Players Imbuing Meaning: Co-creation of Challenges in a prototype MMO

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This talk discusses how components in a game world, from both a systemic design perspective, and from an actual content perspective, can carry meaning relevant to individual players.

The discussion is grounded in work with a massively multi player online (MMO) prototype where players in guided play-tests created their own opponents that they battled in groups of three. The opponents are called Manifestations, and can be compared to the “boss monsters” that in adventureand role-plying games pose the greatest challenges in terms of tactical game play, or battle. When creating Manifestations players define how these shall behave in play, and what they say under different circumstances. The game play mechanics in the world is centered on emotions and social relations. One of the design goals in the creation of the prototype was to cater for a system wheretactical game play can be closely tied to the potential narrative contents.

The Manifestations players created in the play tests were of four main categories; reflections of persons they had complicated relationships to in real life, difficult situations, abstract concepts, or purely fictional entities. In several cases players brought material into the game that had personal meaning to them. These meanings were developed further when players saw how their Manifestation behaved within the rule system of the world. For example, one player created a Manifestation of an anticipated exam, while another made a Manifestation called “Mother”. The Mother cast spells called “Focused Aggression” and “Cold Ripple of Fear”. It was able to perform acts called “Blame”, ”Threaten”, and “Disagree”. The group experimented with tactical choices, while reasoning about the Mother’s potential motivations. They managed to overcome the Mother by alternating between giving each other resistance and casting spells, the winning stroke being a rapid series of spells called “Forgive”.


The talk was given at ITU in Copenhagen April 24, 2012 in the Game Lecture series.
http://game.itu.dk/index.php/Game_Lectures

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Players Imbuing Meaning: Co-creation of Challenges in a prototype MMO

  1. 1. Players Imbuing Meaning:Co-creation of Challenges in a prototype MMO ITU April 2012 Mirjam Palosaari Eladhari University of Malta
  2. 2. About me My last decade: where my body was: Where my mind was: What I took part innow: 2012 ->University of building: Now: Co-creation Malta Next: MANIFEST2010 -11 Gotland University + AI Based Game design, UCSC prototyping methods The Pataphysic InstituePhD work done at Gotland Game Mechanics for Mind Music University, (Sweden), construction through Teesside World of Minds University (UK). Visiting Semi-autonomous Avatars Scholar at Tokyo Tech, The Garden of Earthly Georgia Tech and UCSC. Avatars in game worlds Delights (2004/9) AvatarsTech lead at Zero Game Oroborous Studio, Interactive MMO architectures for Institute (2002/3) character driven drama Commedia dell’ArteLead Game Programmer, Object oriented story The diamond Mystery in Liquid Media (2001) construction Rosemond Valley
  3. 3. Common problems in persistent multiplayer game worlds
  4. 4. Common problems in persistent multiplayer game worldsOverall narrative in gameworld is not engagingindividual players. Notmeaningful.Game mechanics andnarrative content appeardisjoint
  5. 5. Common problems in persistent multiplayer game worlds AmbitionOverall narrative in gameworld is not engaging Individual meaning for players –individual players. Not content that is meaningful formeaningful. individuals and small temporary groups.Game mechanics and So close ties between diegeticnarrative content appear content and systemic structuredisjoint of game world, that in play, they are not perceived as separate.
  6. 6. Co-creationIn management and advertising research: Added valueIn pedagogy: enhanced learningIn MMO research (wow) – add-ons, developer integrating good ideas into regular interface.Here: Players creating actants, entities that can act within a multiplayer game world. CO: players + system The system providing the affordances given for creating instances that may act within the system(In the tradition of text based virtual game worlds, MUDs, and later graphical ones, allowing different levels of co creation to players. Adding own graphics, animation, audio, scripting of dialog and behavior. Sliding scale of how persistent the player-created content is, and various methods of editorial control.)
  7. 7. Boss Fight, start at 0:48
  8. 8. The Prototype
  9. 9. Pataphysic Institute Basic Game Play• Players need to defeat physical manifestations of negative mental states by using • Spells • Affective actions• The spells available to characters depends on their personality and current mood.• The affective actions available to a character depend on the current mood.
  10. 10. How players describe it*(Not how I describe it. My description is bound to contain design intentions, and perhaps not represent what is actually there.)“In the game you use the characters feelings to cast spells, depending on how you feel, different spells become available to you. you can affect how others feel by performing actions such as hugging joking or insulting. long term playing creates relationships between characters so that the mere presence of another character affects you.” (Player with test id 16)“The point of the game is to control the moodswings of your character. The world is full of the manifestations of different feelings and mindsets and only by interacting with them/your friends can you "get in the right mood" to counter them. Actions are things like "hold hand" which would counter a "fear/terror" abomination.” (Player with test id 26)* When asked, after play-testing: “Picture that you are talking to a friend. Describe how this game is played.”
  11. 11. Spreading Activation Network of Affect nodes Mind Module Semiautonomous agent architecture. Personality Trait -> Emotion Emotion -> MoodPersonality traits affect how strongly characters feel emotions. Emotions affect characters’ mood.
  12. 12. The Pataphysic Institute
  13. 13. Character CreationBig Five (OCEAN, FFM) assessed using IPIP NEO
  14. 14. Mind Module Info
  15. 15. Affective Actions
  16. 16. Affective actionsIterations of the AA feature.
  17. 17. Avatars,NPCs, Single Sentiment Manifestations, andEntities: Compound manifestations
  18. 18. Mind Magic Spells
  19. 19. Mind Magic Spells
  20. 20. Curses and Blessings• Avatars can be affected by the spells Sentiment Curse and Sentiment Blessing.• Sentiment Curse gives an avatar a strong negative sentiment that has a zero decay rate. • Example: curse of Guilt. The way to get rid of this sentiment is to create a manifestation of the sentiment, a compound manifestation (CM). If the CM is vanquished, the sentiment disappears.
  21. 21. Player created CM
  22. 22. Play Test
  23. 23. Play testing Film Camera Player 1 1 (Object of Game Desire) Master Player 2 Player 3 In Clients:-Log files of play (one file for each avatar) FilmCamtasia recordings of: Camera 2-voice (microphone in headset), -Face (webcam), - Actions (taping of screen)
  24. 24. Play testing Player 1 (Object of Game Desire) MasterPlayer 2 Player 3
  25. 25. Plat test scale and scope• Multi-player tests – 3 players + 1 game master• 3 scenarios: 1. use AA’s according to roles in a group 2. learn to use spells towards manifestations 3. Player’s authoring of manifestation. Cooperate in group to overcome them.
  26. 26. Participants• 25 participants• 19 – 38 years of age with a mean of 23.44• 15 male, 10 female participants
  27. 27. Scenario 1-AAsScenario: Two avatars competing for the affections of the thirdGM asked players to picture a situation where two of them (Player 1 and 2) had played together for a while, and that the third (Player 1) was new to them,
  28. 28. 2. Learning spells Defeating manifestationsScenario 2: GM takes group to area with negative single sentiment manifestations.Goal: cooperate to overcome them, and learn own special personality spells.
  29. 29. Scenario 3: player authored foesGM ask player to curse each other. Cursed player manifests theemotion they cursed with. Players’ goals: deafeat the foe usinggrouped indivuals’ spells. Use AAs to affect each others moodsneeded to defeat foe.
  30. 30. Why talk about co-creation?When designing the test and the test scenarios I aimed to gather data on:• Sentiments (relationships whose values are based in previous interactions)• Semi Autonomy – players’ attitude to the control of the avatar• Mood – the summary of the avatars state of mind based on events, controlling the avatars action potential• Role-playing aspects• Co creation of Manifestations – the main challenge in the play test. This was the most engaging part of the game playing in the test.
  31. 31. What was created The Manifestations players created in the play tests were of four main categories;• Persons, named according to real-life role (for player), (ex. “mother”)• difficult situations, (ex “an exam”)• abstract concepts, (ex “blue”) or• fictional entities. (“Goblin of Doom”)In several cases players brought material into the game that had personal meaning to them. These meanings were developed further when players saw how their manifestation behaved within the rule system of the world
  32. 32. Players’ descriptions oftheir manifestations Their strategies:
  33. 33. Creation of meaning, stance in the player who creates a CM:1. Player uses authoring interface for creating an actant, a compound manifestation. (”Mother”)2. Player observes the behavior of the actant A (Spells and AA’s cast, and what it says.)3. Player interacts with other players, forming a strategy for how to interact with the actant, communicating among each other. Players did not only theorize about the CMs weaknesses, they also used the emotions their avatars felt towards each other.4. Player tells others about actant A after playing. “I created a "mother" that casted blame, threatened and other depressing spells.”
  34. 34. Mental Models• Of how a mind works. The ”minds” of the avatars and CMs work – given the parameters of personality, emotion and mood.• MMO combat conventions. Taking roles and taskdivisions using concept such as tanking and damage- dealingMental models helping the understanding of the game mechanics (can also hinder).
  35. 35. Intentionalityintentionality*: the player’s observation that an agent is acting rationally, towards internally held goals.When players encounter an AI system in a game, they assign intentionality to that system, “using words whose meanings go beyond the mathematical structures” **.They create narratives that rationalize the AI’s actions and reasoning about the AI’s goals ***.To me, if a player can read intentionality into a system, or into components or agents in a system, that is a sign of successful design.* Dennet, D. 1987. The Intentional Stance. MIT Press.**Agre, P.E. 1997. Computation and Human Experience (Learning in Doing: Social, Cognitive and Computational Perspectives). Cambridge University Press.*** Sengers, P. 2000. Narrative Intelligence. K. Dautenhahn, ed. John Benjamins Publishing Company.
  36. 36. In summary, players imbuing meaning by• Authoring,• observing, interpreting, strategizing – players in dialog with each other assigning intentionality to their creations,• interacting, and• re-telling
  37. 37. Future work
  38. 38. QUESTIONS?Contact: mirjam.eladhari@um.edu.mt end

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