handcircus

Games and Interaction design

Monday, November 07, 2005

Connections


Just read though a fascinating section of Deep Simplicity by John Gribbin, where he talks of the work of Stuart Kauffman of the Santa Fe Institute, and his theories of networks and connections in terms of assembling complex systems. Using the example of a large number of unconnected buttons on the floor, Gribbin explains what happens when you start to connect the buttons randomly to each other. Whereas you start off with a number of single items or simple pairs, the more connections you make, the more complex the system becomes, and large chains start to join together forming a superstructure that eventually brings all the elements together. This got me thinking about some of the AI examples from "Programming Game AI by Example", where a number of simple inputs connected to a number of simple agents with basic rules can produce some amazingly interesting behaviour. Flocking and predator/prey behaviours can seem enormously complex compared to the actual algorithms in place. (Braitenberg vehicles are a great example of complex behaviour from incredibly simple rules). Sometimes it feels like the art of creating an interesting piece of interaction is careful selection and combination of simple elements to create something that is considerably more than its parts, masking the simplicity. Its also exactly the same phenomenon that appears when looking at emergent gameplay built on a number of simple systems or rules, such as the incredible range and variety of chess strategies. This makes me think perhaps that its almost impossible to sit down and design anything of any complexity from scratch... prototyping is essential and change is inevitible as things will happen along the way that you can never predict that arise from the various systems interacting and connecting with each other. But that said "happy accidents" are something you should expect more than be surprised by!

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