Archive for March, 2008

Cult Controller

Saturday, March 1st, 2008

Cults are often all about control so it’s appropriate that the new mini expansion pack centers on what I call a Cult Controller. It’s actually a design pattern that I developed for organizing game components inside the architecture. There are two types of controllers; data based controllers and interface controllers. The Cult Controller is a data controller and is accompanied by a Cult Message Controller which is an interface type controller. The difference is key. The Cult Controller has to save its data and retrieve it. The Cult Message Controller is an interface controller and is instantiated fresh each time the game starts. Some of its data can be pulled from the Cult Controller. Things like which cult is loaded into the controller, is the cult still active or has it been destroyed?

There are 5 cults in the Cults of the Wastelands mini expansion pack. 4 of them you can get some intel data on from the webpage here. Each cult has an agenda. The agenda specifies how the cult will behave. Some cults want certain things and they are scripted to go after them. Other cults want to accomplish tasks and are scripted to perform them. At the end of each round of player turns the Cult controller springs into action and processes the Cult’s assets and does “culty” things. Some actions might initiate a message for the player. Many will go unobserved. I won’t kid you. The cult does know the difference between the AI’s and you. It’s going to worry about you first. If an AI poses a threat then it will respond but mostly in a defensive stance. The AI’s have been given the ability through some new goals to cope with the cults. However the general strategy is one of pushing the buck to the human player and minimizing their exposure to the Cult’s nefarious activities.

I chose this “scripted” approach because this new content is more like a campaign than anything else. I also think Soren Johnson of Civ and now Spore fame has some very valid and interesting points about meta AI design and playing to lose. The goal is really to provide an entertaining experience. I’m not letting the AI’s cheat in any overt way. They don’t get any explicit knowledge that the player does not have access to. I don’t tell them the location of the cult HQ or where or what the cult agents are up to. I do give them the implicit knowledge that they should do certain things to push the burden of dealing with the cults onto the human. Without something like this it would be possible for a player to start a Cults of the Wastelands game and then suddenly get the message… “Cult X has been wiped off the face of the earth by the AI, sorry you didn’t see much of them. They were really cool but maybe you can catch them next time.”

Is there a puzzle aspect involved in facing the Cults? Sort of. But there are enough random variables that you can choose to tackle them in multiple ways. Some ways have been made harder than others. Some cults require you kill the leader to destroy it. That leader might be better guarded and more of a difficult target for your slayer Assassin. There might be other surprises as well. You might have to destroy the Cult Stronghold. Don’t expect a stealth air campaign will win the day.

Speaking of Cult Leaders here is an image of one of the them. Pasty boy here can really mess with your mind and ruin your day.

Pasty Boy