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Game mechanic: Negotiation

Discussion in 'Game Design' started by Abelabumba, Feb 28, 2015.

  1. Abelabumba

    Abelabumba

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    I've tried Google but the results are all about games that teach negotiation, not showing me lists of video games where negotiation is a key game element. Does anyone have some examples?

    I currently have a super crude setup where the negotiation enemy has a base "willingness to accept X", the player has a "negotiation skill" and if the skill is higher than the willingness, the enemy accepts. The player can take actions / offer concessions that affect the willingness in both directions. That's pretty boring, but atm I'm treading water and don't know how to expand / make it more fun. I think I've seen this system in Civilization or a similar game and they didn't really have something more elaborate, either (but the last civ game I played was on win98 iirc).

    One thing I came up with is besides the normal "submit proposal" button I could have a "force the issue" button that has a higher chance of success at the cost of a higher penalty for failure but this alone won't help much. In a similar vein I could have multiple approaches ((soft, normal, hard) or (appeal to humanity, intellect, instincts)) but that's cheapening the value of the negotiation skill somewhat imo.

    Hopefully someone here with more experience has some cool ideas.
     
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  2. TheSniperFan

    TheSniperFan

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    You are on the right way.

    Start with something simple:
    The other party accepts if x >= 80. x is your negotiation skill. Therefore the other party accepts, if negotiation skill >= 80.

    Then think about what makes or breaks negotiations in the real world and add another layer:
    You can lower the threshold by making a more interesting offer.

    Then add another layer:
    You don't just have a negotiation skill, but also certain relevant personality traits that affect the outcome depending on the other party's traits. Examples:
    You are aggressive, which is something the other party does not like. => First impression bad => Bad.
    You are aggressive and the other party is "weak" or very passive. => Intimidation bonus => Good.

    Then add another layer:
    Cultural differences! You happen to be knowledgeable in terms of Japanese culture, which grants you a bonus when negotiating with certain people.

    Then add another layer:
    Experience
    Bribery
    ...


    It all boils down to having a certain degree of character customization. If you go full-on RPG with this feature, you could use skill-trees for this.
     
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  3. Abelabumba

    Abelabumba

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    Awesome, thanks! I don't think I'll do a full skill tree, but rock paper scissors style attribute pairings sound good, same for cultural / language adjustments.
     
  4. khanstruct

    khanstruct

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    Going off that idea; we know that first impressions paint our perception of someone. So have the first impression set a base rate of how much they like you, fear you, etc. Military encounter? Disaster relief? etc.

    Next, have likeliness to accept be based on their opinion of you as well as their mood. You could have lots of things affect their mood, especially if you couple it with different personality types. For instance, did they recently win a significant battle? This might make them less likely to be swayed by intimidation and fear, but more likely to accept offers of military wares. Is their population starving or in a recession? This might make them desperate and more likely to settle for less if they're receiving food, money or ongoing support (for X number of turns).

    Think of it like the Sims, but instead of Hunger, Hygiene, Bladder, etc., it's Courage, Generosity, Ego, etc. and have these range from positive to negative.
     
  5. CDMcGwire

    CDMcGwire

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    May I ask what kind of game you're making? Or is the entire game negotiation (which I would totally play)?
     
  6. Abelabumba

    Abelabumba

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    Thanks Khan, some good ideas there.

    CDM, I hate to be that guy (especially since people here are so helpful!) but I can't really tell yet, there is no game like this on the market and I'm new to programming - I've made some significant advances already, I'd guess the "engine" is about 40 - 50% there, after that it's about filling it with content, content, content. Someone lurking this forum who actually IS a gamedev already could build it in under two months - while I agree that ideas themselves are generally worthless, there is some value in ideas that have never been done before. I'm actually craving to share it with the world, gauge reactions etc but I don't dare to, yet. Working on this full time, it's hopefully not long until I've build a moat / head start big enough that I don't have to worry anymore.

    Negotiation is a key part of the game, you won't be able to "win" without it and I'll likely put in a way to win purely by it. Every action you're going to take is ultimately about building your negotiation position with someone but in terms of time spent actually doing it it's not going to be the main focus, especially not for first time players.
     
  7. CDMcGwire

    CDMcGwire

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    That's cool. I understand.

    So the first couple of posts kinda nailed it, but I can add that, if there is a visual component to the other party, using subtle visual cues can be a much more interesting way to tip off the player on how to approach an issue than a stat sheet. I can see reason to not rely entirely on visual cues (if you don't get them just right, the player feels screwed), but you could use them as a supplement to reveal different strategies the player could use. Also, you could have opponents of varying expression and even some that mislead the player (Though, if you mislead, it may be good to indicate to the player that they have been mislead... After the fact of course :p).

    I don't much experience with the strategic Civ/Total War style of negotiation, but I love playing early BioWare games (mostly the earlier stuff) and Deus Ex: Human Revolution for that kind of experience. So the takeaway for this post is: Make it feel like the player is negotiating with a character, not an AI.
     
  8. ostrich160

    ostrich160

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    What I'd do is model it after those terrible quizzes in womens magazines, you know the ones, so every time you say something, or do something, it adds on a certain number of points, and then different characters will have different values that they need your points to be over to be persuaded. To make this even better, have conflicting characters within each scenario, you need to make sure you make them both happy.
     
  9. Gigiwoo

    Gigiwoo

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    Why aren't there better examples? Civ is the best I can think of, and even so, it's a weak system that most players dislike.

    Negotiation is an exchange of power - I want this, you want that. In games, this boils down to - "Or else!" In real life, negotiation is either: a) related to money or b) altruism, which is why negotiation isn't a part of most games.

    Gigi
     
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  10. Gigiwoo

    Gigiwoo

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    Which, when fully fleshed out, probably looks like the Kim Kardashian game.
    Gigi
     
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  11. AndrewGrayGames

    AndrewGrayGames

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    The thing is, it sort of draws full-circle. The early BioWare games often had a Charisma stat and certain social skills (Intimidate/Persuade) which you could use to navigate conversation trees such that you could end some quests by merely talking. My favorite example is Darth Sion in Knights of the Old Republic 2: The Sith Lords - if you're a female, light-side Exile, you can convince Sion to let go of the Dark Side completely, which causes him to instantly die.

    A game that is nothing but conversation wheels to me would be tough to pull off, because you're going to need more mechanics than just a key stat and two conversation skills to make it work, but with some creativity, it's possible. The Kim Kardashian game, as well as the other conversation-driven games of yesteryear show us this.
     
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  12. DanSuperGP

    DanSuperGP

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    One thing that most games don't take into account when considering negotiation is what negotiation actually is.

    It's a situation where two sides both have something the other side wants and are seeking to maximize their return while minimizing their losses.

    Terrorists want : 5 million dollars and a helicopter , Police want : Hostages released unharmed, not to give up ransom money, not to let terrorists escape.
    Unions want: Better Health Benefits, pay raises, safer working conditions Employers want : More flexibility in overtime scheduling, save money, no work stoppages

    A "negotiation" stat doesn't really begin to capture things like that. Questions that seem more relevant to me are...

    What's important to all the members of a negotiation and how highly do they value all the variables in play?

    What moves does each member in the negotiation make when offering possible deals?

    How do you figure out what's most important to each side while not accidentally giving up the pot with a bad deal?

    How do you not make an offer so bad you sour the whole thing?
     
  13. CDMcGwire

    CDMcGwire

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    One thing I thought up the other day, when working on a dialogue system myself, was modifying the Fallout New Vegas style conversation skills (which I find the among the most interesting of recent years) so that each had a different chance of success, or different required skill level if you want to avoid random rolling (like I usually do), but that value was hidden. Thus, the player has to take what they know of the character they are communicating with to figure out which dialogue choice they can use to succeed.

    For instance: A Player Character has 60 in Charm; 25 in Intimidate; 42 in Reasoning.
    During a diplomatic encounter, three dialogue choices are presented. One based on Charm, one for Intimidation, one for Reasoning.
    Unknown to the player: The Charm option succeeds if the player has 70 or more in that skill; 20 for intimidate; 80 for Reasoning.
    Known to the Player: The NPC is a frail, professor (Stereotypes!) of the same gender who is single minded towards their work.

    Now the player has to decide whether or not to put confidence in their practiced Charm skill, which might not seem to the player that it will work well on an NPC that doesn't pick up on social cues, or they could Chance using their poor intimidation skill under the pretense that the professor is unbelievably susceptible to it.

    Cunning, in this scenario, should seem to be an obvious choice to avoid, as the professor is highly sophisticated and will easily shoot holes in the player's sub average Reasoning skills.
     
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  14. DanSuperGP

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    The problem with this is it's just a hidden number test. The only way to "succeed" is to choose the strategy the player avoids the most. The player isn't acting out their character at that point... they're just trying to guess which of their numbers beats the hidden numbers. At that rate, their best bet is to max out a specific stat... and use it to the exclusion of all others.... my charm is 90... that should beat most everything... even those most resistant to such wiles.

    This isn't as interesting to me as finding the right complement to use to stroke the guy's ego, the right piece of leverage to use to intimidate, or the right chain of logic that appeals to their sense of reason.
     
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  15. CDMcGwire

    CDMcGwire

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    Good point. Probably not the right approach for this kind of situation anyways. I was mostly trying to throw around some cement-able game mechanics. If this is going to manifest itself as more of an Early BioWare style dialogue tree, it's very easy for players to simply pick the best dialogue path. I do that all the time. The hidden numbers add a barrier that needs to be solved. Modifiers could be implemented (succeed on one attempt, some future attempts are easier, some are harder), tactical doors can be closed when attempts are failed, and some methods could never work (Charm requires a 105, skill maxes at 100).

    Not the most elegant, but its a step I think. Heck, you might even have all numbers and stats hidden behind a more natural presentation. The point is to keep the player guessing what the optimal path is without making things random.
     
  16. Gigiwoo

    Gigiwoo

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    @DanSuperGP captures the problems. Random rolls vs a skill end up feeling stupid. If I have a 99 skill, and I get a random failure, I will be MAD at the game for bad game design. Dialog mechanics can be much more sophisticated and fun.

    Gii
     
  17. Abelabumba

    Abelabumba

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    Plan right now is to demote the negotiation skill to a mere bonus, the main deciding factors will be how much the other party values both side's objects of negotiation. Having this being the overwhelmingly most important part is a bit simplistic but based in reality; at the end of the day how much I want something and its cost are the biggest factors in me deciding to buy it, by far.

    The negotiations are also more along the lines of a hostage crisis or negotiation between countries, i.e. different from a knight's visit to an armor shop: All sides have reasons to really want to come to a conclusion and these will mount over time, so personal likes / dislikes between participants and stuff like this will make a difference initially, but at some point they will have to be cast aside - just walking away from a deal is a possibility but would have repercussions for everyone.

    Influencing the opponent's valuing of the negotiated objects will be the main way the player can get a better deal or screw up, they will also have mechanics to get a better picture about those "values". I'll see what other mechanics I'll put in on top of that but they will most likely only be gimmicks that don't change the big picture very often.
     
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  18. PerfectlyInsane

    PerfectlyInsane

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    I recall that some of the civ has a war tiredness that is the longer they are at war the more likely they want to stop the war and hence the negotiations are more favorable.
     
  19. ostrich160

    ostrich160

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    We all know her game is the height of political drama
     
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  20. CDMcGwire

    CDMcGwire

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    You diminish its importance mentioning it with politics. Truly it is up there with the likes of the Moon Landing.
     
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  21. Gigiwoo

    Gigiwoo

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    Love it or hate it, we can learn from it, just as we can from WoW and other mass successes. There is conversation, npc interactions, and at some level, a limited from of ... 'Negotiation'.

    Gig
     
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  22. BrandyStarbrite

    BrandyStarbrite

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    Why don't you try it a bit like the Legend of Zelda the Windwaker.
    Where, in this case:
    When Link takes part in the auction, on Windfall island.
    And you're bidding for super rare objects, you have to rapidly press the A button, to fill up the meter.
    Filling the meter, means your cunning influencial power has given you the ability to, outsmart/outbid everyone in the auction room.
    https://d3esbfg30x759i.cloudfront.net/ss/zlCfzRJ96Ss5leMFd0
    (And gives you the chance to bid before/outbid everyone else, and stun them mentally, so that they refuse, to spend any more money, on the rare item being bidded for.)
    In order to outbid, overtake, or take control of the bidding auction, and thereby, turn the auction to your favour.
    It's one of the rarest fun parts about that game.
    And I hate losing the bidding negociations, in that game.
    Lol! :D

    Try using that for your negociation thingy.
    It probably might work. ;)

    PS: Nintendy is so full of cool rare ideas! :D
    Also don't forget, You gotta tap that gamecube controllers A button, really, really fast to win!
    Otherwise you'll lose that item forever! :eek:
    Lol! :D
     
    Last edited: Mar 6, 2015
  23. hopeful

    hopeful

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    I think you might be able to get somewhere with the negotiation dialogue mentioned above if you apply the player's charm, intimidation, or whatever traits before the dialogue options display.

    For instance, if the player has points toward intimidate and a random roll indicates a hit, then display dialogue as if intimidation can play a role. Like: "[Intimidate] Give me the design for the matter obliterator gun now, old man!" Failed options do not appear.

    Used in this way your game can allow players to build up several different traits with varied levels of success based upon the specific combination of player and NPC, and yet the player still gets to choose which way to go out of the dialogue options given to them.
     
  24. CDMcGwire

    CDMcGwire

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    I would actually avoid random rolling in my example. I find this to be a system where obscured numbers and subtle visuals/writing to be a more satisfying experience. A system where you don't know anything for certain, but you can make educated guesses.
     
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  25. DanSuperGP

    DanSuperGP

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    I've been thinking about this a lot in the last couple days. If you want an example game that really uses negotiation as a mechanic play the board game Settlers of Catan. It doesn't have any actual RULES involving negotiation, but it creates situations where negotiation is necessary to succeed at the game.
     
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  26. Schneider21

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    That's negotiating with other human players, though, right? Any multiplayer game can contain the ability to negotiate as long as it facilitates communication between players. I think the difficult thing is quantifying the act of negotiation into code.

    Disclaimer: I didn't read anything in this thread other than the first post, so these ideas may be redundant.

    In Real Life™ Negotiations, everything has a value associated with it, let's say with an assigned or perceived dollar value. Using that value, you can convert to find equivalencies. I'm willing to give my company 40 hours of my week for X amount of dollars in return at Y dollars per hour. I'm willing to give Z amount of dollars for a piece of fruit that I'm buying, so that piece of fruit could be said to be worth ( Y / Z ) hours. Or whatever the actual math would be.

    I'm assuming that's how games like Civilization and Total War work with their negotiation systems, albeit with more factors considered. Asking an AI player to attack another AI member might cost a base amount of "value" A, multiplied by their opinion rating of you, minus their opinion of that other player times his military strength. Something like that.

    If you can assign a value to items and services, and figure out which things affect it, the rest is just testing and balancing.
     
  27. theANMATOR2b

    theANMATOR2b

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    Disclaimer - I lurk here often but rarely feel knowledgeable or experienced enough to add to the conversation.

    This is no exception - but I seem to remember a couple negotiating examples which were fun because of the difficulty level. I can't remember if the difficulty was due to BS game design rules such as - "you need ask the questions in the correct order to proceed" or if it was more compelling design wise.
    The first one was one of the old SWAT games which if memory serves, allowed for interrogation and mystery crime solving.
    And the other one - I can't remember the name of the game, but it was a Sherlock Holmes game, I think on the Sega CD. The entire game was finding clues, interviewing characters, and knowing what question to ask and when to ask. Several options weren't available to you as the player - such as intimidation tactics, until you gathered more information and evidence.

    Sorry that's a great example of my brain failing me.
     
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  28. DanSuperGP

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    Yes, but that doesn't invalidate the reason I brought it up. The OP asked for games where negotiation is a key component, if you just confine yourself to "video games which have a negotiation skill you use on an NPC" mechanic you are potentially limiting yourself from valuable insights into the characteristic of negotiation as a game mechanic. I think that would be a bad thing because Settlers may have the best constructed bartering of any game I've ever played yet it doesn't have any explicit negotiation mechanics other than "you can propose trades with other players."

    Some things that particularly stand out about negotiation in Settlers of Catan is that it's essentially a game of total information, yet negotiation plays a huge part of the game. You know what each player has in terms of resources, and you can reason about what each player values highest based on what resources they have, what they have done on the board, what the chances are that they will acquire what they need other ways, and what the resource costs for different build types are.

    What makes the negotiation in the game great isn't that there's a value to Stone, but that it plays on the speculation of the relative value of Stone versus Sheep when your opponent needs to build a Road, and you need to found a City.

    Just setting a value for things and adjusting for opinion doesn't capture the power of negotiation as a game mechanic, which is why the Civ system is so weak. I think there's something powerful about the idea of a NPC in a game estimating the utility of their goods to them compared to their estimated utility to the player and cutting a ruthless bargain, but you're not going to figure out a good way to design that system without an example of how humans do it first.

    So maybe play Settlers even if it isn't a video game.
     
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  29. Schneider21

    Schneider21

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    Fair point, @DanSuperGP. I may have been off target because I've been thinking too much about renegotiating my salary lately. I've now flip-flopped and agree with your opinion unequivocally.

    True speculative valuation is damn-near impossible to calculate, though, right? Everything has to be able to be evaluated objectively in order for it to be computable. So the best result you could hope for would be to try to simulate speculation of value within constraints of a system.
     
  30. DanSuperGP

    DanSuperGP

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    Absolutely, it would have to be heuristic based, and an imperfect heuristic might not even be a bad thing if it leads the NPC's to occasionally incorrectly value what the player wants, leading them to be sometimes suckered into deals that are highly advantageous to the player, making them feel clever, or disadvantageous, making them feel screwed.

    Utility theory seems like it might be a good avenue to go down.
     
  31. CDMcGwire

    CDMcGwire

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    Board games are the wise ancestors of the digital kind.
     
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  32. ExtraAmmo

    ExtraAmmo

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  33. DanSuperGP

    DanSuperGP

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    Sounds awesome. I'm checking it out now.