dagoski: Emperor Norton I of the Bear State Republic (Default)
[personal profile] dagoski
I've made mention of a strange coding project involving the Quake 2 game engine and some AI concepts. I figure I'lll describe it for whoever's interested. I've been interested in Cognitive Science since my first year of college so I've always been into Artificial Intelligence to some degree. Not so much that I'd actually try to code such a thing, but challenges in the field are that same for those trying to understand the human mind. While studying Physics and getting somewhat appalling marks, I developed an interest a in loosely defined field of study that attempts to understand the general principles of organization which appear to be common throughout Physical, Psychological and Social systems. The field is fairly old and comes in and out of vogue every few decades. From the 1940s to the 1960s it was System Theory. It fell out of favor because while interesting, it's hard to devise experiments and test hypotheses. By the late 1980s, computers had shrunk both in size and price such that even impoverished undergrads like me could run simulations inn their dorms. A new set of researchers began to talk of Chaos and a Theory of Complex Systems while we dusted of textbooks on Dynamical Systems Theory. Once again, the field faded from view even as we built the Internet and started swimming complexity to earn our paychecks. In recent years, researchers in Economics, Sociology, Mathematics and a few other fields started using the name Network Science and going to seminars at the Santa Fe Center for Complex Studies. Whatever the name, the inquiries remain the same. My own particular interest is the study of the dynamics of Social Systems and how individuals organize into groups and how those groups aggregate into communities and even nations. Over the years, I've been sort of looking or a visually appealing way to model this phenomenon.

When it first came out, I really enjoyed the game, Doom. The game play was fun and the artwork was truly the work of a disturbed mind. Now when the first Quake came out, I began to see the possibilities of using that environment for simulations. However, I knew I couldn't code anything up myself. I just didn't have the talent and one man could never provide enough man hours. Fortunately for me, IdSoftware, after they had made all the profits they could make off of it, released the source code for their game, Quake II. That's when I got the idea to give the monsters in the game some sort of mind. I was looking to model animal behaviors initially. I made some headway in the theory aspect of it, but I had a hard time doing the codework. This was because my development machine was this enormous Dell server that friend bequeathed to me when his lab closed up shop. Their grants wouldn't let them sell the machine so I got a powerful server for free. Only problem was that its cooling system was powerful enough to refrigerate an entire server room. The thing sounded like Chinook helicopter taking off. Needless to say, I didn't get too much work done. Fast forward a few years and my laptop, old as it is, has the power of the server and runs almost silently. Now I can get down to work. Here's the idea I'm working with. In most first person shooter games, the opposition, is largely suicidal. The monsters, aliens, whatever, tend to come at you in a heavily armed bum's rush. A tactical player can cut them down in legion. Even in advanced games like Halo, the aliens' most sophisticated strategy consists of a random move sequence that avoids your shots. However, the plots behind most games explain this away. The aliens are your implacable foes who must kill you or be killed themselves. They are either the proud soldiers of a culture with a long warrior tradition or they are supernatural menaces bent on murder and mayhem. While fun for a bit, this gets boring after a while. A foe who has no desire to live through defeat is easily vanquished and predictable. Wouldn't it be interesting if the monsters had at least a rudimentary survival instinct that compelled them to retreat and regroup? After reading a book on Animal Cognition and behavior, a simple Theory of Mind began to coalesce. Each species has a set of imperatives which give it the intellectual tools to survive in a challenging world. Moreover, each species has goals. In nature. these are to survive, grow and procreate. Animals avoid risks, minimize chances for injury.. They eat to fuel their drive to live and they propagate to continue their lives through another generation. Humans aren't so very different except that we have a spark which makes up ask what the larger plan is and how we fit in.

So, what's the plan here? Well, mainly I jjust to test the viability of the Q2 engine for simulations of small group dynamics I'm going to give the monsters in the game minds. The purpose is to develop a platform modeling the interactions of simple agents in a variety of environments had have hell of a good time doing it. Side benefits include learning C++ where before I used to have only a passable understanding of C. Also, the study of Neural Nets provides a fun way to review my Mathematics and get a better understanding of Statistical Methods in modeling. As I mentioned earlier my model of mind is a three layer neural net system. The first layer processes sensory input weighting input according the species concept of the individual monster. The next layer consists of a set imperatives that determine what a particular species of monster makes of its sensory input. These imperatives include the drive to seek food, companionship and overall aggression. The intent is to create an entire ecosystem or danger. The object of the game is to survive long enough to study the ecosystem and interactions among it's species.

  What do y'all think?  Any ideas for monster species?  Thanks to Krinddz for giving me the name for the project.

Date: 2011-01-11 05:37 pm (UTC)
silveradept: A kodama with a trombone. The trombone is playing music, even though it is held in a rest position (Default)
From: [personal profile] silveradept
Suggest that you have both carnivorous (monster/player killers) and herbivorous (item consumer) species of monster, and possibly an omnivore or two, and tune the aggression settings on them accordingly. You're almost setting up your own "Jurassic Park" with this, I suspect.


dagoski: Emperor Norton I of the Bear State Republic (Default)

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