Wow, I wrote all those blog posts before GB got blogs, and now I have to write this blog entry just to get the quest...It would have been better if it detected that you had done this before and given you the quest automatically.. 
No matter, this is my quest blog!

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Ethical Issues

This area is something I haven’t thought of as much as the appropriateness, so please do feel free to add to and dispute anything I say here! ? 

There are of course lots and lots of ethical issues to consider when making an emotive adaptive game. For instance, people may object to have their emotional states and/or changes monitored to begin with, and many may not like the idea of the game storing this information for future use (in TEDDI the information was stored for future use only for a minute, but as I had to do analysis afterwards all data was written to a log file). The information storage could be short and temporary (e.g. 60 seconds long buffer), or it could be more long term allowing the game to learn more about the player, thus aiding in adapting the game in meaningful ways. Many people are wary of any information being stored about them, and though it is not obvious to me how this sort of information would be misused, it is an important issue to consider. The way I see it however, is that if people were worried about their data being stored and misused they would likely not choose to play the game, and so this issue is avoided. Designers should be aware of this issue though when determining their target group. 

To keep the post fairly short I’ll only mention one other ethical issue at this time, namely the issue of adapting a computer game when played in a player vs. player mode. In a battle between two players, the game can’t adapt the players’ skill levels or luck, as this would make the game unfair to the better player. These sorts of adaptations are exactly the sorts used in TEDDI, which was a one player game only. So what can be done about this versus situation? I would suggest that the environment to be adapted, the colours of the scenery (even subtle changes could have an impact), the tone and speed of the music, and other environmental aspects specific to the game. This could aid in making a player feel better or worse about the situation, without actually helping or obstructing the game play in favour of one player and without interfering with the battle. 

What do you guys think of these ethical issues, and possible solutions? And more importantly, what sort of ethical issues do you envisage with emotionally adaptive computer games?


Uses for the Technology of Emotionally Adapting Games


  Here are some uses I have thought of:
• Entertainment – games will be more engaging and fun if they adapt to the players’ emotions.
• Parental control – with this technology parents can decide for themselves how excited/stressed/scared or otherwise their child should be feeling whilst playing games, and end the game if it goes too far, or when they think their child has had enough.
• Teaching – in edutainment the games could avoid frustration in the pupil, and in pure entertainment games, the emotional state could help determine the length and depth of tutorials at the start, and when a helpful hint of some sort may be useful to the player.    
Can any of you think of any other uses for this technology?


Adapting a game to Single player vs. Multiplayer

This point is something I have really struggled to get my head around. I would just love to know how in Left4Dead they account for four people being in a team, all with their own stress levels. I developed a single player game, a battle against an AI. This allowed me to adapt the AI itself, making it smarter or dumber, faster or slower, luckier or unluckier as required. It’s easy to see how and what can be adapted in a single player game, but in multiplayer the issues are vast: differing emotional states, differing play motivations, differing skill levels, and differing styles of play.  Player motivation determines whether a player wants to rush through a game to get to the boss fights, or the good loot, or whether they are more leisurely in their progress, values exploring the world, reading quest logs, studying loot etc. Skill levels obviously changes how quickly a player gets bored or stressed out of their mind, how do you deal with that in a multiplayer setting? Styles of play is something ahoodedfigure talked about at my GiantBomb blog, whereby players can be very destructive, and all they try to do is break the game, whereas others just play it within the frames of what’s intended. 

I truly don’t know how to account for all these things when attempting to adapt to the player’s emotions. Doing an average could nullify the emotional states altogether, keeping nobody happy. Giving one priority over another will make that player happy and the other frustrated with the game. It’s also important whether the game is coop or a pvp game. In a coop it’s easier as the players should (in theory) all have the same goal, to progress together. But then again, some people are all about the me, me, me, and others are quite the opposite. In a PvP situation you can’t adapt the fight one way or the other, as that would make the more skilled player feel hard done by, and the fight would not really be fair. 
Man, I find this bit tricky! Any ideas floating about out there? 

Should really ask Valve about this... :P


Adaptations and Style of Game

When developing emotional adaptations for a game I think it’s very important to consider the style of the game. After all, it’s not likely that adaptations that are brilliant for Banjo & Kazooe work just as well in Dead Space, right? And I don’t mean specific things like; add another infected zombie thing to the mix. Then again, I’m not being as general as adapt the music. The level I’m thinking can be related to a mixture of adaptations: The player is bored, what happens now? In Dead Space, the atmosphere could be changed by flickering lights which eventually die, loud noises that move whenever you face your avatar to look in the direction of the noise,   adding more enemies of course, making them harder etc. In Banjo & Kazooe though, the player may not be anywhere near a fight, they may in fact be building a vehicle, or talking to a NPC. What then? Changing the atmosphere isn’t going to make any sense. Obviously the adaptations need to be tailored to the game in question, but is there a core difference between the types of adaptations that may be appropriate depending on the style of game?


I started this blog with a determined statement that, yes, there is. Now, I’m not so sure. Maybe it’s just tweaking and tailoring, rather than fundamental differences in what could be appropriate. Clearly it wouldn’t be appropriate to adapt the vehicles in a game without vehicles, but does the style of the game determine the types of adaptations? Hmmm....


Pace of game and adaptations

If we want a game to adapt to the player's emotional states, how important is the pace of the game?

I'd say it's very important. Some games may be so slow that it's not appropriate to introduce affective adaptations to begin with, Mah Jong for instance. I suspect most people don't get very emotionally involved playing this game; with the possible exception of the exact moment in time when they realise they have won (or lost). On the opposing side, if the game is very fast (think of the last few levels you ever managed in Tetris) the player is automatically emotionally involved, generally with stress. So if we want to adapt to a wide range of emotions, the game needs to induce a wide range of emotions to be detected, right? So, does that mean that the designers have to specifically aim to induce certain emotions at certain times? What if the player reacts totally differently then, to what the designers wished for?

I think all storylines attempt to induce emotions in the player, but I also suspect that the designers, in general, don't much care if you're feeling happy, sad or angry as long as you're feeling, and enjoying yourself (somewhere below the anger). We can then use this same tactic in adaptive games, attempt to induce emotions, not caring what is being felt, but adapting to the reaction, whatever it may be. How do you induce emotions? Oh, in a variety of ways; music, lighting, textures, ambient noises, character animation, voice acting.. the list goes on and on. But all these methods surely rely on a 'sensible' pacing? You can have peaks and troughs in pace of course, but do they not all rely on time used to induce? But if they are, is the 'sensible' pace the same for everybody, or is this another component which the game needs to adapt for the specific player? What is the 'sensible' pace, what games currently, do you think, are set at a good pace for adaptations to player emotions?

Wow, that is a lot of questions, and I don't think I have the answers to any of them! Just thoughts....

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Apologies for lack of Posts

Hi guys, 

Sorry about my recent lack of posts. This is partly due to the fact that I’m only a student 50% of my time, but mostly that I found blogging about this adaptive games stuff really tricky. However, I do need to do this, so I’m taking back up now. I’ve thought about how best to do this, and I’m not sure I’ve come up with a good answer, but at least I have formulated some form of strategy.. We’ll have to see how it pans out! :P My new strategy is based on only making one point per post, which I hope will encourage more of a discussion on that one point at a time, and it should also keep my posts shorter. I appreciate that as little time I have to write these posts, you guys have even less time to read and comment on them! 

So without further ado, here’s today’s point:
I’m trying to establish a set of guidelines regarding how to ensure appropriateness of adaptations, based on player emotions, to the game play. Today I’m considering this with respect to the storyline. In some games it may well be not just appropriate but downright exciting to adapt the storyline itself to the emotions of the player. Games such as Fable II and Fallout 3 could benefit from such adaptations, allowing the player to experience a new story every time they played through the game. This would also increase the life span of the games, as the replay value would increase dramatically. Unfortunately, adapting the storyline itself is tremendously difficult, and has yet (to my knowledge) to be done successfully (based on emotions or not).
Do you guys know of any games that does this successfully, or games that do something similar, hack it somehow?
What do you think about the concept of adapting the storyline to player’s emotion? Or adapting any part of the game to the emotions of the player?
Until next time!


Appropriateness of Adaptation


Appropriateness of Adaptation

There are lots and lots of subtopics to think about here!

For me, one of the biggest questions is the following: Is this dependent on game genre, game pace, or style of game play?

I hope that over the coming posts you’ll understand why I pose this question.

The world of computer games is both big and diverse, which suggests that adapting to user emotions may not be appropriate for all games, or indeed in all situations.

Let’s consider single player vs. multiplayer. In a single player situation the environment around the player can adapt to that one user. However, in a multiplayer game, where the players are on opposite teams the environment would have to adapt to two contradicting states. Is this feasible, and if so, how would you do it?

 In single player mode the AI of potential monsters can be adapted to the player's emotions, whereas in a multiplayer versus style game, the game cannot adapt one of the player's capabilities. Even attempting to steer the progress of the game through changing luck levels for the players is not advised. This could benefit one player, but the other would end up feeling cheated. This is an ethical issue, one of many. I will attempt to discuss ethics in later posts.

Moving on from single vs. multiplayer there is the question of style of game. I say style of game, because at the moment I'm not sure whether it is genre dependent or dependent on pace or whether the game play is about solving a puzzle, or killing some monster/other player's avatar say. Casual games, such as the game I've made, I think can greatly benefit from emotion detection and adaptation provided it's fast pace.

Consider a casual game such as Frozzd In this game you "jump from planet to planet as you guide the Mubbly creatures, and use them as an army to defeat the Frozzd." This is an amazing casual game by the way! Definitely worth a try!
The game is not extremely fast pace; you can take your time running and jumping between planets. Having said that, if you encounter the Frozzd you need to be ready, and then things start happening fairly quickly. I think adding emotional adaptations to this game would benefit it as it would differ each time you played it, and in addition it would give you a sense of achievement on each level. More experienced players could then be made to feel challenged from the get go, and noobs could be allowed to finish the game (not necessarily without dying a few times, we’re not talking make it dead easy here..)

On the other hand, consider Mah Jong. I suppose this is also a casual game, but it is a totally different style. Mah Jong is more like a slow card game, matching pairs to make them disappear.

Playing Mah Jong you may well experience different emotions, however because the game play is slow, and it's a game based on thought and careful consideration, the physiological changes are likely to be so slow and small that they could just as well be because of something totally unrelated to the game (e.g. someone comes in to the room and tells you of some good news). This suggests a limitation of the technology and will be discussed in a later post. From a design point of view though, it's hard to see how a game like Mah Jong may benefit from adaptations, or indeed what you may adapt. The blocks are all laid out at the start of the game. As two and two vanish it depends on your own choices whether you will make it or not. In fact, if the game was adaptive and changed certain blocks (it would have to be hidden blocks, or the player would see it changing, which could lead to frustration, or at least boredom if they could see the 'cheating' taking place), the system could potentially change the outcome of the game in a negative fashion by messing up a winning strategy.

This leads me to think it’s not related to the genre of the game so much as pace and/or style of game play. What do you think?


Emotionally Adaptive Computer Games - an Intro to my new Blog



I’m trying to develop a set of guidelines, a starting point for debate if you like, regarding how to develop emotionally adaptive computer games for my PhD. The concept behind such games is very simple; keep the player more entertained, for longer. Should she get bored whilst playing, introduce some new and fun elements to the game to heighten her interest. If she is getting too stressed to enjoy playing the game, make the game calm down a little, allowing her to relax and enjoy the experience. As part of my PhD project I have already developed such a game. It uses physiology in conjunction with gaming context to determine the player’s changing emotional state, and adapts accordingly. The game I’ve developed is called TEDDI (Transient Emotion Detecting Designed Interface), and is a Minesweeper style game with some role playing game elements introduced. Think PuzzleQuest, but with Minesweeper, and two boards rather than just the one.

The reason I’m starting this blog is so that all you gamers out there can help me develop my set of guidelines. I’m really looking for your input, any thoughts you may have regarding the big picture of this, or more specifically on the topics of a particular post. Any thoughts/ideas that end up in my thesis will be referenced appropriately, I’m not out to steal your ideas! However, getting expert gamers thoughts will increase the credibility of my work, so I really need you guys!

This post is really only to introduce my blog, more specifics will come later. I’ll probably update this a few times a week from now on. If you have any questions, put them out there, and I’ll try my best to answer. If I don’t have the answer, perhaps someone else does, or perhaps it’s a point we should discuss!

See you next time!