We're all very much used to having branching story trees in video games based on responses you give and the way you act. Most recently the Mass Effect
franchises have shown the levels of immersion that offering the player choices with real consequences can provide.
However, for the most part what may at first be perceived as a range of options inevitably comes down to just two choices -- being good or evil. Outside of being a good guy or an anti-hero through your actions, you don't often see a range of feelings thrown into the mix.
There's a social platform in the works that is hoping to change all that. Mind of Man
is already available to download for free from the App Store, and in its current form, reads a user's Twitter feed and deduces the type of person that they are.
The app doesn't just take key words and throw them into "good" and "evil" piles, however -- it looks for a range of emotions, and builds each users a unique online persona avatar ("Mindprint") based on these attributes. It is also constantly evolving, asking users if certain tweets contain a specific emotion, and learning from the answers.
Layered over this is a Big Brother-esque universe, with a sinister figure called Mom watching over users. It's a stylish and thoughtful package, if a little limited in what you can currently do with it.
What does have to do with games? When development studio 2 Paper Dolls first began building the app, the team's goal was to allow users to define their online persona in a deeper fashion than has been tried before. Now, the group has realized just what that could mean as a social tool for video games.
Molded in your image
The studio's community manager Paddy Murphy explained to Gamasutra that the plan is to build on Mind of Man, turning it into a social network tool for games -- a sort of Big Brother version of existing social gaming network OpenFeint, if you will.
With Mind of Man integrated into a game, the title will be able to access a player's emotional persona and theoretically cater the experience to reflect their personality -- rather, Twitter personality, making for more engaging play.
"It's all about giving people a deep, immersive and dynamic experience," explains Murphy. "You can see that's what people are looking for in all forms of expressive media these days. In gaming, people are always looking to find a way to pull themselves even deeper into the game world."
He continues, "The unique thing about how this technology works is that it doesn't necessarily generate a character for you in the sense of physical attributes - instead it brings more of your actual personality into the experience whether that be an interactive story, a traditional gaming experience or any other number of potential uses."
Through the use of Mind of Man's data, a game like Mass Effect
could not only determine a player's alignment from the get-go, but also the way in which a character is portrayed, the traits they possess, and how non-player characters react to the player.
Essentially, a player character could be automatically created from this data, determining how the character behaves, rather than having the player choose good and bad options every so often.
Of course, some players may dislike not having full control over the course of a game's story, instead giving in to however Mind of Man perceives them. Murphy reasons that Mind of Man wouldn't be an enforced option, but rather, it would be a system that a player can choose to activate if they want to experience the game in this way.
"We've become accustomed to the idea of playing games multiple times," notes Murphy. "Sometimes making a certain type of choice, sometimes making the opposite - but rarely do we ever actually play these games making genuine decisions. It would be an interesting way to experience a game like Mass Effect 3
or Lone Survivor
Murphy also believes that there are many other uses for Mind of Man in games outside of the player character. For example, the system could take a user's Twitter friends and create NPCs in the game world based on these people, or even generate whole levels and landscapes based on the types of conversations a player usually has.
He also envisions experiences where a player's immediate Twitter feed changes the path of play in a game -- perhaps spawning certain objects in the game as a player tweets specific things on the fly.
"I think we've come into an age where every developer is looking for something that will give them an edge - make them stand out from the sheer volume of content that is currently available," says Murphy. Those developers interested in the concept should make sure to keep tabs on the development studio and the progress of the system.