AI UI: Improved Edition

Hey Folks! Hope everyone had a good weekend. I apologize for the lack of a post on Friday. Our fridge bit the big one Thursday night/Friday morning, and we were scrambling to get the house back in order. Fortunately, we have temperature controlled food again, and no longer have to store our perishables in the cold wilderness like savages.

A lot of today was spent catching-up on emails that had collected during my absence. Though I did finish up a bit of UI work I started late last week. Namely, making the AI GUI a bit clearer.

Today's screenshot tries to demonstrate those changes. First, I pulled the conditions/stats text up to the top, just below the crew's name. I also removed the (redundant) crew name from each line, so it reads "is feeling nervous" instead of "Edison is feeling nervous."

Next, I right-aligned anything that originates from outside this AI. Here, we can see Bedford flirting with Edison, while Sreyovich offers to help Edison. I also darkened that text a bit for more contrast.

Finally, I added text whenever a condition was added or removed from the AI. But only the ones flagged "display," as there are several mechanical ones behind the scenes. (Similar to the "displayed" stats we see on NEO Scavenger combatants.)

All of this together starts to bring a bit more into focus with the AI. We now see that Edison was both a bit lonely, and craving intimacy in the past. Bedford's advances made her feel a bit more appreciated, and she returned the favor. When Sreyovich stepped in, she appreciated that, too.

However, Srey doesn't have a very good social sense, I guess, because he keeps hovering over Edison. And she warns him off repeatedly. She needs more personal space. I'd have to check the code to see if the "feels inconsiderate" or "feels worthless" was triggered by Srey's constant meddling, or if that's just coincidence. I'm sure it doesn't help, though.

And, of course, this whole time everyone is suffocating from lack of atmo. But there's no death modeled in-game yet.

This doesn't necessarily make a game yet, unfortunately. But we can see now that the AI has needs and those shift with interactions. I think more can be done to make AI aware of feelings towards individuals as a result of these.

I'd expect Edison to like Bedford a bit more after this, while Srey starts out in Ed's good books before tanking into "meddlesome annoyance" territory. I'd like for that to manifest later in the game with Edison steering clear of Srey when possible, but maybe enjoying Bedford's company. Possibly to the point where S and E can't work together, or even be in the same room, making it necessary for the player to patch things up, creatively schedule tasks, or bump someone.

But, it might be worth changing tack for a minute, and looking at the big picture. Cameron (see NS's credits) dropped me an email over the weekend with some serious food for thought, and it's got me wondering. Namely, what is the player actually doing during all of this? I had some possible answers for him, but maybe I should take a stab at implementing some.

This AI GUI thing was largely in preparation for making an official game announcement, so it's still a useful visual tool for making the materials more interesting. And showing intent with AI interactions. But maybe the most valuable thing I can do at this point, both for the game and for promotion, is to make the player's input a priority.

How does the player affect crew relations?
How does the player keep the ship running? (E.g. fill the fuel/atmo tanks, pay docking fees, keep crew satisfied/paid)
What things are working against the player, necessitating creative and rewarding input?

I'm starting to see some patterns emerge. For one thing, I think money is going to be a bigger deal in this game than NS. Paying the bills is going to be more complex, since we're in an established economy instead of savage wilderness. Ships are expensive. Resources are expensive. Services are expensive. People, while maybe a dime a dozen, are expensive to keep (in terms of life support).

There could be some interesting stuff to do with keeping the money flowing. Players probably won't be flying a self-contained generation ship. All of their resources will need constant refilling, and that means obtaining it from someone who wants something in return (usually local currency). So that means the player needs to earn to stay alive (and out of debt slavery). And earning might mean taking jobs, stealing, investigating...

I'm starting to think some good next steps might be a high-level way to trade, take a job, and complete said job. And also probably some rudimentary ways to steer crew emotionally, and probably a crude "fix broken X on the ship but we need Y part first."

Wow, I'm rambling. Anyway, lots of food for thought!

Tags: Ostranauts


Rovlad's picture

>is a human
Interesting. Does that mean we're getting non-human crew members?

dcfedor's picture

I wasn't planning on it, but I can see why it might look that way. "Is a human" was actually there to distinguish crew from other items like doors, fridges, or control panels.

I think the setting would allow for an artificial being (whether AI or synthetic pet or similar), but there won't be aliens, for example.

Dan Fedor - Founder, Blue Bottle Games

ra1's picture

Experiencing the universe in which you are placed can be entertainment by itself. That said, I agree that the necessity of consistent interaction is good -- as long as it is not just to keep the player "busy".

Oh, and "drones!"

dcfedor's picture

Yeah, I'll definitely be trying to avoid "busy work" for the player. I do want it to be fun, after all :)

And drones will absolutely play a part, both manned and unmanned. For example, drone swarms seem like a logical solution to replace tugboats, as well as to stop incoming ships. I have a feeling missiles/torpedoes are likely to be more drone-like in the future, too. Plus your usual maintenance, combat, and surveillance drones.

What may not be obvious, however, is that there are already two businesses in The System which are involved in synthetic organisms. One is kind of like Blade Runner's synthetic pets, the other deals in engineered organisms for food. AI is probably a thing, too. At the very least, some sort of AI for complex ship functions (course plotting and execution).

So it won't be uncommon to see non-humans make an appearance in the same way we see in Alien, Blade Runner, or Interstellar. Plus, with the deeper NEO Scavenger mythology at work, even weirder things. (Maybe akin to Europa Report?)

Dan Fedor - Founder, Blue Bottle Games