“People are not stable, their emotions can be manipulated,” said Mike Ambinder at the start of his hour-long GDC speech.
“Current control schemes provide one-dimensional gameplay – they map only player intent. What you don’t get with that is a reading of feeling or long-term goals. Those feelings are not communicable though current controls, and at Valve we want to attack that issue,” he said.
Mike Ambinder is Valve's 'experimental psychologist'. His goal is to detect how players are feeling in the middle of intense gun fight or the moment of being mind fucked on a puzzle. Mr. Ambinder goal is to decide which technologies is best suited to bring biometrics to the masses and make gaming a more mind altering experience.
In a Left 4 Dead experiment, the firm measured electrical resistance of the player’s skin to get an outline of their interest in the game. That data fed into Valve’s AI ‘director’, which in turn upped the challenge during lulls of activity. This was true adaptive real-time difficulty manipulation, and a survey conducted by Valve shows that the guinea pigs were having more fun when the biometric tricks were in play.
A dream goal for the company, Ambinder said, is to ascertain if there exists ‘optimal arousal patterns’ – essentially if it’s possible to find a pattern to the most enjoyable experience.
In theory this seems like a brilliant idea, especially if implemented into multiplayer games. Think Nintendo's Wii Vitality Sensor but it actually helps enhance the game-play and experience. Even though the technology is in it's infancy, Valve may be on to something truly special and game changing.