Game Design Game Development Geek / Technical

Freshly Squeezed Progress Report: Knowing When to Update Beliefs

In last week’s report, characters can finally start transferring knowledge to each other in The Dungeon Under My House, my second Freshly Squeezed Entertainment project.

I set out to figure out various scenarios related to responding to questions the player asks.

Sprint 41: Pre-production and initialization

Planned and incomplete:

  • Characters speak when TALKed to

I had a short development week due to being out of town for a funeral, but even with fewer hours, I think I managed to make some decent progress.

If you recall from previous reports, the player can now ask about Topics and about Beliefs about Topics. For instance, once the player’s character learns about the jar of pickles, it is now possible to ask about the location of the jar of pickles, and if a character knows, they will tell you where the jar is.

However, if you asked about the jar of pickles, the default response was “I don’t know anything about them” which is patently false.

So now, whenever you ask a character about a high level Topic, a response gets generated about a random Belief about that Topic.

Which at the moment is always “location” since no other Belief types are in the game yet.

The Dungeon Under My House - responding to a topic with a belief

Characters also reply differently based on whether they have direct knowledge or indirect knowledge about something.

Saying “I know the jar of pickles is in the basement” is different from “I heard the jar of pickles is in the basement.”

It’s a small thing, and eventually I’d like individual characters to have unique mannerisms, but for now it makes it a bit clearer who knows what they are talking about versus who is depending on hearsay.

Similarly, when a character hears a response, they update their beliefs.

Which leads me to much of my design work: when should a character update their beliefs?

If a character knows nothing, they should always update their cognition/awareness with what they are told.

If a character gets direct knowledge, such as by directly seeing someone in the kitchen, they should always update that belief.

But what happens when they get indirect knowledge? In other words, if someone tells you something, when do you believe them, and when don’t you?

If I just saw my cat in the kitchen, but then a few moments later my wife says that the cat was in the living room, I might wonder how recently she saw the cat. If it was awhile ago, then I might tell her that the cat is actually in the kitchen, essentially that her information is outdated. But if she saw the cat more recently than I saw the cat, then I might be inclined to believe her instead.

I keep coming back to the concept of a belief getting stale, which means soon I will need to implement a clock of some kind into the game. Maybe it is turns? Maybe it is a simulated clock such as the one featured in the Etrian Odyssey games? I don’t know yet.

But I do know that I will need some criteria for determining if new information should update old information, and information recency will be one criterion. The trustworthiness of the source will be another.

In the meantime, I added some helper functions for myself, as a lot of this dialogue and belief manipulation was getting unwieldy.

And I also started the work of creating the Tell flow. When you ask a character something, you can ask about a Topic or a Belief about that Topic, but you can’t Tell a character about a Topic if you have no associated Beliefs about it.

The Dungeon Under My House - telling a character a belief

So I need to create a similar but different Topic menu system. Since you can’t choose a Topic but still need to navigate Beliefs through Topics, I can leverage a lot of the work I did, but I am wondering if the user experience for this menu flow is benefiting from familiarity or suffering from confusion that it is too much like the Ask flow.

Unfortunately, by the end of the short development week, I discovered that I lost the capability to share knowledge about the jar of pickles, so that’s something I’ll need to address first thing this coming week.

Thanks for reading!

Want to learn when I release The Dungeon Under My House, or about future Freshly Squeezed games I am creating? Sign up for the GBGames Curiosities newsletter, and download the full color Player’s Guides to my existing and future games for free!

2 replies on “Freshly Squeezed Progress Report: Knowing When to Update Beliefs”

Comments are closed.