Game Development Reference
are not looking at them. Imagine a game featuring a house shared by a strange old
man and his daughter. When he is home, the place is dirty and dingy, complete
with the occasional cobweb on the inside and graffiti on the exterior. When she is
home, it is clean and shiny; no cobwebs and no graffiti. What kind of emotional
reactions are we evoking in the player when they interact with either character?
Presume nothing bad ever happens to the player when he or she visits the house or
interacts with either character. Given the cumulative effect on the player of
exposure to countless horror movies of questionable value, what kind of emo-
tional response is the player going to have every time he or she visits this house?
This kind of world inspires new genres of games. Imagine a God game in which the
player is responsible for carrying out the orders of a capricious god modeled on
some stereotypical gamer. The very walls of the buildings seem happy when the
god is happy; you would certainly know who is recently out of favor and who has
recently regained favor. This is fertile ground for evoking emotions in the player,
limited by the imagination of the game designer, the skills of the artists, and the
abilities of the AI programmer to keep it under control. Typical AI tries to simulate
thoughts turning into actions. It is only a modest leap to transform this into
simulating feelings and turning them into effects. We need only modest fidelity in
the simulated feelings as long as the effects evoke the right emotions in the players.
The emotional responses we listed earlier were taken from gameplay outside of
story. Plot provides rich opportunities for evoking emotions in the player.
Consider a game in which the player runs a fragment of a conflict-torn country.
He is joined by an advisor, who comes with supporting forces. The advisor gives
sound advice and offers good ideas for the player to consider. Sometime later, the
advisor betrays the player and goes over to the other side, helping lead the enemy.
A typical emotional response to this is a feeling of betrayal, followed by an urge
for revenge that revitalizes the player and prompts him or her to play the game to
completion to defeat the traitor. If the betrayal is part of a fixed script, this setup
is a plot device and not part of the AI. But what if the game design does not
require the betrayal? What if the game decides whether or not to use this device?
We are back to AI, possibly some very easy AI to write.
A rich game would use the same betrayal device both ways. A skilled player gets
betrayed as described, but a struggling player would be gifted with the other side's
advisor changing sides, bringing with him plans, support, and gratitude. This is