Pride and Prejudice: System Design 1

[General,Research] (02.06.09, 5:30 pm)

System Design 1

Design notes from the reading analysis. For the moment this will be general notes and extrapolations. It is not clear exactly what the mechanics of the world are or should be, but the document should be working in that general direction. The goal of the design phase is to create a design that is able to reformulate the chapter in the analysis in terms of the world logic.

I want to spend some time interpreting the results of the analysis. The step of interpretation should generally go within the analysis itself, but it needs to spill over onto this phase. By going through the analysis we can pick out several core elements of what is going on in the chapter.

This set of design notes has two distinct flavors. The first is a gameplay oriented observations, the second is oriented toward simulation. Both of these are important, but involve different values. I will distinguish these by contextualizing my discussion by explaining the relevance of things in terms of game mechanics or world mechanics.


The chapter is organized, roughly, into scenes. Scenes are characterized logically by what the characters are doing, the interactions they are having, and the activities they are engaged in. Scenes have their own temporal flow, and some scenes may illustrate details drawing out a particular moment in time, while others may review many things happening quickly. Scenes are usually separated by a few sentences indicating a transition. The logic of scenes would make sense to use within a game mechanic. Another way of indicating this is that situations have intrinsic temporal scales. A scene is dominated by some sets of situations, and whichever one of these is active will cause time to be perceived at its particular temporal scale.

For example, a scene where Elizabeth is thinking to herself may be a private moment in time which is quite active from the perspective of events that are taking place. The events are cognitive and emotional, but many of them are taking place in this isolate moment of time. A gameplay equivalent of this would be to pause or slow the game, allow the player to perform the actions associated with the emotion, and then continue. Other segments, for instance, toward the end of the evening, events are spread across time, but are understood consecutively. This approach to time is naturally understood by readers, but is very unusual from the perspective of gameplay.

From a perspective of simulation, the temporal flow may be considered a presentational element, and the exact layout of the events in time is less of a concern than the events themselves. It is not clear what approach to time would be the best for gameplay. One way to approach it would be to have time play out continuously, and simply have the inner-thought periods be busy. A second approach would be to enforce the flow of time, but this would remove control over time from the player, and may be frustrating if there are forced jumps forward. The player could be given a means for controlling time, but this, at onset, sounds like a cumbersome interface element. I would be interested in some intermediary format, where time advances more or less continuously (long scenes may still need to play out), but slow scenes, such as inner thoughts would be slowed, and indicated by some focusing on the character. Similarly, a conversation may employ this device as well. Other means of advancing time, for instance, fast forwarding to a new event or traveling, may be available to the player as well.

Scenes are:

  1. Arrival, looking for Wickham, internal thoughts
  2. Speaking to Denny
  3. More internal thoughts
  4. Speaking to Charlotte Lucas
  5. Dancing with Mr. Collins
  6. Dancing with an Officer
  7. Speaking to Charlotte Lucas again
  8. Dancing and speaking with Darcy
  9. being interrupted by Sir William Lucas
  10. Continuing to dance with Darcy
  11. Being accosted by Miss Bingley
  12. Speaking to Jane
  13. Speaking to Charlotte Lucas, and interrupted by Collins
  14. Collins accosting Darcy (observed)
  15. Mrs. Bennett embarrassing the family
  16. Mary singing
  17. Collins interjection
  18. Post dinner awkwardness, being fawned over by Collins
  19. Parties leaving, additional awkwardness at waiting

These scenes are each characterized by some central activity or situation. These scenes have meaning in of themselves, in terms of the fact that they are significant occurrences. For instance: Elizabeth dances with Darcy, Mrs. Bennett embarrasses Elizabeth in front of Darcy. However, they are also contexts for the events that take place within the scenes.

Emotions and Internal Thoughts

Much of the important text in this chapter is about Elizabeth’s emotions. A lot of time is spent inside her head, either directly or indirectly. A model for the story world would need to incorporate this kind of content. The emotional logic can be understood fairly well in the sense that is described by Ortony, Clore, and Collins. The model they provide treats emotions as valenced reactions. Emotions are not mental states, but they are responses to experiences, and will affect mood and disposition. Emotions are dependent not only on the events, but also the way in which the observer interprets the events.

From a gameplay oriented perspective, this suggests a mechanic wherein the player chooses how to emotionally respond to events in the world. Much like selecting emoticons, the player would be able to indicate that she is offended, flattered, wary, cautious, and so on, in response to the various triggers given by interactions with others. These are significant, not only from the perspective of communication of state to other agents, but because they are meaningful with respect to the course of the story itself. It would be important to devise a mechanic that is complete and sufficient for players to be able to express emotions that both make sense to them, and make sense in the game world.

From the simulation oriented perspective, emotions are important because they 1) exhibit perceptible signs, and 2) they must be chosen by agents who are observing (or interacting) in any given exchange. These exchanges may also be wholly internal, as is the case with Elizabeth in the begining of the evening. The actual emotions that a character might experience are dependent on what they are reacting to and their disposition. It is also important to understand the way that emotions can translate and become redirected. Early in the evening, Elizabeth is first feeling distress and pity for Wickham, then translates this to anger toward Darcy, and then it extends all the way to Bingley because of his positivity toward Darcy. 

The variables given by Ortony, Clore, and Collins describe global emotional variables of sense of reality, psychological proximity, unexpectedness, and arousal. Each of these plays into the scene provoking Elizabeth’s anger at Darcy. Events may also easily be seen under the light of desirability and undesirability. It is important to remember that the framework is not meant to be a predictive architecture, but rather one to help understand and explain what emotions might occur. For simulation, these will need to be decided, and this ought to be done based on the situation and circumstantial qualities around the events or agents being reacted to.

Different characters will exhibit emotions differently. The actual emotions experienced may be the same, but simply have different effects on the conduct of the characters. The easiest way of illustrating these differences could be to compare two characters with very different dispositions. For instance, consider Mr. Darcy versus Mrs. Bennett. Darcy has a internally oriented, distant, and aloof disposition. When confronted with something that makes him distressed, his reaction is to withdraw and distance himself from the source of distress. Mrs. Bennett is externally oriented, and will immediately confront the source of her distress.

We may express this through a personality model. There are many personality models used in psychology and in character design systems. Instead of theorizing mentally about what models seem like the best choices, it may be best to start with a review of the characters, and examine how they are different with respect to each other. This approach lets us focus on differences that are only significant within the story world. A proper analysis of characters will account for not only disposition, but also other dimensions that are important for their values and such.

Obligations and Expectations

A central feature to thinking about situations and how they fit into the actions of characters is the idea of obligations and expectations. Within a situation, for instance, a conversation, a dance, being the second or first daughter of a family, or being at a ball, the characters participating will have certain things expected of them. Within Austen’s world, the role of gender is particularly significant. I am not sure if gender counts reasonably as a “situation”, but it plays a significant part in expectations.

Characters are never present in only one situation, they are present in many simultaneously. Social moves must be carefully made to negotiate between different expectations, or choices must be made between which situation to satisfy and which to defer.

Conversation as Status Games

Conversation generally has a functional dimension to it. In addition to the elements of language, conversation serves to establish relationships between characters in terms of social hierarchy. The role of status, as described by Keith Johnstone is particularly useful for this purpose. I think that status is a particularly useful lens through examining the actions of characters. Status describes the social position of one character with respect to another. It frequently tends to work along the lines of class and social status, as characters with high class tend to have more power over others. Interaction can be read as a sequence of status transactions, making status a form of currency in the social landscape.

The term status game refers to a type of interaction where characters will try to raise or lower each others status. This happens very frequently in Pride and Prejudice, where high status characters will lower others in attempt to make themselves appear higher. Characters may lower themselves to supplicate or garner attention from those with higher status (Mr. Collins does this all the time). Status can be used indirectly by making comparisons. A character may effectively raise or lower their status by comparing themselves to another with higher or lower status. This leads to the operations of comparing (bringing two together in status) and distancing (emphasizing difference or dissimilarity). Adding a further level of indirection, a character may compare another to a third party, who may not even be present. This sort of interaction is weak, but the most socially polite of status actions, and happens all the time.

Gossip and Communication

There is also a mechanic in the story world regarding how characters share information. Gossiping and sharing information are highly important. Within the story, there are many occasions when characters deliberate over whether to share some secret knowledge. When this knowledge is shared, it is always a significant moment. Some examples of when this takes place: Darcy’s revealing of Wickham’s character, Elizabeth revealing the fact to Jane but not exposing otherwise, Elizabeth revealing Lydia’s elopement to Darcy, Elizabeth revealing to Jane her feelings toward Darcy when she loves him, Darcy revealing to Mr. Bennett his role in Lydia’s wedding, and so on. These communications are generally private and directed toward a specific person, a confidante.

In terms of game mechanics, the player should be able to reveal secrets at her choosing, but should also be given clear indications of how revealing a secret is a significant and important act. It should also be clear to the player what facts that are known and are generally secret. Generally, a secret is only something that might be revealed if it is already being inquired into. Secrets are not total surprises, but they are the missing keys to whole puzzles for which the rest of the details are generally known.

From the perspective of simulation, this is the element to the mechanics of the story world that most strongly lends itself to the conventional models of planning. A character may have goals, and those goals will affect what sorts of secrets the character might share. Characters may share secrets for a variety of reasons:

  1. Bonding: If a character shares private information with another, where that information is of interest to both parties, and both are on the same social situation as conveyed by that information, it serves to strengthen a bond between the characters.
  2. Status maneuvering: Shared information may raise or lower the speaker or the listener.
  3. Expectation: The character may be expected to provide some information, and thus is obliged to do so. This can also function as an excuse for some other behavior or action.
  4. Embarrassment: Information may be withheld for the same reasons as other kinds of status maneuvering, and this is most frequently done so when the information is embarrassing to the speaker, and the speaker withholds the secret to save a loss of status.
  5. Saving face: This is another variant on status play. This may work according to Goffman’s theory of face work, where the speaker reveals a secret (or lies) in a way that lowers the speaker’s status, in order to prevent the lowering of another’s status.
  6. Inducing an emotion: information may be revealed to induce a reaction out of another, where the speaker desires for the listener to experience a particular emotion. This is often done in order to relieve others (revealing that favorable events have occurred), but can be done to rile them up, and produce antagonism between the listener and a third party.

Two Dimensions of Morality

In Austen’s world, social class was strongly connected to morality. Those with high class were considered superior to those below them, not merely in the sense of financial or social power, but morally. It is this moral dimension that Austen is interested in critiquing, and to which she directs much of her irony.

The first dimension of morality is the one characterized by the first line of Pride and Prejudice. This is the class based morality which was commonly held to be an accepted truth in Austen’s era. In this world, social class is directly connected to one’s morality. Where it is the role and responsibility of daughters to find the most financially and socially favorable match. This system of morality is a direct derivation from monarchy and feudalism, where the king is the most moral individual due to divine right. While this is generally acknowledged to be false in the modern era, it still remains influential, especially in terms of modern class systems. I will call this aristocratic morality.

Jane Austen repeatedly pokes fun at and is ironic in describing aristocratic morality. This is done from the perspective that it is the system that underlies the world she lives in, but it is inaccurate. The character of Lady Catherine de Bourgh has the highest social class, and is revealed to be a mean, stupid, and intolerable character. However, her status demands that others treat her as having a true moral superiority. This position is not shared by Austen, or by Darcy, although the reader is led to believe that Darcy adheres to aristocratic morality until later in the book. The alternative morality is one characterized by fidelity (care for siblings and family members), self respect, and bravery (in the sense of being willing to undertake social/status risks for the good of others). I will call this latter type, for lack of a better term, modern morality.

Characters are distinguishable by the type of moral system that they adhere to. Elizabeth clearly falls into this latter camp, and, in the latter half of the book, Darcy does so as well. A few characters strongly fall into the aristocratic system, notably Lady Catherine, Mr. Collins, Mrs. Bennett, and Charlotte Lucas. The rest of the characters, I think fall somewhere in between. I think there is also a third, non-moral, option, where the characters might be interested in self-advancement, without much consideration to others. Wickham and the Bingley sisters fall into this non-moral category.

Thinking about characters

A review of the characters in the story world. This list should be filled out with the characters as specified on the various axes of qualities, attributes, and variables that define the world.

  • Elizabeth
  • Jane
  • Mary
  • Lydia
  • Mrs. Bennett
  • Mr. Bennett
  • Darcy
  • Bingley
  • Caroline Bingley
  • Wickham
  • Mr. Collins
  • Charlotte Lucas

Defining Situation

A key element to this discussion is to come to terms with a definition of situation that is useful for the purposes of simulating the story world.

My understanding of situation is derived from several sources, most significantly from Goffman, but also from Agre. Situation is also similar to activity, in the sense of cognitive science (Lave, Hutchins, etc). I believe that it is important to have a general and broad definition of situation, and be prepared to accommodate characters present in many different types of situations simultaneously.

To start with, it will be useful to consider a list of qualities that situations should have, and how they should be used in the simulated world, and how the characters should relate to them.

  1. A character in a situation at any given decision point will be able to make a number of potential decisions, and these are derived in some sense from the situation itself. One approach to this is to say that a character has a role within the situation, and it is though that role that possible decisions are enabled.

    Examples of roles: in conversation, speaker and listener.

    Decisions are generally not wholly revealed to characters. Some decisions, especially in terms of what to say in conversations, are not clear to enumerate. Some of these must be constructed. Simulated characters may make a search pattern to discern useful responses.

  2. Characters may interpret events that occur within the context of a situation as having both symbolic meaning within the situation, as well as having global meaning that exists outside of the situation. Some situations may be observed by third parties, who can understand the implications of a situation from their external vantage point.

    Examples: witnesses to the dance of Elizabeth and Darcy, they are not within the dance, but understand it’s significance in the space of courtship.

  3. Decisions within a situation are made depending on the character’s goals, as well as the character’s personality and other global data.

  4. Situations are ambient, and they are perceived to exist only in characters minds. A character may be involved in a situation without explicit knowledge of it. Situations are reinforced by environments, but they must still be entered into by the participants, and acknowledged before engagement in the situation is possible.

    Examples: Miss Bingley and the advanced sparring during the “turn about the room” scene. Emma’s obliviousness with Knightley (in Emma)

  5. Situations may be initiated by offers, which are usually the opening situational moves by a character intending to start the situation. Offers can have many forms. A simple example is Mr. Darcy asking Elizabeth for a dance. Another example is marriage proposals. These are interesting cases because the offer of the proposal may be refused, but the situation cannot be refused. Even if a woman refuses a man’s proposal, the proposal cannot be disregarded.

    An offer is an assertive move, and reflects the initiator’s desire to take control of the situation. To accept an offer is to enable them to continue that control, but rejection may either derail the situation entirely, or may threaten the initator’s power.

    Offers are important to consider because they are means of initiating new situations. They still occur within a situation, but they change the landscape of what is happening in some way. For instance, an offer to dance must occur when it is possible for people to dance, such as at a ball.

    exists as a universally observable attribute (it is manifested at a
    physical level), and transcends situations. However, characters may
    have stronger claims to status depending on their situation. Accepting
    the status-maximization pattern of behavior, characters may try to initiate
    situations that they can dominate.

  6. Situations have a hierarchical structure. A situation may consist of sub-situations, and in deducing meaning, the entire hierarchy must be considered. A situation, at least, ought to have a parent. However, the larger scale a situation is, the less clearly defined it is.

    The exact layout of these high level structures is difficult to pin down. An example is that courtship defines a large scale situation, and involves the cultivation of a relationship, as well as certain modes of conduct on the part of its participants. However, being a young unmarried woman is also a situation, and it comes with a set of expectations that overlaps greatly with the situation of courtship. In this way, young unmarried women are expected to always be in courtship.

    Unlike in traditional computational models, the root of the situation hierarchy is the least defined, while the leaves are the most concretely defined. It is easy for a character to tell when they are in conversation with someone, but more difficult to tell whether they are in courtship.

  7. The way that situations are understood to characters is likely that there are several concrete situations that are present at any given moment. For instance, listening or being expected to say something, conversation, a dance, being a guest, being the second eldest daughter, being in a ball. Other situations may be less clearly defined, and are subject to changing depending on the impressions of its participants. For instance, states of expectation (waiting for someone to say something, expecting for an apology, expecting a positive response, expecting someone to leave the house), being in love or friends with someone, emotional states, courting someone.

    It is not clear whether these latter examples should be considered situations or something else. They are states, and they do have issues of boundaries, but they are less well defined or realizable to the characters, and are dependent on factors that are not immediately within the state hierarchy itself.

    Even relatively well defined situations, such Elizabeth and the Gardenier’s visiting Pemberly, may be distorted when other events occur, namely Darcy’s appearance. In this case, the situation changes from a property visit, essentially a tour, to the state of being guests.

  8. Situations may be contextualized by time and space. Certain situations may be meant to function within specific locations, and are constrained by time, and their relationship to other events and situations. A situation may be said to have several phases if it is sustained.

    For example: The dancing part of a ball may consist of sub situations which are individual dances. A card game is organized into several rounds. A social visit has greetings, the business itself, and then departure. Conversation has alternation of speaking and listening.

    These phases are usually well defined, but it is possible for situations to be disrupted or strained and turn into something else. This can occur when the situation is extended too long in time, or its environmental supports are removed. This may be a contextual change (for instance the awkwardness induced by Mary’s singing and Mr. Collins’ response thereafter), or a structural change where the situation itself changes (for instance, when Jane falls ill at Netherfield and needs to be cared for).

  9. Character roles are a major issue in social analysis, but roles do not
    exist in absentia, they require a situation to contextualize them. A
    character’s possible actions depends on its role, and the role only has
    meaning within a situation. So, agents may adopt roles on entering
    situations, and they may try to exchange roles within them.

    It is in the context of roles that character actions may be adopted. A character who is enacting the role of a guest has an automatic position within a situation once entering it, and the character’s decisions are made based on that role.


Events are the means by which things happen in the world. It is important to determine the sequence of how events work. Events alone are not atomic, there are several steps that must be followed through in how the event is chosen, interpreted, and responded to.

  1. The event will occur within a situation. The acting character has a role within the situation. Often times, the acting character may be forming a response in the context of some expectations.

  2. Based on the role and the character’s state, and whatever else goes into making a decision, the character chooses action. The character also must decides some conduct. This conduct may, and probably will, be unconscious, but the AI controlling the character must decide on how the disposition plays out. A player may choose disposition explicitly, or it may be automatically inferred by other contexts.

  3. The event is observed, by others, with respect to their own situations, and the perceived situation of the acting character. Some of these are clearly observable, others are less so. For example, when Elizabeth and Darcy dance, everyone in the ballroom can see the dancing, but not hear what they are talking about. This must stem from some sort of degree of privacy that is a context of either the situation or the event itself.

  4. Meaning is made from action by the observer (this step occurs whenever a character learns something new). Meaning is made based on how the event conforms or differs from the observer’s expectations, as well as by general standards. The content of the meaning can be any sort of knowledge that makes sense within the situation or global world. For instance, observation of flirting indicates courtship, observation of rudeness (a rude action is situationally determined) indicates that a character is disagreeable. Other impressions may be dependent on the observer’s beliefs or system of values (or morality).

  5. The observer responds to the meaning of the action, forming emotions. This sense of response is immediate and visceral. The model of emotions as valenced reactions is immediately relevant here. This will affect the state and disposition of the observer.

  6. The observer may be expected to do something in response to the event. For instance, in conversation, the character may be expected to say something.

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