Valve biofeedback studies include tracking player sweat levels

Experimental psychologist at Half-Life studio says company has conducted experiments where sweat level is measured and used to affect in-game experience.

Some of Valve's biofeedback tests have included tracking player sweat levels and changing gameplay experiences accordingly, according to the company's experimental psychologist.

VentureBeat attended the NeuroGaming Conference and Expo last week, where Valve's Mike Ambinder discussed the various studies the Half-Life studio is conducting as it looks towards the future of gaming.

"One thing we are very interested in is the notion of biofeedback and how it can be applied to game design,” Ambinder said. "There is potential on both sides of the equation, both for using physiological signals to quantify an emotional state while people are playing the game."

Concerning Valve's player perspiration tests, the company has measured players' sweat and matched that to their level of arousal while playing a certain game. In one case, this data was fed into Left 4 Dead and the gameplay experience was modified to be "more fun."

Ambinder also revealed that Valve conducted an experiment where a player had four minutes to shoot 100 enemies. If the player was calm, the game would advance normally, but if they became nervous, the game would unfold more quickly, leaving less time to kill the enemies.

Valve is also experimenting with eye-tracking, creating a prototype version of Portal 2 that could be manipulated with eye movement. All of the company's studies are purely experimental for the time being and still have a ways to go, Ambinder said.

"The more interesting side of the equation is what you can do when you incorporate physiological signals into the gameplay itself," he said. "If we could start tapping into that, we could tap into a whole wealth of data."

Got a news tip or want to contact us directly? Email news@gamespot.com

Did you enjoy this article?

Sign In to Upvote

eddienoteddy

Eddie Makuch

Eddie Makuch is a news editor at GameSpot, and would like to see the Whalers return to Hartford.
Half-Life 2

Half-Life 2

Follow
83 comments
simultech
simultech

Nothing really new...

http://www.cs.tufts.edu/~jacob/250pbi/Please_biofeed_the_zombies.pdf

"During game play, the computer game was dynamically modified by the player’s biometric information to increase the cinematically augmented “horror” affordances. These included dynamic changes in the game shaders, screen shake, and the creation of new spawning points for the game’s non-playing characters (zombies), all these features were driven by the player’s biometric data."

polishfish
polishfish

also!

1.  desert-folk
2.  fat people with sweaty palms
3.  skinny people with sweaty palms
4.  fat people in the desert
5.  people in swamps
6.  rainforest dwellers

there is a thing called CALIBRATION!!! !!! !!! ! ! ! !!!!! !!!!!!!

you can account for the baseline and check for changes in sweatiness

macaque12
macaque12

I think people might be missing the point here: they are trying to aproach the gamer - us - by a new level, researching us according to our biological statistics, they don't want to punish you if you sweat or you're scared. Also, there's nothing wrong about sweating playing a game, it won't make you less man or woman, while sweating.

They started this with HL2 Episode 2 (if you play the game with comentary on, you'll see and hear about all the tests they made looking for people reaction on different situations). I think it's a very valid way to avoid bad surprises with future instalments, for example, the developer can come up with an amazing game idea, that he's the only one that really appreciate and all gamers, in this case, just hate it.

Not forgeting that, they got a lot of preasure and expectation into the next HL game, and they have money and time to do every research that they find necessary, so we should give Valve some credit for, it might turn HL3 or Episode 3 really epic.

Hrodwulf666
Hrodwulf666

Woah.... Gabes games are going to get hectic!!!!


Scorchstar
Scorchstar

Who sweats while playing games .-.

wyan_
wyan_

So if your nerves get a little wracked under pressure you get punished? Is Ambinder's real name trollface?

---Cipher---
---Cipher---

Wait...is that a thing? Do people really sweat while playing games because of the game? How out of shape are these people or are they in a sauna? Maybe you should find a way to make the controller fan the person off...

Yay eye tracking! Nothing bad can come of that! *cough* kinect *cough*

Don't understand the part where if you don't feel pressure, you never will, but if you do, we'll amp hat up more idea. Seems bass ackwards to me..

hadlee73
hadlee73

Next thing they'll be attaching things to your boys while you play Tomb Raider.

gbrading
gbrading moderator

Valve: Continuing to investigate absolutely everything *except* making a new Half-Life.

scatterbrain007
scatterbrain007

The only game that has ever made me sweat, physically sweat, was Demons Souls.  Every time a Black Phantom entered my world, I'd get butterflies in my stomach and sweat a bit. 

Saketume
Saketume

There are many reasons I can think of why this is stupid but riddle me this:

I play better after if I have a few cups of coffee. The coffee also increases my heartrate and makes me sweat. Is it reasonable that the games get easier when I play better?

There there's the 99 more obvious reasons why this is just crazy frikken Valve hübris.

Are they really this far up their own arses?

Maybe it's time for a reality check.

nurnberg
nurnberg

Fat people will get an unfair advantage is this feature is used.

MrNWatson
MrNWatson

Valve is like the mad scientist of the gaming industry....

Dieofnv
Dieofnv

HOW about HL3 and some updates for CS:GO for the xbox!!!!!! >:/

advancedcaveman
advancedcaveman

Instead of conducting experiments on player sweat, they should not conduct experiments on player sweat. 

JoInfo
JoInfo

This idea will fail.

KillzoneSnake
KillzoneSnake

Valve? I thought they died after Half Life 2.

Ultramarinus
Ultramarinus

Maybe I'm living in a hot place (like I do in fact) and didn't turn on the A/C? Sweat level means nothing by itself.

DarkSaber2k
DarkSaber2k

This seems all kind of stupid. What about people like me who are naturally sweaty in even slightly warm weather?

skop1234
skop1234

So Valve what happens when I roll my eyes and get annoyed when the wife interrupts my gaming? :)

TrueGB
TrueGB

My sweat is valuable. Who knew?

mouse314
mouse314

so when i masturbate to Alex this is gonna tell Gabe that i masturbate to Alex that aint news Gabe now where the FUK IS HL 3?

berserker66666
berserker66666

Valve, weren't you supposed to make Half Life 3? Yes? Then get going.

CyhortI82
CyhortI82

Oh look, more stupid gimmicks. How about you guys just make games? Oh wait, this is Valve we're talking about....

tweezzzy
tweezzzy

meanwhile at a Valve board meeting:

"OUR FANBASE DOES NOT WANT MORE VIDEO GAMES!"

"OUR FANBASE DOES NOT WANT ANOTHER HALF LIFE!"

"OUR FANBASE WANTS THEIR SWEAT LEVELS TO BE MONITORED!"

Valve is redefining the term "Jumping The Shark"

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MpraJYnbVtE

23Jarek23
23Jarek23

News that Sony is trying to include biofeedback sensors in their new controller and people cry about how they just want a basic console and controller. News that Valve is doing it, they must be God's...And to be honest, sweating really can't say much, if it's a really hot day I could be pouring sweat while being extremely relaxed. This would only work in rooms where temperatures are perfectly controlled and the user is of decent health. Overly obese people break out in a sweat just from blinking. 

LtReviews
LtReviews

@Saketume 

You just used "Valve" and "hubris" in the same sentence.

If you watched Gabe Newell's BAFTA acceptance speech, you'd probably see why it makes absolutely no sense to equate Valve with hubris.

Rayzakk
Rayzakk

@nurnberg How dare you scoundrel attempt to abscond with my response. Vile usurper

XZeroKPS
XZeroKPS

@KillzoneSnake Not with the amount of money they get from micro-transactions and cuts on each digital Steam sale. But I see what you're saying :) I would like a new game from them

PixelAddict
PixelAddict

@DarkSaber2k I think they're measuring variations.  For changes / spikes / reactions.

Because everyone's baseline is different, I think they establish the base first, then measure up and down from there.

PixelAddict
PixelAddict

@skop1234 Oooo what if it made the volume go up.  I could see other applications, too.

"but honey, you saw I didn't touch the remote!"

polishfish
polishfish

@Saketume @macaque12 these are like the Skunkworks of Valve... and besides, they're for sure not showing us the best projects that they're working (i hope not)...

and besides, the commentary that they included in Half-Life 2 was one of the most amazing things i've ever experienced in gaming.  

i still havent seen another game imitate that style of commentary! wish most games would, especially feats of design like Bioshock Infinite...

Saketume
Saketume

@LtReviews

"an excess of ambition, pride, etc, ultimately causing the transgressor's ruin"

That definition is close enough to what I was saying.

If you think this whole "letting the measured sweat levels of gamers determine the difficulty of the game" is not hübris then we have nothing more to talk about.

DarkSaber2k
DarkSaber2k

@PixelAddict @DarkSaber2k That kinda pisses me off. Mostly because I am sick of everything always comparing me to some mythical baseline or "norm". I dunno, I think this strikes me as one of those "Just because you *can* doesn't mean you *should*" ideas!

naryanrobinson
naryanrobinson

@MAD_AI Point still stands though.

Temperature will change heart rate.  If you're unhealthy you'll have a higher resting heart rate and blood pressure, and further increases will cause discomfort and likely show on the face as well.

The payback from investing in this kind of tech is so small and niche.

tweezzzy
tweezzzy

@MAD_AI more shit us gamers will find useless as valve continues to hold off on developing future titles.

this is along the lines of the 720 forcing usage of a Kinect, and having the 720 act as a cable box.

Valve continues to prove its disconnect from its user base, and sub-sequentially, the entire video game industry; as steam generates ~4-5 million concurrent users per day.

its depressing to watch.

DarkSaber2k
DarkSaber2k

@PixelAddict"mbinder also revealed that Valve conducted an experiment where a player had four minutes to shoot 100 enemies. If the player was calm, the game would advance normally, but if they became nervous, the game would unfold more quickly, leaving less time to kill the enemies." 

This suggest that they are indeed going down the "shitty idea for gameplay" route rather than just testing reactions to gameplay.

DarkSaber2k
DarkSaber2k

@PixelAddict When you put it like that then yeah I agree it's an interesting thing to test when testing a game, 

 I thought it was more a biometric feedback system, like if you aren't sweating "enough" the game adjusts itself to be more intense. Because that idea sounds crap :S

PixelAddict
PixelAddict

@DarkSaber2k I may be reading it wrong, but I think they are just using this when they beta test their games in house at their location(s).

As a sort of biometric focus group. Which i think is BRILLIANT.

DarkSaber2k
DarkSaber2k

@PixelAddict @DarkSaber2k I also don't particularly like the idea of biodata being harvested from me (either in a study like this or in some hypothetical future device that uses biometrics), it makes me distinctly uneasy.

PixelAddict
PixelAddict

@DarkSaber2k I don't look at it that way. I look at it as "what's normal for YOU"

That's what it is measuring.  I don't think they look at aggregate data, just personal changes.

MAD_AI
MAD_AI

@naryanrobinson @MAD_AI  

Maybe you're right, maybe the technology is still too young today. But like you said, similar to how Tablets evolved and virtual reality, someone has to start somewhere and if its Valve, then why not? That's all I'm saying. 

naryanrobinson
naryanrobinson

@MAD_AI What could they possibly research that would let them dynamically change gameplay on the fly relative to the general healthiness of the player?

Come on let's get real here.

This is not even nearly the same as the Occulus Rift.  People weren't laughing at virtual reality, they were laughing at the products that were being touted as providing immersive gameplay.

They were total garbage, and those completely embarrassing steps weren't at all necessary for the Occulus Rift to exist.

Tablets were created and ready to go in the 90s but the whole premise was ridiculous in that given environment   The same goes for this technology now.

MAD_AI
MAD_AI

@naryanrobinson @MAD_AI 

Which is why they are researching, they didn't outright say what that they're implementing it. I'm hoping for something can I control with my mind in the future, BCI. 

Before, everyone laughed at virtual reality especially after the virtual boy fiasco but now we have the Oculus Rift with a huge support base from both developers and consumers. 

Human machine interface has to advance at some point. 

tweezzzy
tweezzzy

@DarkSaber2k apparently no one realizes that half life is valve's only original idea.

every other title (portal, left4dead, counterstrike, dota2 especially) has been picked up by valve AFTER it was created, only to be "Valve-ized" after they were picked up.

that means ALL development duties are put on the games creators and all valve does is oversee their development process.

icefrog, eric wolpaw + chet faliszek, turtle rock, gooseman, gearbox....even god damn John Cook....

all people that valve eventually employed that dont get the credit they deserve.

STOP GIVING CREDIT TO VALVE WHEN THEY DO NOT DESERVE IT. 

DarkSaber2k
DarkSaber2k

@MAD_AI @DarkSaber2k @tweezzzy When the ONLY things Valve have released in the last 7 years are sequels and barely-upgraded "sequels" to multiplayer only games (oh wow ANOTHER mutliplayer shooter!), pardon me for not singing their praises as creative innovators.

MAD_AI
MAD_AI

@DarkSaber2k @MAD_AI @tweezzzy  

I get that, but why do we get all angry when Activision, EA and Ubi start milking their games with yearly releases with quality decreasing with each release, and when Valve takes it time with new games, we cry havoc? 

Isn't the fact that Source Engine 2 is confirmed to be under development some sort of a sign that they are working on new games? 

Don't know, maybe I just grew apathetic or tired about Half Life 3 ever coming, so I just wait and see what happens. 

MAD_AI
MAD_AI

@DarkSaber2k @MAD_AI @tweezzzy  

But then when Valve start making games every year, we'll complain about Valve milking their franchises. Like I said, Source Engine 2 will herald Valve's new games.  

Didn't we wait 7 years for HL2, then we saw Portal, L4D, Portal 2, L4D2, HL2 EP1 and EP2?

DarkSaber2k
DarkSaber2k

@MAD_AI @tweezzzy Have they stopped making games? On the strength of EVERY NEWS ARTICLE ABOUT THEM IN THE LAST TWO YEARS, yes they have.

MAD_AI
MAD_AI

@tweezzzy @MAD_AI 

They stopped being a video game only company a long time ago when Steam came, they became developers, publishers and distributors. 

Valve is a 2.5 billion dollar company, not the small time dev they used to be. And with the financial growth it's only logical they would seek to branch out to other departments, they chose hardware. 

But have they stopped making games? Portal 2 was only 2 years away. 

Personally I'm not expecting anything from them directly until Source Engine 2 and SteamBox are showcased. 

As for whether or not they need a new engine, they still need to compete with other engines such as Cry Engine 3, Frostbite 3 and Unreal Engine 4, so it's only natural that they develop a new one. 

tweezzzy
tweezzzy

@MAD_AI @tweezzzy valve has Steam for Linux + Source 2 + Steambox on its shelf. Havok just started releasing tech demos for its new physics engine; claiming future games will need completely descructable environments. which is obviously what they are building the new Havok engine for. the source engine made fantastic use of the Havok physics engine, and its rather obvious they will do the same if another source engine release.

i know how valve works. i know they use HL as a showcase for all the new tech they develop. but how does that stop them from releasing/developing DOD2 or SOB? 

it doesnt. 

it also doesnt change the fact that their focus is all directed at experimental hardware/software, which abandons their roots as a video game company.

they do not need to make a new source engine to develop new games...look what can be done with Goldsrc. Goldsrc and the source engine is geared towards 3rd party/community development. look at Garry's Mod and Trouble in Terrorist Town....