Oleksandr

Brainstorming: If You Could Create a Video Game ...

19 posts in this topic

I'm a starting out programmer myself, and possess ability to create amateur level video games for PC platform.

(Example: http://youtube.com/watch?v=EQjnSBOSgTM)

I've been wondering what kind of game project would be a good way to promote and present Objectivism via a video game.

I'm interested to hear various ideas on this.

Thanks. :rolleyes:

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I've been wondering what kind of game project would be a good way to promote and present Objectivism via a video game.

Nothing promotes Objectivism better than Ayn Rand's novels, so a good game that makes the players curious about reading them would probably be the best way to go.

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I'm a starting out programmer myself, and possess ability to create amateur level video games for PC platform.

(Example: http://youtube.com/watch?v=EQjnSBOSgTM)

I've been wondering what kind of game project would be a good way to promote and present Objectivism via a video game.

I'm interested to hear various ideas on this.

Thanks. :rolleyes:

I think the key will lie in the decisions that any game requires. If the game always rewards the rational, and can get the message across that rationality is the winning strategy, I think you will be on the right path.

For example, if a wrong "move" is made, there could be feedback, such as: "Your decision failed to take into account the facts available. Only by dealing with facts, and using logic, will you win. Go to jail. No money for you."

or: "A great move. You show a powerful mind, dedicated to facts and logic.

or: "You have elevated yourself above those who only know to use feelings to make decisions. You know that feelings must be logically justified. Well done"

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I think the task is so enormous, and I don't wish to offend, that amateur skills could not possibly do it justice. I would not consider this until you are capable of joining a team and designing something magnificent.

I am sure you have heard of the oft discussed Bioshock? Which was essentially an attack on "pure" philosophies. You really need a setting as beautiful as that, except unlike Bioshock it should be the socialists and looters who are the enemies.

What if you set it, like Bioshock and Atlas Shrugged, in a society that has broken away from the looting governments of other countries, They have created their own society where markets are free, etc.

It would need to be a beautiful place; its merits easily recognisable.

The scenario could be that the looters have discovered this great place and want to nationalise it. It would then be very easy to create most types of game on this scenario (strategy, first person shooter, etc.)

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I would recommend just making really awesome video games and don't try to promote Objectivism through the game at all; just make games that reflect your sense of life and are loads of fun to play!

Then, when Nintendo Power, EGM, Gamespot, and others are interviewing you and asking what your influences are, BAM, then you could mention Ayn Rand and explain why she has been such a positive influence on your life.

Because a game incorporating Objectivism into it would need to be famous first before it could affect lots of people in a good way, and if you are famous you might be getting interviews anyway.

Besides, video games that try to be overly intellectual or philosophical usually come across as just too dry or simply pretentious. Take the Xenosaga series for example: really interesting game with a really interesting premise, but they worked so hard trying to build the game around some Nietzsche theme(the first game in the series was called "The Will to Power") that what you were left with was simply a tedious, pretentious game that was more cerebral than simply fun.

Just look at the most popular games out there: The Legend of Zelda, Metroid, Final Fantasy, Super Mario Bros, Half Life, Halo, WoW (if including computer games), Guitar Hero, etc. People by and large just want to have good, clean fun, and they don't want a philosophy lecture when they play.

What are your all time favorite games by the way? And what type of games do you want to make?

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I'm a starting out programmer myself, and possess ability to create amateur level video games for PC platform.

(Example: http://youtube.com/watch?v=EQjnSBOSgTM)

I've been wondering what kind of game project would be a good way to promote and present Objectivism via a video game.

I'm interested to hear various ideas on this.

Thanks. :rolleyes:

WOW, Oleksandr, I am thrilled you ask this question.

I have given this a lot of thought, and I have in fact created a complete game model. (I built the core engine a few years ago and then lost it :P ). At the time the challenges of building a promoting a game were so great that I gave up, and instead wrote a fictional story that centered the effect a game could have if it became popular. I am currently posting this story in episodes in the ‘By Members for Members’ Section (see the ‘Aristotle Reaction’ link in my signature).

Now that the story is complete I am returning my attention to the game. The structure of the game is simple enough that it could be created without spending millions of dollars, and it is designed to be played online. As Arnold suggested, the game rewards rational choices, and the goal, as Betsy suggests, is to encourage readers to study Ayn Rand’s work so they can learn to make the right kind of choices across every aspect of their lives. Such a game presents many interesting challenges, and I have covered many of those in the “Aristotle Reaction”.

If you, or anyone else, has some interests in pursuing this as a project, I would love to share details of the game engine theory and the anticipated user experience. I am the technical officer at an Internet company, so I have extensive knowledge of the challenges involved. I mainly lack the time to devote to the core code development.

Is anyone interested?

(can you repost your link, It did not work for me)

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I viewed your game from your signature link. It looks very cool. When can I play?

What platform does it run on? What development tools were used to build it?

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I viewed your game from your signature link. It looks very cool. When can I play?

What platform does it run on? What development tools were used to build it?

The server that describes all this information is currently down, so I'll just summarize.

Some partial information is here, though: http://shite.homelinux.org/ur2/wiki

That isn't actually a game. For now, it's just a technical implementation of an idea of mine.

It runs on both Windows and Linux. I used C++ and libraries, such as: OPAL, OGRE3D, Fmod, and RakNet.

The server that's down contained some demos. Once it's up I'll provide a link.

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I would recommend just making really awesome video games and don't try to promote Objectivism through the game at all; just make games that reflect your sense of life and are loads of fun to play!

Then, when Nintendo Power, EGM, Gamespot, and others are interviewing you and asking what your influences are, BAM, then you could mention Ayn Rand and explain why she has been such a positive influence on your life.

I agree 100%. If the goal is making games, focus on that. If your goal is promoting Objectivism, focus on that. But attempting to make a video game that does both runs the risk of clashing purposes. The end result would most likely serve neither end well. It may end up a halfway-good game with a lot of tacked-on, preachy Objectivist details that aren't integrated to the game. I'm not saying it's impossible, only highly unlikely, to have a game to both. If you want to incorporate Objectivism into the game in a real, integrated way, it has to be far more than just slapping on Objectivist references (like "Hank Rearden Blvd." for a street in a first-person-shooter). It comes off as didactic preaching (and cool or tacky, depending on the person).

A couple suggestions:

In the liner notes or credit section, a brief mention could be added, such as: "Special thanks to Ayn Rand, for inspiration and for her philosophy of Objectivism that has guided my work." Or something along those lines.

Another idea: I'm old enough to remember text adventure games, one of which was based on The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Maybe there's something that, or a game like Myst, could be done with one of Ayn Rand's literary works (maybe Anthem?), though there would be very very very signficant copyright and other legal issues.

There could be a few (not many) "easter eggs" in the game that are tied to Objectivism or Ayn Rand. Maybe the puzzle to unlock some secret area entails decyphering a quote -- such as Galt's oath. (That would actually be cool!)

What would be a real achievement beyond this, though, would be to incorporate into the gameplay something in the action that requires an understanding of some (maybe just one or a few) principles from Objectivism. I don't mean having to find a quote online or answering questions, but something where the player gets rewarded for achieving somethinig moral. For instance, what if it's a role-playing game and the player faces the dilemna of following the herd or acting by his judgement, and if he follows the herd, the character dies? Maybe the player has to decide to follow what he thinks certain clues add up to, or follow what an "expert" interprets them to mean, or follow the majority vote of his band of companions. Such would encourage and reward individual, rational thought.

My 2 cents. Best wishes for success.

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If you, or anyone else, has some interests in pursuing this as a project, I would love to share details of the game engine theory and the anticipated user experience. I am the technical officer at an Internet company, so I have extensive knowledge of the challenges involved. I mainly lack the time to devote to the core code development.

Is anyone interested?

(can you repost your link, It did not work for me)

I'm indeed interested. See your own thread for my post there.

Just one small note (for myself, mainly): your idea may not take millions to implement, since it won't require to pay millions for graphics and physics, but boy is it hard to implement well. It would take some serious mental effort to conceptualize all the required relations and implement those well.

My mind is boggled by them currently. :rolleyes:

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I'm indeed interested. See your own thread for my post there.

Just one small note (for myself, mainly): your idea may not take millions to implement, since it won't require to pay millions for graphics and physics, but boy is it hard to implement well. It would take some serious mental effort to conceptualize all the required relations and implement those well.

My mind is boggled by them currently. :rolleyes:

I'll send more details over PM. You will be blown away when you understand how the game engine actually works. It reduces the required relations down to a few fundamental laws based on a hypothesis called Philosophy Mapping, and an application of Values and Virtues from Ayn Rand's ethics. As a result, a relatively few simple relations gives incredibly complex behaviors.

It kills me that I lost the game code, because it was fantastic to watch the interactions of the population. I did not develop a full Player interface, so the simulator was a bit abstract, and consisted mainly of the graphs you read in the story. The Question generator did not exists, at that time, but I have since defined an architecture for it, although populating it would take some effort, and would likely not match the level of detail described in the story.

Keep reading The Aristotle Reaction because…

Eventually I will divulge most of how the game engine works because that knowledge is critical to the plot. Ok, that was not much of a spoiler.

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The ideal type of game, in my opinion, is the role playing game. Every game of this sort has implicit ethics, many of them have explicit ethics such as the good/evil spectrum in D&D derivates, the light side/dark side spectrum in Star Wars derivates etc. The problem is that these ethics always have altruism as their standard of "good".

A good RPG that had a proper ethical spectrum (i.e. gain "good" points for productivity, fighting for your own rights, respecting others', "bad" points for violating rights) would be revolutionary. That alone would make the title controversial and provoking (hey, I made a million bucks and shifted towards good? What the hell?).

Also essential would be having the game actually reflect the full consequences of your character's choices. In most RPGs you can steal and kill, but if you help an old lady cross the street the "good" and "bad" cancel out and everyone treats you nicely again. Having non player characters who respond to specific acts would make the game more immersive, and the consequences of individual ethics more realistic.

That said, I second the idea that the game should NOT be preachy, and that direct reference to Ayn Rand would only fit if you choose one of her works as a setting (Atlas would make a fantastic setting, though). By all means let the player be a murdering thief - it should be fun to do so, its a game. He should also reach the end of the game being hunted and having to be afraid of his own shadow. No "you conquer the universe and all bow to you" endings for evil characters.

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An update:

I have become very fond of the game idea described in the book Aristotle Reaction by RogerW. I categorize it as "Simulation of Philosophy's Influence on History."

I'm currently implementing a simple version of it for one of my graduate classes (Computation Cognitive Science).

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Nothing promotes Objectivism better than Ayn Rand's novels, so a good game that makes the players curious about reading them would probably be the best way to go.

If you can get copyright permission, include some excerpts relevent to the plot of your game.

One of the overlooked features of Deus Ex (PC, 2000) was the books left scattered throughout the levels with brief (~ 100-300 word) excerpts available (but not required) for the player to read. It made the game much more realistic. Some of the excerpts were from real books, such as Common Sense by Thomas Paine and The Man Who Was Thursday by G. K. Chesterton. This helped tie in the idea that although there are a lot of cheesy conspiracy theories used in the plot, the game is asking some pretty fundamental questions about politics, morality, and bioengineering/genetic modification.

Other books were fictional fiction, available here. (Note: link also contains scripts for the introduction sequence and the 3 endings). Even more were things that would actually be left on the level, if it were real - training manuals, interoffice memos, emails (if you hack the computers). There were also all sorts of names, places, events, allusions, and urban legends dropped here and there in dialogue and throughout the levels to spend hours on the internet researching to learn more. All of the attention to little details made it a very immersive game that I remember long after I've finished playing it.

This feature can certainly be overdone though. I'd try to avoid seeming "preachy" or using long excerpts. It's a video game, not a philosophy text, so I'm primarily playing to have fun. Spend time on an interesting, engaging plot when trying to present ideas via fiction (video games, movies, radio, novels.) While Atlas Shrugged presents a wealth of philosophy, it is done through a very engaging and inspiring plot. Even in the philosophically dense portions (speeches), I didn't want to put the book down. To contrast, I read a book in high school/junior college called Walden Two by B. F. Skinner which presented a lot of slogans and pet theories, but was absolutely torture to read. (Imagine being preached at by someone who is condescendingly holier-than-thou for 200+ pages through a work of fiction.) This can certainly be repeated in a video game. For example, compare Deus Ex or Bioshock to ICED (I Can End Deportation) or one of the many other unsuccessful leftist games.

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An update:

I have become very fond of the game idea described in the book Aristotle Reaction by RogerW. I categorize it as "Simulation of Philosophy's Influence on History."

I'm currently implementing a simple version of it for one of my graduate classes (Computation Cognitive Science).

I have spent hours playing with the simulation that Oleksandr is working on. Its fascinating. The output is a bit abstract now, but the base roots are there for a game.

Below is a concept write up for the “Pursuit of Happiness,” the game based on the simulator. The goal is not to "tell" people what philosophy leads to a happy productive live, but to let them discover it, has they would discover how to win any game - first hand trial and error.

Does this sound appealing?

What if you had the power to influence the world?

Could you make it better? Would its people be happy?

You are about to find out!

“The Pursuit of Happiness,” a game of world enlightenment.

The world’s people are looking for answers. They have questions and issues, and you have the opportunity to give answers that will have an influence.

Your answers can make a change…

for the better, OR for worse!

The Pursuit of Happiness is unlike any game you have ever played. You don’t control the people, or the environment, rather you only provide the advice on the issues of your population. Your sage advice will lead to happiness and prosperity, or misery and ruin.

Like in the real world dispensing advice is not so easy. There are many people with different beliefs, issues, and priorities. Not everyone will agree with your input. Not every will like the consequences of following your advice.

Unlike the real world however, the population of this game is willing to listen to your advice and give you the benefit of the doubt. It takes time and a consistent track record of good advice, but slowly as the generations pass, you can shape the population to create your ideal world.

So what is the ideal world? The game does not say. You must decide what is the proper goal for your population; and only you can say when they have achieved it.

Your population lives by simple rules that guide their lives. Each person has a unique philosophy the drives their “Values” and “Virtues”. Values are that which they wish to gain or keep. Virtues are the actions by which they gain or keep their values. The degree to which a person’s virtues obtain their values determines if they are happy or not.

The challenge is to guide the entire population to adopt a philosophy that leads to happiness. Be warned, your people live in a dynamic environment that requires they support the basic requirements of live. Things do not always go as planned, they must adapt to change, to use resources wisely, and to plan for the future. Your people cannot have their cake and eat it too.

Your population has a deep set of issues that span from politics to the very meaning of life. They are as concerned about spirituality as they are about the tax rates. How you answer an issue of religion may impact how the populations views their government. All ideas contribute the values and virtues of your population, and they are all interconnected.

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An update:

I have become very fond of the game idea described in the book Aristotle Reaction by RogerW. I categorize it as "Simulation of Philosophy's Influence on History."

I'm currently implementing a simple version of it for one of my graduate classes (Computation Cognitive Science).

Here is a further update:

In a very short period of time Oleksandr created an application to run the core simulations described in the book. It is a fascinating study.

You can simulate a population to establish their quality of life. Basically you can setup initial parameters to characterize the environment, government actions, technology level, and the available resources. The population consist of many individual "men" that each act according to their own philosophy.

post-4197-1209181288.jpg

I have created a video to show how the simulator works.

Later I will try to post details on some of the other simulations I have run.

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