[MUD-Dev] [MLP] NPC Complexity

Eli Stevens listsub at wickedgrey.com
Sat Apr 13 23:08:43 New Zealand Standard Time 2002

From: "shren" <shren at io.com>

> The NPC Complexity issue is doing rounds again.  This was posted
> on slashdot today but is probably relevant, or at least
> interesting:

>   http://www.theatlantic.com/issues/2002/04/rauch.htm

Very interesting.  I wonder how sucessful a game might be (MMOG, of
course) that pitted the peace-enforcing players against the
genocidally-prone A-Life NPCs.  Both the UN or Star Trek's
Federation could be suitable settings.  Would it be fun to play?

I think Stephen Wolfram was very interested in simple rules with
complex results - supposedly he has been hard at work on a very
thick book on the subject.  IIRC, he was trying to make the book
accessible to the layperson.  Has anyone heard much about it?  Has
it been published yet?

Well, gee, why don't I just find out? *rummages through the web*

Hmm, looks like it is due out next month.  May 14th, to be exact.
Cool, I want to read it - it seems to be a similar take on ideas
like the one in the paper above.  Does anyone else know anything
about the book?  From the website at (there is a fair bit of info
about the book there):

<URL: http://www.wolframscience.com/qanda/ >
  Q: What is the basic idea of A New Kind of Science?

  A: Almost all the science that's been done for the past three
  hundred or so years has been based in the end on the idea that
  things in our universe somehow follow rules that can be
  represented by traditional mathematical equations. The basic idea
  that underlies A New Kind of Science is that that's much too
  restrictive, and that in fact one should consider the vastly more
  general kinds of rules that can be embodied, for example, in
  computer programs.

  What started my work on A New Kind of Science are the discoveries
  I made about what simple computer programs can do. One might have
  thought that if a program was simple it should only do simple
  things. But amazingly enough, that isn't even close to
  correct. And in fact what I've discovered is that some of the very
  simplest imaginable computer programs can do things as complex as
  anything in our whole universe. It's this point that seems to be
  the secret that's used all over nature to produce the complex and
  intricate things we see. And understanding this point seems to be
  the key to a whole new way of thinking about a lot of very
  fundamental questions in science and elsewhere. And that's what I
  develop in A New Kind of Science.

Another random thought: Could these kinds of programs be used to
simulate player behavior, and predict what players are going to do?
In most of the games out today, it would be kind of meaningless, as
in EQ there really is only one thing to do - the level treadmill.
But if a game had multiple advancement ladders and "interesting"
choices, I wonder if the player actions could be simulated to any
great degree in advance.  Maybe with a combination of simple rules
and genetic algorithms?  If the computer could predict major in-game
political shifts or such...  That would be kind of creepy.

Actually, it might even be of "use" for today's games if a
simulation of the game tracked:

  Level and class of characters.

  Friends (common groupmates) of characters.

  Time patterns characters are played.

  Level compositions that hunt certain areas, and rate of
  advancement at that area.

While it may not be able to predict that WickedGibralter will be in
Haggerfell for 15 minutes, then move to the Vendo Caves, it might be
able to predict that the Werewolf Caverns will be crowded Thursday
and Saturday this week.  With enough of a population on a
Shard/server, it mght work.  Working on something like that would be
VERY cool.  What use would the information be?  Dunno, but a
pre-emptive werewolf strike would be pretty interesting.  Especially
if the simulation were right (I mean, c'mon - if you were playing
and were thinking "Hey, let's go bash some fur-heads" and before you
could get a group together they attacked one of your cities,
wouldn't you be impressed?  Scared, a little bit? ;) .

Interesting to think on.  :)

Give a man some mud, and he plays for a day.
Teach a man to mud, and he plays for a lifetime.

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