Find the Lock

As a brief interlude, let me explain a concept that has to do with my ODIN Project. ODIN is essentially an artificial intelligence Game Master.


Now consider this experience: in a standard MMO, you’re prancing about the fields of the world slaying every woodland creature that perks up its head. Do that for several hours on end, and you will eventually find something of interest among all the ‘ruined pelts’, ‘useless bone fragments’, and other vendor trash.


Lets say you find a key.


It’s shiny, it’s unmarked, and you have no idea where it goes to. Most MMOs create this situation by making the key a quest item, that will send you on a very specific adventure. It makes sense… that key must go to a specific lock somewhere in the world, and if you don’t tell the player where to find it, then they never will.


Such does not have to be the case.


Pretend for a moment that each MMO player has a very simple Artificial Intelligence GM watching their actions… let’s call it our Narrator. When you find a key among the thousands of slain rabbits, you have just introduced some meaningful context. That key could be important later. In a pure simulation (Sandbox MMO), that key is programmed to open a specific door in the world. But the Narrator can do differently here… it can choose when to provide a lock that the key just so happens to fit.

Perhaps you’re running from bandits through the sewers of a large city, and you come to a dead end. The observant player will notice the wall has a locked door, and since they only have one key in possession, they try it. It works (certainly not by chance), and the player escapes the onslaught of angry NPCs. The Narrator decided to let this be the one door that is opened by the key, but only decided that long after you picked the key up. It all depends on what would make the best story for you, the player.


In real life, (and in Sandbox MMOs), Occam’s razor applies. The simplest explanation is usually the best. You find a key with no hints in real life, and you’ll probably never find the lock that it opens. Ever. But in a novel, movie, comic, legend, folktale, or (I propose) MMO, some of the stuff that happens to you has significance beyond the simple answer. You are “lucky”, and that key you picked up just so happens to open the door that you need most. No hints needed.

You just have to look for the lock.