Wednesday, September 29, 2010

A Kind of Transaction

Some time ago, I wrote about Transactional Analysis from the book Scripts People Live (I read it thinking that it would give me a set of archetypes that I could use to make characters more real - not exactly what the book is about.) Well, I enjoy the idea and started reading Games People Play; and then lightning struck my brain. In order for you to understand my thought, I will have to explain Transactional Analysis. Bear with me.

Certainly the most commonplace, is that every individual has an ego. That part of the psyche that experiences and reacts to the outside world. The notion of self. And at any time, the ego may experience and manifest itself through a mixture of 3 unique sets of behaviors, thoughts, and feelings. These 3 psyches are:

Parent ("exteropsyche"): a state in which people behave, feel, and think in response to an unconscious mimicking of how their parents (or other parental figures) acted, or how they interpreted their parent's actions. For example, a person may shout at someone out of frustration because they learned from an influential figure in childhood the lesson that this seemed to be a way of relating that worked.

Adult ("neopsyche"): a state of the ego which is most like a computer processing information and making predictions absent of major emotions that could affect its operation. Learning to strengthen the Adult is a goal of Transactional Analysis. While a person is in the Adult ego state, he/she is directed towards an objective appraisal of reality.

Child ("archaeopsyche"): a state in which people behave, feel and think similarly to how they did in childhood. For example, a person who receives a poor evaluation at work may respond by looking at the floor, and crying or pouting, as they used to when scolded as a child. Conversely, a person who receives a good evaluation may respond with a broad smile and a joyful gesture of thanks. The Child is the source of emotions, creation, recreation, spontaneity and intimacy[1].

Alright…are you still with me? Now when any social interaction (or transaction) occurs, there is the transaction stimulus - where on individual acknowledges the presence of another - and transactional response - the action that in someway is related to that stimulus. The simplest transactions are those where both individuals egos manifest themselves as Adults.

The agent, estimating from the data before him that a scalpel is now the instrument of choice, holds out his hand. The respondent appraises this gesture correctly, estimates the forces and distances involved, and places the handle of the scalpel exactly where the surgeon excepts it[2].

In order for communication to proceed smoothly, complementary. Example. But if a crossed transaction occurs, then communications is effectively broken off. Example.

Well done. Not painful at all. Now for my lightning.

Now the typically RPG dialog, there is the obvious Good, Neutral, and Evil (or in some of the lesser RPGs, Neutral, Evil, and "I like to eat babies" Super Evil) responses. However, depending on the flow of the dialog, the Good response is somewhat more evil than the Evil response, or vice versa. And sometimes there really isn't a response that makes any sense at all. This problem can easily be attributed to poor writing. Additionally, I would attribute this to an ignorance in how people actually interact. People are not transparently Good, Neutral, or Evil. Consider if all dialogs always had 3 responses: Parent, Adult, and Child. Depending on the initial stimulus, the Good response (or most ideal) may be the Parent or Adult or Child. It completely depends on how the player previously choose to navigate the dialog. This structure may create more natural flowing stimuli-responses.

In order to create an even more engaging experience, the option to socially respond the stimulus in one manner while psychologically responding to the stimulus in another. That is, an NPC may socially acts towards the player as an Adult ("This one is better, but you can't afford it.") and the player reacts to the NPC as an Adult ("That's the one I'll take!"). But the psychological undertones of this exchange is truly that of the NPC's Adult and the PC's Child ("Regardless of the finical consequences, I'll show that arrogant fellow I'm as good as any of his customers.").

Sunday, September 19, 2010

So Many Gnomes!

So many gnomes! Let me say that one more time...So many gnomes! We've been working on Gnome for quite some time now. There are 2 interactions: Touch and Throw. And there are 3 gnomes for each interaction. Touch has Squish (touch and it dies), Explode (touch and it dies - and it kills all other gnomes around it), and Spawn (touch and it dies - and it spawns 2 gnomes at its position). Throw has Fling (throw and it dies when it collides with the ground), Target (throw and it dies when it collides with the Groundling), and Chemical (throw and it dies when it collides with another Chemical gnome - it kills all other gnomes around it).

If anybody has any suggestions for additional interactions or gnomes, please post a comment. I am interested in hearing what people have to say.

Also for each interaction, there is an interaction icon around their feet. - And it works out really well. Before these "affordance" icons were added, when a new gnomes was added into the mix (gnomes are added incrementally - starting with the basic gnomes and adding a new type after the player has killed some many gnomes), players were confused about how to interact with the new type. However, with the "affordance" icons, the game communicates appropriate interactions. To help with this training, players can interact with the Squish and Fling gnomes during the menu screen. This feature was, of course, an accident. But is certainly the best accident Gnome has experienced. I had a play-tester play with the gnomes in the menu for about 2 minutes before starting the game. - He did quite well.

We are working on getting animations from Blender into Unity (if anybody has a better clue than me, please let me know). We are working on being able to post the player's high scores to their Facebook page - this feature is so that friends can compare scores. You know, adding social play element to the game. Yep...That's it. So many gnomes!

If anybody has any ideas for the name of the game, again I want to hear them.