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Experimental Video Game Evolves Its Own Content 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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Experimental Video Game Evolves Its Own Content

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  • Re:Dynamic world (Score:4, Insightful)

    by blahplusplus ( 757119 ) on Wednesday July 08, 2009 @11:19AM (#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.

  • Logical conclusion (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Explodo ( 743412 ) on Wednesday July 08, 2009 @11:20AM (#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:Dynamic world (Score:5, Insightful)

    by SatanicPuppy ( 611928 ) * <.Satanicpuppy. .at.> on Wednesday July 08, 2009 @11:36AM (#28623117) Journal

    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?

  • by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Wednesday July 08, 2009 @11:44AM (#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:Dynamic world (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Otto ( 17870 ) on Wednesday July 08, 2009 @12:04PM (#28623557) Homepage Journal

    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 (Score:3, Insightful)

    by NeutronCowboy ( 896098 ) on Wednesday July 08, 2009 @12:04PM (#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 (Score:4, Insightful)

    by TrippTDF ( 513419 ) <> on Wednesday July 08, 2009 @12:19PM (#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

"An organization dries up if you don't challenge it with growth." -- Mark Shepherd, former President and CEO of Texas Instruments