Game Development Reference
The cleanest solution to the human interaction problem is to not do
human interaction. Consider that one of the reasons world and emergent
story tools work so well in games is that they don't require the game to
handle players interacting with a character.
This doesn't mean there can't be characters, or that people can't talk.
You can interact with stupid or insane characters. You can interact with
quasi-human computers or inhuman AIs. You can observe other humans
interacting with one another, or find a tape of a conversation that hap-
pened earlier. The only restriction is that the player character can't ever
engage in a two-way interaction with a sane, conscious, coherent, human-
In BioShock , for example, sane characters only ever speak to the player
over a radio or through unbreakable glass. The characters who can be con-
fronted face to face are all violently insane. You can watch these madmen
as they go about their broken lives and listen to their deranged muttering,
but this works because you're not interacting, just watching as they follow
a predefined script. As soon as you try to interact, they fly into a murderous
rage that the computer can simulate without trouble.
DIALOGUE TREES can handle human interaction by predefining a list of
actions players can take and matching responses from other characters.
Some games model interpersonal interaction with dialogue trees that
allow the player to choose among a number of social interactions their
character can perform. This works because the game designers can author
every side of every interaction. There is no need to simulate anything.
The downside is that the player only has a handful of choices instead
of the near-infinite variety available in real life.
We can reuse standard game verbs as options in a dialogue tree.
The actions players can take in games are usually all about moving,
collecting, pushing, jumping, and shooting. It is possible to use these
kinds of interactions to express human interactions.
One example is a situation in which the player is forced to choose
between killing two different characters. In Grand Theft Auto IV , the pro-
tagonist is presented with an old enemy tied up on the ground and given
an opportunity to kill him. The player can choose to either shoot the de-
fenseless man or walk away. Both actions are expressed through controls
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