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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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  • Dynamic world (Score:4, Interesting)

    by sopssa ( 1498795 ) * <> on Wednesday July 08, 2009 @11:09AM (#28622651) Journal

    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.

    It would be great to have kind of an ecosystem which would evolve on its own and when players help (or destroy) it. For example, there would be two or three independent towns controlled by NPC's living closely that you could build relationships with. Once one of the towns needs more resources, likes to expand or for whatever reason, it would go in war with another town. Player couldn't directly control it, but you could influence it indirectly. Taking it further, when you could really succesfully frame the other town for hostile act's, you could cause a war between them if they see so.

    I know it makes it easier to design and create content when everything is static, but in this case some of the content and the actual gameplay would be created by itself. It would also be *a lot* more interesting when you could directly or indirectly affect the world. Doing a run against some giant badass boss dragon and decided to quit it and run away? Now no, that badass boss dragon wouldn't just get back to its place once you've just a little bit out of its attack range. It would actually be *pissed* at your group and follow you, tearing apart the environment when you try to run away from it. This creates even more tension, as other players and NPC controlled towns would be pissed at you for causing that.

    I've always also thought that why there's no king's or province leaders in WoW or other MMORPG's. Other players could elect you into it or you could steal it from existing king. Obviously the other faction would first need to break thru the provinces to capitol city like Stormwind, fight your way thru the guards and other players finally to the king's castle and then have a huge fight there. If you succeeded with that, you would still need to defence the place and continue gaining control over it. Or you could take the spy approach, gaining trust and getting in ranks to work with the king, finally to just to backstab him when its the perfect moment to do so.

    There's so much you could do with dynamic content or world where player actions actually matter. Now everything is just pretty static, grinding to kill enemies that just pop up back 5 mins later or doing mindless quests. I would really welcome some MMO where it would be more like a sandbox for players and the world. EVE Online actually works a bit like this and that's why its always interest me, even tho I'm not really into space genre. Would be great to see such fantasy MMORPG, or even modern day MMORPG.

  • by StCredZero ( 169093 ) on Wednesday July 08, 2009 @11:26AM (#28622953)

    I've been thinking along these lines quite a bit. Here's what I've come up with:

    Let your players design their own ships. (For the Space games. Armor/Mounts/Minions for the others.) The appearance of the items will determine the stats according to some simple geometric rules. (Examples: A part of the hull which is angled back will have more armor resistance from certain directions. The larger your ship is in any direction, the slower it can turn, etc.) There will also be "design points" players can spend. The player will then submit the design by spending the in-game money for a "research project." During this time, the item will be submitted to a user-driven forum much like /. or reddit, and the top vote-getters during their "research period" will succeed in their research projects and actually get prototyped. Players are rewarded for designing cool ships by being given the opportunity to license their designs for a royalty.

    Now here's the kicker -- the stats of ships of a certain design will shrink over time. So players who want the best ships will constantly have to seek out new designs. (All items would be temporary in this scheme. Nothing would ever be permanently bound to any player.)

    I'd also like to see opportunities for players to legitimately program their own bots/minions. The code could run on a specialized VM only on the servers, so you could sandbox them and enforce DRM. Then the scripts could again be licensed. Balance this out by having genetic algorithms constantly evolving the monsters. Also, this would co-opt farming and macros, and make them a part of the game. (And subject to game balance by he devs.)

    Don't try to fight the forces of evolution and economics and the scheming of crowds. CO-OPT them!

  • Re:Dynamic world (Score:5, Interesting)

    by SatanicPuppy ( 611928 ) * <> on Wednesday July 08, 2009 @11:52AM (#28623355) Journal

    Shrug. Some people like playing crafters, and you can add a frickton of strategy stuff to it.

    I'd love to see a crafting system than was complex and open-ended. Hell, make it so that you have some sort of skill-based mini game (like Tetris?) that effects the quality of things you're trying to craft, so it's not just about the level of grinding you've done on the skill, but also on actual skill.

    On top of that, you have the whole "defend my stuff" part of the game, which moves toward traditional strategy elements. You're recruiting and training units, you're building defenses. You're making alliances with other players to defend each others stuff.

    That sounds a hell of a lot more fun to me than just another MMO level/loot grind, where crafting is something you do when you're tired of killing stuff, and has very little actual effect on the game. I'm so tired of that I can't even convey it.

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

    by SatanicPuppy ( 611928 ) * <> on Wednesday July 08, 2009 @12:05PM (#28623589) Journal

    It's amusing, because when I first wrote that rant, it was in reaction to the utter cock-up that CoH made of the player generated content thing.

    In CoH they let people generate their own missions, and they rewarded people based on how well OTHER PEOPLE liked their missions! What the fuck? What was the cost to the player when 100 people ripped through their level-farming mission like a fat guy through a door made of bacon? They were rewarded.

    Oh god, could you do anything worse than that? What content did they think was going to be created?

    In my system, the player gets benefits from building buildings/dungeons/whatever, and loses benefits when other players run roughshod over their stuff. The player would have a strong motivation to protect his stuff, and make it as hard as possible to beat.

    It's not just about crafting either. Say you want to set up a dungeon full of bandits who raid nearby player junk. Why not? Player housing that gives bonuses based on the junk you've got in your house. You raid someones mine and trash it, and the miner gets pissed of and pays some thieves to loot your house, killing your bonuses.

    It's about making the content created a needed and good thing for the character, and giving them bonuses/money/skills/whatever based on what they've got, so that they have an incentive to expand it and protect it.

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

    by moderatorrater ( 1095745 ) on Wednesday July 08, 2009 @12:07PM (#28623625)

    Make the shops able to be stolen from, and you have room for thieves, and let the players put in traps, fancy locks, etc.

    The only problem I see there (and I don't think it's necessarily a deal breaker) is that the designers have competing interests: the thieves have to be able to max out a skill, but if a thief can always steal from the shop then there's no incentive to open the shop in the first place. Either the shop is impossible to steal from, thus making the thief feel slighted, or the thief can steal from the shop, which means that all thieves which max out their skills can steal from the shops. And if you make it a progression, where lower-level shop owners are more easily stolen from than more senior shop owners, then you have a situation where thieves always steal from lower level shops, making it so that the only workable levels for owning a shop are extremely high.

    I would probably resolve that issue through making it so that either the shops can't be stolen from at all, or else there's a limited scope in what can be stolen. For instance, there's a certain amount of gold on hand from items being bought and sold. Only half of that gold can be stolen, thus ensuring that there's something to steal but the shop owner can't lose everything. Or maybe shops earn latent income through the assumed purchases made by NPCs, and it's only this income which can be stolen from. Or maybe it's only custom made weapons, and the regular stock can't be stolen from, etc. Because anyone and everyone can get to the highest levels of thievery, there has to be an artificial barrier when it comes to thievery between PCs.

  • Re:Dynamic world (Score:3, Interesting)

    by SatanicPuppy ( 611928 ) * <> on Wednesday July 08, 2009 @12:19PM (#28623791) Journal

    I was thinking limited scope myself: the thief can break in, but they can't clean the entire place out (for whatever reason). If they could clean the entire place out, right to the ground, then it would completely suck to be a crafter. Or, as a crafter, maybe you could pay for theft insurance? I also think there needs to be some kind of diminishing return, so that it doesn't make sense for an upper level thief to grief the lower level shopkeepers.

    There are a couple of ways it could be done, but I think the whole thing depends on that sort of arms race between the thief and the shopkeepers, where they're constantly expanding their efforts to stymie the other person. That's what would make it a cool game: if the thieves had a huge advantage, then it would be terrible to be a shopkeeper, and vice versa.

  • Re:Dynamic world (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Jim_Maryland ( 718224 ) on Wednesday July 08, 2009 @12:21PM (#28623851)
    While I can appreciate StatanicPuppy's idea, I agree that it would become boring after a while. I play games to get away from work (OK, may call grinding experience/reputation/gold as work still). If a game were to implement your concepts, would you envision the guards, shop owners, etc... to be NPCs or other players? If NPCs, the amount of space in the game world would have to be huge to accommodate all players wanting to setup towns. If real players, what happens if you have all East Coast players as your guards and they log out around midnight? Do the West Coast players come in and wipe you out when a majority log out? The concept you are describing sounds more like a simulator.
  • Re:NEAT (Score:3, Interesting)

    by castorvx ( 1424163 ) on Wednesday July 08, 2009 @01:00PM (#28624493)
    It has also been used for various other things. My girlfriend is actually a part of that research group (EPLEX - []) ... It has been used for all kinds of things. Everywhere from evolving complex pictures [] to music generation to our future overlords: hyper evolved zombie dancers [].
  • by DMUTPeregrine ( 612791 ) on Wednesday July 08, 2009 @03:14PM (#28626851) Journal
    Not exactly. I've got some "old" decks that handily beat any new deck. The real cash cow for them is Type II. Since most tournaments are Type II, and in Type II you can only use cards from the last 2 sets (Current Edition, last 2 expansions) you have to buy new cards & change your deck every few months. Many Type I or I.5 decks don't use cards from the last few editions at all, especially the Type I, which can use the very old and overpowered cards.
  • Re:Dynamic world (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 08, 2009 @08:52PM (#28630773)

    I can see how that would be a problem, but only if you allow characters to be immortal.

    Seriously, why can't we have an MMO where characters die of old age? Let's stop allowing powergamers to dictate that all new content should be for level 10,000+ players who go on 24hr raids with 60 other guild members?

    Other genres specifically design for natural death. How boring would The Sims be if your character just got wealthier and moved into larger and larger properties forever? Or if NetHack was just an infinitely long dungeon?

Thufir's a Harkonnen now.