We promised in the last post that we’d be offering detailed Production Updates, and we didn’t want to disappoint. There is no question we are building something incredibly complicated. We are simulating the future of humanity, as we like to say, no small task. So let’s get back to basics and start at the beginning. In SEED the player is charged with caring for virtual humans we call Seedlings. We’re going to be touching on a lot of aspects of Seedlings, who they are and what drives them, in future blog posts. But for now, we thought it would be interesting to look at Seedlings’ Thoughts. After all, how else are you going to know what your Seedling is in need of, cares about or feels if you don’t know what they’re thinking!?
Let’s think about it (yes, pun intended) by looking at an example. You're looking after a Seedling and if they don’t eat they will die - you don’t want that. You don’t even want them to get hungry, because nobody likes to be hungry.
So Thoughts are implemented in our simulation as something called Status Effects. To explain that simply: status effects are temporary effects on entities in our simulation (in this case Seedlings) but also ordinary objects in the world like a bed. The effects usually modify some state, for example lowering a Seedling’s mood when they have burned themselves making breakfast.
Our design has it that when something happens to a Seedling a Thought will appear in the user interface to tell the player what has happened. For example, hunger appears in the world of a Seedling because the ‘food’ need was triggered. The Seedling is not a robot and so doesn’t think this, rather they think ‘I’m so hungry right now’. The thought not only communicates that an event has happened but also the impact it has had on an emotional level for the Seedling (in this case, they’re sad because they’re hungry).
Challenges arise when we consider the amount of systems that Thoughts will feed into, and be fed by (all of which will be covered in future blog posts). But for now, the big problem facing us is how we think about content. If you consider your own thoughts, they are constant and endless, they are subtle and nuanced: how do we aim to recreate this stream of consciousness?
And what’s more, how do we ensure that Seedlings remain relatable and likeable even if their thoughts are spurring us, as players, into actions we cannot do? There is nothing worse than a parent who is unable to feed their hungry child because there’s no food in the cupboard...So how do you get food for your hungry Seedling? That, as they say, is for another day.