Monday, December 27, 2004

the view from my office in november

the view from my office in november
the view from my office in november,
originally uploaded by mimmi.
autumn in visby turns to winter. This is the view from my window in the office. The sea lays just behind, and its early afternoon.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Semantic Networks for Game Character Control

I just finished preparing a lecture for a course (Game physics, simulation and AI) that is given to the game dev students called "Semantic Networks for Game Character Control" ... and i realize that i must feel pretty vague cause i ended up with 120 slides! But it will have to do, im giving it early tomorrow morning.
Semantic networks in themselves are not a straight forward thing to explain in a short amount of time - there are so many different kinds, and then - it is also a matter of interpretation... and in what timeperiods since Quillian one wants to ask the question. I hope no one asks me whether a fuzzy cognitive map is a semantic network or not. And under what circumstances can a neural network be called a semantic network. hm. maybe its just semantics :) ....Whats important is what we can do with different methodoligies, im sure most ppl would agree on that.

Other Players Conference

The people at the ITU in Copenhagen made a fantastic job putting together the Other Players conference ( gave a lot of good leads for further thinking and as an extra plus I had a really good time.

The speeches I appreciated the most were the ones by Chek Yang Foo and Elina Koivisto, by R. Bartle and by T. Mortensen. It was also really nice to meet Chek “live” after having played quite a bit of SWG together. I hope that we at some point in the MMRO WP can have practical use of the results of Foo’s and Koivisto's research. Bartle’s speech was, as so many have said on various mailing lists quite a pessimistic one. But I perked up when he started to talk about revolution :). If it’s needed, who knows? Much of the new stuff has a tendency to emerge along with subcultures, and things coming out of that are seldom predictable. Mortensen made a few well formulated distinctions, which had the good function of such: triggering analogies. For me it triggered thoughts on how mythos is a base for immersion, and how cosmology is a base for law. If you read her paper you will get my drift.
For my speech I felt a bit handicapped. The theme is highly unfashionable at the moment, and I am very aware of that the paper is somewhat dry. Also – I can hardly think of anyone who at some point hasn’t written on the same theme. Nevertheless it has been necessary for us to develop a framework that builds on narrativity theory that is consistent with virtual game world architecture – it’s a great help when building the stuff in practice. As an outset before speaking I told myself “well if they had wanted entertainment they would probably had gone to a stand up comedy show…” and I patted my furry pelerine, pretending it was a transition object.

A few memories out of context:
- Elina Koivisto doing a Kung Fu show, later on named “Teletubbies meet Matrix” by Jonas Heide Smith
- Richard Bartle talking about the magic circle and myself picking peas from his plate trying illustrate separate magic circle blobs outside his plate.
- Elina K, Chek Y. F, Jonas H. S. and myself smiling while pretending that the camera was Ren Reynolds
- Eric Zimmerman sitting on a big treasure of pink stickers
- Jesper Juul singing “Angel” by a piano. Oh my!

Tuesday, November 30, 2004


It has been a busy and interesting autumn. What is new is that work with the IPERG project ( since October, in the work package Massively Multiplayer Reaching out. It’s good on many levels: the people involved and nature of work. It’s great to get a chance to actually work hands on together with people whom I’ve met at conferences and whose papers I really appreciate. Among them is Petri Lankoski from Tampere uni and Elina Koivisto from Nokia. And it’s wonderful to get to work in a context where we will actually have resources to produce something. Ok it’s a prototype, but still. What I have really missed since I left the industry and the applied research approach we had in the game research studio is the feeling of accomplishment when a module actually functions, and one can see people interact with the product of one’s own handcraft. I have been asked to take on the role of leading the design, which on one hand feels really fun and on the other hand i’m scared to get so deep into that that I “forget” to do PhD-student-stuff. Well – in the big scope of things this is really a luxury problem. Speaking about luxury: at the big kick-off we were in this castle at Fraunhofer. A lot of gold and a bit stair of the type that I dreamed about as little girl: to elegantly descend from it in a marvellous dress… If I ever go there again I’ll bring a dress. We had another meeting here in Visby two weeks ago, but only for our work package. They were lucky to arrive and leave just before the big snow storm.

A horrible detail in my life has been a loss of broadband at home. A new one will be installed in a few weeks but meanwhile I’m going nuts. Since I haven’t developed a social life in Visby (except an online one) it feels really empty. Luckily I have had a lot of errands to Stockholm this month, and in a few days i'm off to the Other Players Conference anyway. Among things in stockholm is the phd seminar on communities and virtual worlds given by Daniel Pargman at NADA,KTH, and the fact that Daydream has their office in stockholm (they also work with the IPERG proj) ...The game I miss the most is Final Fantasy Online since all the AC2 friends are there. And I have EQ2 still pathetically wrapped in its plastic. (I will be at two servers as I have planned this far: Unrest and RunnyEye)

Sunday, October 03, 2004

Sims 2 Player narration - it works! And players can pulish their narratives for others to read. Here is my little attempt :)

The Dramatic Life of the Katt Family - how they naively fall in love with ailiens and the thrilling consequenses

Sims2 narrative.
ComWorks 040521

First i was totally confused in FFX! Online - i couldnt even work out how to run :). But I was rescued by two old friens from AC2 who taught me the basics and showed my around. I dont think i would have made it otherwize. Creambun here on te picture (Im immicake) still has, just like me, his account still running at AC2 but he spends most his time in FF. He said that FF, unlike AC2 is a finsiched game while AC2 still feels like a beta. And that FF has much more depth to it. Oh i look forward to this. It also turned out that about 5 - 8 people that i know from AC2 now are in FF. Oh yes.

ComWorks 040521

Saturday, October 02, 2004

It's remarkable how a strong obsession pans out. It feels sudden, but i know it is not; the past month or so i lost interest in SWG. I'm moving on to Final Fantasy where members of my old guild from Asheron's Call 2 are waiting for me.
Two collegues of mine, Christopher and Martin, preached last week when we were in Germany on a kickoff for an integreated eu project (IPerG) that "What you give is what you get" They were talking in the context of LARPing and pervasive gaming, and others had said it before with other words, but its relevant for me when it cames to SWG. For some reason i got so obsessed with grinding my way up to master Droid Engineer and selling droids in my shop. That was so timeconsuming that my time (or focus) didn't reach out to socialize much, not even with guild memebers (and it is a very nice guild). Now when i logged on i was close to my shop, loads of people has bought droids, and my character is rich. But I couldnt care less. My own grinding killed the game. Raph Koster said something on the MUD Dev conf: "The players can grind the fun out of anything" And he drew a picture of a player treading a mill. So in this game i became the Achiever with the big A. Not the power gamer type that Taylor wrote about 2003, but the pure bartelian achiever... Piagets poisoned game.

When I came to stockholm from Bonn last weekend i bought the Sims 2. They sell it at seven eleven! I spent the whole weekend in trance, only with a little break to go through the literature for the phd seminar on virtual communities and for having a dinner with old friends (the kind of friends that feel more like family). Very interesting to see how well the goal and fear settings work in combination with the needs of the sims. Yesterday I created a fairly dramatic narrative using the story tool. Very content with myself of course since the game is almost a rolemodel for the narrative layers model i present in my latest paper. For drama though it is cruical that not all information is revealed. In my case - if i had checked out all my families in the neigborhood the type of dramatic mistakes due to characters lack of infromation that happened in my story would not have happened.

It's not so bad in Visby now. It is getting colder, so i have been putting fire in the tile oven. I went out to shop some food and there was a market on the square. On my way there i passed the two heads of the medieval week, beautifully dressed in crimson and blue. And the autumn raspberries are ripe in the garden.

Monday, August 30, 2004

Speeches, shoes that go "klop-klop" and a pointing stick

Yesterday I had this idea that I should wear teaching clothes when I teach. It's such a specific role to do it, and it would feel really strange if that role somehow got internalised in my identity. I can't seem to get over this feeling of that it's really weird that I'm teaching. Speaking at conferences is one thing but. Well. Anyway I dug deep into the wardrobe this morning and found a skirt my mother gave me, an official looking black one with thin white stripes. So I was wearing that, and a pair of pointy shoes that very distinctively go "klop-klop" when I walk. And in the lecture hall I found a long white pointing-stick! I used it all the time with a continuous inner giggle. A skirt from my mother! Hair in a bun! Glasses! Pointing-stick! I'd better not get too deep into it :)

It's a pretty intense week this. Today I gave this three-hour lecture, on narrative. And tomorrow ill give another 3hour lecture on interactive narrative. Day after I’ll present the research that our group does at a research symposium "Spelakademin". Then a day for travelling, and next presenting at a conference. (linguistic department at sthlm uni organizes)

I'll try to get a chance to go shopping while i'm away, I thought I could get one of those blouses which has parts of the textile which are supposed to be tied in a kind of ribbon. Then I'd be able to go klop-klop seriously. I'm thinking of adding a sound of clattering keys as well, but I’m afraid that would be to over do it.

Saturday, August 28, 2004

More Than Human and Natural History

Sci-fi is a wonderful resource for mapping out ideas that push the borders of what identity, consciousness and self might be. I went to the sci-fi bookstore to get Justina Robeson’s Natural History and rulebooks for GURP a cpl of weeks ago and ended up with a bigger catch than I had planned. Oh the joy of having a whole pile of unread books. I remember how sad I was at the age of fifteen when I had gone through the whole shelf of sci-fi books at the local library. From A to Ö, nothing more to read. I used to go there once or twice a week ant bring home a catch of six to ten books. I can’t remember what I did then; I think I started training my social skills instead, and exploring males. Hih, I must be regressing now then.

Day before yesterday I read Theodore Sturgeons More Than Human from 1953, about the gestalt human. A group of persons, an idiot, two teleporters (twins), a girl who can move things by will and a retarded baby who functions like a computer, forms bleshes (blesh = mesh + blend) their minds into one entity, the gestalt human. Yesterday I started reading Ted Chiang's collection of short stories, Stories of Your Life and Others, but I fell asleep in the middle, this morning; house lit up, cats paw on my cheek. A female math professor who gets into an existential crisis when she proves all number to be equal, the connection between the world and the mathematics to not be there. There were short stories before that, The Tower of Babylon and Understand. Chiang had gotten the Sturgeon prize. In the short Understand a man gets a medication, “hormone K” which increases the amount and performance of neurons in his brain. He is able to understand his own mental processes. I thought of Marvin Minski’s writing on the mind, of how little we know about it. That we can see, in tests, the activity of neural transmissions, but we only see the mechanical proof. I went to an exhibition at the Nobel Museum, about what technology have inspired sci-fi writers; nano tech etc. There was a very nice section there called the brain pavilion mapping out the history of research, with all the beautiful illustrations from the fifteenth century and forth.
Alistair Reynolds described in Revelation Space alpha and beta simulations of dead persons. The neural networks in their brains scanned in, the physical body dead, and eternal life in simulation. Important to not lose the master tape, heh, and no copies allowed. I would like all my friends to read Justina Robson's Natural History, but it’s impossible for me to lend my copy to anyone. I must have it close. The forged humans, Isol who is a spacecraft, her mind made autistic, self-sufficient for long travels.

I’m trying to get together the paper I'm presenting next weekend in the cross-disiplinary conference in Stockholm. The limit is fifteen pages, and I have written that, but it means that the content so concentrated it becomes almost painful to read. And the abstract promises something interesting, almost entertaining, but instead its minimalist structuralist stuff I seem to have put in there. I sent it to a friend to look at, and now I feel guilty and sorry for him to have to read my clumsy language. Aw.

Monday, August 09, 2004

Resident in Paper Land

I live in Paper Land at the moment. By the desk i have pictures taken under water, when i was diving in tunisa a couple of weeks ago, reminding me that Paper Land is not the Only Land. Managed to send off a full paper today, that feels good. Now i need tow write two more, then i should be done paper writing for this year (my abstract for the Games Cultures Reader was accepted, that made me very glad). 3 papers must be enough to quiet down the "publish or perish" voice.

I look forward to implementing again. So i have already made an application for residency in Code Land. I need to find out more about specifications for different codebases for text based virtual worlds. Hope to get advice from the mud dev list about what code base is best for someone who likes modularised systems with interfaces that are described in detail. Something that would be quick to get started with if one is used to c++ or java. But i havent asked yet. Ill take my module which talks to the NEL engine and adapt it. Will be quicker to test. No graphic pipeline to worry about. Then i can snap back again. Oh yes, easy. Right. We'll see.

Im off to Stockholm tonight, ill sit there without broadband and write another paper. I'm bringing a Zelda and a Broken Sword for my GBA, so ill have some company. And book stores! oh yes! The wonders of a capital. Im hungering for good sci fi and modesty blaise albums.

Thursday, July 29, 2004

Science fiction

There is a Swedish science fiction magazine called Nova, which publishes selections of translated shorter and longer stories. In the latest issue the editor JH Holmberg discusses the fast that a lot of the literature published, that is not classified as a subgenre in some form, like detective stories, fantasy etc actually focuses mostly on relationships between people and very little on what most of us spends most of the time doing; working or doing things related to a special interest. He means that science fiction as a form is more focussed on what people do - achievements, ideas etc. As such it is tempting to put games in parallel to that; the player does things and achieves things in a created universe most of the time.
... O and there was a really nice short story by Terry Carr, "The Dance of the Changer and the Three". On planet mostly consisting of gas the entities living there are patterns of energy, reborn over and over again, changing characteristics and personality, but still being the same individuals. And in another short story, by Michael Swanwick, "Slow Life" the main person communicates with life on Titan. That entity/entities realizes when the main person visits that it is not the only thing in the world, and that it in fact consists of several individuals. One thing that I find so lovely with fiction in the science fiction genre is the rich flora of non-human concepts of personality and how that is characterized. I have some vague memory of that CS Lewis wrote a novel on the theme of the planet as a living entity, it had the word "silent" in the title, and i'm sure I have read at least one or two others on the same theme, but I cant remember the titles. And speaking about non-human characters; the long and lively tradition of evil machines! On the other hand, that theme is usually pretty stereotypic. Either the machine entity wants to be human and grows bitter, that being the motivation for being "evil" - i.e. performing hostile actions towards humans - or the machines just want control, motivation is the usual power struggle. I’m pretty isolated in my work right now (since it is summer and ppl seem to be doing other things), I should order some company. I think I will order novels by Justina Robson. And maybe go to the library to see if there is something by Aasimov I have not read for so long that I have forgotten it. That is the sole bright point of having such a bad memory as I have. I can read books many times, and see movies too, since I have forgotten everything in them. If people in my close environment wouldn’t notice this I would in many cases not even be aware it is the second time I see a movie. A very good thing. So nowadays I try to note down good titles for later re-use. 

Wednesday, June 30, 2004

The old Manifesto

Aha! I found my three original points, which I wrote in November 2001

The game is the ultimate piece of art, capable of incorporating all artforms known to humanity, expressed with bleeding edge technology.

The making of a game is a process of great beaty, representatives from different artforms and technology working together (exposed) to make a piece which is finally completed by the player.

Making games and playing games is a tribute to life as it could have been.

We all read each other’s points and changed and cut and added. The ones I suggested evolved into this:
· The Game is the ultimate piece of art, capable of incorporating all forms of art and expression known to humanity, expressed using all forms of technology, from the ancient to the bleeding edge, without compromising its identity as a game. This in itself proves gaming to be the lost pre-Appolonian Ur-art .
// i remember Martin E adding the stuff about the Ur-art, which i absolutely loved.

· The making of a game is a process of great beauty, representatives from different artforms and technology working together (exposed) to make a piece that is finally completed by the Player.

·The Game is the Great Work.
// I think the third point was somehow transformed into this.

That was really a wonderfully nice period, when we sat together and wrote that manifesto. Today it feels a bit weird to read it again. We had so high hopes and we didn’t think about limitations - I think we quite consciously avoided thinking about limitations actually.
The full manifesto can be found here:
Hmmm… strange, it’s only part II that is there.

Wonder why? I paste in the full version here:

The Zero Game Manifesto

Part I - Critique

· Games are not entertainment, since we reject the concept of entertainment. Entertainment is a concept created by the power structures of Kapital to denigrate activities that do not immediately function in the production of surplus value.

· Entertainment as a product is a reappropriation of paraeconomic activity by structures of Kapital, denigrated ideologically, and harnessed economically.

· The playing of games is an activity that poses a serious threat to all established power structures defended and supported by religions and ideologies.

· Kapitalist games are a reflection of the ideological basis of Kapitalist production. This is the trade in death in the name of genetic supremacy. Competition is the shadow of supremacism. Warfare is the natural process of fascism. A player of a Kapitalist Game plays at being the Primal Kapitalist, a creature driven by the reptilian brain.

Part II - The Nature of The Game

· Current concepts of the Game must be rejected and superseded by a vision of Games serving the higher potential of humanity, a form that is equitable, authentic, and validated as a core human process. Here we present such a vision.

· There are no virtual realities, but many different realities. Some of those realities exist within information spaces supported and articulated with the use of computational technology.

· The active nature of the Game holds a unique potential for exploring new modes of being. The active nature of the Game also supports subversive modes of thinking more directly serving creative and fulfilling purposes.

· The Game must be a subversive activity facilitated by ritual and aimed at releasing human awareness from established constraints. Those constraints are ideological, economic, cultural, historical, artistic, and physical.

· Game play is based upon understanding, implicitly or explicitly, some subset of a set of Game rules. The playing experience is then one of developing a gestalt, a pattern of cognitive and physical activity that supports movement through the game experience. The function of a gameplay gestalt is to facilitate entry into a state of consciousness typically different from states experienced outside the gameplay context. In this way, a gameplay gestalt is analogous to a mantra, chant, or ritual. It can deliver us into new ways of being, which can be like a dance, meditation, or possession.

· The Game is the ultimate piece of art, capable of incorporating all forms of art and expression known to humanity, expressed using all forms of technology, from the ancient to the bleeding edge, without compromising its identity as a game. This in itself proves gaming to be the lost pre-Appolonian Ur-art .

· The making of a game is a process of great beauty, representatives from different artforms and technology working together (exposed) to make a piece that is finally completed by the Player.

· By treating something as a Game we will be attuned to its magical dimension, and by playing it, we manipulate it by means of ritual magic.

· The Game is the Great Work.

Part III - Praxis

· Our games will not be dictated by the market.

· Our games will perform and extend various functions of art, representing an evolutionary step in generic artistic function, and a revolutionary step in the creation of unique forms and potential.

· We will cross boundaries and dissolve structures, in a continuous and ongoing process of destruction and reformation into new orders. Revolutionary practice is not teleological, leading to any kind of utopian goal. Instead, it is the essential core process of life. It is the defining character of life, a continuous process of patterning and repatterning at the phase boundary between static structure and chemical change.

· We will introduce gameplay as a virus into the concept of story.

· We will use and reuse the shadow ideologies of history as a catalyst for new visions.

· We will not be limited to articulations within a dogmatic language.

· We are architects of the third place.

· We will celebrate the universal dialectic of the binary code.

· We will be shamans of the posthuman age.

· We will walk the path of the trickster.

(//sniff... Re-reading this breaks my heart. We need to write a new one. Discussed a little bit about new names for our research group at the Uni, but didnt reach a conclusion yet.)

If you add you soul, I'll give you a shell of a person

Do you have any free will? Or are you controlled by the codes for behaviour you have learned in combination with you individual biology? To what extent are you driven by your lusts, your fears, your needs and you ideals? You might be able to find out – I give you a virtual body and a virtual brain. I give you traumas and learned habitual behaviour. Do you have a soul to add? In that case you might be able to create a parallel mind for you to live through in a parallel world.

The text above: im trying to find a way to express what im trying to do without just talking about semantic networks of nodes and stuff.

Sent off the Bartle review to Tidskrift för Litteraturvetenskap the day before yesterday.
Yesterday disappeared in personal strike. I felt like writing a new manifesto.
Today im trying to write an abstract for a reader. And to finish the lecture on characterization.
Sometimes I see the manifesto we wrote in the zero game studio quoted. Craig wrote the biggest part of it. I think I had two or three paragraphs that I absolutely wanted to be part of it.

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Teppy announced that the End of the first Tale is near!

Andy (Teppy, pharao) actually taped a video, where he in person tells the players of A Tale in the Desert about the ending of the first Tale in the desert! Players will cooperatively build monuments that will become part of the history for the next Tale, and build tests for the children!

Tomorrow i will wear my A Tale in the Desert T-shirt! First ill sleep in it! But first of all I will log on!

...Andy asked me about the "State of Play" conference in october, he has been asked to do a demo there. I have a vague memory (i hate this vagueness of my memory) of it being in New York and having a focus on laws in VW:s, it being interesting, and myself not being there. I couldnt find it in the event calendar at gamasutra, nor at digra, nor at terranova, hmmm

...I find that really interesting to address the players in
such a direct way, like a GM. And that the players will have
a big part of the process of building the world with tests and monuments
for the second tale. I will need to find out more, especially about to what extent the player, to use Bartle's words "own" the word.

Monday, June 21, 2004

This is "my" student Annika, whom im immensly proud of! (I supervised her bachelors thesis.) I realized today i still can call her "my" student since she signed up on this summer course; since she graduated i could of course not indulge myself in calling her that... for a week or two :) In this picture she is dressed up for a final performance when she graduated from the games education.
ComWorks 040521

Thursday, June 10, 2004

office conversations:

"But what about the distinction between physcal and virtual if we add the fictional and non fictional to the classification space?"
I wave my brown glove: "This is a coin! It signifies a monetary value!" We stare at the glove. It's not a coin at all.

Then we wonder if there is a church where one can marry one's dead cat.

I had an msn chat with my best friend from AC2 today. I haven't talked to him for months, and it turns out he has been really sick, and that he was very close do dying this spring. Scary thought that i wouldn't even have known about it if he had dissappeared. And in another conversation with JJ at ITU: a friendship in VR is a friendship in RL. Friendships can't be virtual.

I need to find that article Ren talked about in copenhagen, i wonder if it was J Dibbell who wrote it, the female medic student who was killed in a car crash, and her online friends built her a memorial. (was it in legend mud? or lambda moo? i which i could remember things better.) Then it turned out she had never existed. Everyone should read pages 201 and 202 in Bartles book. (on how to create a fictive player who can play a player character) Which remind me i have a deadline for reviewing it. Back to work!

Tuesday, June 08, 2004

Explaining things... they say one learn from doing it.

Last week and this week i have been busy preparing for a summer course that is starting this week. - Introduction to Game Analysis and Design. Amazing how things always takes much longer than one think it will. On the other hand: it does take a bit if thinking on how to introduce huge huge areas like "Narrative" and "Interactive Narrative" in a short and understandable format. Not sure if i succeeded, but i have a feeling i will soon be aware if i didn't :). Find myself swimming around in piles of books here in the office, and having this will to put more and more into the lectures. ("omg - if i tell them this, they must also be aware of this" - and one thing leads to another.)
A good thing is that even if it is a lot of work its pretty heavily related to stuff that im sitting with anyway, so the time (research-wise) is not wasted. The two other lectures ill prepare is about players and characterization, so that's really good. But it was a little bit of a shock today when i was told there were 57 students enrolled, the maximum amount was 40. wow.

Monday, May 31, 2004

Abstract: Story, plot and character in virtual game worlds

I have been procastinating for days, but finally I managed to spit out an abstract for a conference im going to in september! I think setting up this blog probably was one of my avoidance behaviors :). But as always - when i finally get on to it i have fun!

Story, plot and character in virtual game worlds
How can we deal with story, plot and character in games that have thousands of self-appointed heroes and heroines? They are all main characters – and players. In the virtual game world Star Wars Galaxies each player creates his or her story in the now of playing. The player’s individual story discourse is created out of the narrative potential that is present in the virtual world. Has the player played along with the plans of the criminal organization Black Sun without knowing it in mission after mission? The most exiting plot is the one that is acted out between the players and their closest co-players – what Luke Skywalker or Jabba the Hut are up to is fairly uninteresting on the day the player’s secret beloved marries another while the player is also worrying that a rival clan will take the opportunity to attack the city.
In virtual game worlds with thousands of simultaneous players the creative challenge is to create narrative potential in a created universe. This context it is about shared world creation rather than about shared authorship. This paper presents the conditions for players and developers to create elements that in turn create narrative potential, how these conditions are used, and what possibilities there are for further development by using the concepts plot, story and character as starting-points.

I visited Dawnsong (AC2)

Bank days/red days are really good. The office is empty, exept for me, and i quitted staring at my to-do list for a little while. And i realized i havent met the people at Dawnsong for months. A bit of a nervous feeling to log in and not knowing if im still even part of the alliegiance. But most of them were still in there! They had already returned back to AC2 from SWG and Horizons. Some were playing FF in parallell. Phew! I'm so glad the ally is still going. It's quite interesting the the setup we have - we have a mule as monarch, and a few officers organizing, instead of applying the hierarchical ally structure of the AC social system. A little democratic islands against the odds :)

I joined a guild in SWG

I think i finally have found a good guild in Star Wars Galaxies! (On the Flurry server, planet Rori) The mayor showed the whole city, and i have officially declared Nine Rivers as my resicency! Look forward to furnishing my new house! I will still keep my droid shop on Corellia though.

Sunday, May 30, 2004

Pictures from Copenhagen, COmWorks
ComWorks 040521

Pictures from Copenhagen, COmWorks
ComWorks 040521

Notes from the Community Workshop at ITU, CPH, 040521

Outcomes of the workshop
Community Work: Managing Multiplayer Culture
21 May 2004

The conference was hosted by the ITU in Copenhagen, Denmark. About a hundred persons turned up for the event.
These notes are informal.
More information, and slides from the presentations, is available at the URL:

The program:
09:30-09:45 Welcome and announcements
09:45-11:00 Session I - Julian Dibbell, "Ownzored!: Property and Policy in the Age of eBayers, Gold Farmers, and Other Enemies of the Virtual State"
11:00-11:20 Coffeebreak
11:20-12:35 Session II - Richard Bartle, "Managing to Manage"
12:35-13:35 Lunch
13:35-14:50 Session III - Constance A. Steinkuehler, "MMOG Guild Leaders as a Com/Dev Resource"
14:50-15:10 Coffeebreak
15:10-16:25 Session IV - Edward Castronova, "The Future of Cyberspace Economies"
16:25-17:00 Closing session/wrapup

What I found most useful to me was the speech by Richard Bartle, and the one by Constance Steinkuehler.
RB strongly emphasized that community itself is not something to design – the community designs itself within a VW. He also said that designers make virtual worlds in order to get to know themselves.
Later on I asked him for advice of what type of code base would be usable for a system that would use a high persistence for player created content and also use adventure type event triggers. He recommended LP. (He has written about uses for different code bases in chapter two in Designing Virtual Worlds.)

Constance Steinkuehler mentioned a few activities that guild leaders do in the game Lineage that I found relevant for my methodological overview of characterization techniques:
- That guild leaders documents individual players histories and make it part of the guild history
- That she, as a guild leader, gave the individual players characteristic relevant to their position in, and use in the group.
I also appreciated Constance’s overview of the movement from behaviourism to cognition studies. And the discourse analysis was good.

The social environment had a good feel to it. A few Swedish researchers were present, and Daniel Pargman (Code Begets Community, 1999) suggested that we could start a Swedish network. We agreed that previous initiatives has been somewhat perfunctory, from foundations that does it in a political/funded frame, and that it would be better if we did it ourselves, informally. On the Saturday I had dinner at Jesper Juul's place with Espen Aarseth, TL Taylor and Ren Reynolds. It was very nice to get to know them in a less formal setting.

The following to do’s are derived from conversations:
- Dimitri Williams - Thesis about effects of videogames - long (1 month) study of ac players. Check methodology. Ask Paul.(Ren Reynolds tips)
- Remind Jesper J to send Loop in A minor – (player created emergent music patterns)
- a good editor for java programming. (JJ showed)
- New PhD thesis in Swedish, by Jonas Linderoth Datorspelandets mening - bortom iden om den interaktiva illusionen - inft for pedagogik och didaktik, Gbg Uni
- TL Taylor - Player type - power leveller – paper on the digra (or was it igda) site. Add to section on player taxonomies
- Remind Elina Koivisto at Nokia to send me the paper on the mobile game
- Check out Subspace, the game that Emil had a guild in, and that is ‘given’ to the players.
- Check out the LP Mud code base Bartle recommended. But first ask for a second opinion from JC Lawrence, (host of the MUD dev conf and list)
- Burn down a stable build of NEL to CD and send to JJ, don’t forget to point to the hidden tutorials.

Description of research topic

Research topic
Mirjam Eladhari
March 2004

This research is conducted within two institutions, the game research group led by prof. Craig A. Lindley at the Department of Engineering Art and New Media at Gotland University in Sweden, where I have a doctoral studentship, and within the School of Computing and Mathematics at the University of Teesside in England, which is the examining institution for my PHD work and where I have my main supervisor Clive P Fenncott. The work preceding this research has been conducted in the Interactive Institutes Zero-Game studio. The time scope for this research project is 5 years on part time, starting 2004.

Title of the investigation
Player character mind models for deep characterization and emergent story construction in massively multiplayer game worlds

Aim of the investigation
Games set in persistent virtual worlds having massive numbers of players need methods of characterization for player characters that differ from the methods used in traditional narrative media. In particular, deep characterization of the player character is a key element for creating systems for emergent narratives in massively multiplayer gameworlds.
In order to achieve deep characterisation, novel player character techniques, based in particular upon new player character mental models, will be developed and validated.
The primary thesis will be explored by iterative experimental implementation and evaluation.

Plan of work
The main focus of this work is on two closely related topics concerning persistent virtual game worlds having massive numbers of players, i.e. massively multiplayer online games (MMOGs); those topics are:
- Characterization and development of identity.
- Story construction

The central hypothesis of this project is that deep characterization of the player character is a key for creating a system for emergent narratives in MMOGs. The expression “deep” character is equivalent to Foresters (1927) term “round” character, and concerns the player character as a combination of a person playing a game and a fictive person who’s identity is continously developed. Bartle (2003) suggests that the player and the players character become one at the final level of immersion: “One individual, one persona: identity.”

The intention of this work is to design and implement a mind module (MM) drawing upon knowledge from social sciences, drama theory, AI and believable agents in order to create a system for player characters (PCs), that can result in PCs that are less generic and deeper than those typical of the current state of the art. The PC should serve as a vessel that can provide the player with means for developing a complex and deep character, or second self.
In addition to this, a framework for story construction will be designed that allows game designers and players to create raw material that results in emergent narratives when instantiated, and provides a means for players to create and experience individual discourses while playing. It is hoped that the system for creating emergent narrative will be based upon the mind module.

The role of the MM is to provide the system with emotional output from the individual player character. The MM performs computational operations on the input values, which come from virtual sensors defined at various levels of abstraction, and outputs in the form of emotional reactions and/or potential emotional reactions that in turn become inputs to the sensors of the MMs of surrounding entities, or entities that in some other way are receptive to the specific player character. (Eladhari and Lindley 2003).

Related work
Relevant previous work in the area of believable agents and AI includes recent publications from Egges et al (2003), Mateas on expressive AI (2003), Trappl and Petta on synthetic actors (1997) Bellmans thinking around the self in relation to the virtual worlds (2002) and Moffats model for personality parameters (1997).
In the area of emergent narrative, Mateas and Sterns' Fascade project (2002), Klastrups recently published thesis (2003), Bringsjord and Ferrucis BRUTUS (2000) and Szilas IDTension (2003) are useful. Some commercial games that have made significant innovations in these areas include Star Wars Galaxies, which is interesting from the perspectives of both characterization and emergent narratives. For a broader perspective on virtual gameworlds and players, Bartles 20 year long work on MUDs and MMOGs is useful (1996, 2003). Additional related work is documented in Eladhari (2002, 2003) and in Lindley and Eladhari (2002).

Research process and proposed timeline
- Review
- Research Demo, Game scenario development
In order to obtain results these modules will be devised in a game setting derived from a related EC research project, IperG. As a backup plan, the game setting will be designed to be suitable for alternative implementation using Shockwave 3D and the Macromedia Director mulituser server. The mind module and the story construction system will be built as separate components with interfaces to game clients and the multiuser server. This will make the software encapsulating research components as independent as possible from the general game environments in order to ensure demonstrable results.
- Iterative design, implementation, test an analysis phases
Due to the subjectivity of the intended game experience, measurements of results will be done both by quantitative and qualitative methods: measurments of playtime and use of functionality, survey forms, in-depth interviews, retrospective verbal reports, adapted presence questionnaires, and possible (eg. ‘think aloud’ techniques.
Criteria for the choice of test subjects will be developed. An important criterion is the players intentions and motives regarding the player character, ie. if she regards herself as being the game character in the game, rather than playing a certain fictional role. Player classification schemes like that of Bartle (1996) will be explored and potentially extended.
The method of finding test subjects will be by interviews within existing MMOGs. The ethical issue of subjects’ integrity and anonymity needs to be considered for each publication.

Bartle, Richard “Hearts, Clubs, Diamonds, Spades: Players Who Suit MUDs” in Journal of MUD Research 1996.
Bartle, Richard Designing Virtual Worlds (New Riders, 2003)
Bellman, K.L, “Emotions: Meaninful Mappings Between the Individual and Its World” in in Emotions in Humans and Artefacts, ed. R. Trappl, P. Petta, and S. Payr (Massachusetts Institute of Technology, The MIT Press, 2002) 149 – 188
Bringsjord, Selmer, Ferruci, David A. Artificial Intelligence and Literary Creativity (Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2000)
Creating Personalities for Synthetic Actors, Towards Autonomous Personality Agents, ed. Trappl, Robert, Petta, Paolo. (Springer 1997)
Eladhari, Mirjam Object Oriented Story Construction in Storydriven Computer Games Stockholm University, Stockholm, Sweden. June 2002.
Eladhari, M. and Lindley, C. “Player Character Design Facilitating Emotional Depth in MMORPGs” Digital Games Research Conference 2003, 4-6 November 2003 University of Utrecht, The Netherlands
Egges, A, Kshirsagar, S., Thalmann N. M., "A Model for Personality and Emotion Simulation", Knowledge-Based Intelligent Information & Engineering Systems (KES2003), 2003
Forster, Edward Morgan, Aspects of the Novel (London : Arnold, 1927)
Klastrup, Lisbeth., Towards a Poetics of Virtual Worlds - Multi-User Textuality and the Emergence of Story, IT University of Copenhagen, PHD Thesis, 2003
Lindley C and Eladhari M. 2002 "Causal Normalisaton: A Methodology for Coherent Story Logic Design in Computer Role-Playing Games". Computers and Games Conference, Alberta, Canada. 25th - 27th July 2002.
Mateas, Michael / Stern, Andrew, “Architecture, Authorial Idioms and Early Observations of the Interactive Drama Façade”, (Carneige Mellon University, 2002)
Moffat B. “Personality Parameters and Programs”, in Creating Personalities for Synthetic Actors, Towards Autonomous Personality Agents Eds Trappl R. and Petta P. 1997
Szilas, Nicolas, “IDtension: The Simulation Of Narrative”, COSIGN 2003, 10th - 12th September 2003, University of Teesside, Middlesbrough (UK)

Supervisory team
First supervisor: Clive P Fencott, senior lecturer at School of Computing and Mathematics at the University of Teesside in England
Second supervisor: Craig A. Lindley, professor at the Department of Engineering Art and New Media at Gotland University in Sweden
Third supervisor: Paul Van Schaik, reader at School of Social Sciences at
University of Teesside, Sweden
Advisor: Michael Mateas, assistant professor at Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, USA

Appendix: clarifications

Semi-autonomy and level of player control

The amount of control that the player has needs to be explored in order to achieve a balance resulting in good gameplay. In general we see a continuum between a rather empty “shell” avatar at one extreme, providing minimal autonomy beyond a simple mapping from player control decisions to animation and expression functions, to a highly autonomous non-player character (NPC) at the other extreme, providing minimal influences from player actions to the NPCs behaviour.

Previous research in which I was involved at the Zero-Game Studio of the Interactive Institute explored this issue for a period of two years in two projects. In the first, the avatar approach was explored, providing a player character for improvising multi-player dramas. This was a virtual on-line version of the classical Commedia del Arte,using 2D character sprites. The conclusions draw from this were that while such a minimal approach was effective for players who are skilled performers, who could effectively improvise interesting performances for hours at a time, it was not effective for unskilled performers, who would become bored within minutes. The second project involved development of a multiplayer 3D virtual drama system. This system provided the same minimal avatars as a foundation. The proposed PhD work intends to use this as a starting point to further develop concepts from this project for enhancing the simple player-driven avatar with context-sensitive expression possibilities and varying degrees of autonomous reaction to in-game situations.

The approach is to explore semi-autonomy of the player character while the player is playing. That is, the project is not concerned with autonomous character functions in a persistent world while the player is not on line. The aim is to experiment with different degrees of autonomy to determine the levels and forms of emotional engagement experienced by the player in different in-game situations. This will be done by implementing and testing a series of research demonstrators.

AI techniques for agent behavior

The state of the art in agent behaviour is to use higher level, deliberative, planning-based approaches to implement higher level cognitive functions on top of lower level, behavioural or reactive systems. This is the case when behaviour generation functions are encapsulated within an agent model. An alternative approach is to use a more global narrative manager, drama manager, or autonomous game master to orchestrate the behaviours of many agents to create dramatic and narrative action. Architectures are possible in which these strategies are mixed.

Most of these systems have been developed for autonomous characters. The problem addressed by this research, providing a player character with functionality to assist an unskilled player in achieving a dramatically effective in-game performance, has been poorly addressed to date, and raises broad questions of applicability that may change the value of the techniques adopted.

With regard to specific techniques, the first iteration of the project will use a semantic network mapping contextual information (from perception, the actions of other players, and a global world state description) onto character expression options for the player. This approach will minimize processing time (compared with a deliberative implementation) while providing explicit models for various mental phenomena, include both healthy psychic structures and unhealthy ones (eg. neuroses and phobias). Planning techniques will not be used since the player will provide those higher level cognitive functions. The hypothesis is that the lower level approach will provide a better experience of characterization for the player. If this proves in practice to be of limited effectiveness, the incorporation of higher level functions will be explored in further iterations of the project.

The “Mind” as a semantic network

The player character architecture includes an input set, a control set, and an expression set. The input set includes local perception data gathered by collision detection of game objects with character perceptual zone volumes, and control actions performed by the player. Perceived objects will transmit state data to the player character controller that includes internal information about the emotional and mental states of the characters played by other players in the game world. The expression set includes gestures, motions, speech acts, noises and visual signs; these will either be manifested directly (ie. autonomously) within the game world or presented to the player as performance options to be chosen to provide control inputs within a later control cycle. The control set includes the semantic network (including internal state machines) that will map between the input set and the expression set. The semantic network constitutes the autonomous part of the “mind” of the player character. Note however that the character in the game is the product of autonomous functions together with performance decisions made by the player. Hence the total “mind” is realized as a synthesis between the autonomous system and the player’s immersion in the role.

This is the initial approach to be taken by the research. Since this proposal is being written during the first year of a multi-year project, the approach is expected to evolve considerably in the light of issues arising during implementation and testing. Regarding testing, the effectiveness of such a system is currently envisaged in broad terms that can be measured in terms, firstly of broad playability (is this playable at all?), and then in terms of depth of engagement reflected in sustained play time in relation to the total combinatorial space of play potential within the system. A more detailed framework for evaluating these factors will be developed as the project progresses.

Story Construction and Emergent Narrative

We take emergence to be: the emergence of a higher level structure from the interaction of many simpler, lower level primitives. In this case emergent narrative must be understood as a system in which lower level elements interact to result in the emergence of a pattern of events conforming to a specific higher level pattern of narrative structure.

The initial approach is to use the AI representation and process models of semantic networks to implement an object-oriented story construction system. This will be done as an emergent narrative system, using the mind models (controllers) of the player characters, low level objects implemented as semantic networks, as simpler elements from the interaction of which (between multiple characters) it is hoped that high level narrative patterns will emerge.

This work would be an extension of the investigation conducted within my Masters thesis (Eladhari M. Objektorienterat berättande i berättelsedrivna datorspel (“Object Oriented Story Construction in Story Driven Computer Games”), Masters Thesis, University of Stockholm, 2002.).

It is anticipated that some degree of extra-character narrative control will ultimately be incorporated within the PhD research, but the starting point will be concerned with pushing this object-oriented (in fact agent-oriented) emergent storytelling approach as far as it can go. The limitations of this emergent approach will then be used to motivate the incorporation of narrative generation principles at a world level (but from the perspective of maximum variability in the generation of interesting narrative structures).

Mind models and the free will

Skinner or Mill?
Level of autonomy in the semiautonomous agent.

The basis for adventure is chance

...Nikolajeva Tidskrift för Litteraturvetenskap 4/2003