This week while working on feedback for usable items, I began to think about the community simulation aspect of the game.
The is the part of the game that excites me the most. The social simulation that I hope will make the game unique. In many ways the whole game is a backdrop to making the social simulation a richer experience. The idea is very much to build an immersive world building game, but with a focus on the community aspects.
What this means, is that I get to work on some pretty thorny AI issues, revolving around making really believable characters. Aspects of emotional modelling and procedural movement aside, the thing that interests me is that there really aren't that many games that are exploring this "playing amongst them" style of AI. Usually AI characters are relegated to the role of tokens to be played with. You hardly ever feel anything for them because they are the means to an end. Often they are just cannon fodder to help draw attention away from the player. But my intention is that I'll create an AI simulation that is deep enough to allow longer term bonds to form. Obviously this is a big task and it may well not work out, but I think its the only way to prove to myself that it is actually possible. I imagine in my head a new type of gameplay experience, but I can't know until it exists if that really is possible.
But I hit a snag a few days ago when I was thinking about how the community might work. The problem is that I've only ever actually felt part of one community outside of my work. That was back in 2004 when the "indie" game development thing was just getting started and I was involved with the V12 engine (garagegames had just started talking about it). I went over to the US (I live in the UK) for the first indie games con and had a great few days talking to fellow indies about our plans. It was perhaps the only time I've felt part of a real community movement. The feeling I had at that event was that my peers were in the same boat as me, offering their help and accepting mine. That felt very much like a "community" I wanted to be in.
But ever since that time, I've felt that somehow things have been missing. In physical and virtual life, that sense of mutual support just hasn't shown itself to the same extent. Which is a real problem if I'm trying to recreate that feeling in a virtual world.
So I'm pondering what makes us feel part of a community. What makes us care for the group as much as for ourselves. What allows us to feel good about the success of our peers etc. Hopefully I'll figure it out, but its hanging like a fog over the excitement I have for getting to work on the AI.
Anyway, no news without video right? This week its pretty short and sweet. I've been trying to figure out the right way to give feedback on available interactions. This video shows part of that work. I've actually done a bunch more prototypes since I made the video, but I'm still not satisfied. This version was the "AAA highlight" shader I wrote. You can see me trying out the "always on" version and a version that only highlights when you look directly at the object.
I hope to show the final version next week. I want to get a few more interactive items in the game so you can see how the different styles of interactivity will work.
Til next time.