Rethinking the Social Simulation

So far, I’ve gotten a basic schema defined for the structure file and a good start on most of the base data classes.

I’ve been planning to go down the most familiar path: a page-branch-page-branch-etc. architecture/flow. It’s the one that any elearning developer would be most familiar with. Each page contains pictures of the people and if it’s an interaction a few choices to click on. Just repeat that over and over and you have it. It’s a fairly “dumb” system.

But then I had a new idea on how to make this thing operate … had to dig out my Moleskine and start taking notes (for the first time in nearly 2 years).

What’s a better metaphor for this thing? How about a play? In this case my characters are actors. And what about all of the text? It’s generated from the actors! What about logic – is it in the page interaction or the controller? No – it comes from the actors reacting to a spoken line from another character.

Probably a small thing – but in the scope of what I want to do – it’s ground breaking. Now we have persistent actors on the stage (which now really is a stage) who drive the dialog and their reaction to it. Pages are now the “script” that is fed to the actors and look/feel of each page is the “set.” We don’t have a dumb template system we have a set of intelligent programmable avatars.

In code, each actor will be a component in the library following a MVC model. The sim. engine controller will handle the event listening and dispatch it to the correct actor. The logic will be part XML defined and part variable driven and will be in the actor’s controller. The look of the actor will be driven by logic (change based on emotion/score!) and the appearance of the dialog will come from the actor. Any narrative text (instructions, etc.) would be narration driven by the engine/narrator character. Interaction on a spoken line will cause a reaction in the targeted actor (you could speak to the mentor!) and will direct the play to a new page in the script. The page script will control the actor’s position, the look of the set, and feed new dialog to the actors.

This tips the possibilities towards the complex end of the scale – more complicated scenarios will be easier to play out while a linear scenario would be more difficult. It also opens the door towards making it more of a game. Actors can have different personalities by tweaking their logic and their automatic reactions. Point modifiers for certain actors and certain lines. Maybe you could flirt with the other actor. Maybe you could ask the mentor for help – or earn a “smooth talking” bonus? I’m thinking of a lot of new ideas here …

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