I have written up some fairly wordy posts about the Web Critters project recently, describing topics like cell structure and interactions.  It strikes me that the gigantic wall of text format, while thorough, may not be ideal for promoting understanding of the project.  To try to rectify that shortcoming, here are a series of rough sketches that depict agents within a level one ECHO system, and the basic calculations that go into an attack interaction.

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Figure 1.  Here are three basic cells (agents) with the level one tags: offense and defense.  Each tag is a series of characters made up from the resources in the simulation – in this case {a, b, c, and d}; # is the wildcard character.  Notice that tags can have arbitrary lengths, and that, put together, the tags form an identity for each cell.

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Figure 2. In this image you see Cell 1 attacking Cell 2.  During an attack interaction the Offense tag of the aggressor is matched up against the Defense tag of the defender.  The Interaction Locus is the set of numbers that is used to calculate the outcome of the interaction; for each position in the tag the aggressor and defender’s values are compared, and the appropriate value is selected from the locus.  The final result is the sum of all of these values.  In this particular case Cell 1 is well matched to attack Cell 2, and the end result will be Cell 2 surrendering 6 resources.

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Figure 3. This image depicts Cell 1 attacking Cell 3.  Like above, Cell 1′s offense is matched against Cell 3′s defense and the locus scores are summed.  In this case Cell 1 is not very well matched against Cell 3, and a negative interaction score results.  The final result is that zero resources are transferred.  (Note the behavior here:  the defender never wins resources for a successful defense, it can only lose them.)

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Figure 4.  Just to drive the point home, here is another attack interaction.  In this case Cell 2, who got horribly beat up by Cell 1 in the first example, is the aggressor.  Unfortunately it doesn’t have as successful a foray, and although 0 is a far better result than the -8 from figure 2, the net interaction result is that no resources get transferred.

Explaining the ecosystem

The above four figures demonstrate an interesting sample ecosystem.  Cell 1 acts as a predator on Cell 2, but cannot defeat Cell 3.  Cell 2 cannot successfully attack either of the two cells.  Cell 3 is an unsuccessful aggressor as well, although it easily defends itself from both other cells.

The only way that Cells 2 and 3 could be surviving is the additional presence of environmental resources at their location.  The heavy predation of Cell 2 by Cell 1 implies that Cell 2 must be very well adapted to gather the type of resources at the location, whereas Cell 3 is probably a subsistence gatherer.

Questions?

I hope that these images have clarified the mechanics underpinning the first stages of the Web Critters project. I never know how deep to go with my text-based explanations, however if you ever feel that I’m not being clear, please let me know in the comments.  I’d be happy to answer in more detail or draw more pictures to facilitate a deeper understanding of the project.

Finally, I know this doesn’t look like much yet, however please bear with me.  There is still a long way to go to integrate this with Twitter or the World Wide Web, and unfortunately the basic abstractions must be in place before the concrete implementation can begin.

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