Thursday, August 16, 2007

Unequal Information

I've been talking about how computers aren't very good at context. It's really one of the biggest reasons that generated content is uninspiring: the computer doesn't know how to make a layered, subtle situation. Even the most basic first person shooter has remarkably complex contexts when you look at it in comparison to what a computer can do.

A huge part of context is unequal information. Not only between characters, but between the audience (player) and the characters or world. Sometimes the player might have more information, sometimes less. Both are common.

For example, in an RPG it is common to cut to the evil villains doing some nefarious thing - burning down a village or plotting to capture someone or something. The party members blithely waltz into the next town anyway. Although you know what's coming, the party members do not, creating a tension.

An opposite example is equally easy: in most decent FPS games, the main character has some kind of past... but you don't know much about it. It's revealed over the course of play, bit by bit, as it affects the world. The character knows things you don't know, and acts on those things.

For example, what is the Spartan's background? How about XIII? How about JC Denton? They often act in unusual ways or get in unusual situations due to their background...

Hell, even the old Super Mario Bros had this kind of information imbalance. It's a key part of making a story, and almost no story goes without it.

But there are no methods of plot generation which think in this way... at best, they think in terms of character goals. While a character goal is (often) hidden information, it's only a pale sliver of information imbalance. There are no algorithms that manage information imbalance.

I wonder if one could be built.

1 comment:

Ash said...

By all means, characters can have imperfect and partial information.