Hello and welcome to Friday’s weekly development blog. We’ve spoken about the insides of the peons, how their bones and organs work. This week we will be looking into another important aspect of peons – how they think. Do peons dream of electronic sheep? No, but they do dream.
The peon AI consists of three parts, a state machine, a task list and an active thought. Active thoughts will be the focus of this weeks blog post.
What is an active thought?
At it’s most fundamental level, an active thought is an entry on a list. In game terms, an active thought is something which the peon is actively thinking about. It may be related to what the peon is doing (thinking about food while cooking) – or it may be completely unrelated (thinking about Eyebirds while the peon is drifting off to sleep). Peons all start with a small base of active thoughts, common thoughts that every peon can have. For example, some base active thoughts are :
Currently there are 64 different active thoughts in the game, and a peon may talk or dream about each one. When a peon is spawned, they are given these active thoughts. Additionally, each peon will be given 1-3 random active thoughts from the entire list. This means that right from the start, the peons will all have different things to talk about.
How do active thoughts effect the game?
A peons friendliness stat will determine two things – how likely a peon will talk to another peon and also how often a peon will change it’s active thought. A peon that constantly talks about the same thing (and everyone has experienced this!) will become boring to the other peons. This will result in a mood debuff to every peon involved in the conversation. No one likes listening to the same topic of conversation over and over again. On the other hand, if a new active thought is discussed (one which a peon doesn’t know about it) this will cause a mood buff. This conversation will be visible to the player – each active thought conversation is accompanied by a speech bubble that contains an icon which represents that active thought.
In the image above, Dromon is talking about mushrooms, Thomas is talking about cherries and Martha is talking about harvesting.
How do active thoughts spread?
When a peon has a unique active thought (one which isn’t shared by the other peons) every time that peon talks about it, there is a chance that it will be added to the list of active thoughts of any peons that take part in the conversation. For instance when Tracey was spawned she was given a unique active thought – that of the feeling of being watched. She discusses this active thought with Pete – and after a while Pete starts talking to Alex about the feeling of being watched. Alex and Tracey may never have spoken about this active thought, but now Alex knows about the feeling of being watched thanks to talking to Pete.
How are active thoughts created?
The peons, on waking up in the frozen surreal landscape won’t know about a lot of things. They won’t know about Eyebirds, or the use of fiber plants, or about the occult forces that surround them. However, whenever a peon discovers something new, there is a chance that it will be added to that peons list of active thoughts. That way, as the peons experience more of the world, there are more topics of conversation. A peon may only think about food, but after eating a mushroom for the first time, he might start talking to the other peons about the joys of mushrooms.
An additional mechanic also exists to supplement the active thought lists of peons is that of dreaming. When a peon sleeps, it’s subconscious takes over – meaning that the peon’s brain may create it’s own active thought (that feeling of constantly falling, of being unable to move while they sleep). Additionally, while sleeping, an Outside Influence may implant an active thought into a peons mind. This may be something innocent (such as an active thought they haven’t experience or heard about) – or it may be darker (nightmares of flesh-eating maggots, tumors that burst and release insects etc;). In the morning, when the peons are talking over breakfast, these new active thoughts maybe introduced to the others via conversation.
The power of group dreaming
When peons sleep at the same time, there is a chance that during this period of time that they will share dreams – in a similar way to having a conversation while awake (from the technical point of view it’s actually a conversation which has zero volume, infinite range and won’t cause mood buffs or debuffs). This allows for active lists to be altered no matter how far the peons are apart from each other.
Can active thoughts fade?
Yes they can. If a peon doesn’t talk or dream about an active thought for a period of time (currently set at a 5 days) – that peon will forget that specific active thought. It can be rediscovered by talking to other peons who still have that active thought, or by experiencing the trigger again (seeing an Eyebird for instance), or through dreams.
Thanks for reading this weeks development blog, next weeks blog post will be slightly different – we are heading over to the Netherlands next week to discuss Fringe Planet with the folks running the Indietopia accelerator program, which we have been accepted into – we are incredibly excited about this and are really looking forward to sharing everything that happens with you.