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Games for the future

The BBC on-line has an interesting article called never ending computer games about using vastly improved Artificial Intelligence (A.I.) to avoid linear pre-scripted games. Of course this is vastly harder to actually pull off than some people seem to think and in some ways a degree of control over events is essential to maintain an interesting and coherent story line.

Nevertheless, any giants leaps in A.I. has to be welcome as it may well lead to entirely new ways of ‘writing’ fiction, relying less on a movie-like approach of pre-scripted actions, but instead driving a story with a series of looser ‘objectives’ which can be solved in many ways, some of which might not have even occurred to the games writer, which is both a potential joy and a source of potential problems… imagine a Lord of The Rings Game:

  1. Gandalf lures the Nazgûl back to Hobbitton on a wild goose chase with a false reported sighting of Frodo having gone back there after his visit to Rivendell
  2. Gandalf summons his giant eagle ally (the one who he escaped from Isengard on the back of)
  3. With the Nazgûl safely out of Mordor airspace, Gandalf and Frodo fly over Mount Doom on their giant eagle friend, drop The Ring of Power into the volcano safely from 5000 feet up, Sauron goes ‘poooofff’!
  4. Frodo and Gandalf are back in Hobbitton in time for tea and biscuits the next day… done and dusted but rather an anti-climax!

The games designer had better be on the look-out for possible ‘elegant story killer’ endings!

A.I. characters would be ‘accented’, given objectives of their own and then populated around the game in certain contexts, at which point if the A.I. is good enough, the discreet A.I. ‘players’ will take act and react dynamically to event driven ‘reality’ so well that games would be vastly less predictable. It would however require a very different set of ‘rules’ compared to all forms of current fiction, making games more like a high tech form of ‘Dungeons & Dragons’, which is to say an interactive and much looser sort of fiction. Unlike D&D however, the games designer has to balance the game ahead of time rather than on-the-fly. This means good games design will be at a huge premium given that powerful new A.I. technologies will give us whole new ways to make totally crap games as well as transcendently good ones.

5 comments to Games for the future

  • Ralf Goergens

    Are you only playing FPS games or are there any other genres (RPGs, strategy etc)?

  • Oh I play anything with pixels … Strategy Games, Flight Sims, Shooters, whatever.

  • Ralf Goergens

    You might like this, then:

    Home of the Underdogs

    a pretty neat abandonware site. This is good too:


    Lots of maps, scenarios and mods for the various Civ-games.

  • Julian Morrison

    Heh, your LOTR solution has flaws I’m ‘fraid 😉

    – Gandalf didn’t for sure *know* it was the One Ring until after he chatted with Saruman and was imprisoned. He didn’t meet the hobbits again until Rivendell. At which point sauron knew precisely where they were. The best diversion from there would be a feint towards the gap of Rohan, but unlike Hobbiton that’s *in between* where the hobbits are and Mordor. Meaning the nazgul would have a headstart rather than be left behind.

    – Nobody knew about the aerial mounts until long after Rivendell; Gandalf would have instead blundered into them en route.

    – Sauron was not dumb, he would not have left his aerial defenses uncovered, in fact he’d be *expecting* Gandalf or some other bigshot to make an open attack. The eagle would be spotted and shot down.

    – Only one person ever managed to willingly give up the ring, and it wasn’t Frodo. He’d never have dropped it.

    So there, nyah! ;-P

    The solution to plot holes is not to leave them in the first place.

  • If the Ring can slip off Isildur’s finger at just the wrong moment, it can tumble so as to miss the Sammath Naur.