Culture Shock

Mid 2013, I participated in a Microsoft sponsored development jam with two of my roommates, Robert Adams (The Organizer) and Sean Brennan (Eyes Open).  Sean wanted to do something with AI, particularly with how an agent might see something happen and misinterpret what was going on, so for 48 hours we played around with that concept and the result was Culture Shock, a simulation of cultural conflict and individual biases and preconceptions.

So now I’m going to explain how it all works and show it off.

There’s a lot going on, so I’m going to first and foremost break down the system as far as possible and then show some videos of some of the emergent behavior that can occur.

What is a person and what can they do?

Body :

People start with bodies, which use a framework of actions to interact with the world.  An action can be anything from stealing from another person, giving a gift to them, or attacking them.  Different races can also have different abilities: elves, for instance, have an action for regenerating health.

When a body performs an action, that action is stored and given a cooldown, which represents both how long that action is visible to the outside world, and how long it will be before that action can be used again.  For organizational purposes, we distinguished between actions that a body could take and actions they had already taken by referring to the later as broadcasts.

Brain :

Brains observe the world around them and choose which actions to tell their associated bodies to take.  When a person observes the world around them, their bodies cast a sphere of vision around them and pull in a list of broadcasts from each other person in that sphere.  The brain can then sort through each broadcast and interpret it.

After observing the world, it’s time for the brain to choose its own actions.  The brain once again talks to the associated body, pulling in a list of possible actions, then it runs through all of the options and chooses as many or as little as it wishes to perform based on its individual AI.

Within the time-frame we had for development we tried to, as much as possible, limit the brain’s control over the body and world around it: for instance, a person’s AI can spam an attack every frame, but the body will only perform the action if it is physically possible.

Bias :

Biases are the glue that holds the AI together.  A bias can apply to any other person or any other race, and represents a person’s most complete view of what that other race/person is.  A bias holds variables for how likeable a person is, how wealthy they are, and so on.

Because biases can apply both to people and races as a whole, they can conflict with each other with interesting results – a human might like elves in general, but hate one specific one, or vice-versa.

Biases and Observations Coupled :

Biases are used to aid in interpretation whenever a brain observes an action.  When any individual observes an action, they can access their biases in order to make judgments on that action – what just happened, who’s fault is it, etc…

They’ll use those judgments to update or form new biases.  If someone views another person being attacked, they create a new bias for each individual, and for that person’s race as a whole, and so on.

A person can act based both on an observation (“I was just attacked”), and a bias (“Hey look, it’s that guy I hate”), depending on how their specific brain is wired.

What does that framework act like when used in a broader system?

Humans :

Humans as a race are built around gossip and mob-mentality. Whenever an action is performed on a human (stealing, attacking, gifting), it remembers that action and then finds other entities in order to relate the story, using an action called gossiping.

Humans that hear gossip will interpret it as if they had observed it first hand.  Thus, when a human is attacked, it will spread its story and gradually, other humans that have heard it will start to hate the attacker as well.

Humans use their biases to determine the ‘justice’ of any particular action they observe.  If two people are in conflict, they will side with whichever party they like more.  Racial biases take a play in this, humans include both their opinion of a person and their opinion of that person’s race when making a decision about the validity of their actions or another’s actions against them.

When alone, a human will gravitate to its homeland and stay relatively domestic.  However, whenever a person is observed that the human views in a negative light, the human will follow that person and watch them.  Thus, if a group of humans share the same opinions, and they see someone that the group dislikes, they will mob that person, misinterpreting their actions, until finally they get an excuse to attack them.

Elves :

Elves are designed around generosity and an ‘all-for-one’ view of their race and others.  Elves have a tendency to explore the world around them, and will give gifts upon meeting other entities.  If a relationship with an elf is damage, it will attempt to repair the bond by giving gifts to the offending party.

However, at a certain point, a relationship may become too negative, and the elf will start attacking the other person.  If an elf is severely wounded in the fight, it will flee, traveling back to it’s homeland where it can rest and regenerate health.

While the elf is fleeing, it will call for help, whereupon every elf that hears the call will attack and kill the offending party regardless of their relationship status with either person in the conflict.  Elves will generally speaking not attack another elf, even if someone is crying for help, but any other race is fair game.

Orcs :

Orcs are designed to be brutal and childish.  They will randomly fluctuate in their opinion of another person, and at the slightest provocation, start brawling with the offending party.  Orcs view violence mostly with indifference.  They will not interfere in fights or form negative opinions of anyone they view fighting.

Orcs will also steal from each other if they view another person as wealthy (they’ve seen someone else give them a gift).  Orcs that steal from each other usually end up brawling, because the two parties will steal back and forth until they’re finally pushed into a fight.

Finally, orcs are also territorial raiders.  They will kill any non-orc that comes into their homeworld, and if they observe an orc fighting with someone in another race, they will go to that race’s homeland and kill anyone they can find there.

Cool, any videos?

Yeah, just showing some videos would probably be best, wouldn’t it?  I’m far more articulate in writing than speaking off the cuff, but visual aids add a lot, so it sort of evens everything out.

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