Exploring the design space of social physics engines in games

Shi Johnson-Bey, Mark J. Nelson, Michael Mateas (2022). Exploring the design space of social physics engines in games. In Proceedings of the International Conference on Interactive Digital Storytelling.


Social simulation in video games approximates believable social behavior between characters. Game franchises like Crusader Kings, The Sims, and Dwarf Fortress became famous for using social simulation for emergent storytelling. Despite the success of using social simulation as a core aspect of gameplay, there is a seeming lack of publicly available tools for helping game developers create these types of experiences. To help encourage the development of open-source social simulation tools, we further explore the concept of social physics engines — self-contained solutions for modeling dynamic social relationships between non-player characters and players. We propose a design space for constructing social physics systems. It is inspired by rigid-body physics engines and is informed by a design space analysis using commercial and academic social simulation games and systems.

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