Final Fantasy XII Gambits (Semi-Autonomous Processes)

17 Nov 2006 - 4:26pm
7 years ago
4 replies
1469 reads
Mark Canlas
2003

My second foray into creating a thread. This time, about video games.

Video game developer Square Enix recently released Final Fantasy XII for the
PlayStation 2. It, compared to similar games in its RPG genre, sports a new
battle system called Gambits. Essentially, these Gambits are like
programmers' if-statements that help the video game player automate certain
aspects of their play.

Games traditionally of this genre have two parties, the enemies and you. The
enemies, controlled by the game, attack you. You, as the player party,
control each party member by manually inputting different commands (set
enemies on fire, cast magical shields, drink a special potion, etc.) in the
hopes of defeating the enemy party. This interaction model essentially
defines lots and lots of video games, specifically RPGs (role playing
games).

Final Fantasy XII plays like a massively multi-player online RPG (a la World
of Warcraft), but off-line. This interaction model is different from the one
I just described in that a singular character is already complicated enough
to control, while also having minimized the social element that makes games
like Warcraft massively multi-player.

Which brings us all the way back to Gambits (this is long, I know). Since
you as the player in Final Fantasy XII are in charge of not one but three
characters, this Gambit system helps you control them without manually
inputting in commands. You're giving each of the characters a predetermined
(or changeable mid-battle) plan of action. If I'm hurt, heal me. If an enemy
is there, attack. If the enemy does not like fire, set him on fire. Stuff
like that. In some ways, the characters play themselves, but to a limited
extent.

Player behavior with regards to Gambits can range from completely rejecting
them (turning them off, playing the "old way"), automating mundane tasks
(just take care of me after battle, I will handle how battles run), to fully
automating (I can make the game play itself!). My question is. What are the
future prospects for interaction models such as this?

Gambits essentially represent portions of autonomous or semi-intelligent
behavior. Players can use them in conjunction with one another to create
more complex, emergent behaviors. I personally believe this represents a
newer interaction model, one I'm very much a fan of, but haven't heard in
many other contexts (besides video games and cartoons).

What place do human-assisted semi-autonomous processes have in technology?
Should we expect more gambit-type interaction systems? Will rise of gambits
necessitate pseudo-programmer literacy/fluency? Are gambits already too
difficult to grasp?

Thanks for reading.

-Mark

Comments

17 Nov 2006 - 4:54pm
leo.frishberg a...
2005

Cool.

Substitute the word "agent" for "character" and you have a handle on how
these things might play out.

How should our users be able to inform, configure and interact with
their "agents" so that their agents can interact with the world?

This isn't limited to the Web, although we've already seen examples of
it there.

I suspect the interaction model we'll most likely land on is an analog
to a real world model, rather than a programmer's model. That is, how
do I inform my assistant, servant, buyer, etc. what I want so that the
task they've been hired to do has been properly described / constrained?

Leo

Mark wrote:
>What place do human-assisted semi-autonomous processes have in
technology?
>Should we expect more gambit-type interaction systems? Will rise of
gambits
>necessitate pseudo-programmer literacy/fluency? Are gambits already too
>difficult to grasp?

17 Nov 2006 - 5:23pm
Jack L. Moffett
2005

Mark,

I would say we have been using "gambits" for quite some time. I have
quite a few "actions" in Photoshop that automate repetitive tasks.
Apple's Automator allows me to automate tasks within the realm of my
operating system, facilitating data exchange between applications. In
iTunes, I set up smart playlists with complex behaviors (as well as
smart albums in iPhoto and smart folders in OS X).

Yes, I expect more gambit-type interaction systems, and I expect them
to become easier to understand and use effectively. Perhaps they will
initially promote pseudo-programmer literacy, but as we design better
UIs for them, it won't be necessary. It's easier to build an
automated action using Automator than AppleScript. Are they too
difficult to grasp? Currently, I wouldn't expect my mother to use
them, but my wife can (and my mother has surprised me in the past).

Jack

Jack L. Moffett
Interaction Designer
inmedius
412.459.0310 x219
http://www.inmedius.com

Questions about whether design
is necessary or affordable
are quite beside the point:
design is inevitable.

The alternative to good design
is bad design, not no design at all.

- Douglas Martin

20 Nov 2006 - 10:50am
Michael Micheletti
2006

I read a review about this combat system over the weekend in one of my son's
gaming magazines. The reviewer asked (I'm paraphrasing) and answered
questions "Are you setting the combat on automatic? Does it stop being fun?"

The upshot was it was interesting and new to train your character team to
work well together, and that this training was itself a worthwhile activity.
The gambits made combat scenes look as smoothly put together as the
interspersed cut-scenes. The reviewer thought that this game was just about
the apex of PlayStation 2 games and praised it to the skies.

Michael Micheletti

On 11/17/06, Mark Canlas <mark at htmlism.com> wrote:
>
> My second foray into creating a thread. This time, about video games.
>
> Video game developer Square Enix recently released Final Fantasy XII for
> the
> PlayStation 2. It, compared to similar games in its RPG genre, sports a
> new
> battle system called Gambits.

21 Nov 2006 - 3:27pm
Tom Corbett
2006

Mark,

A few thoughts in response to your question, "What place do human-assisted
semi-autonomous processes have in technology?"

Part of the answer to this lies the way that the human shares work with the
semi-autonomous process. Automation best complements the human when
performing tasks that the human finds uninteresting or overly difficult. By
performing such tasks, the semi-autonomous process helps the human to
maintain attention and focus on those tasks that the human performs well.
>From this point of view, automating mundane tasks makes perfectly good
sense.

Because humans are good at planning, but artificial intelligence is not, it
would be reasonable to partition tasks based on the degree of planning
involved. For example, the human could create the strategic plan and
automate the tactics:
Strategic Plan
Step 1 Reach Objective A (automated tactic: fight fire with fire).
Step 2 Reach Objective B (automated tactic: fight fire with water).

Identity is also a factor. A player who has developed an identify as an
experienced and skilled player might reject automation because automation
would degrade that identity. A player who is also a programmer might prefer
automation because it enhances their identity as a programmer. A new and
unskilled player might prefer automation because it provides an identity of
competence.

In general, humans have a tendency to perform tasks that they are
comfortable with and avoid tasks that they are not comfortable with. A
player who rejects automation might be doing so because they are comfortable
with manual play and/or not comfortable with automation.

-Tom

----- Original Message -----
From: "Mark Canlas" <mark at htmlism.com>
To: "'discuss'" <discuss at ixda.org>
Sent: Friday, November 17, 2006 1:26 PM
Subject: [IxDA Discuss] Final Fantasy XII Gambits (Semi-Autonomous
Processes)

> My second foray into creating a thread. This time, about video games.
>
>
>
> Video game developer Square Enix recently released Final Fantasy XII for
the
> PlayStation 2. It, compared to similar games in its RPG genre, sports a
new
> battle system called Gambits. Essentially, these Gambits are like
> programmers' if-statements that help the video game player automate
certain
> aspects of their play.
>
>
>
> Games traditionally of this genre have two parties, the enemies and you.
The
> enemies, controlled by the game, attack you. You, as the player party,
> control each party member by manually inputting different commands (set
> enemies on fire, cast magical shields, drink a special potion, etc.) in
the
> hopes of defeating the enemy party. This interaction model essentially
> defines lots and lots of video games, specifically RPGs (role playing
> games).
>
>
>
> Final Fantasy XII plays like a massively multi-player online RPG (a la
World
> of Warcraft), but off-line. This interaction model is different from the
one
> I just described in that a singular character is already complicated
enough
> to control, while also having minimized the social element that makes
games
> like Warcraft massively multi-player.
>
>
>
> Which brings us all the way back to Gambits (this is long, I know). Since
> you as the player in Final Fantasy XII are in charge of not one but three
> characters, this Gambit system helps you control them without manually
> inputting in commands. You're giving each of the characters a
predetermined
> (or changeable mid-battle) plan of action. If I'm hurt, heal me. If an
enemy
> is there, attack. If the enemy does not like fire, set him on fire. Stuff
> like that. In some ways, the characters play themselves, but to a limited
> extent.
>
>
>
> Player behavior with regards to Gambits can range from completely
rejecting
> them (turning them off, playing the "old way"), automating mundane tasks
> (just take care of me after battle, I will handle how battles run), to
fully
> automating (I can make the game play itself!). My question is. What are
the
> future prospects for interaction models such as this?
>
>
>
> Gambits essentially represent portions of autonomous or semi-intelligent
> behavior. Players can use them in conjunction with one another to create
> more complex, emergent behaviors. I personally believe this represents a
> newer interaction model, one I'm very much a fan of, but haven't heard in
> many other contexts (besides video games and cartoons).
>
>
>
> What place do human-assisted semi-autonomous processes have in technology?
> Should we expect more gambit-type interaction systems? Will rise of
gambits
> necessitate pseudo-programmer literacy/fluency? Are gambits already too
> difficult to grasp?
>
>
>
> Thanks for reading.
>
> -Mark
>
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