Systemic Emotes

Hey Folks! I had a day to wait before the next step on the teaser, so I devoted today to a quick priority review, and working on character emotes.

The priority review was mainly about taking the current to-do lists I've scattered around and get them into one place. Then, reviewing them to see which are most important and need to be done sooner. I've got about a dozen that seem like they're higher on the list, so I took one of them and ran with it for the rest of the day.

The task I chose was to finally hook-up the game stats to the face animations. This has long been sitting there as low-hanging fruit, since I figured that both pieces worked, so combining them would be fine when the time came. However, now that we're starting to treat this more like a game than a prototype, well, it's time.

It's a valuable feedback mechanism for the player to quickly assess a character's status, and serves as a sort of first line of defense when managing crew needs. There are currently six states for a face:

  1. Pain
  2. Fear
  3. Angry
  4. Happy
  5. Sad
  6. Idle

And the eyes move around/blink in all of them. What I did was to assign a sort of priority to each emote (the list above reflects that order), and a list of conditions which cause each emote. Then, going down the priority list, I assign a face anim for the first related condition I find, and bail. If I make it through the whole list without finding a valid condition, the face defaults to idle.

I briefly considered making "happy" the default state, with that representing no "discomfort" conditions. However, there are a few stats which could benefit from a good/neutral/bad range, instead of simply neutral/bad. And realistically, there are certain situations where a person is going to be smiling despite any emotional suffering going on. Usually due to a recent good fortune.

So for example, if someone was in pain, that's all you're going to see on their face. Most of the life-threatening conditions are pain expressions, with fear used for the next less severe condition. Angry shows up when a person feels slighted or snubbed. Sad comes with a lot of emotional shortages.

Happy ended up having no bespoke conditions, so I decided it'd be worth adding some to the game. Stats in intimacy, achievement, esteem, and self-respect now have a "yay!" status which briefly exists when something really boosts those stats. They can mask any sad emote because the person is just beaming with pride, triumph, or even just the afterglow of an intimate encounter.

Today's screenshot shows the first few random samples of that system. In most cases, you're going to see the top left and bottom right, where the person is grumbling due to being ragged and neglected. The bottom left person is afraid for their safety (nervous), so has a fear expression. And the top right literally has nothing to complain about, so has the idle face.

I wasn't able to capture a happy subject in my brief testing. But I'm hoping that look of joy will be a welcome break from all the grim faces in practice :)

Tags: Ostranauts


Respawn's picture

I foresee that the real underlying issue is that if you're looking to represent human psychology and whatnot accurately, not everyone physically looks exactly how the feel all of the time nor do they necessarily express it equally.

That's obviously a rabbit hole and a half to tackle, but even having some depth to that aspect of human behavior is likely to do wonders for immersion.

Part-Time moderator of the Blue Bottle Games Discord

dcfedor's picture

Yeah, this is a pretty tricky problem to tackle. The complexity is way more than I'll be able to simulate. But perhaps there's some subset I can work with to make it seem more deep than it is.

Dan Fedor - Founder, Blue Bottle Games

Respawn's picture

Honestly as long as you can still properly convey to the player that say, Jones is feeling depressed but looking outwardly happy-go-lucky, I don't actually think it should prove too difficult, maybe.

And yeah, smoke and mirrors is the name of the game here. The less you have to somehow represent the extreme depths of human psychology, one that often proves to not even abide by logic, the better.

I weep for the masochist that attempts to quantify it, really.

Part-Time moderator of the Blue Bottle Games Discord