games as cybernetic systems l.
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Games as Cybernetic Systems

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  1. Games as Cybernetic Systems systems theory + information theory thinking about feedback

  2. Cybernetics - wikipedia • Cybernetics is a theory of the communication and control of regulatory feedback. • The term cybernetics stems from the Greek Κυβερνήτης (meaning steersman, governor, pilot, or rudder). • Cybernetics is the discipline that studies communication and control in living beings and in the machines built by humans. COSC 4126 cybernetics

  3. Homeostasis Homeostasis is the property of an open system to regulate its internal environment to maintain a stable condition, not rigidly fixed but maintained within a bounded acceptable range. e.g., eating, drinking, breathing enough to sustain life - simulated in characters in many games - Sim games are based on homeostatic models COSC 4126 cybernetics

  4. Feedback loop • an activator produces an effect • feedback allows the effect to influence future action externaleffect result acts to produce effect/result activator activates or not comparator sensor goal COSC 4126 cybernetics

  5. Feedback for homeostatis • Negative feedback: how a system reacts to maintain stable condition coldoutside temperatureof room generate heat furnace activates or not thermostat thermometer temperaturesetting COSC 4126 cybernetics

  6. Temperature control furnaceoperating goaltemperature actualtemperature time COSC 4126 cybernetics

  7. Negative feedback - stability • The term cybernetics stems from the Greek Κυβερνήτης (meaning steersman, governor, pilot, or rudder). • maintains course close to desired direction • other examples • funnel, sloped wings of aircraft • predator / prey ecologies • driving a car COSC 4126 cybernetics

  8. result acts to produce effect/result activator activates or not comparator sensor goal Automation and high level control higher level (containing system) set goal COSC 4126 cybernetics

  9. Automated control by goal setting • e.g., thermostat plus air-conditioner and furnace • high level control – set goal temperature • thermostat activates furnace and air-conditioner as required to keep temperature in range • reacts to external heat and cold COSC 4126 cybernetics

  10. Negative and positive feedback • negative feedback modulates an action • positive feedback catalyzes an action COSC 4126 cybernetics

  11. LeBlanc,1999: • Negative feedback basketball • for every N points of difference in the score, the losing team can put another player on the court • Positive feedback basketball • for every N points of difference in the score, the winning teams can put another player on the court COSC 4126 cybernetics

  12. result acts to produce effect/result activator activates or not comparator sensor goal Positive feedback • amplifies effect of action • threatens a homeostatic system opposite conditionproduces positivefeedback COSC 4126 cybernetics

  13. Positive feedback • e.g., climate change in Arctic • atmospheric warming melts ice • bare soil, open water do not reflect as much radiation • warming accelerates COSC 4126 cybernetics

  14. Feedback and control in homeostatic systems equilibriumrange breakdown breakdown stress stress hypothermia shivering normal sweating hyperthermiaexample: body temperature COSC 4126 cybernetics

  15. Cybernetics in games • many feedback loops are embedded in games • comparators decide action • in some loops, the comparator is the player COSC 4126 cybernetics

  16. statechange acts to produce effect/result input activates or not player displayoutput goal “Core mechanic”the basic action cycles of a game • exclude peripheral actions like set-up • focus on core activity of game • can often be analyzed as feedback loops with player as ‘comparator’ gamedynamics COSC 4126 cybernetics

  17. “Core mechanic” • purpose • low level skill to be mastered and automatic as quickly as possible • tool for higher level play – Sims • “inefficient” activity in the magic circle? • learning it is key to fun and meaning • typically real-time • e.g., driving game COSC 4126 cybernetics

  18. statechange acts to produce effect/result input activates or not player displayoutput goal Analysis of the feedback loop • 1. game dynamics • a) state evolves independent of player • b) game reacts to player • c) only player causes state change gamedynamics COSC 4126 cybernetics

  19. statechange acts to produce effect/result input activates or not player displayoutput goal Analysis of the feedback loop 2. timing of feedback loop - delay player sees display of state change of inputnbefore deciding action n+k gamedynamics COSC 4126 cybernetics

  20. statechange acts to produce effect/result input activates or not player displayoutput goal Analysis of the feedback loop 3. input is discrete, “continuous” player explicitly generates each input; how difficult is the input action? gamedynamics COSC 4126 cybernetics

  21. statechange acts to produce effect/result input activates or not player displayoutput goal Analysis of the feedback loop 4. effect of input state change is deterministic, risky or uncertain? gamedynamics COSC 4126 cybernetics

  22. statechange acts to produce effect/result input activates or not player displayoutput goal Analysis of the feedback loop 5. discernability display shows all effect on state of player input? gamedynamics COSC 4126 cybernetics

  23. statechange acts to produce effect/result input activates or not player displayoutput goal Analysis of the feedback loop 6. comparator decision complexity high level control: is goal fixed or changing?how many input alternatives? gamedynamics COSC 4126 cybernetics

  24. Summary of feedback loop factors • game dynamics • timing of feedback loop – delay • input is discrete, “continuous” • effect of input • discernability • comparator decision complexity COSC 4126 cybernetics

  25. Example: driving a vehicle homeostatic system controlledtravel crashright crashleft veer orskidright veer orskidleft focus ongoal focus oncontrol focus oncontrol COSC 4126 cybernetics

  26. Example: driving a vehicle feedback loop 1 2 4 3 6 5 COSC 4126 cybernetics

  27. 1 2 4 3 6 5 Designing the core mechanic feedback loop • game dynamics • timing of feedback loop – delay • input is discrete, “continuous” • effect of input • discernability • comparator decision complexity • Two ‘tool’ examples • SnagIt • Office Draw COSC 4126 cybernetics

  28. Feedback at higher levels Adjusting level to match player skill • Negative feedback • adjust AI player skills – e.g., racing games • adjust random probabilities • “Dynamic Difficulty Adjustment” –Naughty Dog Entertainment • dilemma of the magic circle – is adjustment fair? • shown to be counterproductive in educational software COSC 4126 cybernetics

  29. Feedback at higher levels Increase action and variety • Positive feedback • introduces instability – e.g., oscillation • Monopoly cash flow • reinforces differences • playoff scheduling • tennis seeding • homeostatis – produces new equilibrium COSC 4126 cybernetics