We want to focus on a model/game (can we call it a godel, since it will be a god-like, orchestrate behaviour from above affair) on being a good farmer. Using KISS we’ll focus on just 10 people, one crop, a few farming methods, and simple weather variation. The idea is to make something robust that we can use to get people talking and gather information for a bigger godel.
David referred me to to the Betsileo Rice Challenge which brings up the important idea that there are different ways to be a good farmer, and decision-making can be dependent on a person’s role within a community.
One of the ways we are trying to move things forward with respect to games like these is to make the underlying game engine transparent i.e. when you make a decision, and the game presents you with a resulting scenario, it should be easy for people to understand what the game has done. We want to achieve this in two ways (a) use modelling4all to break out the model code into easily understandable building blocks (b) use the graphical nature of the NetLogo View to provide visual queues that allow people to see almost everything that is happening behind the scenes in an intuitive way. For example, if a gamer decides to plant a particular crop in a specific field, they will be able to do this by looking at the NetLogo View to see soil quality, the state of irrigation, weather patterns etc. Many serious games hide this complexity but in doing so hide the assumptions the game designer has built into the game.
We shortlisted the following factors for the first iteration of our godel:
- focus on maize farming
- model decision-making over the calendar year (the model can be run over many years)
- provide buttons to ‘buy’ actions:
- clear field (i.e. slash and burn in Jan-Feb)
- hire tractor
- add weed killer
- add fertiliser
- dig furrows
- plant seeds
- do some weeding
- raise furrows
- work as part of a team
- donate labour to church/mosque
- donate labour to chief
- we also discussed other things people might like to optimise:
- have a party (at the bar)
- repair houses
- go to Mosque
- buy in labour
- save money for other things e.g. schooling
- regarding the weather, wind and rain are the most important factors i.e. water needed for plants to grow but too much can cause rot and even crush some plants (like maize)
To divide this up into discrete coding tasks:
- load schematic map of a section of the village e.g. important institutions (houses, Mosque, doctors/dispensary, schools, market, catholic church, protestant church, chefferie) and important geographic features (fields, hills, river, forest (see above for arial shot)
- design a way whereby 9 farmers can be given a routine at setup where they move between institutions and do different things when there e.g. weeds fields, sell crops
- design a way whereby the gamer can make decisions as to what one person agent does
- design a way to give feedback e.g. you cannot plant seeds because you have not dug furrows.
The way I am currently imagining this is like a mini (very much so) version of Civilisation V/SimCity type game…but one where it is easier to understand what the game engine is doing (rather than having to check the encyclopaedia that comes with the game all the time. In terms of animation, I am not going to be able to use patches again – as in the fishing model, too many patches slows the model down too much.