is some statistical quirk manifesting itself in many scenarios, when you want to find some groups (and they did want to find them, their questions were conductive to this goal; the opposite example would be "how many of the subjects plays Tomb Raider?")

        Something with majority of sets nicely fragmenting into 4 to 5 categories, if you're willing to define them.

    • by TheLink (130905)
      How about "Noobs" and "Incompetents"? ;)

      Seriously though as per a previous slashdot story there are a fair number of players who try to "exploit" the game or play it a way the game designers probably don't expect most of their players to play. Some game designers put in some easter eggs or "special features" for such people - after all I find it interesting that while you can't run up or forward jump up the portland lighthouse island in GTA3, you can jump _backwards_ up to the lighthouse - perhaps they inte
  • So no variety? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bcmm (768152) on Wednesday August 12, 2009 @09:19AM (#29037049)
    Many players enjoy some variety within a game. I've played all the Hitman games with the aim of completing the missions "cleanly", so I enjoyed the ones which force you to play the last mission as more of a shooter game (they did this in the 1st, 2nd and 4th games, while the third had a finale which offed the chance to play stealthily, but was still designed to produce a massive firefight if not played stealthily).

    I would be somewhat annoyed if Eidos based the style of the final level of the next Hitman game on stats from the rest of the game, which seems to be a real possibility since Hitman is a game which offers plenty of chances to choose between stealth and action gameplay.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by bigngamer92 (1418559)
      It would be interesting to see this in a strategy game like Civ 4. If you spend all your time in economics then the game will ease off the aggresive AI.

      Of course just making the AI better would help a lot.
  • by WCMI92 (592436) on Wednesday August 12, 2009 @09:23AM (#29037095) Homepage

    I don't like the idea of BUYING something and then having my use of it monitored. That's no different than spyware.

    • by Rogerborg (306625) on Wednesday August 12, 2009 @09:58AM (#29037597) Homepage

      Sweet Zombie Jesus, the tin foil hat brigade are out in force today. The game is already awarding you Achievements [wikipedia.org] as you play. You don't like being "spied" on to earn Achievements? Then why are you playing on XBox Live?

      Oh, you didn't realize that this only applies to the XBox Live version? You didn't even read the article, you say? I've just earned the "Shocked and Stunned" Achievement.

      • by lymond01 (314120)

        In the GP's defense, there's game-related analysis (achievements) and scientific and/or marketing analysis based on the how you play the game. The former is fine for most people, the same way someone recording your batting average in a softball league is. But if someone in your league starts writing down what you do between at-bats, how you stand in the field...it gets a little creepy.

        And this is a little creepy.

      • by Darinbob (1142669)
        The only game I have with achievements is Portal, and I was very surprised that I had to be online to even see the achievements. I can't see why a remote server needs to be queried just to see if I managed to fall 3000 feet yet or not.

        Maybe these games should be a distinction between "achievements" (ie, another word for "score") and "sharing my data with other people"?

        I still haven't figured out the purpose of this XBox Live and Windows Live stuff; if you allow patches and downloadable content in other way
      • by mjwx (966435)

        You don't like being "spied" on to earn Achievements? Then why are you playing on XBox Live?

        Achievement unlocked
        Big Brother is watching you.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by AP31R0N (723649)

      Ahhh! They're after you!

      Spyware watches you to target advertising at you, and to help companies figure out how to optimize their costs and profits. This game is watching you so they can make games more appealing to more players. A game that designed to appeal to one play style will likely annoy the other types. Your Solver will complain about the lack of puzzles or over dependence on violence. If you can make a game cater to multiple styles, more people will speak well of it and more people will want th

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by chadplusplus (1432889)
        Additionally, spyware tends to cause your computer to crap out, which is probably what brought it somewhat into the mainstream consciousness. Something I hope the designers kept in mind here.

        I also dig this as its a good step towards dynamic level design. For instance, imagine a game where you're trying to invade a stronghold (I know, original right?). The game AI figure out you're a sniper type of gamer who prefers to sit back as far as possible and pick off enemies before engaging them. It know how
    • by Verdatum (1257828) on Wednesday August 12, 2009 @10:15AM (#29037857)
      Could you imagine The Last Starfighter in this day and age? "We've been monitoring your progress in this thing you call a 'game', and we believe you may have what it takes to defend the galaxy!" "OMG Spyware! Screw you guys!"
    • by Bakkster (1529253)

      I don't like the idea of BUYING something and then having my use of it monitored. That's no different than spyware.

      Generally I think of spyware having on huge differentiating factor from this. Personally identifying information. If the information can't be tracked back to you individually, it's not spyware. If all they know is that user #174823 likes playing stealthily, but cannot correlate user #174823 to any other information (screen name, CC number, IP address, etc) then there's no problem. They aren't tracking YOU, they're tracking generic usage information.

  • The four types (Score:5, Informative)

    by nschubach (922175) on Wednesday August 12, 2009 @09:24AM (#29037103) Journal

    In case anyone else was trying to figure out these roles... (page 6 last two paragraphs - > page 7)

    Veterans = The power gamers, deaths usually only environmental.

    Solvers = Die often (mainly from falling), methodical, slow.

    Pacifists = Cannon fodder basically.

    Runners = They run, they die, they run. The first thing that comes to mind here is a player that goes for the flag immediately in CTF.

    • Re:The four types (Score:4, Informative)

      by andrewd18 (989408) on Wednesday August 12, 2009 @10:07AM (#29037733)
      Slightly more detailed breakdown with quotes from TFA:

      8.6% of players were Veterans, "players that die very few times; their death is caused mainly by the environment and they complete TRU very fast."

      22.12% of players were Solvers. "Their long completion times, low number of deaths by enemies or environment effects indicate a slow-moving, careful style of play with the number one cause of death being falling (jumping). ... Solvers are excellent at solving puzzles, respond readily to moveable threats but die often from falling and are slow to complete the game."

      46.18% of players were Pacifists: "The total number of their deaths varies a lot but their completion times are below average and their help requests are minimal indicating a certain amount of skill at playing the game. ... the Pacifists are experts in terms of navigation and move rapidly through the virtual environment, but also respond badly to threats that are moveable or unexpected"

      16.56% of players were Runners, "players that die quite often and mainly by opponents and the environment. These players are very fast in completing the game (similar to the Veterans), while having a varying number of help requests which cover the majority of the H value range."
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by kalirion (728907)

        So, Veterans and Runners complete the game very quickly, while Pacifists complete the game faster than average. Seems those 22.12% which are Solvers are really bringing down the speed curve a lot here.

        • by PitaBred (632671)
          Some of us like exploring the whole world, instead of just trying to get to the end of the level. Is that wrong?
        • by kigrwik (462930)

          Heh. Statistics... :)

          I guess that when they say "their completion times was below average" means that they took longer which is considered bad (wtf, how about appreciating the design&graphics ?), so the "completion time grade" was below average. Still, it's a pretty messed-up sentence.

          Oh and by the way, there is still a possibility that the original sentence is correct if we assume abysmal results by the Solvers. I prefer my explanation, thoough.

      • by syousef (465911)

        46.18% of players were Pacifists: "The total number of their deaths varies a lot but their completion times are below average and their help requests are minimal indicating a certain amount of skill at playing the game. ... the Pacifists are experts in terms of navigation and move rapidly through the virtual environment, but also respond badly to threats that are moveable or unexpected"

        They might be below average but with 46.18% they'd have to be very close to the median ;-)

    • Does anyone know anything about the Ward Dendrogram shown in fig 3 on page 5? The T value seems arbitrary unless I misunderstand the text. Assuming the height differences between branches are indicative of distance between clusters, three or six groups would be more natural.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by aeroelastic (840614)
      I like this take on it better:
      http://insultswordfighting.blogspot.com/2008/01/new-taxonomy-of-gamers-table-of.html [blogspot.com]

      The types are Tourist, Skill player, Completionist. Also, on a value scale, you can range from wholesale to premium.
  • by El_Muerte_TDS (592157) <elmuerte@drunksnipe r s .com> on Wednesday August 12, 2009 @09:35AM (#29037241) Homepage

    The way you play games can change over time. I'm not always in the same mood when I play games, sometimes I like to goof off. Sometimes I like to just race around. If the game adapts to the way I was playing it will limit me the way I want to play the game.
    Adaptive difficulty is better. If you have problem beating foo X, then after a while foo X will become easier. If you are stuck in a maze or unable to solve a puzzle, provide hints through game related mechanism (for example, receive a phone call with an hint, or let the PDA "compute" a solution).

    • by jtogel (840879)
      Well, there is nothing in the article (or in our research program as a whole) that says that playing styles are static. What's (more or less) static are models of player style/player preferences. Once we have the model, we can re-categorize you every time you play. This way we can do adaptive difficulty, amongst many other things.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 12, 2009 @09:36AM (#29037251)

    There is a sword in the middle of the room, what would you like to do?
    "Leave sword"
    -Enemies Removed from all rooms-
    -Puzzles added to all rooms-

    You enter a room with a puzzle, what would you like to do?
    "I hate puzzles!"
    -Puzzles removed from all rooms-
    -You Win! You are the new moon master!-

  • ... to have it place you in a group, and then randomly select one of the other groups to place your gaming experience into. That way rather than giving you the experience most appropriate for your gaming style, it gives you a gaming experience that might actually cause you to approach the situation differently.
  • it would be interesting if someone did this in an MMO like WOW, or EVE online

    • by AP31R0N (723649)

      i would love that. WoW, EQ and even Aion facilitate one style of play. Even if you play a sneaky character, it still always comes down to killing. These games rarely offer any real puzzle solving, stealth or negotiation.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      It's already been done for EVE Online. They found two groups:
      1) Pirates; who spend 90% of their playtime being awesome at gatecamps.
      2) Carebear Gayfags.

  • In the near future, such networks will be used to adapt games like Tomb Raider while they are played (e.g. by removing or adding puzzles and enemies), so you get the game you want.

    This would only be possible in games that were similar enough to the previous title that the research could be applied.

    For all the talk about 'neural' this and that, this is data. Data that was collected through hours of gameplay. Remove the data, and there's nothing to 'recognize'. No frame of reference.

    It could be argued that all games are the same, but in reality they're not. A data point like 'deaths due to falling' wouldn't necessarily be as useful outside of Tomb Raider.

    Now, for the sequel, sure.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by themightythor (673485)

      If only there was some mechanism by which they could collect this data before launching the game to the public. I'd call it an "alpha" release. I think I'll patent the concept...I'll be rich! ;)

  • by Bluesman (104513) on Wednesday August 12, 2009 @10:18AM (#29037885) Homepage

    In the near future, such networks will be used to adapt games like Tomb Raider while they are played (e.g. by removing or adding puzzles and enemies), so you get the game you want."

    Awesome! In my case, I think it would be hilarious to watch Tomb Raider slowly morph into Starcraft.

  • Steam stats (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Spatial (1235392) on Wednesday August 12, 2009 @10:33AM (#29038073)
    Valve does this as well. It creates some pretty interesting data, [steampowered.com] like the maps of where people die the most. It's easy to see how it can help designers.
    • by asylumx (881307)
      The problem is such info is also useful for placement of in-game ads. A lot of people already don't like in-game ads and the fact they are using your lab-rat data to show them to you simply creeps them out.
      • Some of my most memorable gaming moments from two decades ago involved the most offensively challenging parts of a game and me eventually conquering it. "And finally, after a seemingly endless evening of running across the bridge and into the chamber again and again, our fearless hero was on the verge of destroying the evil vampire when--DOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!" and the game locks up with the endless drone of a single note from the musical score. $@#*ing Castlevania!
      • Yet, I remember this moment most
  • Varied play (Score:3, Insightful)

    by SEWilco (27983) on Wednesday August 12, 2009 @11:02AM (#29038527) Journal
    I hope the games will be forgetful and not lock themselves into a certain kind of play. In some kinds of games, I first run for the finish to experience the game and then crawl through the game again to discover the hidden corners. Or a visiting friend will play in a different way.
  • You could be a Veteran Solver. Someone who completes a level completely AND knows how not to fall into holes.

    I think there are axes to this graph, and players can be any degree of the following:

    1) Nimble - athletic control, precision of moment
    2) Quester - Someone to explorers every possible puzzle/area/option
    3) Aggressiveness - Avoid enemies? Shoot friendlies? Cope well in pvp?
    4) Goal - Play for enjoyment or goal driven for completion? Pace of game.

  • Mark Rosewater (Score:3, Interesting)

    by kitsunewarlock (971818) on Wednesday August 12, 2009 @01:14PM (#29040625) Journal
    Mark Rosewater, current head developer of Magic the Gathering, explained a much more in depth categorization. It has a lot more "gray areas" (in which people act like one or the other at different times), but I find it a lot better than this description (at least for tabletop games).
    You can find the original article here [wizards.com]. The other articles are found here [wizards.com] and here [wizards.com]/
  • by S77IM (1371931) on Wednesday August 12, 2009 @02:02PM (#29041379)

    (No, this is NOT about cybering...)

    I want to enjoy MMOs. I really do. But somehow I always wind up on the team with Leeroy @#$% Jenkins.

    Someone REALLY needs to add this technology to an MMO -- and then help players to form groups with other people who have the same play style. Let Leeroy and his team of Runners go and have their fun. I'll hang out with some Puzzle-Solvers or Explorers or People Who Actually Read The Quest Dialog or whatever bucket is appropriate for the way I play the particular game. I need help joining the right pick-up group or guild or whatever (if I had social skills, I'd be outside) and an LFG Chat Channel isn't really enough.

    THAT would be a customized game experience worth some money ($15/month to whoever could implement it).

      -- 77IM

Passwords are implemented as a result of insecurity.

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