Suckerville: the Game (miniature agent-based society simulator toy)


Suckerville: the Game (early planning phase) is based on the comics I write. A few of which are at my comics page. I thought it would be neat to create a game with these characters where you could interact with them. This idea transformed into a lofty concept for a complex(-ish) society simulator. This game is single player and therefore all of the society, except for the players character, are simulated.

This game is loosely inspired by the Nintendo’s “Animal Crossing.” I saw my brother playig it one day and noticed his character had a shovel. I asked if he could hit people on the head with it, for a hilarious cartoony response. The answer was no, unfortunately. I thought I’d make the game like this except you could hit people on the head with a shovel. Naturally this would only be fun If they reacted to what you did, but how far could this go? The problem with the characters in Animal Crossing is that everything they do is tightly scripted. How can characters made to be dynamic. Many game programmers dream of creating emergent behavior in their dynamic content. Is this even possible?

Imagine walking around a city of ridiculous cartoon characters. They talk to you and to each other. They tell you what they like and dislike. They tell you that they don’t like it when you hit them with a shovel. They don’t like it when Charlie down the block hits them with a shovel and ask if maybe you could do a favor and hit him with a shovel. And the shovel smacking is only one of the many things you’ll be able to do. The point is, the characters “know what you are doing and they “remember”, and this affects the way they behave towards you. These characters are not like the typical video game characters that sit around helplessly while you run their errends either. They can do all of the same things you can do. And they can talk to each other as well as you.

The original idea is based around concepts

  1. Each character in the game can do anything the player can do. They do not sit around and wait for you to talk to them, but rather they have a simulated daily routine.
  2. Each character can like or dislike objects, characters, places or actions. Each can observe what any other character does, including the player, within their vision and decide whether they like or dislike what is happening.
  3. Characters can talk to one another and spread their information.
  4. Goofy stuff should happen often. The game should be dynamic and things should change over time. The general feel of the game is one of mayhem and humorous mischief.
Goals and Challenges

To make the game as dynamic as possible. In a game each character may become your friend or your enemy. Maybe you’ll see them a lot, maybe very little. Where are your favorite places? Can the game seem different every time? How can you make the game elements random but not seem like noise? Can the decisions a player makes, make a big impact in the world?
They characters should be complex enough to be interesting. Each character should seem different from the others, and should seem to have a life of their own. Their personality and personal experience should affect what they decide to do. The player should get a sense that there is a whole world around him and that much goes on behind his back.
How far does their AI model need to go at simulating their personality? Is it possible to make the model complex enough so that they seem life-like? Can a general behavior model allow each character to have quirks? What sort of group behavior will emerge?
The player should feel free to do a variety of things. No game will allow a player to do everything, but the player should be able to react to the people and objects in the world in a variety of ways.
The game should be funny. Is it possible to create emergent comedy?

2 Responses to “Suckerville: the Game (miniature agent-based society simulator toy)”

  1. ynniv says:


    I vented some thoughts about engine games to my blog (visible on the main page).  It isn’t supposed to be an attack of your game idea.  However, I think that trying to create a game based on simulation is a long and tedious process that isn’t very fun.  You’ll probably have a lot more fun if you come up with a simple game with straightforward goals, and then develop the parts of your simulation required to implement the game. 

    For instance, the goal of the game could be to have as many friends as possible.  Here is a quick game that Graham and I came up with:

    • making friends or enemies with people affects your friend status with other people
    • some people are more socially influencial than others
    • some people are more socially competetive
    • some people have unique skills, and can help you solve puzzles
    • making friends is sometimes based on favors, which may include solving puzzles
    • the end goal, which is time based, is to influence a important social event
    • a "scholarship contest" like miss america
    • an election
    • a corporate takeover

    I think it would be a fun game, and it is based on some straightforward, simple rules.  It could be implemented in a wide range of environments, from text based to 3rd person 3d rendered and networked.  In the process of writing it, you could develop your ideas of social simulation, for use in other games.  You would also have a code base that will make development of subsequent games faster.

  2. Kelly Gallagher says:

    Thanks for the reply. I think you make a good point. In a small degree, I’d already had a few thoughts about the limitations of this simulation based game concept. As for the simulation, I’ve already fleshed-out a lot of implimentation details so I’d like to try it out anyway. Two issues, however:

    First: will the simulation be complex and interesting enough to explore for any length of time? Probably not.

    Second: even if the simulation is perfect, what’s the point? I.E. what will the player actually do if there are no goals?

    So I think you’re right; that the game needs to have some goal and some game rules, but I think the simulation may serve as an interesting back-drop for whatever these may be.

    Thanks for the ideas.

    Kelly Gallagher

Leave a Reply