Applying Information Theory to Formal Models of Play

Simon Wallner
Applying Information Theory to Formal Models of Play
[Poster] [Thesis]

Information

Abstract

This thesis proposes a formal model of interaction in games, to be used as tool for game analysis and game testing. The model allows a quantification of interaction by looking at the low-level structure and patterns in game-controller input. The game-controller input is modelled using discrete-time, discrete-space Markov chains, and information theory is used to quantify the mismatch between the model’s prediction and the actual user input.

The model uses game-agnostic game controller data as its input, which is the lowest common denominator for a large class of games (almost all game console games, most PC games). The models are trained dynamically on-the-fly for each individual play session. This allows performing individual analyses of players’ interactions, while still retaining an approach that is very general and can be used with different games without modification.

To adapt to new play situations quickly, the used models are only based on data from the last couple of seconds or minutes. This can lead to the problem that not enough samples may be available to confidently estimate all dynamic model parameters. This problem is mitigated by considering the full probability distribution of each parameter instead, using a beta distribution.

This work contributes to the understanding of interaction in games, modelling of raw user input and quantifying the model output using information theory. The described approach has been implemented in software and preliminary results from a prestudy are available.

In this exploratory prestudy, the post hoc analysis of nine different games from various genres revealed a number of interaction patterns. One of the observed patterns is routinization, a process in which an action is performed repeatedly until it is executed almost unconsciously. Research in this field, based on this thesis, has been performed in cooperation with Martin Pichlmair from the IT University Copenhagen, and a workin-progress paper is to be published in the proceedings of the ACM SIGCHI Annual Symposium on Computer-Human Interaction in Play (CHI PLAY) [Wallner, S., Pichlmair, M., Hecher, M., and Wimmer, M. (2015). Modeling Routinization in Games - An Information Theory Approach. In Proceedings of the Second ACM SIGCHI Annual Symposium on Computer-human Interaction in Play, page pp, London, UK. ACM.]

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BibTeX

@mastersthesis{wallner-2015-InfoTheoryPlay,
  title =      "Applying Information Theory to Formal Models of Play",
  author =     "Simon Wallner",
  year =       "2015",
  abstract =   "This thesis proposes a formal model of interaction in games,
               to be used as tool for game analysis and game testing. The
               model allows a quantification of interaction by looking at
               the low-level structure and patterns in game-controller
               input. The game-controller input is modelled using
               discrete-time, discrete-space Markov chains, and information
               theory is used to quantify the mismatch between the
               model’s prediction and the actual user input.  The model
               uses game-agnostic game controller data as its input, which
               is the lowest common denominator for a large class of games
               (almost all game console games, most PC games). The models
               are trained dynamically on-the-fly for each individual play
               session. This allows performing individual analyses of
               players’ interactions, while still retaining an approach
               that is very general and can be used with different games
               without modification.  To adapt to new play situations
               quickly, the used models are only based on data from the
               last couple of seconds or minutes. This can lead to the
               problem that not enough samples may be available to
               confidently estimate all dynamic model parameters. This
               problem is mitigated by considering the full probability
               distribution of each parameter instead, using a beta
               distribution.  This work contributes to the understanding of
               interaction in games, modelling of raw user input and
               quantifying the model output using information theory. The
               described approach has been implemented in software and
               preliminary results from a prestudy are available.  In this
               exploratory prestudy, the post hoc analysis of nine
               different games from various genres revealed a number of
               interaction patterns. One of the observed patterns is
               routinization, a process in which an action is performed
               repeatedly until it is executed almost unconsciously.
               Research in this field, based on this thesis, has been
               performed in cooperation with Martin Pichlmair from the IT
               University Copenhagen, and a workin-progress paper is to be
               published in the proceedings of the ACM SIGCHI Annual
               Symposium on Computer-Human Interaction in Play (CHI PLAY)
               [Wallner, S., Pichlmair, M., Hecher, M., and Wimmer, M.
               (2015). Modeling Routinization in Games - An Information
               Theory Approach. In Proceedings of the Second ACM SIGCHI
               Annual Symposium on Computer-human Interaction in Play, page
               pp, London, UK. ACM.] ",
  month =      nov,
  address =    "Favoritenstrasse 9-11/E193-02, A-1040 Vienna, Austria",
  school =     "Institute of Computer Graphics and Algorithms, Vienna
               University of Technology ",
  keywords =   "formal models of play, user input visualization,
               understanding interaction in games, gameplay, information
               theory",
  URL =        "https://www.cg.tuwien.ac.at/research/publications/2015/wallner-2015-InfoTheoryPlay/",
}