ADVANCED PLAY

The Norn's Brain

Although there is no way to look at a Norn's brain directly within the game, knowing a bit about its inner workings does help us understand why a Norn acts like it does.

Norns are not programmed in the same way a computer is programmed - they have no internal instructions telling them 'When A happens, do B'. Instead, their behaviour is emergent - that is, it results from a set of certain conditions. As you no doubt know by now, Norns have a set of emotions or 'drives', such as tiredness, hunger or boredom. The Norn's behaviour at any one time is always an effort to reduce one of its drives, normally the highest one. It has to figure out for itself how a drive can be reduced - what action to take, and what agent to involve in this action.

The Norn's brain is neural network based to allow them to learn how to reduce the drives. Neural networks are a model of the way our own brain works. Our own brains are basically a series of fine connecting wires, down which pulses of energy can be sent as messages. As we grow and learn, the shape of the net and the connecting points change and migrate. The same thing happens in a Norn's brain, albeit virtually. Anything that strongly alters the Norn's drives, raising or lowering them, strengthens the current connections in the neural network, so that momentous events, such as getting stung or eating something tasty, are 'remembered'. The Norn can remember events as bad or good, and know to avoid or perform that action in the future. You can encourage this memory process by slapping or tickling a Norn, as described near the beginning of this manual.

But if a Norn's brain is randomly wired at birth, how come they don't perform entirely random and nutty actions when they first hatch? Well, if they did they'd probably die pretty rapidly, so like us again, they have instincts. A Norn's instincts are genetically encoded 'ideas' of what will happen given a certain action. For instance, there is an instinct that suggests that eating a piece of fruit will reduce hunger. These instinct genes are processed while the Norn is in the egg, and during sleep. It could even be said that Norns dream. Some instincts are not processed until the Norn reaches maturity. You will notice that a baby Norn will not be able to give good advice to a 'friendly' adult Norn - Norns do not process instincts involving breeding until they reach the youth stage of life.