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How to abstract a person

Written By: lev ledit on August 2, 2010 3 Comments

Dear cybernetic people,

for the last six years, I worked about fifteen hours a day with a group of five to nineteen people on a computer game called Papermint. Papermint is a virtual world or more specific a social networking game. You play this game inside of an internet browser, where you see a 3D world looking like made out of colourful paper, your chosen character in the centre. Then you start to walk around, to meet other players, who walk or roll around themselves or you play mini-games or meta-games with them. You can have children and those are real people too.

Papermint Screenshot

One pioneering effort of Papermint is its unique way of making social and interpersonal cues perceivable for its users. Just imagine entering a bar and holding your ground. Can a game ever simulate the extreme complexities of human interaction happening in this moment? This is what we tried.

Papermint is a world supporting communication in large variety – it literally gives the licence to communicate, because most players do not start chatting without gently being invited. Communicative interaction is made easy through jointly gaming and exploring and establishing values.

Of course it is emphasising on social relations.

In Papermint every player is related to others with the option to immediately find out about the level of the propinquity.

Users also may explore different types of landscapes, sounds or collect various kinds of flowers. Flowers being rare are especially valuable as will be treasured bartering objects. In addition Papermint utilizes local references in order to support quick access.

To give an imagination of what i am talking about, watch this three minuts video:

The Character’s Soul

Papermint players learn to perceive patterns in the information clusters contained in user profiles (“wobbles”), enabling them to correctly read other players’ gestures/expressions and later decode them automatically, by virtue of the brain’s inherent capacity for pattern recognition. Therein lies Papermint’s core gameplay. The game thus represents the translation of the principles of human perception into an electronic medium. This profile-pattern consisting of symbols and swarm of colour-moons) floats over the head of the game-character.

This profile wobbles also incorporates long-term gaming experience, player behaviour (i.e., elements that cannot be “made up” by cheating or lying) and the profile values, as attributed to one’s character by the player.

Imagine again entering a bar and holding your ground. Most people master this real-life-game, even though its rules are extremely complex. In a split second, the human brain, which is optimized for pattern recognition, scans both the room and the guests and makes decisions concerning friendliness, antipathy, awe, fear, security, further possibilities, and ways of attaining love.

Papermint is all about living one’s own identity within the social environment of the other players – one’s team-mates, in a sense. Thus, the ability to perceive players in the virtual world is of central importance.

The goal of the Papermint game lies in attaining a character with a profile wobble particle pattern that matches one’s own ideas of an ideal character and thus appeals to precisely those players to whom one would like to appear interesting. When personal entanglements concerning weddings, children, mini-games, social roles (e.g. judges or registrars), or other social successes with these particularly exciting players lead to tales worth telling, that is the point at which the game player has fulfilled his/her goal.

Players get “visible” through a number of different ways:

  • How you want to look (see below, how you can achieve this)
  • Freely choosable symbols in your profile (are you a carrot or a sausage person?)
  • The way how you play the game in a long term fassion is made visible with the “wobbles”. (are you a socializer, an achiever, an explorer, …)
    see the image below
  • Special symbols show if you are pregnant (in the game J), your game-age, your overall mood (thing about sprinkles in a mens-face), …
  • Flags in the profile pattern show values dependent on the actual sozial environment.
  • And most importantly, how you behave in the world while chatting, playing, dancing, rolling, or floating around the sea, being a paper-boat.

Visul Character Profile
This image is an example of the profiles of two different players.

  1. Choose one of six character-types (round and short, thin, heavy, …) in various skin colours. (including green)
  2. Change between 25 different moods, which alters not only the facial expression but also how your character is animated while walking, dancing or making different actions.
  3. Put on your outfit from a variety of about (i don’t know exactly) 10,000 different hairstyles, trousers, tattoos, accessories and so forth in 15(!) different layers on your character.
  4. Change any single colour on any outfit with the colours you extracted from plants found throughout the world of papermint.
  5. Print Plants (rabbits, mice, turtles-penis-trees are all plants) onto your outfits.

Papermint attempts to integrate a high narrative potential into its world.

Another focus of Papermint is micro-localisation. People shall rather meet in ‘feeling-places’ that geographical places. One of Papermint’s ‘feeling-homes’ is an abstract version of Vienna (‘Wieneu’). There are places for lonely hearts, volley ball players, suburbs-lovers, …

In opposite to Second Life, Papermint is a world designed for the player not BY the player although player created content is of course an important aspect in Papermint.

But Papermint will neither become a virtual billboard, a gambling site or pornography centre.

Papermint does not want to be discriminating against those who might feel discriminated anyway already. It is open to everyone.

A game does not have to LOOK realistic to FEEL real.

Papermint is free to play at www.papermint.com

If you have any further questions or you want me to give a personal presentation, just ask, obviously I am proud of it J! Or if you think that this could be interesting to somebody else, tell her!


Lev Ledit

papermint scrabble

3 Responses to “How to abstract a person”

  1. Art Collings says on: 6 August 2010 at 12:02 am


    This is amazing. I’m going to try to play, and then have some questions about ’souls’.

  2. Art Collings says on: 10 August 2010 at 8:57 pm

    Well, OK, I had problems with both Safari and FireFox, so have not been able to play. But … just from watching the video, it appears that this environment is doing extremely interesting things in terms of modeling non-verbal communication.

    I’m curious, from a coding/architecture perspective, how separable the model for the characters (and their ’souls’) is from the rest of this environment? What struck me was that if they can easily be moved to a different environment, they could be used as the basis for modeling conversations. Ranging from three people in a circle to a bunch of people in a bar.

    • lev ledit says on: 26 August 2010 at 1:48 am

      sorry art, i didn’t see the response earlier. it is “quite” easy to separate the profile-engine from the rest, because it is a stand alone profile engine.

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