What is it with games? I think there are only maybe five actual games on the market, every other one is just basically the same one redone with new graphics, a slight variation of data. I’ve been a game consumer for a long time, and have at times dabbled in game design, though I’m no professional at it. Like many others, I started out writing games on a computer. That’s how I pushed myself to learn what the box could do. Sure, I amazed and dazzled my friends, but the games themselves just always seemed to be lacking something. In the end they always felt one dimensional, an obvious goal or challenge requiring a bit of skill and a lot of luck. I found it the same with the games I’ve purchased and played. I found it wasn’t some skill I just lacked. I started to get the idea that there was just something lacking in the paradigm, something broken.
I guess there was just nothing unexpected, no real mystery even to a game based on a mystery. It was probably because the games were design by people with a limited ability to express their ideas. The plots were fixed like a story, or could possibly unfold in a variety of fixed ways. Some games mix in skill-based challenges with a fixed plot, others mix in puzzles, but still they remain primarily static things.
I was talking to my brother yesterday. He’s plays a lot of Acheron’s call and likes to grumble about whatever deficiency du jour that might be troubling its players. I try to read between the lines when he talks and pick out what I think really matters. I see what often bugs him is that the content is so fixed. Sure it gets updates every so often, as do most games of its ilk, but the new content is soon revealed and usually most know all the details long before they encounter it in game. There is no real mystery; you just end up going through the motions, with thousands of other people doing the same thing.
What I really want to have is a personalized experience, even in a multi-player game. I want the game to adapt to me and spin me my own little tale. I want to be the hero of the story, or at least my part of the adventure, and I want my experience to be very much different than everyone else’s.
I’m not sure how this is done, but I know that if it is that AI will be involved in just about every aspect of the game. Games have integrated AI before, but never to this degree. I used to be a real AI wonk when I was in college, and read a variety of books and journals on the subject. I know there are many possibly dead-end approaches to adaptive learning, etc, that could still be put to use as a form of entertainment. Instead of just applying this work to try to make robot cars travel over unexpected terrain, or to assembling blocks in a plethora of a patterns, let’s take this logic and apply it to simulations of environment, to plot structures and protagonists. Let’s make the game worlds come alive by giving them a mind.
So if you have ideas on this subject, please share them. Maybe if we put all our thoughts into a pot and stir in some potatoes, carrots and onion we might just make some soup.