Research Prototype 1: The Pataphysic Institute
The Pataphysic Institute (PI) is a research prototype multi-player game world. In PI, the personalities of the inhabitants are the base for the game mechanics. When interacting with other characters the potential emotional reactions depend upon avatars' current mood and personality. PI is built with inspiration from personality psychology and affect theory in an attempt to mimic possible emotional responses in order to give the player support in role-playing. The mental states of characters depend on their personalities and on their current moods. Moods differ according to context and to recent experiences. Emotional experiences become memories and define the relationships between characters. The mental state is the sum of the character and governs what actions can be performed in a given moment. In order to do certain things the characters need to be in certain moods - and for this the players need to game their avatars' emotions, and game their relationships.
PI employs the Mind Module (MM), a semi-autonomous agent architecture for the `mental physics' of the inhabitants. The MM consists of a spreading activation network with nodes of four types: traits, emotions, sentiments and moods. PI is built in Pixeltamer's framework for web based multiplayer games and is played in a web browser through a Java applet. The trait nodes define characters' personalities, and affect, through weighted relationships to the emotion nodes, how strongly individual characters `feel' about events involving them. The emotion nodes' weightings to the two mood nodes, inner- and outer mood, summarise characters' states of mind in a mood-coordinate system. The sentiment nodes couple emotion nodes to entities in the game world, and are instantiated for characters as results of events that cause increased values in respective emotion nodes. The activity rate of the nodes diminishes with time, where the trait nodes are permanent; the emotion nodes diminish within minutes, but leave activity in the mood nodes which are active for hours. This results in that recent events affecting emotions `stay' with the characters mood even when the context for the characters changes.
Players are introduced to the back story of PI before they log on, by reading the diary of Katherine, an investigator who was sent in to PI to investigate the consequences of a mysterious event called the Outbreak. In PI, reality has been replaced by the inhabitants interpretation of reality, and their mental states are manifested physically in the environment. The head of human resources at PI has taken upon himself the task of understanding the new and unknown world by applying personality theories. He forces everyone in PI to take personality tests and studies what types of abilities these persons get, abilities he calls Mind Magic Spells. Another inhabitant in PI, Teresa, focuses on the finding that social interactions between people suddenly result in acutely concrete emotional reactions. She calls these Affective Actions, and tries to understand her changed environment by studying the patterns of these.
The basic game play is simple: players need to defeat physical manifestations of negative mental states. In order to do so, they can cast
spells on them, but the spells available are constrained by avatars' personalities, current moods, and how far avatars have progressed in learning new abilities.