Monday, January 26, 2015

When Wisdom Isn't a Dump Stat

Look forward to the day when players will be able to talk to their own characters.

On January 15, a group of German developers released a video describing "An Adaptive Learning A.I. Approach for Generating a Living and Conversing Mario Agent."  In effect, the model allows the video game character Mario to interact with the user, while learning about his environment - through messages given by the user and through personal experience.

This allows Mario to verbalize the situation that he is a part of - but in fact it really doesn't translate as 'self-aware.'  We are a long way from Mario sitting down and pondering the purpose or relevance of his existence - which would probably end in Mario deliberately running into goomba again and again until it proves impossible to commit suicide in this manner (he always resets).  Thereafter, Mario is likely to get really depressed.

Naturally, this makes me think of characters existing in a D&D game that are animated on the character-sheet, asking the question, "Can I pee now?"  Ignoring the question, of course, results in the character getting distressed and eventually peeing, Sims-like, onto the bottom of the character sheet.  Answering "Yes" lets the character walk off screen for a while before flushing a toilet and reappearing.

Time spent depends on how much armour the character is wearing.

I'm crazy enough to think it would be pretty cool to have a character image standing on your sheet, eating, cleaning their weapons, looking bored and so on.  Upon hearing the DM ask, "What do you do?", the character says to the player, "Oh PLEASE, can we attack it?" or possibly, "Um, let's run away."  When the player rolls a 3 on the attack die, the character raises an eyebrow and asks, "What the fuck is wrong with you?" of the player.

A good thing?  Well, it depends on the sort of relationship you develop with your character.

Yesterday, I had a moderate flame spat about player-vs.-player - which I'm going to continue to carp about in the future.  We all have our pet causes.  Were I to play in someone's world, only to find that PvP was allowed, my first thought would be, "Well, it will be impossible to ever develop or get attached to the character I am running in this world."  My second thought, a nanosecond later, would be "What the fuck is the point, then?"

I used to play war games.  As my experience in role-playing grew, the war games steadily lost value for me.  Today, I freaking despise RISK, though I've easily played a thousand hours of it.  I'm not interested in faceless, wooden characters.

If playing meant coming to a consensus with my character about what we should do next, that would be fucking awesome.  I mean that.  Being able to instill my character with traits of cowardice or aggression or what have you, so that these were elements that needed to be overcome when I was recommending the character do this or that - fuck, that's a game within a game that I want to play.

Part of that is because I am actually very easy.  See, I will write here and tell you that you're a fucking idiot for playing a game a particular way.  I will express my discontent and disgust, I will provide a host of reasons to explain why others should - and probably are - also disgusted with you, or even why you ought to be disgusted with yourself.  I'll go on and on about it, brutally, miserably, without any tolerance, empathy or respect for you as a human being or even a biological entity.

What I won't do is stop you - at least, unless you want to do it on my carpet.  I won't lobby the gaming convention to put an end to your game play, I won't physically come around and knock the dice out of your hand, I won't crash your computer or SWAT your house or send crap to your mailbox or start #gamergate on your dumbass in an effort to intimidate you into changing your moronic ways.  All anyone ever has to do to continue an activity I don't approve of is to ignore me.

Granted, that can be hard to do.  But the fact is, I don't care about you.  You're just one more of the seven billion on the planet, 35 million of which are dying every day.  Until you comment on this blog, you're just a statistic to me.  And I am really, really comfortable with your existence as a statistic.  As a statistic, you can run about playing your game your way, however that pleases you.  You can live your life, work your job, fall in love, get married, raise a bunch of wonderful kids, whatever the hell you want - because, in reality, I am only a statistic to you.  It works both ways, you see.

The only thing that changes our statistical status towards one another is our choice to listen.

There are some out there that I don't care to hear.  They haven't got an argument, they haven't the courage of their convictions, they're slippery and obfuscating and they don't take responsibility for the things they say.  It is always someone else's fault.  It is always someone else's responsibility.  Fair enough.  These people exist, they will always exist.  But I will choose to let them exist as a statistic.

People who stand up to me, who fight, who present a position they're prepared to embrace, these people always find me very easy-going.  When the issue is, how are we going to get this wall built, I know perfectly well when it is time to stop arguing and work.  And I do work.  In the scheme of things, I spend far more of my time working than I spend trying to change minds.

A character of mine that can talk back to me would be marvellous.  Someone with guts and good instincts, someone ready to get in there and take chances, someone with practical suggestions and strategies that I could consider and tweak . . . I dream of that sort of thing.  There'd be a lot of "Yeah, let's go with that!" and "All right, if you're up for that, go!"

And if I had a character that disagreed with me constantly, that deliberately threw monkey wrenches into success for the hell of it?  I would shrug and tell them, "Whatever."  Because, in the long run, that is what I always say with people I don't care about.

Believe me, when characters in D&D start to develop personalities, wisdom will very quickly stop being a dump stat.

1 comment:

Scott Driver said...

Are you familiar with the Pendragon personality system?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pendragon_%28role-playing_game%29#Personal_Traits

It's a stab at making one's character and its pre-defined traits push against one's "unlimited agency."