Wild Animals Meta Interactions

As far as I am aware (rather new, so expect some misconceptions), animals are intended for future content, but not really contained in the game right now. This obviously relates to these posts about hunting and predators.

Note: While what I am suggesting might remind you of another post, I only read that after authoring this post, so I’m not plagiarising, I just think my idea sounds similar to that one.

Intro

So in principle, a lot of games have wild animals that attack the player/player’s units etc. Most of the time these are implemented more like bloodthirsty, rabbies infested animals as they just attack whenever anybody gets close. This is easy to implement, but extremely unrealistic and not very game play satisfying either, so here is what I tried to design together. It is supposed to be both more realistic and more interesting from a game-play perspective, but obviously the latter should be a priority

Collectively learnt Fear or Trust

Animals in a particular region would(in a way) be able to learn to be afraid of or trust your sapiens. If you continuously attack animals, all animals (of this group) should become increasingly afraid and stay away from you. If you actively feed the animals they should become increasingly trusting of you and develop a relationship with your tribe.

Distances

By default animals could stay some distance away from sapiens, as the default amount of fear. If sapiens become threatening by holding weapons or shouting in an intimidating way, animals will take a little more distance (This way you can defend your territory). On the other hand, food might motivate them to come closer (so they will steal your stored winter food).

If you kill every animal that attempted to steal food, for example, all animals (again, within the group) will be afraid of sapiens and keep their distance. By keeping their distance they will also be further from your storage places and less likely to steal in the future. On the other hand this makes it harder to interact with them, for domestication or even hunting, as they will be motivated to stay increasingly far away.

This also means that they won’t stop trying to steal from you if they get the chance, like if you leave a storage place undefended, so the mechanic becomes more dynamic and you have to stay alert. Nonetheless, the reason I think it is important to have animals learn these behaviours collectively is so they will still learn to stay away even if you kill them. If animals would learn as individual objects, then those that die wouldn’t be able influence this system at all and you’d just end up continuously killing animals that otherwise don’t adapt their behaviour towards you at all.

Groups of Animals

I think, if this system makes sense, it would make the most sense with animal categories. These could be species, probably this is most straight forward. In real life many animals learn a surprising amount of stuff from their parents and community. This applies mostly to mammals and birds, but since chickens are (I believe) currently the only animals in the game it applies to 100% of species represented in the game.

Probably, different species will act differently towards sapiens. At the very least I presume there will be prey animals sapiens can have for lunch, and predators that might turn this game around. Imagine, though, that there are bears and wolves. Wolves might be convinced to become more friendly towards your tribe by being fed, and will start to feel comfortable to interact and become somehow useful. Obviously this may not apply to bears, which you want to stay as far away as possible because they eat a lot more, so they’re not as useful from a cost-benefit perspective, and they will continue to eat from your storage if they have the chance (like dogs will even today). This is why I think these behaviours should be learnt by species, not for categories like predators or for all animals collectively.

The other way this could be separated is within the same species. There may be a pack of wolves in this region that you get accustomed to you, but the other pack on the other side of the mountain is still treating you like a snack. How much this is possible depends entirely on how animals will be implemented in the game, so I wouldn’t speculate on the possibilities with that.

Domestication

Now in real life this is a complex two phase process.

  1. You have to make a group of animals accustomed to being handled and controlled i.e. you tame them
  2. You have to control the tamed animals’ breeding, and select for traits that you prefer. This is domestication, and it takes at least a few generations.

I think this is way beyond the scope of the game. Perhaps a relatively dedicated modder will try their hands at this, but for the core game I think it just takes too much work (at least to do it properly). However, the first of these steps could fit neatly into the learnt behaviours, especially if you can do this to one particular pack of wolves while not doing it to the other one. I.e. it is particularly neat if you can ‘domesticate’ these wolves and use them to keep away those other wolves, as well as bears etc.

Question

Aside from everyone being in awe of my genius, I also want to know if this sounds interesting to play. If it isn’t added to the game at all, would it be interesting for a mod?

TL;DR

I think it would be interesting if there would be groups of animals (like packs of wolves and herds of sheep etc.), and for these groups to learn collectively. Because, if you kill a rat, then that rat can’t learn to stay away, but its group can.

If you scare that group away, they will stay away from sapiens (but still steal from undefended food stores), while feeding them makes them comfortable to come close and be interacted with (e.g. to shear sheep or something). By default they will keep some default distance, plus minus some depending on whether the sapiens looks threatening (weapons, shouting, running towards them) and whether they have a reason (being chased by another predator, stealing food etc).

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Indeed, I’m in awe of your genius.
I love the idea of neural network in mob AI. Sadly I don’t know any game which does that. And I think it would fit this game really well. Although I doubt it will be implemented here. But knowing a few statements form Dave, he will make the AI moddable.

Sorry this took me so long to reply to.

I don’t think machine learning as such is required for this to work.

Say, each pack has members and a fear level. By default the fear level is somewhat high, but it can be lowered or increases (lower -> trust, higher -> fear). The lower fear the closer animals get before being deterred by sapiens.

What they actually do is a sum of motivators, e.g.:

The animal is hungry, so it attempts to find a piece of food nearby, but there is a sapien close to it. It is motivated to get closer to the food based on its hunger and the deterrence from the nearest sapien.
deterrence = (fear + stance) * distance(sapien,food)
motivation = hunger * distance(self,food) - deterrence
Where stance is something a sapien can do actively to temporarily increase deterrence, an intimidation action like pounding their chest and shouting, or something.

If there is no sapien within a radius from the food no calculation required, and this radius can change based on fear. Of course to predators a sapien is food, so…

It can go to the food with the highest motivation.

alternatively this could work with a swarm like system, where the animal adjusts the direction it is travelling towards based on similar factors as above, but I am unsure how this would translate to a 360 thing smoothly, without weird cases. The obvious weird case is when the animal moves towards food, then moves away from sapiens, then towards food, on and on it goes.

Hey, I remember a couple of videos related to this:
ecosystem, but this one also talks about genetics and such, which is beyond what I am suggesting, and really is a type of machine learning.
swarm

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Thank you for your lengthy reply (I prefer those) and the recommendations. I’ve already watched both videos. I love Sebastian.
There are also other people who do similar stuff (like ThinMatrix or Primer). I know there are a few smaller games with that as a focus. But I don’t know any that have a different focus with smart mobs as a secondary thing. And I think the combination of civilization building and smart animals would fit together quite nicely.