Research Opportunities and In-Game Metrics


  • Good evening everyone!

    I'm excited to begin working with you all on this extremely interesting project. My name is Eli Levine, I have a Master of Public Administration and I am very interested in helping Eco become a fun game that's also a platform for social and ecological sciences. I am doing my own research into Agent Based Modeling (ABM) and Socail Network Analysis (SNA) on the side. I would love to help develop the definitions, metrics, and methods that could be used in Eco to gather data (anonymously) from players' actions and the aggregate conditions in game. I believe this could advance our understanding about how economies, societies, governments, and other social systems evolve, adapt, and interplay with each other and the environments in which they exist. I will warn you now that I don't have much of a coding background but I look forward to learning as time goes one.

    Looking forward to working with you all!


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  • One idea that I have for getting a feel for who is playing the game in terms of personality is to have a brief psychological exam at the beginning of the game in order to get a baseline as to who our players are and how they may behave as the game develops. This can be adjusted based on how they actually play the game based on their actions and choices in game (something like a multi-axis plane of personality types that they can drift around in).

    There is also the issue of the legality and ethics for conducting this kind of research and gathering this data. I'm not sure if we need a sanction from a university's human subjects board to gather the data (something that I or someone with legal knowledge and experience can look into). Either way, it's likely going to be a challenge to keep subjects ignorant of the possibility that they're being observed while playing the game and being ethical towards them as human beings. Just another something for us to think about if we move forward on making this partially into an effective and ethical research instrument.

    I would also like to point out that I can only go as far as the social sciences are concerned. I do not have the background in the environmental sciences to really comment on what good metrics might be for gauging the environments' conditions and how to gather that data. I would recommend trying to recruit an environmental science expert and/or enthusist to help flesh this out. Unfortunately, no one comes to mind on this front at present.

    That's all for now. Looking forward to hearing how this all can play out!



  • Hey Eli! Great to have you joining us, and good ideas on research.

    So for the grant we got from the Dept of Education, we need to efficacy research on the game, and back up our design with scientific sources on ecology and learning. Would be awesome to have your help with this. We need to publish papers on it as well, so if that's something you're experienced in that would also be really helpful. We're going to start getting deeper into the research side towards Beta (April next year and beyond). Glad you're on board.



  • @killerfurby33 So after reading you idea post i got super super hyped up because that is exactly what i'm working on developing myself (atleast the multi-axis plane of personality types) and how they interplay upon themselves and what affects they have on those around them and their direct environ. Specifically speaking i'm working on developing an engine that is somewhat karmic based where the players actions are accounted into the grand scheme of things and they'll see direct representation of choices/actions made reflected in the npc's around them and how the interact.

    I would love to get together sometime and compare notes as the basis for my research so far is more steeped in how astrology/numerology plays into personality development and what archtypes that leads one to be most representative of. In accordance i'm working on a world sim that incorporates these 'choices' and am developing a 'consequence oriented generator' that the world runs on. A key component of what i'm envisioning / building towards is the fact that their will be a 'pre-screening' of player tendencies/choices similar to a psych analysis in order to best place them in a situation that they must evolve from/grow from.

    I mentioned it in my introduction that i hope to be able to bring some of this to the table and 'playtest' it here with ECO as i love their vision and what its going for as i hope to encapsulate something similar in the world sim i'm building.



  • @cr4zyc4t

    Those are some cool perspectives to bring to this game development. I was thinking we can place the players randomly though to see how people behave and develop similarly to how people are randomly place on Earth. That way, people have to start wherever they start and do their best while enabling us to simulate human social and ecological systems as best as we can to allow people to self generate their civilizations and experiment with the same variety that real human societies have to work with. Hope this clarifies things for everyone. Cheers!

    @JohnK, I have some experience writing papers and would be happy to help produce some research. I think the key thing for us to do would be to define the metrics that we're going to look at and let the players play to see what emerges. I'll study nonlinear econometric techniques and how to analyze and interpret ABM and SNA simulations in the meantime. What are the grants for out of curiosity? Feel free to message me with the details. It may also help if we can get some real-world data to supplement the data. I've got some more thoughts on this though. Please keep in touch!



  • @JohnK it would be great to understand more what the grant is for and what ECO is expected to do as part of that. I can see thought how the department of Education would be interested in a game like ECO



  • Sounds great. This is the grant we received:
    http://ies.ed.gov/funding/grantsearch/details.asp?ID=1600

    Basically they want us to publish papers about what we did and how effective it was, so that's something we can do over the next 2 years, which is the term of the funding.



  • @JohnK

    That seems simple enough to do. It's not quite the ABM testing that I'd like to do for political policy research, but I can help with the grant work as a supplement for the DoE. Please keep me in the loop!



  • Just doing some thinking out loud on how we should/maybe could measure and track the game for scientific purposes.

    General categories:

    Economy:
    -Estimate total value of the economy in in game currency.
    -Estimate/track where resources go in the economy through the inventories, stores, production centers, and assets of players
    -Map out the economy geographically and in terms of production needs and trade (there's an excellent study called "The Atlas of Complexity" created by Hausman et al that we may be able to use).

    Society:
    -Levels of education/skill achieved and maintained by players.
    -Nutrition and "health" of players.
    -Criminality (if we're able to include it).
    -Initial psych screening and/or tracked choices to determine players' personality characteristics.
    -Network analysis to seek clusters/groups and determine their traits.

    Politics:
    -Require formalized rules per each society and track the dynamics and choices of the players within each system.
    -Offer templates for governing and/or make them open ended to allow for innovation by the players.
    -Rank and track players' satisfaction with their society and their governing system.
    -Track the affects of policies on the economy, society, and environment using network analysis and discontinuity regressions.
    -Score each society based on how they develop economically, socially, and environmentally.

    Technology:
    -Track the development of technology and allow for a non-linear tech tree that allows people to progress in ways that may not match with our own present development.
    -Track the overall trend of the technology development on the quality of life in the societies, economies, and environments.
    -Allow techs to move around the shortcomings of older technology, such that problems with old technology can be mitigated or eliminated by future tech (with the possibility for problems to still remain sometimes).

    Environmental Science:
    Unfortunately, I don't have the expertise on environmental science to know what is relevant and necessary for human survival beyond the need to clean up and dispose of certain waste products and not to deplete or excessively exploit certain raw material sources. I would try to consult biologists and environmental scientists who specialize in the intersection of human activity and the environment to develop the metrics and possible studies here.

    These are just a few of the ideas that I've thought of and may (hopefully) be possible to do in Eco. If I think of anything else, I'll post it here. Feel free to add and/or subtract depending upon what's feasible, what's not, and what I've missed.

    Cheers!



  • @killerfurby33, as far as I've understood it there's no currency. Items have no monetary value attached to them - so you would have to figure that out yourself. Players make up their own economy, with their own currency (if there would be one - it's entirely possible that the economy is based on goods trade all the way).

    I do understand that you want to gain some insights from this, and I usually love statistics, but I really hope that some of this stuff is opt-in, or not available on normal servers/outside of test groups. I'm fine with collecting passive data that does not require my input, but if I'm required to fill out questionnaires before I can start playing/every day after, that's a no-go. Plus, I see that there is a huge potential for abuse on public servers (i.e. "see who's unhappy with the government and get rid of them").



  • i think looking at eve online here would be a benefit. there is almost no items npc made ..almost everything is made by players and they control the price .. i believe that at least a some sort of base value should be given to the player and then they control the rest .. if nothing is given i think the whole economy system will just be a mess



  • well, Money, in and of itself is just a made up thing that we "users" give significance to as a general understood measurement by which a good or service can be traded for. It's just the 'in-between' of a barter system where a set standard is put into place. therefor i can easily see a certain 'good' being utilized as the base value for an economic system in ECO.



  • @RepeatPan

    The questionnaire would be a one time deal. I'm also thinking of ways to passively track players' choices and then drive a personality for them based on their actions (think Knights of the Old Republic where your choices determine whether you become a Jedi or Sith). As for money, it might be agood component to the game if done well. Hope this helps!



  • money could just be rare resources like gold or something that you would need anyway for end game tech stuff .. like .. computers need gold .. gold could be a basic player money, but players should still have possibility to trade wood for food



  • Eh, Gold is shiny, look into history and you'll find that is the number one reason it was utilized as currency backer. It helps that it is rare and hard to reproduce thus controlling the actual item had strategic value. But again, we put that value there solely based on greed for gold.

    I agree about the conductive properties being used in tech advancement thou, but when the idea of a currency system first came about that wasn't at their forethought. For example, what would the world have been like had gold not been as rare as it is?



  • Like @cr4zyc4t said, money is just something that you attribute value to. I think the current idea (no fixed money) is the best one:

    • It's not forcing a community to use money. What if I'm in a no-government system where money has no value? Or what if I'm in a dictatorship where I have to follow orders/give up stuff? There's so many different scenarios where money just plays no role.
    • It allows a community to create their own currency if they want to (I'll make a mod for "coins" and stuff later on, I think). But this could be whatever is rare: Maybe the planet is rich on gold, but has little iron? Maybe the currency is fur and there's a strict hunting law?

    Gold wasn't always used as currency, silver was used prior to gold I think. But gold has a few unique attributes that certainly helped:

    • It doesn't react with other things: It doesn't tarnish.
    • It has a low smelting point and is quite soft, making it easy to work with it.
    • It's rare, but not extremely so. I think it's easy to get to (close to the surface), but I'm not sure of that.
    • It is quite heavy, making it hard to fake (because the weight would be a dead giveaway)

    So it's more because of its chemical attributes than any other magic property. Nowadays, gold has lost most of its relevance in favour of special paper and coins - because those can now be finer controlled.



  • i think the way to solve this is basically to add silver gold copper and so on .. you can refine silver into ingots but you also can divide an ingot into like 1000 nuggets .. people can just use that as a currency , this again would the require to balance how those resources are needed to craft other thing. this would be a middle thing .. give player a tool to have currency without mods .. and it would be easy to implement.



  • We'll have gold in the world, and it will meet the requirements as people point out to become the standard currency. Eventually a government in the game could release a fiat currency, that it then has control of and can print more, and you can get banks and all kinds of crazy stuff. Looking forward to our first financial crisis in Eco due to player greed.

    Or maybe it will be bottle of Tide that become the currency: http://nymag.com/news/features/tide-detergent-drugs-2013-1/



  • Sounds good about currency!

    I just had the thought that, if we're able to get different biomes, that it would be interesting to see if and how groups adapt their social, political, and economic institutions to fit with the biome and the environment (if that's something they choose to do).

    Out of curiosity, what happens if a civilization, group of people, society, or the whole world crashes in terms of environmental degradation? Is there going to be a reset and reclaim thing? Will everyone have to start again from the bottom level and work their way back up? Or will the environment correct itself over time and allow societies to continue to operate and essentially cope with the ecological devastation? Just something to think about.



  • I expect food to be a defacto currency early game. Livestock was often used used for significant purchases in the past, I believe.



  • Path of Exile has a really good solution to both the opt-in research and the currency.

    Opt-in fresh world competitions where players agree to sit a test and be studied. I can't imagine it being a good move to subject paying gamers to studies without an option otherwise.

    Consumable random rewards as currency works really well in Path of Exile too.

    The randomness means that it has an economically independent value like gold but it also has a natural deflation behaviour - if people get too many of them, they will burn through them trying to get a specific outcome from the random reward.
    (Usually you end up stock piling them to get a 6-link but hey, I had "too many" when I burnt 300 fusing orbs that time.)

    The kind of thing they affect creates a natural hierarchy of denominations as well.
    Exchange rates: http://www.poeex.info/

    It seems like there'd be lots of good options for consumables in Eco.


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