Game talkWay cool

 Posted by (Visited 15129 times)  Game talk
May 312006
 

Over in Second Life, a user has created an emergent artificial life simulation that grows plants, rains, and so on.

This sort of thing is, to my mind, the future of dynamic world environments; in order to get away from static worlds, we have to have plausible reasons why things change. Natural resources and natural shifts in them offer plausible reasons for AIs to behave differently over time. Add in users affecting abundance or scarcity, and you get systems with changing dynamics. If it doesn’t spin out of control, that is. :) But you can curb that with balancing mechanisms.

Going to a simulation level also allows players to interact with the world and actually affect it.

Ironically, based on what I’ve seen and done, I’d guess that it’s far cheaper to make a world this way than the traditional way.

Edit:

Given that Kotaku just reblogged this, we may get invaded. :) Therefore, I should mention that there are graphical virtual world projects that have done similar stuff on the world level.

SL’s clouds are a 3d cellular automata system already, else this couldn’t have been done. There was also a nice fish flocking algorithm demonstrated within SL a while back.

Was it Dark & Light that had ice forming over fjords in the winter? I remember seeing that at a demo a few years ago at GDC (they just released, but I haven’t checked them out yet…).

And of course, UO’s original ecology system was based on artificial life principles, where objects had abstract properties and therefore could theoretically interact with each other on the basis of things like “I, a dragon, need food, but the temperature killed the plants off, so the deer moved to hunt other plants, so I will have to range farther too, and the first meat I will find will be people.”

I have commented on this before, so it’s not like the whole dyanmic world via simulation is new. :) On MUD-Dev those of us who favored it were termed “simulationists.”

Some interesting discussion on the subject can be found here that includes a link to John Arras’ paper describing and discussing his fully generated MUD.

  31 Responses to “Way cool”

  1. Monet asiat toimivat Svargalla funktionaalisesti, mutta myös estetiikalla on paikkansa. Esimerkiksi auringon laskiessa maahan laskeutuu pimeys, jossa voi havainnoida lepakoiden ja muiden yöeläinten liikehdintää. Täällä jatäällä visioidaan, mitä kaikkea tämäntyyppisillä simuloinneilla voitaisiin tulevaisuudessa saada aikaan. Via Edge.

  2. had mothballed their accounts said it was special — artificial intelligence, growth, realistic flora and fauna. It was this week’s “Business Week” for new memberships. Hamlet blogged it…so did many others; Raph Koster pronounced these ecosystems “the future of dynamic world environments”. Laukosargas Svarog, an old and honoured SL resident, made a special island in which the flowers and trees grow naturally, i.e. from seeds, and the climate changes, adjusting to the growth — there are clouds, rain — everything. Amazing! I’ll bet

  3. [...] Comments [...]

  4. I remember way back at the beginning of the dev cycle for Halo Bungie was talking about implementing a working ecosystem into the game. In retrospect that’s not a great idea for that type of game, but at the time it sure had me stoked.

    This actually has me thinking about dusting off SL and going for a visit.

  5. This actually has me thinking about dusting off SL and going for a visit.

    I actually tried. Server was down for maintainence or some other silliness. I’ll go, like… later. =P

  6. So iterating further, lets say for instance you could impliment a rule set for Guns Germs and Steel, into a virtual eco system. Also perhaps make the system somewhat AI, meaning a ruleset that identifies overpopulation, or underutilization, or non optimization of plants, animals, and resources and corrects accordingly.

    In a system such as this, perhaps a MMORPG setting the players would actually effect not only the development and propagation of technology/civilization, but the overall enviornment as well….

    And the million dollar questions are: How far and how fast would civilization develop? What percentage of the player base would remain in a primative state? What kind of political organizations would develop? Authoritarian? Democratic? Militaristic? Would migratory patterns in this space tend toward certain areas and resources? What would be the fate of these “contested” areas?

    You could make players start in “tribes” of perhaps no more than 50 people in one “spawn” point separated by a significant amount of geography…..

    Talk about a fun experiment..

  7. Ohhhh, man, I’m a sucker for this stuff. I used to spend a lot of time fiddling with the old Creatures games. Even before that, heck, I did my high school Research Practicum project on A-Life experiments. I was toying with critters that learned to navigate. Someday, maybe I’ll dig back into this stuff. In the meantime, I’ll have to settle for toying with horticulture hybridization in ATitD.

  8. And the million dollar questions are: How far and how fast would civilization develop? What percentage of the player base would remain in a primative state? …

    Or, more simply, how would things like crafting be affected? What if, suddenly, a dramatic shift in the climate required different equipment for your char — if clothing/armor is no longer “all-weather-wear”? Or, even more extreme, the atmosphere suddenly becomes unbreathable and thus an increased demand for different protective gear.

    I’ll have to settle for toying with horticulture hybridization in ATitD.

    I’d settle for not having to run all the way to a certain school in order to learn that I don’t have enough of a specific resource to learn horticultural hybridization ;)

  9. Actually, John Arras actually had a fully simulated AI world running, with migrating populations that built cities and everything. As I recall, it was called GenMUD. He presented aspects of how it self-generated stuff like building layouts at a MUD-Dev conference a few years ago. Yet another example of ways in which muds were ahead of the graphical stuff.

    It’s up on SourceForge, so you can actually download it and try it out.

  10. Given that Kotaku just reblogged this, we may get invaded. :) Therefore, I should mention that there are graphical virtual world projects that have done similar stuff on the world level.

    SL’s clouds are a 3d cellular automata system already, else this couldn’t have been done. There was also a nice fish flocking algorithm demonstrated within SL a while back.

    Was it Dark & Light that had ice forming over fjords in the winter? I remember seeing that at a demo a few years ago at GDC (they just released, but I haven’t checked them out yet…).

    And of course, UO’s original ecology system was based on artificial life principles, where objects had abstract properties and therefore could theoretically interact with each other on the basis of things like “I, a dragon, need food, but the temperature killed the plants off, so the deer moved to hunt other plants, so I will have to range farther too, and the first meat I will find will be people.”

    I have commented on this before, so it’s not like the whole dyanmic world via simulation is new. :) On MUD-Dev those of us who favored it were termed “simulationists.”

    Some interesting discussion on the subject can be found here that includes a link to John Arras’ paper, btw.

  11. I knew there was something on the site about the UO resource system: Baking bread.

  12. Do players get an AI / pathfinding budget to use in SL? Imagine if every been in a swarm had individual pathfinding associated with it…

  13. [...] Previous | Though as late its more often been referenced for its seamier underbelly and devious denial of service attacks, MMO vet Raph Koster points out an exciting emerging technology cropping up in Second Life’s landscape. [...]

  14. Do players get an AI / pathfinding budget to use in SL? Imagine if every been in a swarm had individual pathfinding associated with it…

    Well … just taking a stab at how you might approach that in SL:

    I have no idea what the constraints on scripting are, but each parcel of land has a limit on the number of primitive objects that parcel can support. So, I would imagine that, instead of individual bees you would model only the swarm. Or, even more likely (imo), your bee swarm would be an animate texture on a static (or fairly static) prim … say, attached to a “hive” prim.

    Having said that, I have NO idea what the reality is, or if the rules are different if you “own” the entire region (server). But, based on my experience building in SL, I can’t imagine being able to get particularly granular with tiny life.

  15. I am unsure about the budget, but I do know that SL has the most expensive server processes I have ever heard of. :) This is unsurprising, given all that they do, I suppose, but I have heard really really low figures for how many players are supported per process (like, single-digit, compared to the triple digits that most MMOs aim for), and really really high figures for how many machines make up the cluster.

    Stuff like pathfinding would certainly eat up a lot of CPU were it a common task.

  16. Another possibility is that the physical representation of the ecosystem is largely cosmetic (with maybe large changes, such as foliage, represented visibly) while the actual number crunching is entirely unseen. That way, you wouldn’t have a lot of objects to worry about. Still, the processing overhead could get steep on that, I’m sure.

    …but I do know that SL has the most expensive server processes I have ever heard of … I have heard really really low figures for how many players are supported per process …and really really high figures for how many machines make up the cluster.

    I don’t know how this relates, but I understand that LL offers options of running 1:1 sim:server(cpu) or apparently a newer 4:1 sim:server option. This, I’m sure has a dramatic effect on process budgets. In the 4:1 arrangement you essentially can only have unbuildable real estate. What it’s used for (as far as I’ve seen) is to provide “wilderness” for adjacent sims.

    For instance, one somewhat popular sim is an island yacht club which has quickly outgrown its original sim — just too many boats for the limited waterways. So, they added 4 or 5 adjacent sims to expand the “ocean”. Rather than buy 4 additional servers, they were able to run 4:1 on one additional server which, of course, is much less expensive $$-wise. They can have terrain on the additional sims, but once any significant building goes on, the sim(s) grind to a halt.

    Yes, I’ve returned to SL … I admit it.

  17. >Server was down for maintainence or some other silliness. I’ll go, like… later. =P

    Um, doesn’t your favourite World for Warcraft go down every week at the same time? Don’t most games have maintenance days? Yes, SL was down for a few hours this week and last with a new patch, but that’s not a weekly occurrence more like 1ce in 6 weeks.

    >they were able to run 4:1 on one additional server which, of course, is much less expensive $$-wise.

    This was a special deal the Lindens started recently to squeeze more sales and solve the problem of voids around private islands which made your avatar bump up against an invisible wall like Truman leaving Trumanville. By putting these void sims around, you can mitigate that feeling.

    But it comes at a cost, of course. These four-in-one-packs look gorgeous because it means you get a lot of space and you have great waterways. But they only have one-quarter the prims. So a half sim of 32,000 plus square meters only has 937 prims (building blocks for objects) in it. Normally on the rest of the grid, you get the 937 per 4096 m2 — so you’re sacrificing your building capacity for the sake of the wide open spaces. We’re also being cautioned both by official messages from LL and by players who have bought what I call these “skim sims” that the CPU capacity is lower on them, too, that you just can’t put a lot of scripted objects on them in the same way as you can elsewhere.

    It’s interesting how this experiment of Lauk’s has brought people back in — I saw a rush of them last night.

    I wonder whether these growing and replicating things will go off world. In the experiment with the artificial fish, which I bought to populate Free Tibet’s waters, they were neat at first. They “learned” a pattern to swim in based on these fish sticks you put down to feed them. They would then swarm to you if you sprinkled the fish food in the water. They swam around looking natural and cool. But then you’d log on the next day and they’d all be gone. Then like a day or two after that, they’d be coming back to you in Lost & Found folder, having swum all the way from Wakeley to Winyah, which is like 20 sims or something. Not sure how they do that.

    Billiard balls do the same thing. They spawn out and knock around in interesting realistic ways. You play with them and try to shoot them into the pockets. Then you might get distracted and leave…next think you know they’re gone, then swimming back to you days later from all over SL.

  18. The CPU capacity is probably also 1/4 of the capacity per sim; they likely simply doubled the X and Y sides of the square, so you get 4x the space but with 1/4 the resources. I bet that those sims will also handle a lower peak concurrent population — you can’t pack 4x as many people as usual into them, but only 1/4 as many per sim as you usually would.

    As far as the fish — that’s because their code includes some random movement behavior that isn’t bounded. You could probably hack the fish script to “tether” them to a location so they never get too far away. Or just keep them in a lake. :)

  19. Or just keep them in a lake.

    That only works until they go amphib on us.

  20. Um, doesn’t your favourite World for Warcraft go down every week at the same time? Don’t most games have maintenance days? Yes, SL was down for a few hours this week and last with a new patch, but that’s not a weekly occurrence more like 1ce in 6 weeks.

    I didn’t say it was a bad thing. I don’t play World of Warcraft. Never have, briefly considered it (mostly so I could have scenery to go with the Elwynn Forest music), and never will. I predicted bad things about it long before it came out, and don’t anticipate fixes to them any time soon.

    I do play Dragonrealms, and maintenance is typically behind the scenes. Every now and then, a router goes kaboom and a time zone goes away for half an hour and people come and drag their corpses to me for resurrection.

    *shrugs*

    I know nothing about maintenance and such on these newfangled graphical gizmos. First graphical I actually “played” was Second Life; haven’t downloaded any others since. Seems like the coders need to l33t up a bit more, since their fancy shmancies can’t keep up a 24/7. Never mind that Simutronics ought to do maintenance days instead of random explosions that send the onsite staff scrambling. =P They all suck. *shrugs again* Not that I’m complaining, since I’m at the point of “I play because my friends do.”

    I’m rambling now. Someone go write a law banning bugs.

  21. [...] Recently, some readers asked for posts that were more game-design centered. Since there was talk recently of the virtual ecological modeling that a Second Life user created, I thought I might talk a little bit about how the original resource system in Ultima Online worked. It’s more virtual world design than game design, but it has a lot of implications for game systems. Pretty much everything I am writing here has been published before in one place or another, but a lot of the old UO interviews and articles are not on the Internet, so it’s all been lost, and I imagine folks newer to the whole virtual world thing may never have heard about it. [...]

  22. [...]    - SL Resident Rik Riel posted a fascinating meditation on the relation between Svaraga and Al Gore’s new documentary, An Inconvenient Truth.   - Renowned game developer Raph Koster (Ultima Online, Star Wars Galaxies) dubbed Svarga "the future of dynamic world environments".  I hope the deep impact of Raph’s post is grasped: one of the top MMORPG designers working now is taking cues from the content creation of a Second Life resident.And remember, if you have an event coming up in the next seven days and want to suggest it for NWN Events of the Week, read the submission guidelines, and send it my way. [...]

  23. [...] {Update: I’ve found that Raph Koster has posted about this as well – Link. Read the comments.} [...]

  24. [...] Via Raph Koster, a user in Second Life has created an artificial ecology, complete with unplanned evolution of new plant species, etc. Even bees that carry pollen from plant to plant, fueling the cycle. Lovely! I agree with Raph — this sort of thing is the future of MMOs. I can’t think of any other (comparably satisfying) way to keep the environment from feeling static and unnatural over time. [...]

  25. [...] It reminds me that article about the simulated world in Second Life. That’s a place you visit. It’s not a place where you stay and play. [...]

  26. [...] Way coolOver in Second Life, a user has created an emergent artificial life simulation that grows plants, rains, and so on. This sort of thing is, to my mind, the future of dynamic world environments; in order to get away from static worlds, … [...]

  27. [...] The result of a year’s work, Laukosargas Svarog’s island of Svarga (direct portal here) is a fully-functioning ecosystem, adding life or something like it to the verdant-looking but arid pallette Linden Lab offers with its world. It begins with her artificial clouds, which are pushed along by Linden’s internal wind system. "If I was to turn off the clouds the whole system would die in about six hours," she tells me. "Turn off the bees and [the plants stop] growing, because nothing gets pollinated. And it’s the transfer of pollen that signals the plants to drop seeds. The seeds blow in the wind, and if they land on good ground according to different rules for each species, they grow when they receive rain water from the clouds. It’s all interdependent." Source: Raph: Way Cool [...]

  28. [...] It reminds me that article about the simulated world in Second Life. That’s a place you visit. It’s not a place where you stay and play. [...]

  29. [...] reported by Raph Koster and Gameology, a Second Life user, Laukosargas Svarog, is creating a functioning ecosystem in that [...]

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