NonKin Village took 1st Place in the Federal Virtual Worlds Challenge 2011 competition under the Pattern of Life category.
Non-Kinetic (NonKin) Village provides training developers with a small autonomous society (like The Sims or SimCity) that is reconfigurable for a number of cross-cultural training goals. Nothing is scripted, it is all based on social science models of the society of interest. Once the models are setup, trainees can use it like the mock villages at US military forts to gain experience in foreign cultures and to learn to be sensitive to local norms, values, relationship building, and stakeholder issues prior to arriving in the country or region where they must interact with and possibly influence and assist natives in that culture. This is useful for many types of training such as, but not limited to, multinational corporations tutoring their workers, international aid organizations training their field representatives, and diplomatic advisors and military forces needing to learn how to handle counter-insurgency, stabilization and development issues.
Many specific types of training can be written with the Agents in NonKin Village. The current NonKin release holds two demo games aimed at military player(s) and at helping them to learn how to profile and befriend the population, and to begin to help stabilize their society. NonKin presents the player(s) with an artificial society that has a declining economy (formal and black market), a corrupt governance and leadership structure (clan as well as various would-be governmental groups and institutions), potential insurgents amidst families carrying out daily lives, and residents whose trust you can earn. The two demos, respectively, challenge trainees to (1) identify trends affecting the main economic activities, organizations, and networks of the village; and (2) build up relations and become familiar to the villagers in order to learn their social, kinship and political networks well enough to find and detain an insurgent. These are not completed training games, but are meant to be illustrative of what can be created with NonKin Village.
Transparency Return to Top
The common complaints about gameworld AIs (agents) are that they are narrow and brittle, have no allegiance or relationship to you, and are unaware of the larger world.
We have tried to overcome this by making the agents cognitively rich (broad and deep), socially connected on many levels, and conversational about their world and relationships including the relationship to you.
The purpose of NonKin Village is to teach the player about how to gain the trust of a foreign populace, learn about their concerns and grievances, and help them to improve their quality of life.
In order to do this, you must interact. Here are some suggestions:
Ease of use Return to Top
NonKin Village is a training world and as a trainee, there is a sequence of steps you should undertake. At present, there is no one forcing you to move along this sequence, so it is up to the player to do so. Please go to "How To Play" to learn basic usage topics, and then read down to the bottom of that page for the Strategy for both a short and longer experience in NonKin Village. Try to answer these questions:
Note: do not be impatient. Achieving influence in a community takes time (meetings, dialog, treatment with respect, etc.) and is not always filled with action and excitement. In fact, the easiest things to do in NonKin (threaten, shoot, detain) are the most likely to cause you to fail.
Depth and Breadth Return to Top
Earlier we stated that NonKin agents are cognitively rich (broad and deep), socially connected on many levels, and conversational about their world and relationships including the relationship to you. The village has several overlapping networks (economic, kinship, social, political, etc.). Understanding these represents a puzzle to be unraveled if you are ultimately to help improve the stability of this community. Specifically, can you succeed at each of the following two training games?
- Economics 101: "Show Me The Money" - Can you play this game (see "How To Play") and discover some important economic organizations, networks, and trends of the village? Specifically,
- Spatial Pattern: What is the surface level pattern of daily life going on in the village? What activities are going on and who is doing what? What economic nodes and networks seem to exist?
- Daily Timeline: What is motivating the villagers' action choices (physiology needs, monetary needs, socializing, praying, etc.)? If it is not scripted, but emerges from their micro-decision making, can you discover what values guide them and what norms they observe?
- Quality of Life: Can you play the short game (see Strategy Short) and discover the economic trends and conditions in the village?
- Rucksack — After you play, be sure to run the Rucksack and see how you did.
- Relations and Social Networks 101: "The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly" - All agents in the game can explain their internal socio-cognitive states, group grievances, relations/alignments, fears, and wants. By conducting patrols and "walking the beat", players become familiar to the villagers, improve relations, and learn about cultural sensitivities and how operations and courses of action can help and/or cause unintended and emergent effects at the tactical level.
Can you play this game (see "How To Play") and befriend the villagers enough so they trust you and begin to help you discern the following?
- Social, Kinship, and Political Networks — Who's who in the village? Who are the family members and clan leaders?
- The Bad — What is their history? Any grievances between clans? Is the government denying services? And are there any illicit sources of support?
- The Ugly — Who is not to be trusted in this village? Are there any active insurgents in the village? If so, where are they and can you detain him?
Villagers exhibit typical pattern of life,
choosing to work, pray, eat, etc. Behavior
emergence often occurs (e.g. unscripted
Hints about the Village: Do not look at this if you want to discover it for yourself [+]
Implementation Complexity Return to Top
How do things work under the hood?
NonKin Village is assembled from a library of social science models that serves as a metamodel, or authoring language, capable of generating emergent artificial societies. Here we overview some of the specific models currently in this library (cognitive, socio-political, economic, vignette, conversational, etc.). Once a village scenario is authored in these models, it is instantiated into a server that then works across a bridge to control the agents in a given immersive, platform-specific 3D gameworld (VBS2 is the current client). One seeming paradox of this research is that as agent complexity increases (and these are complex agents), the easier it becomes for the agents to explain their world, their dilemmas, and their social and economic networks to a player or trainee. This reduces the burden on developers since narrative emerges from players interacting with the models.
There are two options to learn more about these workings:
Please select one of the above.Note:
- Please differentiate beween our limitations and VBS2 limitations -- VBS2 lacks support for micro-gestures and a diverse population. Facial movement, culturally realistic gestures and region specific village objects (fruit, tea, stands, carts etc) are all absent from the base VBS2 distribution. Some of this can be added given a large budget and a set of graphic artists, but the scope of our project did not include such assets.
- We model high level behavior, not micro-behavior -- The goal of our games is to model a population and their decisions and actions realistically. We do not show what it looks like when someone in Afghanistan eats or drinks tea or socializes, we show why and when they do. It is up to the engine and plugin implementation to model specifics like that. Given a breadth of models and an advanced animation system in the client engine, such actions would be easily integrated into a NonKin controlled scenario. We are not graphics modelers and as such, we work with what the engine ships with by default.
- These games are examples -- The games you are about to download are not fully finished, they are simply intended to show what is possible with NonKin Village. The illustrate the AI and what it is capable of. These are intended to showcase our backend, and are not ready for potential trainees to use.
- The sim-ahead capability is far more complex than it appears -- Unfortunately, the sim ahead capability is fairly difficult to understand in the scope of the demonstration games that we have put together. The sim ahead actually approximates what will happen in the village over an 8 week period, using a system called StateSim. StateSim was tested by DARPA for over 4 years in 100s of real world correspondence tests (recreating rebellions, coups, domestic political violence episodes, etc.) all over the world. Overall accuracy is better than 80% at correlations with real people that we model with it. The predicted changes that StateSim makes are then mapped back to the running NonKin simulation and reflected in the 3D world.
Creativity Return to Top
NonKin Village is meant to serve as a generator. Many training games can be designed and run inside of NonKin.
Our overview mentions training is possible for diplomats, NGOs, multi-national enterprises, and the military, among others. As an example, we have recently been tasked with creating a game in NonKin to teach a US AID framework for conflict resolution.
The long term (quad chart) goal of the current ONR-sponsored village (the one offered here) is to provide a training environment relevant to all three stages of Counter-Insurgency (COIN) theory:
- COIN Phase I: survey the social landscape - Visit often, become familiar to the residents, observe the residents going about their daily routines, and learn to detect anomalous and suspicious behaviors before bad things actually happen.
- COIN Phase II: make friends/coopt the agenda - Suggest and try security, employment, and related stabilization projects in order to befriend factions and coopt the agenda away from the insurgency's leaders and followers.
- COIN Phase III: reconstruction and transition - foster self-sustaining interventions and institutions so the player can safely depart.
The current release shows two examples of the type of training possible in Phase I and the start of Phase II.
NonKin is not tied to the current village, but is a generator of artificial societies. Baja, the village used here is in Afghanistan (Nad Ali district). It is the second village in NonKin. The first one was Hamariyah which is a mock Iraqi village designed by the trainers at 29 Palms. NonKin is capable of supporting any culture, as long as cultural modeling is done. Afghan, Iraqi, Palestinian, Somalian, and several South Asian cultures and communities as well as UK soccer hooligans and US political protests have all been modeled with the tools under the hood of NonKin Village.