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Sims, SpyParty Devs Talk Games That Focus On Social Behavior

Developers for games including The Sims 3 and the upcoming SpyParty tell Gamasutra how attempting to simulate real human behavior introduces unique st
Developers for games including The Sims 3 and the upcoming SpyParty told Gamasutra in a new feature how a focus on real human behavior introduces unique styles of play. "When you're making the base game, you're trying to capture the essence of everyday life in a way that will appeal to nearly everyone," said Charles London, creative director of EA's The Sims Studio. "Basic things, like sleeping, eating, being romantic, or watching TV, are very high on the list; without those, there's really no core to 'everyday life' around which to wrap more exotic content," such as interacting with other Sims in a nightclub or learning to be a firefighter, he added. Independent developer Chris Hecker, formerly of Spore developer Maxis, said his upcoming multiplayer game SpyParty (prototype pictured) will play off of simulated social behavior as one player takes the role of a sniper, while the other is a spy at a party. The sniper must identify and eliminate the spy, who is mingling among AI guests. "The missions in SpyParty are basically spy and mystery film tropes. One of them was clearly going to have to be poisoning somebody's drink," said Hecker. "That's an interesting social dynamic: a person drops dead in the middle of a party, people rush over to help them, they carry the body out, there are drinks in the world, you offer a drink to somebody." "If you see as the sniper someone slamming a drink at the beginning of the party that's a piece of evidence that that person might be suspicious," Hecker said. "The partygoers don't actually need to get rid of their drinks, they're not trying to get rid of them so they can do their missions." "...There's gameplay lying all over the floor in these human interactions," he said. "...Just having drinks in the world makes for interesting gameplay at the human behavioral scale." Facade co-creator Michael Mateas described his vision for the creation of fundamentally new gameplay using AI, alongside discussions from the Sims and SpyParty devs. "I really think AI is the future of creating new kinds of playable models because it can make aspects of games that currently aren't playable playable," said Mateas. "Going back to the old storytelling in games conundrum -- the reason that exists is because the story aspect of most games isn't playable, and the reason it's not playable is because there's no underlying playable model of the story itself. It's not able to present the player with a continuous sequence of actionable and interesting choices." Mateas and Andrew Stern created a system for using storytelling integrally in gameplay in Facade, and Mateas is continuing that work in his new social game The Prom. The gameplay of The Prom is "almost like social physics. In the same way that physics puzzle games don't script a precise solution to a physics puzzle -- the physics engine makes available a number of emergent solutions. This is trying to do that for social interaction with its social physics engine." For more from developers who make games that rely on simulating human social behavior, including developers of Facade and Dinner Date, read the full Gamasutra feature, available now.

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