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human factors in modelling

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I'm very interested in the possibility of dynamically modelling the effects of stress, fatigue, fear and so on in roleplaying.


We all know the sort of flashing red screen device for implying pain, and also the wavy visual occlusion that happened in Deus Ex when you got drugged. But what about more complex representation?


Adrenaline effects.

The consequences of unfamiliar threats, smells, environments.

Attentional focussiing under stress.


Anyone else interested in this?

"It wasn't lies. It was just... bull****"."

             -Elwood Blues


tarna's dead; processing... complete. Disappointed by Universe. RIP Hades/Sand/etc. Here's hoping your next alt has a harp.

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I agree.


Well, it depends on a genre, of course. If it's a realistic action/simulator, than these effects should be there. That will greately improve the feel of the game. Plus, it's just fun.


The effects can be quite complex, too. One thing when the player just got some temporary sight disorders due to some toxic attack, but quite the other when he's got jacked up with drugs. In case of some hallucinational drugs, there should be a lot of effects.... illusions, random figures appearing outta nowhere, some really weird stuff, all in some delirious fog.

During that time, you cannot control your character (maybe only partially). He just shambles around, or even going berzerk.


A really interesting idea. I think developers should really try implementing such stuff.

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Your idea is good. But here's some food for thought:


How do you know when a player character is stressed or afraid?


For instance, the developer might argue that a human character standing before a dragon should be afraid. But what if my background for my PC is that he grew up amongst dragons, or that he simply doesn't fear them? Would make no sense to get a fear reaction then.


Same for stress. Fatigue I can see being based on some stamina meter you can determine.


Now, of course, if you're simply talking about psychological effects due to spells/effects and/or forced plot points, then sure. But otherwise, it seems that there'd be a problem trying to force a emotion on the player, unless there's a very solid system behind the whole thing that can be tweaked to the player's liking at character creation.


Adding depth - not a bad idea - but not a simple one, either.

There are doors

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Thanks for replying. I was beginning to think I had set off a damp quib.


Both points I agree with. I particularly like the notion of having figures and shapes drift in and out while the character is intoxicated. Having watched 'Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas' yesterday I can imagine some fantastic stuff going down. The question would have to be why the player would want to indulge in such behaviour. But then I guess you could ask the same about a real person!


A further thought about drugs, it is possible that - particularly in a gritty setting - the use of the drug would temporarily make things look brighter and more sunny. However, it would naturally be the case that in the downer afterwards things would look darker. Perhaps the addition of objects and incerasing of light levels would be one way to do it, wth the adverse stae represented with the removal of all but critical objects, and darker light levels/a change to black and white.



On the subject of fear and stress, one possible route could be to track the player's familiarity with a given situation. In the case of your dragon if they had met several before then they would have that degree of experience scale down the natural fear inherent in the encounter. They still get scared, but less so. By the same token, someone who has never had to fight a midget before may find it very unnerving, but (I assume) they would very quickly lose their fear. Killing of a creature type could assist in not being afraid of it. I include the notion of human murderers being less easily intimidated by other humans.


Stress has really complex effects on cognition and reasoning. I really can't think how you'd model them in an RPG, like Obsidian has done in the past. Some simple approaches could be a decrement in social skills and intellectual skills as stress is accrued (either thorugh physical danger, fear, or lack of sleep). A slightly crude approach could be that certain plot items will not be visible while teh character is highly stressed, meaning that they may need to go sleep, eat a meal, go to the opera,or take some drugs to calm down during particularly trickly investigations. I am thinking here of Sherlock Holmes.

"It wasn't lies. It was just... bull****"."

             -Elwood Blues


tarna's dead; processing... complete. Disappointed by Universe. RIP Hades/Sand/etc. Here's hoping your next alt has a harp.

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I'm going into this in a bit of depth, cracking the books and so on. To a certain extent, it looks like it could be impossible. The bloke sat at the console/keyboard is processing the information, and we can't do much to him. The best we might do is act on the perceptual level, as I mentioned. Several psychology books I've got back this up in theory.


I'm also wondering if making pure fighting characters see the world differently might be both an interesting comment, and a good way to encourage the player to explore other lines of play, so they see more of the game. But that is probably marketing suicide. o:)


I would REALLY like to keep this thread going if possible. My instinct tells me there must be some way we could either model the effects in the game, or something we can learn about how to set up decision making in standard game terms.


In obsidian terms, perhaps we could alter the options a character is capable of choosing in dialogue according to their stress levels? This links into teh notion of affecting their 'brainward' skillset with stress fear and so on.

Edited by Walsingham

"It wasn't lies. It was just... bull****"."

             -Elwood Blues


tarna's dead; processing... complete. Disappointed by Universe. RIP Hades/Sand/etc. Here's hoping your next alt has a harp.

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  • 3 weeks later...

That could work if I get you right. So what you mean is for example:


You have just been in a battle then after there is a countdown. Say 10 minutes, in those 10 minutes if you speak to someone the choices of speech which you have would be different because you had just been in a fight.


Also say if you had just lost someone close to you, you would be upset and frustrated therefore when you talked to someone you would have different options of things to say.


Maybe even after battles your walk and movement is different. And so on.


I might have misinterpretted what you said but i thnk I was right. That may work.

But there are a lot of different ways in which this could be gone at.


There are many ideas of different systems what could be put inplace to do what you have been discsussing. If it happens it would give games a lot more depth and the player would feel more immersed.


Keep it going I want to see more ideas, now.

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I've been looking into this a bit more, and found at leasta couple of interesting extra points.



- Individuals appear to have different 'comfort zones' of stress.

- Stress is accrued through sensory overload, and motivational dissonance (that is, doing anything contrary to your motivations).

- The transition from very low stress to very high stress (i.e. surprise combat) greatly hinders complex decision making, and group coordination.




- The principle identified emotions are: Anxiety, Depression, Anger, Lust, Love, Happiness.

- Being in a specific mood makes the individual more likely to perceive things consistent with their mood. It also makes memories associated with the mood more accessible.




- Wounds, because they threaten the survival motive, cause stress, and generally increase anxiety and depression.

- Wounds also cause stress through the pain swamping the sensory pathways.




- Most individuals cope with stressors and environmental factors (like being surprised on the toilet by a dragon) the same. Bearing in mind that learned reflexes can help the individual react while their mind lags behind due to the psychological iompact.

- Individuals vary greatly in their capacity to cope with stress, wounds, and emotions. Most persons are able to rationalise and deal with disturbances from these sources to a greater or lesser extent. Age and experience contribute to this process. Intellectual understanding, and philosophical wisdom also play a part.




I think from an RPG perspective this is pretty challenging. You are talking about dynamically changing the ways people can interact, perceive their environments, and address problems. I don't see how pre-scripted encounters could adequately include this. Any ideas?

"It wasn't lies. It was just... bull****"."

             -Elwood Blues


tarna's dead; processing... complete. Disappointed by Universe. RIP Hades/Sand/etc. Here's hoping your next alt has a harp.

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