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Holistic player modeling for controlling adaptation in video games


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Adaptation to player’s context is crucial issue in player-centric video games. It is realized at run time according to measurable player behavior and, hence, provides a huge potential for creating an augmented player experience with higher level of fun and satisfaction. Adaptation mechanisms applied to player-centric games have proven success in generating more pleasurable and immersive gameplay for entertainment games and better learning for serious games. The present holistic player-centric model is suited for adaptation control for any type of video game but especially for applied games where gameplay should fit performance, emotional state and style of individual learner. The outlined preliminary results of a case study with such an applied adaptive video game proves that adaptation of game mechanics, dynamics and aesthetics based on player´s performance and emotions model provides enhanced learning experiences.

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Holistic player modeling for controlling adaptation in video games

  1. 1. HOLISTIC PLAYER MODELING FOR CONTROLING ADAPTATION IN VIDEO GAMES Boyan Bontchev Prof. at Dep. of Software Technologies, Fac. of Mathematics and Informatics, Sofia Univ., Bulgaria Marie Curie Fellow at Brainstorm Multimedia, Spain
  2. 2. Agenda Introduction Related works The ADAPTIMES player model Adaptation process The “Rush for Gold” emotionally adaptive game Case study Preliminary results Conclusions 2 9/04/2016Adaptation in Applied Video Games e-Society’2016
  3. 3. Player-centric adaptation Player-centric adaptation in video games needs to answer some questions: Who – player character structural and behavioral changes => requires player modelling How – how adaptation will be realized => requires adaptive loop design What – which game features can be adapted => requires adaptive gameplay design Why – advantages of game adaptation => requires analysis of outcomes in playability and learning results 9/04/2016Adaptation in Applied Video Games e-Society’2016 3
  4. 4. Player modelling Player modelling is crucial for realization of an effective player-centric adaptation in both applied and entertainment video games. It implies: Observation of individual player’s behavior “from a contextually omniscient view” Construction and updates of a model of that player based on observation, and Intelligent game adaptation for tailoring the gameplay to the individual player. 9/04/2016Adaptation in Applied Video Games e-Society’2016 4  Source: Magerko, B. Adaptation in Digital Games, COMPUTER, July 2008, pp.87-89.
  5. 5. Player model types Behavioral player models - describe dynamic processes of player behavior and deal mainly with flow, motivation and immersion Organizational player models describe properties of player’s character, their attributes and facets and, as well, interconnections among them with their time and model space constrains 9/04/2016Adaptation in Applied Video Games e-Society’2016 5
  6. 6. Behavioral player models 1/2  Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (1990) developed the fundamental concept of flow as a process of optimal human experience. In digital games - a balance between the inherent challenge of the game activity and the player’s ability required for its execution. 9/04/2016Adaptation in Applied Video Games e-Society’2016 6 Player skill Challenge Boredom Anxiety
  7. 7. Behavioral player models 2/2  Based on the flow theory, Gilleade and Dix (2004) stressed the importance of three issues:  motivation of the users: why they want to play  experience and skills: how able are they to play  detection: how to identify when change is necessary  Sweetser and Wyeth (2005) presented GameFlow model for assessing player enjoyment incl.: concentration, challenge, skills, control, clear goals, feedback, immersion, and social interaction.  The dynamic relation between the effort and the demand level was described as motivational intensity (Fairclough and Gilleade, 2012) going through boredom (low effort because of low demand), engagement (rising effort due to increasing demand), zone (peak of achievable effort at the highest level of demand), and overload – low effort due to excessive demand. 9/04/2016Adaptation in Applied Video Games e-Society’2016 7
  8. 8. Organisational player models  Bridging the gap between game design and pedagogy (Kiili, 2006):  flow antecedents - challenge–skill balance, action–awareness merging, goals of an activity, unambiguous feedback, and sense of control  flow experience  flow consequences - increased learning, positive attitude, exploratory behavior, and perceived behavioral control  Game adaptation determine the level of playability (Sánchez et al, 2009): satisfaction, learnability, effectiveness, immersion, motivation, emotion, and socialization.  Besides playability, game adaptation may be used for increasing player competence in both playing and game-based learning context. User competence model (Silva and Behar, 2015):  psycho-cognitive abilities  attitudes  knowledge 9/04/2016Adaptation in Applied Video Games e-Society’2016 8
  9. 9. Playing style models 9/04/2016Adaptation in Applied Video Games e-Society’2016 9 Relationships between Honey and Mumford learning styles and playing styles of ADOPTA (Bontchev, 2011) and Bartle Honey and Mumford Learns by: ADOPTA Bartle Activist hand–eye coordination, planning and strategizing, problem-solving, teamwork and the ability to think quickly Competitor Killer Theorist logically entering problems step-by-step, with spatial awareness and verbal & numeracy skills Logician Achiever Pragmatist planning, decision-making, testing hypotheses, strategic thinking, management skills Strategist Explorer Reflector Observing and watching reflectively Dreamer Socializer
  10. 10. The ADAPTIMES FP7 project  ADAPTIve player-centric serious video gaMES  ADAPTIMES aims at investigating how cognitive abilities (the cognitive part), psycho-emotional status (the affective part) and playing style (the conative part – that of “desire, volition, and striving”) (Schur, 1990)  can be used in a holistic approach for efficient and effective player-centric adaptation 9/04/2016Adaptation in Applied Video Games e-Society’2016 10
  11. 11. Adaptation in 9/04/2016Adaptation in Applied Video Games e-Society’2016 11
  12. 12. Workflow of emotion-based game adaptation control 9/04/2016Adaptation in Applied Video Games e-Society’2016 12 Implicit Emotional Indicators (via sensors & other devices) Facial expr. GSR Heart Rhythm ECG EEG Pressure … Change Procedures Time Velocity Acceleration Route Size Defeat range Luminosity Contrast … Real-Time Explicit Player Feedback through Adaptation Control Panel Analysis Change Visuali- zation Triggering Events on Behavior Templates
  13. 13. Case study – Rush for Gold  A 3D video game using adaptation based on player performance, efficiency and emotional state  Developed by using Brainstorm eStudio (  Allows implicit recognition of ADOPTA playing styles in order to validate them to ones calculated by using self-report. The implicitly found style will be used for automatic selection of learning content appropriate to that style.  Goal: to collect 12 bars of gold (bullions), which are flying, hidden or inside logic puzzles needed to be solved, all located in a 3D Egypt temple with enhanced audio-visual effects being object of adaptation, as well.  The player can use a Strategy Management Table (SMT):  represents a table with three rows for planning numbers of bars of the three groups available in the game  contains data about average effectivity of performance for collecting the gold bars of each group useful for building a strategy for optimal way of play. 9/04/2016Adaptation in Applied Video Games e-Society’2016 13
  14. 14. Rush for Gold 9/04/2016Adaptation in Applied Video Games e-Society’2016 14
  15. 15. Player style measurement Implicitly during play time of specific mini-game Based on player’s metrics for specific game tasks: Performance (result) Efficiency (result/effort) Task difficulty Play time 9/04/2016Adaptation in Applied Video Games e-Society’2016 15 Rush For Gold, part 2 - watch?v=aJe61bUDE40
  16. 16. Emotion-based adaptation in Rush for Gold  The game adaptation control is at run time and implicit for the player  The adaptation control makes the video game aligned to specific response patterns of individual players for bringing positive effect on playability and learning outcomes  The adaptation process runs in the context of the game and aligns adaptable game features to player-centric metrics showing: player’s progress and performance player’s emotions – emotions are inferred by face expression analysis using a Web service accessing Face Analysis Cloud Engine of SightCorp (  fear, surprise, sadness and disgust are applied for additional correction of current difficulty of shooting and discovering tasks by using specific thresholds of their levels  when finding relatively high fear, sadness and surprise, task difficulty is decreased, while the opposite occurs in cases of high level of disgust 9/04/2016Adaptation in Applied Video Games e-Society’2016 16
  17. 17. Adaptable game features in Rush for Gold 1/3 1. Adaptive automation of game tasks (and feedback for next experiments):  explicit tasks - game objectives (to shoot/discover gold bullions or to solve puzzles) adapt to the gameplay;  implicit tasks - not explicitly stated by the game interface but expected to be fulfilled: maximize your skills in shooting, discovering, solving and strategic planning of activities collect as many gold bullions as possible  player-driven tasks - created by the player thanks to his/her creativity within existing limitations of given game mechanics and leading to so called emergent gameplay how to find best position for shooting (depends on gun high and shooting angle) how to explore the temple with changing visual properties 9/04/2016Adaptation in Applied Video Games e-Society’2016 17
  18. 18. Adaptable game features in Rush for Gold 2/3 2. Dynamic Difficulty Adjustment (DDA):  DDA by means of automatic level generation - uses methods for procedural content generation Logic puzzles have increasing dynamically their difficulty with higher player results and vice versa  DDA by means of adjusting level content, i.e. game items for player interactions – means dynamic adaptation of level of inventory interacted by the player for specific game context, according to player’s skill acquisition: Hidden billions are more difficult to be found with player progress Flying bullions change velocity & acceleration plus striking force change with player efficiency as well with player´s emotions 9/04/2016Adaptation in Applied Video Games e-Society’2016 18
  19. 19. Adaptable game features 3/3 3. Adaptation of audio-visual effects: according player´s emotions and using thresholds for happiness level, there are adapted : ambient illumination change focus and contrast of statues with puzzle panels 9/04/2016Adaptation in Applied Video Games e-Society’2016 19
  20. 20. Experiment Executed at Sofia University, Bulgaria, with 34 volunteers (average aged 27, SD=10; 18 men and 16 women) They passed group explanation and demonstration (20 min.), procedure of informed consent (translated in Bulgarian, 15 min.), individual assisted trial (5 min.) and, finally, unassisted game session to determine their style of play (15-20 min.). Half of the volunteers (N=17) played the game with emotional adaptation switched on (forming the experimental group), unlike the others (the control group). 9/04/2016Adaptation in Applied Video Games e-Society’2016 20
  21. 21. Preliminary results 1/3 The quiz reveal (five-level Likert scale from 1 to 5): certain preference to play the game with emotion-based adaptation (question Q1 average=3.9, sd=1.1) positive appreciation of that adaptation of shooting difficulty (Q2 average=4.0, sd=0.8) the same for discovering difficulty (Q3 average=3.8, sd=0.7), and brightness and contrast (Q4 average=4.1, sd=0.7). No statistically significant improvements were found in playing time and shooting performance with emotional adaptation (because all players fulfilled the goal) Statistically significant correlations between answers to questions Q1-Q4 and some game metrics 9/04/2016Adaptation in Applied Video Games e-Society’2016 21
  22. 22. Preliminary results 2/3 Positive statistically significant correlations (0,34÷0,55) between preferences to play with emotional adaptation and shooting/discovering efficiency, discovering performance and game session time reveal the beneficial impact of emotional adaptation inside the experimental group. In contrary, significant negative correlations (-0,38÷-0,51) between degree of liking emotional adaptation of the difficulty and shooting/discovering efficiency and difficulty can be explained by appreciating emotional adaptation for making the game harder when found higher disgust (decreasing player efficiency and performance) or easier when found higher fear, sadness or surprise (decreasing attained difficulty). 9/04/2016Adaptation in Applied Video Games e-Society’2016 22
  23. 23. Preliminary results 3/3 9/04/2016Adaptation in Applied Video Games e-Society’2016 23 Metrics of solving are checked only for correlations with adapted brightness and contrast, as they are not emotionally adapted. Adapted brightness and contrast are correlated: positively to solving performance (because of attracting player’s attention to the puzzles) and negatively to discovering performance (because of attracting player’s attention to other objects)
  24. 24. 24 Rush For Gold (playing style) 9/04/2016 Generated labyrinth (maze game) 3D quiz game (assessment) 3D puzzle Adaptation in Applied Video Games e-Society’2016 Next steps
  25. 25. Conclusions 1/2 Player-centric adaptive game play possesses essential advantages compared to the non-adaptive gameplay The synergy of using player´s performance, emotions, and playing styles is very promising All they are identified in an implicit way at run time and used for adapting game mechanics, dynamics and audio-visual content . 25 9/04/2016Adaptation in Applied Video Games e-Society’2016
  26. 26. Conclusions 2/2 The results reveal a promising and positive appreciation of emotion-based adaptation and, as well, interesting statistically significant correlations between such adjusting of dynamic difficulty of tasks and player´s self- report. More experiments with real time player´s feedback on adaptation use, additional self-reporting and qualitative analyses are needed for revealing how such emotion- based adaptations affect game playability and antecedents, experience and consequences of flow (Kiili, 2006). 26 9/04/2016Adaptation in Applied Video Games e-Society’2016
  27. 27. Thank you for your attention! Discussion More info at: 27 9/04/2016Adaptation in Applied Video Games e-Society’2016