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Ladonna

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What games would be classified as having 'emergent gameplay'? What aspects of these games are emergent?

Been thinking for a while and I am yet to come up with one. Maybe I am thinking about the wrong thing here.
 

Gambler

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Twinfalls said:
It is a system which enables gameplay - obstacles and solutions - to form on the fly, instances of which the developers themselves may not have specifically foreseen.
Read my original posts. I commented on one sentence from SP message. Which was "There's no action that you can do anywhere in the game that sets off a series of related events that changes things around you." I did not say DX is "emergent." It's one of those wague terms which mean whatever you want them to mean anyways.

And 'Syberia is a game without plot, characters and setting'? R00fles!
No comment.

Slylandro said:
I don't know exactly how many endings Deus Ex had since I only played it once, but from a logical point of view your statement is incorrect.
Hm, you're right. But still, there are multiple points where you can change things.

Twinfalls said:
Goals changing. Conflicts between parties or factions causing unforeseen, even intractable, hurdles for the player.
Being "emergent" on such a high level would kill off any real storyline, any attempt of quality character development. It would make a life sim out of RPG.
 

obediah

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Twinfalls said:
Bugs and exploits do not in any way whatsoever count as emergent, Galsiah - which you've recognised anyway.

That's funny, in alife simulations, bugs and exploit can and do lead to emergent behaviour. The classic example is the simulation using a 3D physics engine to evolve methods of locomotion, with a GA testing for distance travelled in a life time. The "winning" organism was a simple stationary one that just rubbed two appendages together. There was a FP bug in the collision detection that occasionaly cause the creatures to teleport across the world much further than anything could hope to move playing by the rules.
 

HotSnack

Cipher
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Doesn't Tribes skiing count as emergent gameplay? And I'm sure that started out as an exploit.
 

Twinfalls

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Gambler said:
Twinfalls said:
It is a system which enables gameplay - obstacles and solutions - to form on the fly, instances of which the developers themselves may not have specifically foreseen.
Read my original posts. I commented on one sentence from SP message. Which was "There's no action that you can do anywhere in the game that sets off a series of related events that changes things around you." I did not say DX is "emergent." It's one of those wague terms which mean whatever you want them to mean anyways.

You need to understand the importance of context. You took Saint's one line out of context, when what he said was:

There's absolutely nothing emergent about Deus Ex. There's no action that you can do anywhere in the game that sets off a series of related events that changes things around you.

It is clear he is talking about actions changing related events for the purposes of emergent gameplay. So there's a plot branch. So fucking what? He's talking about emergence, so what is the point of your comment?

Twinfalls said:
Goals changing. Conflicts between parties or factions causing unforeseen, even intractable, hurdles for the player.
Being "emergent" on such a high level would kill off any real storyline, any attempt of quality character development. It would make a life sim out of RPG.

Yes, of course. Enjoying Oblivion, are we?

@Obediah and Hotsnack - bugs and exploits are cute and may fit a technical definition of 'emergent' if all you are considering is whether the designers foresaw their use, and they may even lead to some serendipitous feature additions.

But they don't really count if you are talking about 'emergent gameplay', ie systems where the whole purpose is intentionally to allow unexpected situations to occur.

Skiing in Tribes isn't emergent gameplay. It's a way of fast-travelling. That it was originally an exploit, to me doesn't render that part of the game 'emergent', at least not for a useful discussion on how to make games in which the concept is a driver for design.

I'm no expert whatsoever on this, but the concept is pretty clear. Life sims were where emergent gameplay began, they're still the best examples - perhaps Obediah can expand on that.

For RPGs, what I'd envisage as an 'emergent' example is an expanded Daggerfall model of planned randomisation, with multiple factional interactions, 'true' AI (ie real goal-driven behaviour), changing plot and character goals, etc. Yeah it's all sandbox and big and that isn't neccessary for 'emergent', but it's still what I wanted that series to move to, so whatever.
 

Gambler

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It is clear he is talking about actions changing related events for the purposes of emergent gameplay.
Okay. So I guess this is a correct statement as well:

There's absolutely nothing emergent about Fallout. There's no action that you can do anywhere in the game that sets off a series of related events that changes things around you.

Allright, then.

Yes, of course. Enjoying Oblivion, are we?
Of course. I mean, everyone knows that Oblivion is the most story-heavy game in the world, right? <- this was sarcasm

This is funny. You see, the last person who said to me that "teh unar emergent" RPGs will prevail over storyline-based ones was a huge fan of Oblivion and its "ubar emergent" RAI and physics.
 

Saint_Proverbius

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galsiah said:
Seriously though, emergence is very subjective. What is clear from the rules or unforseeable depends on the insight of the observer/designer.

No, emergence would be if you stole some food from a farmer by mugging him, so he died trying to steal food from somewhere else. He gets killed in the process, and his son swears revenge, rises up through the ranks of the fighters guild since nothing else kills him along the way. He eventually meets up with you when you're near where he is because you were walking down the same road as him or going in to a location where he was. Fight insues.

The next play through, you don't steal the food, and the kid becomes a farmer. The next time through, you steal the food, but the kid dies as a wizard because some other event made him pick magic over fighters. The time after that, a bandit steals the food, and you save the father by giving him some food on his way to stealing it.

That's emergent. Deus Ex had nothing on that.
 

Mr. Teatime

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'emergent gameplay' is a term. it's not a literal thing. DX was emergent under the definition that spectre gave in the nuymerous interviews for it, and now future games are following those principles trying to emulate this definition of emergent.
 

merry andrew

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Saint_Proverbius said:
That's emergent. Deus Ex had nothing on that.
Not even in its sandbox gameworld areas? I call bullshit, even though it's been forever since I played it. I agree with you that the ending wasn't the result of emergent gameplay from the very start, but that doesn't mean there was none whatsoever.
 

7th Circle

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I think Twinfalls made a good point when she talked about true emergent gameplay requiring the emergence of problems or obstacles not specifically planned for. Strategy and simulation games often qualify assuming that a narrow definition of "specifically" applies. That being said, I think that emergent gameplay is just part of the linear-nonlinear continuum - basically, it's where the principles of nonlinearity now apply to the challenges the world presents. I don't think that this will ever be enacted globally in a RPG (though maybe in a dungeon or two). The problem with such a system is that it becomes very hard to debug it.
 

galsiah

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Saint_Proverbius said:
No, emergence would be if you stole some food from a farmer by mugging him, so he died trying to steal food from somewhere else. He gets killed in the process, and his son swears revenge, rises up through the ranks of the fighters guild since nothing else kills him along the way. He eventually meets up with you when you're near where he is because you were walking down the same road as him or going in to a location where he was. Fight insues.

The next play through, you don't steal the food, and the kid becomes a farmer. The next time through, you steal the food, but the kid dies as a wizard because some other event made him pick magic over fighters. The time after that, a bandit steals the food, and you save the father by giving him some food on his way to stealing it.

That's emergent. Deus Ex had nothing on that.
While I agree with the spirit of what you're saying (I certainly wouldn't hold Deus Ex up as a good example of emergence), there's no clear difference. It's a matter of context with grey areas - definitions of emergence are not particularly helpful.

For example, emergence in Deus Ex:
You happen to push a crate into a doorway before leaving a room (you're low in ammo). Some time later you are seen by - guards, who start to run towards you. The crate in the doorway blocks the most direct path to your position, allowing you to time to pick up some ammunition before running off. You meet the guards coming the other way, and shoot an explosive guy. The explosion blows open a well locked locker which happens to have an EMP grenade inside, which you take.

Later, you come to an area well protected by robots. You'd probably not have gone in were it not for the EMP grenade, since you're still low on ammo. You manage to take one of the bots out with the EMP grenade, allowing you to sneak past the other. You find an augmentation canaster and decide to upgrade ... with it.

This augmentation comes in useful for ... which allows ... etc. etc.

The next time through, you push the crate, but the fight with the guards goes differently. The locker isn't blown open, you don't get the EMP, you don't get the canaster, which means problems X, Y and Z are challenging in different ways.

Next time you don't push the crate so you don't get the ammo. You are forced to retreat from the guards. Eventually you take some of them out at close range and get some more ammo. By this time, the alarm has been rased, making the rest of the area a different prospect. You don't get the canaster, and are forced to use many more medi-kits to make it out. This means you need to be more careful later...


The crate moving could be intended to block the guards, or just moved there to get out of the way. Either way, it can set off a chain of events which have many long term consequences.

The main difference with the above is that relatively little (though a bit) happens without contact with the player: the player does / doesn't get the ammo / EMP / canaster...
There are still elements which occur elsewhere though: alarms going off + consequences, guard movement + implications for locker blowing up.

This is still emergence - an unpredictable chain of events brought about by a combination of interacting factors which changes and creates challenges on the fly.


When you're talking about emergence (and usually when I am) I think you're more concerned with it happening without direct connection to the player. However, there is nothing in the concept of emergence which excludes the player as a factor. In the above Deus Ex example, the player was often a factor, but he wasn't generally orchestrating things intentionally. He merely had a central role in many of the events.

If you want to talk about long term emergence through environmental interactions separate from the player, then fine. Emergence on its own doesn't (technically) exclude Deus Ex.
 

Saint_Proverbius

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Gambler said:
I guess the fact that lead designer of DX makes presentations about creating emergent gameplay is just a weird coincidence.

Yeah, it's called, "Let's all blow my horn on a fan site." Am I really supposed to take a slide show on a GameSpy hosted site about Deus Ex as seriously credible evidence that something which is just overblown hype as 100% truth?

galsiah said:
For example, emergence in Deus Ex:
You happen to push a crate into a doorway before leaving a room (you're low in ammo). Some time later you are seen by - guards, who start to run towards you. The crate in the doorway blocks the most direct path to your position, allowing you to time to pick up some ammunition before running off. You meet the guards coming the other way, and shoot an explosive guy. The explosion blows open a well locked locker which happens to have an EMP grenade inside, which you take.

You know that none of that you mentioned is actually emergent. Nothing new pops up from that, really. The AI is doing the same thing the entire time under slightly different conditions which don't change anything to a significant degree. Moving a crate to block a door which slows the bad guys down versus just letting them come in is hardly emergent. You can do the same damned thing in Doom with re-triggerable doors, barrels and lifts.

You find an augmentation canaster and decide to upgrade ... with it.

Supermario, bitch!
 

galsiah

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Saint_Proverbius said:
You know that none of that you mentioned is actually emergent. Nothing new pops up from that, really.
I agree with the spirit of what you're saying, since I agree that emergence in Deus Ex is not important or interesting.
However, you're not making any argument that it doesn't exist - you're just dismissing it.

As I said above, it's a grey area, subjective and a question of degree.

The AI is doing the same thing the entire time under slightly different conditions which don't change anything to a significant degree.
The same could be said for your example: all the character AIs are following the same rules throughout, and in the end some guy attacks you (or doesn't) - big deal.

I agree that my example is more unlikely, and that an RPG with simulation aspects could do a lot more with emergence than Deus Ex. Neither are likely to produce as many interesting emergent phenomena as a life sim though.

It's a sliding scale and Deus Ex is on the uninteresting end.

Moving a crate to block a door which slows the bad guys down versus just letting them come in is hardly emergent. You can do the same damned thing in Doom with re-triggerable doors, barrels and lifts.
My example wasn't of stopping some guys with a crate, though - any more than yours was about mugging a farmer. It was about the chain of events triggered by that and other factors.

Again, I think you're stopping with the crate + guards because the player is directly involved soon afterwards. There's nothing to say the player can't form part of an emergent system though. It's just probably less impressive. The player expects many factors to be considered when he's personally involved in a situation - whereas the results of your farmer-mugging come as more of a surprise.

Still, on some level Doom does have emergence. Everything does. The question is whether it's important or interesting.

Perhaps this could be "measured" (subjectively) in terms of the situations / challenges created. For instance, in Doom there are thousands of situations created which aren't directly anticipated by the designers (i.e. all the possible permutations of player / enemy positions other than those directly considered by developers).

However, since all these fall under the same heading of "guy running around attacking enemies with a gun (or chainsaw)", they aren't viewed as emergent. The challenges/situations are unpredictable, but the class of challenges/situations is entirely predictable.

The same can be said for a sim-like RPG - only in that case it seems that it isn't right to class all situations as "characters moving around and performing actions according to their desires".

It's still a subjective call. There's no clear rule indicating just how different a new situation must be from anticipated situations in order to term it emergent - or indeed how it should be different.

Supermario, bitch!
Which, indeed, also has emergence - just in a very limited sense.
[Supermario isn't an RPG, and Deus Ex is not an emergent game. Supermario contains roles, and Deus Ex contains emergence]

This is why emergence (according to its definition) is a fairly useless term. It's pointless to argue that game X doesn't have it. All you can say is that the emergence in game X isn't interesting/important. There again, I agree.

Perhaps this all seems a little silly, but do bear in mind that half the textbook examples of emergence are of things going drastically wrong in stupid ways. Given that emergence can often look silly (since it wasn't anticipated, and therefore actively controlled), it's harder to use a "that's just stupid" argument to dismiss it. Half the time it is.
 

Twinfalls

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Gambler said:
It is clear he is talking about actions changing related events for the purposes of emergent gameplay.
Okay. So I guess this is a correct statement as well:

There's absolutely nothing emergent about Fallout. There's no action that you can do anywhere in the game that sets off a series of related events that changes things around you.

Well that one would be more objectionable in its overall context, for the simple fact that Falllout is a far more reactive world than DE, with far more consequences for different actions. It's still not really 'emergent' for the purposes of this discussion though.

Anyway, it's not worth arguing over really - apologies for the er, 'brusque' manner earlier, it's been a bitchy month.

Yes, of course. Enjoying Oblivion, are we?
Of course. I mean, everyone knows that Oblivion is the most story-heavy game in the world, right? <- this was sarcasm

This is funny. You see, the last person who said to me that "teh unar emergent" RPGs will prevail over storyline-based ones was a huge fan of Oblivion and its "ubar emergent" RAI and physics.

The jibe there was in response to your suggestion that emergent design goals in RPGs, such as emergent factional and reputation behaviour by NPCs, is simply not worth contemplating or pursuing, as it would destroy any chance of 'story' in RPGs. I suggested you stick with Oblivion with its merciless rail-roading of plot, since you show a lack of imagination with that comment.

MrTeatime said:
'emergent gameplay' is a term. it's not a literal thing. DX was emergent under the definition that spectre gave in the nuymerous interviews for it, and now future games are following those principles trying to emulate this definition of emergent.

Good point. I still think it's worth using the type of definition of 'emergent' that would exclude DE, as its more useful when thinking about ways forward for RPGs. Multiple tactics which can stack is all well and good, but think of the sweet goodness that would be fluid goals, conflicts, story arcs, and even just plain old types of dungeons that can vary in ways that the designers find unpredictable...
 

Twinfalls

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galsiah said:
[Supermario isn't an RPG, and Deus Ex is not an emergent game. Supermario contains roles, and Deus Ex contains emergence]

This is why emergence (according to its definition) is a fairly useless term. It's pointless to argue that game X doesn't have it. All you can say is that the emergence in game X isn't interesting/important.

This is really anti-intellectual stuff you're spouting, Galsiah. Yes, all language is useful only by convention. This does not mean you can say 'well, any definition can be broadened to the extent that it is pointless to use it'.

It's not pointless. Exclusive definitions are extremely useful in encapsulating concepts and allowing a discussion to build on those concepts. SuperMario does not 'have roles'. It does not have roles within the definition that is useful to this website - RPGs here have a 'narrow'. 'elite' definition, for a purpose. That purpose allows us to take discussions on RPG mechanics well past the "in every game you play a role, duh" level of retardedness that is the rest of the planet.

Perhaps this all seems a little silly, but do bear in mind that half the textbook examples of emergence are of things going drastically wrong in stupid ways. Given that emergence can often look silly (since it wasn't anticipated, and therefore actively controlled), it's harder to use a "that's just stupid" argument to dismiss it. Half the time it is.

As I keep banging on, a useful definition for this discussion, is one which excludes DE. That is, a gaming system deliberately designed such that hurdles, solutions entire conflict/resolution frameworks, are unpredictably generated. It is also a definiton with credibility - you look at the discussions people like Doug Church at Looking Glass would make about 'emergent gameplay', and this is the kind of thing which was proposed.

NOT 'what low-level tactic will I use, OMG I can kill him or sneak past him, EMERGENT!!1'
 

galsiah

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Twinfalls said:
This is really anti-intellectual stuff you're spouting, Galsiah. Yes, all language is useful only by convention. This does not mean you can say 'well, any definition can be broadened to the extent that it is pointless to use it'.
I'm not broadening the definition. Emergence has a recognised definition.

This definition:
That is, a gaming system deliberately designed such that hurdles, solutions entire conflict/resolution frameworks, are unpredictably generated.
Still describes every game - it's just a question of the level at which the frameworks change.

When we talk about RPGs, we're talking about games in which the role is central to the experience. When we talk about emergent games, the same applies - Deus Ex is not an emergent game.

Saying that a game contains roles or contains emergence is quite different (and not that interesting). Every game contains both.

The point is that if a designer wants to talk about different roles in Hitman / Halflife..., he should be free to do so without being shouted down since they're not RPGs and the roles aren't central to the game.

The same applies to emergence. It makes good sense to say "So what? That's not interesting.", but not to say that it doesn't exist in the game.

If someone starts calling Deus Ex an emergent game, then that's different - and every bit as stupid as calling Halflife an RPG.


As I keep banging on, a useful definition for this discussion, is one which excludes DE.
That depends what this discussion is about.

This: they still go on about Deus Ex as a paragon of "emergent" gameplay
is clearly silly - Deus Ex is not that. It's not an emergent game. Agreed 100%.

However, this: There's absolutely nothing emergent about Deus Ex. There's no action that you can do anywhere in the game that sets off a series of related events that changes things around you.
Is not true either (and that's what I was arguing against). If you sprinkle a few "in interesting ways", "over the long term", "without direct player involvement"... type comments in, then it makes sense. Alone it does not.

If we'd started a discussion on emergent games, then bringing up Deus Ex would have been silly. However, the discussion quickly moved on to there being no emergence in Deus Ex, which simply is not true.

If someone said that Hitman: Contracts was a game with brilliant dialogue, and I replied that there was no dialogue in Hitman, I'd simply be wrong.

Talking about emergence in Deus Ex is no more a crime than talking about the use of dialogue in Hitman. It's just not important, and in no way implies that the game is based around that aspect.
It might have been over-hyped, but it did exist.


I'd be very interested to have a discussion on truly emergent games, but that's not how this one started out.
 

Saint_Proverbius

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galsiah said:
The same could be said for your example: all the character AIs are following the same rules throughout, and in the end some guy attacks you (or doesn't) - big deal.

You honestly can't see the difference between atypical pathfinding AI and something where the NPCs make fundamental changes in who they are and what they do based on what the player does? If you block a door with a crate, and the pathfinding just sits there, that's actually BROKEN. It's never, ever supposed to just sit there staring at the door.

It's also no big deal if the NPC is always supposed to attack you. It's a huge, huge deal if you do a bunch of actions in a game which causes the NPCs around you to develop on their own which changes the game around you. Pathfinding is done in *every game*. It's common place, something you expect. The reason no one does what I'm talking about in games is because it's a HUGE deal.
 

galsiah

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Sure - the combination of all the different emergent situations is a huge deal. Your individual example was not (it's important as part of the whole).

My Deus Ex example is neither a big deal on its own, nor does it form part of an interesting whole. There are many low level emergent situations in Deus Ex (and in any game), but relatively few high level ones: the entire scenario I described would be very uncommon.

I entirely agree that a genuinely emergent game would be a huge deal.

Emergence in Deus Ex is present though - it's just commonly on a very low level, and rare enough on a high level to be considered fairly trivial (as your example would be if it were a one-off - the point is that it isn't in a truly emergent game).

Deus Ex is still slightly above games like Doom or Supermario in terms of tactical emergence. It's not really worth shouting about, but it can be recognised as an asset.
 

Gambler

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Saint_Proverbius said:
Yeah, it's called, "Let's all blow my horn on a fan site."
It's a presentation from GDC 2004. I bet you din't even bother to read it.

Am I really supposed to take a slide show on a GameSpy hosted site about Deus Ex as seriously credible evidence that something which is just overblown hype as 100% truth?
Am I really supposed to construct an informative reply this nonsense, which in no way adresses the issue at hand?

Twinfalls said:
The jibe there was in response to your suggestion that emergent design goals in RPGs, such as emergent factional and reputation behaviour by NPCs, is simply not worth contemplating or pursuing, as it would destroy any chance of 'story' in RPGs.
Are you saying that high-level emergent gameplay can coexist with a real storyline, or that a real storyline is also "not worth contemplating or pursuing?"

As for the definition...
Harvey Smith said:
You could define emergence as an event that occurs, but that could not have simply been inferred from a system's rules. Emergent behavior occurs when a system acts in an organized fashion beyond the sum capabilities of its individual parts.
 

galsiah

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Gambler said:
As for the definition...
Harvey Smith said:
You could define emergence as an event that occurs, but that could not have simply been inferred from a system's rules. Emergent behavior occurs when a system acts in an organized fashion beyond the sum capabilities of its individual parts.
Which is why it's not sensible to talk about emergence in absolute terms, since "simply" is extremely vague.

It's also a crap definition, since no system "acts in an organized fashion beyond the sum capabilities of its individual parts."

It only acts beyond what could "simply be inferred" of the sum of the capabilities of its parts.
Since the entire concept hangs on "simply", it's always going to be subjective.

Suggesting that your game is emergent because it fits that definition (for some interpretation of "simply") is a vacuous statement until you make it clear what exactly is simple.

In terms of Deus Ex, I'd say that the following is a simple deduction from the rules (so not emergent):
(*) Containers can be opened by explosions.
(*) Men in black explode when killed.
(*) Killing a man in black near a container will open it.

If that's not "simple", I don't know what is.

With a reasonable interpretation of that definition, Deus Ex is not emergent. It's a very unscientific definition though.
 

Gambler

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no system "acts in an organized fashion beyond the sum capabilities of its individual parts."
There are plenty of systems like that. Human brain would be one of the prime examples.

Since the entire concept hangs on "simply", it's always going to be subjective.
You can say the same thing about anything that relies on common sense. It's not a scientific definition, but it is nevertheless clear. Emergent systems can do stuff designers did not directly plan for. For example, Deux Ex can be finished without killing anyone, and it was not planned for.
 

Zomg

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This is a stupid discussion to try to hash out in an adversarial mode. It's both more productive and more fun to inspire the word "emergence" with vivid descriptions of daydream games that will never be made rather than to try to make dull pseudorational definitions for it.
 

Ratty

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Gambler said:
Emergent systems can do stuff designers did not directly plan for. For example, Deux Ex can be finished without killing anyone, and it was not planned for.
If it wasn't planned for, then why did designers add all those non-combat skills and augmentations, as well as a heap of non-lethal weapons? According to you, every game that gives the player a degree of choice in confronting obstacles is emergent. In Thief series, it's possible to sneak past guards, kill them or knock them out, so Thief must be emergent too. Hey, we can extend your definition further; in Doom it's possible to kill a zombie with the pistol *or* with the shotgun! OMG, emergence!!1
 

galsiah

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@Zomg - indeed. This was never an interesting discussion on emergent games though. If we want one, it'd make a little more sense not to hide it in an Oblivion thread.

Gambler said:
no system "acts in an organized fashion beyond the sum capabilities of its individual parts."
There are plenty of systems like that. Human brain would be one of the prime examples.
Have you stopped to think about what that means?

Either absolutely everything "acts in an organized fashion beyond the sum capabilities of its individual parts." [my coffee mug holds coffee, yet none of its atoms could alone - emergence!!], or nothing does, since the "sum capabilities of its individual parts." includes combinations of those capabilities.

I'll go with the latter, since it's the only non-stupid interpretation - unless you think that two men lifting an upright piano is an emergent system.

You can say the same thing about anything that relies on common sense. It's not a scientific definition, but it is nevertheless clear.
Nonsense.
Emergent systems can do stuff designers did not directly plan for.
Every system does things the designers didn't plan for - it's a question of the level on which that happens.
The designers of Doom never planned explicitly for bad guys A, B and C to have moved to positions X, Y and Z - but it happens at every moment of every game.

[Most of the times I compile/run some code, I get a load of error messages I didn't plan for. Perhaps that means my programs are emergent. I'd always thought that it meant they didn't work properly.]

What you need for an interesting variety of emergence is the occurence of many [vagueness alert] situations which are qualitatively different [vagueness alert], interesting [vagueness alert], and could not have been simply [vagueness alert] predicted from the basic rules of the system.

That's a useless (but almost correct) definition.
For a definition to be useful, you'd need to eliminate the vagueness. As it is, Zomg is quite right that an showing the idea of emergence through examples is much more interesting and instructive.
[NB none of those examples would be from Deus Ex]
 

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