Characters are More Interesting When They’re as Flawed as We are

Even in the world of games, where this not-so-startling (to us cuz…flawed, you know?) factoid just recently came to light:

GosispGame characters are better when they gossip and lie
by Olivia Solon

Getting characters to lie, gossip, and manipulate could help to create more realistic video games, according to Jenny Brusk, a lecturer in computer science at the University of Skövde.

Brusk has been working on models to introduce socially competent non-player game characters who can understand natural language, rather than characters using goal-driven dialogue where the player is limited to a number of predefined response alternatives.

In order to create socially intelligent characters, Brusk has studied gossiping. “Gossip is a type of dialogue that defines our moral compass, and without it, we don’t know what’s socially accepted. Gossip is also a way to get to know each other, and it signals closeness. We learn to master social codes through gossip,” she explains.

Brusk’s research is based on sociolinguistic science with complex dialogue systems. The dialogue models she has developed can be implemented using standard technology, meaning they could be implemented in today’s games.

Brusk has presented a number of ways to create NPCs or “embodied conversational agents” with the ability to manage social situations, varying characters’ behavior according to their perceived interpersonal relationships. To do this she introduced an algorithm for calculating the social threat presented by the person the character is speaking to. The model took into account the NPC’s current emotional state and personality type. The idea of “threat to face” or threat to one’s personal reputation was introduced as a mechanic.

Brusk and colleagues have developed a method for managing NPC dialog through the creation of adialog manager in State Chart XML, a newly introduced W3C standard. They built a trading model for a shopkeeper, which allowed for natural language negotiations. The plan is to introduce an emotional aspect into the model at a later date, perhaps influencing the price based on how happy or sad the shopkeeper is.

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