"The Automated Online Roleplayer" by Dave Kosak

(A little note from Sigg3: even if you don’t know all the terms this story kicks ass!)

— Quote
The Automated Online Role-Player
It’s indistinguishable from live humans!
By Dave “Fargo” Kosak | August 22, 2003

Sure, I love Star Wars Galaxies, the massively multiplayer RPG. I’ve written about it on several occasions. But I’m past that point where I can dedicate my life to a single game. I’m a very important businessman who does very important business with very important people at very important social engagements, such as watching softcore anime with the dudes in the apartment across from mine.

But, I still want to keep playing. And I want to WIN. I know, I know, the hardcore among you are saying, “But Fargo, you can’t ‘win’ an online RPG. That defeats the purpose.” To which I respond: I LIVE to defeat purposes.

And besides, like it or not, people do try to “win” massively multiplayer RPGs. The rules of engagement are something like this:
* If there is a status bar, make it grow bigger
* If there is a number, make it higher
* If it moves, either get a mission from it or kill it
Which got me to thinking: What if I were to unload the boring parts of an MMOG off to someone else? For instance, I love running a business in Star Wars Galaxies, but it’s hard to find the time or the patience to work on my combat skillz. What if someone ELSE played that part of the game for me?

My first impulse — to use a room full of small Korean children — turned out to be a real nightmare. They kept whining and crying and pointing to their mouths or empty bellies. Who knows what they wanted? I don’t speak Korean. Similarly, they didn’t understand me when I pointed to the computer monitor and said “Lewt! LEWT!” no matter how loud I shouted it. Clearly I needed a new plan.

Introducing the Autocamp 2000

And so I turned my attention toward robots! Longtime readers may remember when I subtly and successfully used a robot to write my column while I camped in a mall waiting for Diablo II to come out. A similar process could easily play online games for me. After all, I minored in computer science at a prestigious Liberal Arts institution. The hardest part of any project such as this is figuring out the algorithm, but here it is, in its entirety:

The Autocamp 2000 Plays Online RPGs with the following rules:

1. Join any group that invites you
2. When in a group, follow behind the leader
3. Attack any monster you see
4. Accept all trade requests from other players, then give them a melon
Well, that takes care of 90% of online play. All I would need to do is stick my character — Farglik the Mon Calamari — in a cantina with a backpack full of melons (ah, sweet delicious fruit!). When I checked on him a week later he’d be what they call “├╝ber.” But before I got started I had to tackle the tricky part: interaction with other players. If my automated Farglik didn’t respond to players who talked to him in a meaningful way, the proverbial jig would be up.

One option was to have my robot randomly bark at people in Mandarin Chinese. But I opted for a much more graceful algorithm:

The Autocamp 2000 talks to other players with following rules:

1. If someone says something ending in a question mark, respond by saying “Dude?”
2. If someone says something ending in an exclamation point, respond by saying “Dude!”
3. If someone says something ending with a period, respond by randomly saying one of three things: “Okie,” “Sure,” or “Right on.”
4. EXCEPTION: If someone says something directly to you by mentioning your name, respond by saying “Lag.”
5. (And remember to accept all trade requests from other players by giving them a melon.)
My robot was programmed and ready to go. Hell, if I programmed it to randomly shout “Gimmie buffs!” it would probably pass the turing test. Satisfied, I sat it in front of the keyboard, made sure my character had at least fifty melons in his backpack, and then trudged off to leave it alone for the night.

My character, Farglik the Mon Calamari, waited around in the Cantina for some adventurers. The following is a log of what transpired:

KillSwitch: [Shouting] Does anyone want to join our hunting party?
Farglik: [Powered by the Autocamp 2000] Dude?

[KillSwitch invites Farglik to join the group.]
[Farglik joins the group]

KillSwitch: We’re gonna go hunt wrixes.
Farglik: Right on.

[The group of players runs out of the Cantina, Farglik following close behind. Farglik shoots at every little monster they pass.]

KillSwitch: Why are you attacking the durneys?
Farglik: Dude?
KillSwitch: The durneys, the little bunny things — why do you keep shooting at them?
Farglik: Dude?
Troobacca: [A wookie in the party] My weapon powerup expired, I need a new one.
Farglik: Sure.

[Troobacca opens a trade with Farglik.]
[Farglik hands him a melon.]

Troobacca: …what’s this?
Farglik: Dude?
Troobacca: You handed me a melon!
Farglik: Dude!
KillSwitch: Knock it off guys, I see some wrixes up ahead. Let’s do this.
Farglik: Right on.

[The group encounters a bunch of dangerous wrixes, but they gang up and shoot every one of them.]

KillSwitch: We rock!
Farglik: Dude!
Troobacca: We so OWNED them!
Farglik: Dude!
KillSwitch: Uh oh, hang on. Up ahead are some Sharnaff bulls. We can’t handle them, so don’t shoot.
Farglik: Okie.

[Farglik shoots one of the Sharnaff bulls.]
[The bull attacks; Trobacca and several other party members are killed before they beat it.]

KillSwitch: You IDIOT! Farglik why did you shoot at them?
Farglik: Lag.
KillSwitch: Well don’t do it again.
Farglik: Sure.

[Farglik shoots at another Sharnaff bull.]
[The entire party is slaughtered except for Farglik.]
[ … Farglik stands there, alone, for several hours … ]
[ … finally, a merchant runs up to him.]

Stingrie: [A Rodian merchant.] Hey man! Would you like to buy a stimpack?
Farglik: Dude?
Stingrie: A stimpack. It boosts your health by 200 points. I’ll sell it to you for 500 credits.
Farglik: Okie.

[Stingrie opens a trade session.]
[Farglik hands him a melon.]

Stingrie: What the hell is this?
Farglik: Dude?
Stingrie: You handed me a melon.
Farglik: Right on.
Stingrie: I told you 500 credits!
Farglik: Dude!
Stingrie: If it’s too expensive, just say so.
Farglik: Sure.

[Stingrie runs away, angry.]
[ …. several more hours pass …]
[A small hunting party led by Krushmor the Master Rifleman comes over the ridge and spots Farglik.]

Krushmor: Farglik, what’s up? What are you doing way out here?
Farglik: Lag.
Krushmor: We’re rooting dralls out of a cave. You should join our group.
Farglik: Okie.

[Krushmor invites Farglik to join the group.]
[Farglik joins the group and starts following Krushmor around.]

Soop: [The party’s medic]. Here, Farglik, let me hand you some stimpacks.
Farglik: Lag.
Soop: I know, it’s pretty bad tonight. Here you go.
Farglik: Right on.

[Soop opens up a trade window and hands Farglik a Stimpack.]
[Farglik hands Soop a melon.]

Soop: Uh … thanks!
Farglik: Dude!

[The party enters a cave and spends the next two hours brutally clearing it of creatures, room by room. Everyone gets tons of XP.]

Krushmor: Aw man, it’s getting really late guys. I should go!
Farglik: Dude!
Krushmor: I know, sucks. I’ll catch you all later.
Farglik: Sure.

[Krushmor logs off. By default, Farglik is now promoted to group leader!]

Soop: Well that sucks. What should we hunt next?
Farglik: Dude?
Soop: Let’s hunt Slice Hounds!
Farglik: Dude!
Soop: I know an awesome spot. Follow me.
Farglik: Right on.

[The group runs out of the cave, but Farglik, because he is now group leader, just stands there. Several minutes pass before Soop returns.]

Soop: Farglik why didn’t you come with us?
Farglik: Lag.
Soop: Well catch up when you can.
Farglik: Okie.

[Farglik stands motionless in the cave and eventually the group disbands. Half an hour passes.]
[Suddenly, one of the game developers, controlling Darth Vader, enters the cave.]

Darth Vader: Well, my young padawan, we’ve been watching your progress for quite some time.
Farglik: Sure.
Darth Vader: You have done well. We have decided to bestow upon you: Force powers!
Farglik: Okie.
Darth Vader: You will be the most powerful Jedi on the planet!
Farglik: Dude!

[Darth Vader gives Farglik force powers.]

Darth Vader: Would you like my light saber?
Farglik: Dude?
Darth Vader: My light saber. I bestow it onto you.
Farglik: Right on!

[Darth Vader opens up a trade and gives Farglik a light saber.]
[Farglik hands Darth Vader a melon.]

Darth Vader: Thanks, uh, for the … melon.
Farglik: Sure.
Darth Vader: Well? Aren’t you going to try out your new Force powers?
Farglik: Dude?
Darth Vader: Your Force powers! The powers I just gave you!
Farglik: Dude!
Darth Vader: The FORCE, Farglik! Use the Force!
Farglik: Lag.
Darth Vader: Okay, you know what. Just forget the Force powers. I’m taking them back.
Farglik: Okie.
Darth Vader: And give me back my light saber!
Farglik: Sure.

[Farglik hands Darth Vader a melon.]
[Darth Vader kills Farglik.]
[Farglik respawns in the cloning facility.]

KillSwitch: [In the cloning facility] Whoa! Look who just popped in. What happened to you, Farglik?
Farglik: Lag.
KillSwitch: Want to come hunting with us?
Farglik: Okie.

[Farglik and the Autocamp 2000 join the hunt and gain experience for several more hours…]

I’d call the experiment an unqualified success.
— End quote

I haven’t laughed that hard for days, dudes (and dudettes)!
Here’s the source: gamespy.com/fargo/august03/autorpg, thanks to koew

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