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Interactive Drama Prototype 'Facade' Released

timothy posted more than 8 years ago | from the calculon-approves dept.

Technology 152

rafg writes "In most story-based games where you get to talk to characters, interaction is limited to selecting conversation options from a menu. Facade calls itself a one-act interactive drama, and is an attempt to create realistic 3D AI characters acting in a real-time interactive story, where you can talk to them via a natural language text interface. The player is cast as a visiting longtime friend of Grace and Trip, a couple in their early thirties, and ends up in a verbal crossfire resulting from their failing marriage. More info in the press release, an older conveniently mirrored NYT article and an Idle Thumbs review. It's available in the form of a rather chunky 800MB torrent."

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152 comments

Who? (-1, Troll)

kutsu119 (883719) | more than 8 years ago | (#12992973)

Who does this appeal to?

I can imagine what it would be like to use natural text in something like an RPG, but as an interactive DRAMA? Hmm..

Re:Who? (2, Funny)

donaldgelman (730958) | more than 8 years ago | (#12992988)

its so you can yell "don't open the door" during the horror movie?

Re:Who? (2, Insightful)

Vo0k (760020) | more than 8 years ago | (#12993106)

Well, more like finally "Stand against the wall opposite to the doorknob. Cautiously grab the door knob. Turn it and slowly open the door, still staying by the wall. Peek through the gap between the door and the wall inside." instead of entering a room first, and looking what's inside (and stabbing your leg) later. (Remember Silent Hill? I hated it.)
Somehow I doubt the new game would understand that.

Re:Who? (2, Insightful)

TrippTDF (513419) | more than 8 years ago | (#12993443)

This is going to appeal to you in five years. Remember, this is a first step into a larger world where we can get away from the limitations of clicking on a phrase to respond with a la KOTOR.

I've not seen this demo (though I will check it out when I get home) but this seems like it could lead to really cool stuff. The implications for Alternate Reality Games is pretty cool. Now it's just typing text and reading the response, but start to incorporate a voice recigition and you've got something. You could call a phone number and have a conversation with a computer. I'm pretty damn exicted about the prospect of this technology.

Re:Who? (1)

geekwithsoul (860466) | more than 8 years ago | (#12994108)

You could call a phone number and have a conversation with a computer. I'm pretty damn exicted about the prospect of this technology.

Don't get out much, do you?

Re:Who? (1)

mcc (14761) | more than 8 years ago | (#12994262)

This is going to appeal to you in five years.

Frankly I kind of remember there being people who were more or less claiming that five years ago.

Re:Who? (1)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 8 years ago | (#12994590)

five years ago

I remember it 15 years ago. I suspect people will still be saying that 15 years from now too.

-Eric

Re:Who? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12994039)

It appeals to me, actually -- Michael Mateas [gatech.edu] from the experimental game lab came and spoke to our natural-language AI class at Gerogia Tech, and he's developing really wild techniques for storytelling here. It's interesting just from a technical perspective -- any time you can get a better interface or more realistic characters in a game, that's appealing, yes?

Um... (2, Funny)

The Warlock (701535) | more than 8 years ago | (#12992979)

Haven't "type-in-the-orders" games been around since Advent and Zork?

Re:Um... (1)

montyzooooma (853414) | more than 8 years ago | (#12992995)

Yup. And they died a death for some of the reasons in the idle thums review. When this idea is coupled to decent speech recognition give me a call.

Re:Um... (1)

aussie_a (778472) | more than 8 years ago | (#12993140)

And they died a death

Quick! Someone tell these people they're game is dead. [armageddon.org]

Re:Um... (2, Funny)

grub (11606) | more than 8 years ago | (#12993346)

This post is licenced under the GPL.

Per the GPL: please supply me with the source code to your post.

Re:Um... (1)

pagebt (517090) | more than 8 years ago | (#12993517)

With Internet explorer, Right-click, then select 'View Source'. For other browsers please conult the help documentation.

Pedant Alert (1)

Xner (96363) | more than 8 years ago | (#12993525)

The GPL defines "source code" as "the preferred format for editing". In the case of english text, the source is the english text itself.

You really ought to try and read it, it's a quite a clever piece of work.

Re:Pedant Alert (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12993666)

He had a link there, English isn't "It"

Re:Pedant Alert (1)

mrchaotica (681592) | more than 8 years ago | (#12993944)

Yeah, but what's the preferred format for editing a Slashdot post? A script to crack Slashdot's server, or something? ; )

Re:Um... (1)

aussie_a (778472) | more than 8 years ago | (#12994249)

Per the GPL: please supply me with the source code to your post.

I provide the source code, uncompiled, along with my post.

Re:Um... (1)

dankasfuk (885483) | more than 8 years ago | (#12993012)

An innovative text parser allows the system to avoid the "I don't understand" response all too common in text-adventure interactive fiction.

Exactly...now if only someone would use this system to re-release Zork, life would be good.

Re:Um... (1)

cakesy (886563) | more than 8 years ago | (#12993366)

Created a text adventure when I was a kid. What was different about it was that it had AI characters that would walk around the house, occassionally picking up stuff that you needed, so you sometimes had to talk to people to find it if they had what you wanted. Didn't think that much of it at the time, but I haven't seen anything like it since. Back to the topic, I am one of those people who are much appreciative of attempts to improve AI, particularly in this area, as it is one area that I am still amazed by.

Re:Um... (1)

cluke (30394) | more than 8 years ago | (#12994527)

You saying that reminds me of a program I wrote in my youth too, an Eliza style program that all you could do was talk to. It actually turned out quite a decent conversation - as far as i could see it appears to be more effective (as far as faking a naturalistic-seeming conversation is concerned) to use a brute force approach to these sort of things, where you just think of as many keywords as possible, and have numerous canned responses chosen randomly, rather than some sort of AI-theory driven language analysis approach where it ends up like you're speaking to an alien.

My program also had a rudimentary memory, and would occasionally spew back things you had previously said to it, and remember answers to questions it had asked you.
It wasn't difficult to break it, but if you played along it could come out pretty damn well.

And I was only about 11!
To think of it, all that early potential wasted ;-)

Re:Um... (1)

Nytewynd (829901) | more than 8 years ago | (#12993437)

Haven't "type-in-the-orders" games been around since Advent and Zork?

I think they are aiming for something a little better than:

> GO NORTH
> OPEN DOOR

YOU DIED!

Sierra had a lot of text based games, but the new system sounds more like they want to build a language parser to handle almost any scenario. It's possible, and there are some AI programs that can have conversations, but I don't know how well it will work in a game.

It kind of reminds me of EQ. No matter how hard you tried to role play to the NPCs, you always had to resort to asking "What [Black Dragon]?"

Re:Um... (1)

kyoko21 (198413) | more than 8 years ago | (#12994679)

I loved those Sierra On-Line games... ahh.. the many days and nights I wasted on King's Quest, Leisure Suit Larry, Police Quest, Hero's Quest, and Space Quest.

What joy :-)

I think the most widely used command across all these was "look around." :-)

This is a game??? (5, Funny)

j0e_average (611151) | more than 8 years ago | (#12992994)

Cripes!!! If I want to hear a bunch of drama and nagging, I'll go listen to my own family!!!

Re:This is a game??? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12993029)

Sounds like you picked up a few bad habits from them.

Re:This is a game??? (5, Interesting)

TrippTDF (513419) | more than 8 years ago | (#12993515)

At the center of any story is conflict. That's what leads to drama. Video Games at this point primarily focus on the conflict between two characters in a violent sense... you can take Gordon Freeman Vs. the Combine, or even Mario Vs. King Koopa. The root is always the same- if you don't kill them, they will kill you.

This is the first time I've seen that conflict be able to move away from the violent, and that's a big step for video games. This has the chance to change the nature of gaming away from the shoot-em-up mentality into something larger.

You know how ever blockbuster action movie has a game to go along with it? We could potentially have games that are tied to something like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind or American Beauty.

Re:This is a game??? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12993833)

>>> We could potentially have games that are tied to s
>>> American Beauty

You are thinking of the cute blond chic in there? yeah, would really like her in a video game.

Re:This is a game??? (1)

Geoff-with-a-G (762688) | more than 8 years ago | (#12994863)

"This is the first time I've seen that conflict be able to move away from the violent, and that's a big step for video games."

That's kind of an absurd statement. There have been multiplayer sports and puzzle games, adventure games, racing games, etc. for years and years. Just because the violent games get all the media attention doesn't mean that's what most video games are. There have been video games with non-violent conflict and competition for as long as there have been video games.
Pong, for god's sake!

Re:This is a game??? (1)

robocrop (830352) | more than 8 years ago | (#12995211)

This is the first time I've seen that conflict be able to move away from the violent

Then, frankly, your exposure to video games is quite limited. Many games exist that do not revolve around violent conflict. Some don't include it at all (Tetris, Lumines, etc).

... and that's a big step for video games.

I have to disagree. Completely. 100%. Totally. You are wrong sir.

This is not a 'step forward' for video games. It is a 'step forward' for interactive storytelling, which is not a video game. People frequently confuse the two, which stymies me. They're completely different. And I have never understood why anyone wants to conflate the two, except for sheer academic flexing. How does it benefit games to take a non-interactive medium (storytelling) and make it interactive? Would discussing a Combine member's hopes and dreams over a cup of coffee make HL2 a better game? Doubtful.

You know how ever blockbuster action movie has a game to go along with it? We could potentially have games that are tied to something like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind or American Beauty.

The real question is, who would want this? Nobody I can think of. Disregarding the lameness of both movies you name-check, do you really think anyone would derive any true entertainment from interactively conversing with one of the characters from this movie - beyond the sheer academic thrill of making it happen?

The enjoyment one feels from videogames comes from an established and long-understood series of basic ingredients. Conflict. Heroism. Adventure. Challenge. Triumph. These are visceral things that, frankly, cannot be obtained through a conversation - no matter how lifelike you make it.

Whenever someone crows about how 'interactive storytelling' is the wave of the future, or will 'save gaming', I just sigh and roll my eyes. Storytellers have probably been full of themselves since the beginning of time, but let's be serious. Which do you think will sell better: Halo 3 or 'My Dinner With Andre: The Game'?

Better games will save gaming. Not weak interactive dramas that play out like after-school specials.

Re:This is a game??? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12994341)

Technology Trends For 2005

* The latest and greatest in Mac tech... a PC
* Microsoft dumps PC-Based Game Console for Mac-like PowerPC console
* Instead of Adding, Microsoft Removes Features From new OS
* Computer Software with Marriage Problems, and entertaining Drama
* Debian Actually Releases Software

What A Weird Year...

800MB torrent! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12992996)

the most dramatic thing is the download time...

Re:800MB torrent! (2, Insightful)

Psykosys (667390) | more than 8 years ago | (#12994753)

You're not one to download torrents of complete TV series, I take it (not that I'd be involved in anything like that).

Too soon (2, Insightful)

Arthur B. (806360) | more than 8 years ago | (#12993000)

Will work enough to sound appealing and make people try to use it, won't work enough to be practical and thus will be very frustrating. Most of speech AI look good on the... facade, but one stumbles extremly quickly on their shortcomings.

Where's the "New" part? (0)

DanielMarkham (765899) | more than 8 years ago | (#12993003)

So it's 3-D characters, interacting in real-time with what your 3-D character does and says, right?
But haven't we already been playing games like this for a while?
Maybe it's better at drama, by which I take it that the characters say dramatic things to each other, but is that really such a great improvement in game play? "Here's your sword" is just as dramatic to me as "Somewhere in the house, there is a killer" -- depends on why I'm playing the game to start with.
So it may be evolutionary for sure, next generation MYST perhaps, but it doesn't sound revolutionary.
More hype than hope -- but definitely a new market niche for the genre.
Beer Kills Memories Of Ugly People? [whattofix.com]

Re:Where's the "New" part? (2, Insightful)

cakesy (886563) | more than 8 years ago | (#12993617)

You know, there is only so much you can get from the Slashdot description. Sometimes, you just have to go ahead and read the article.

Re:Where's the "New" part? (2, Insightful)

ate50eggs (647594) | more than 8 years ago | (#12993747)

What else is like this? there are games where you pick a response from a list of 3-5 options and there are games that detect keywords. Keyword detection may seem like natural language as long as you stick to the scripts but it's not the same thing. you could say "I'm going to shove this silver key down your throat" and the character would just say "the silver key is to the east"

Also, drama doesn't just mean talking about messy divorces instead of swords (btw, when the old guy gives you that rusty-ass sword in the beginning of Zelda, is that a Dramatic moment). It means dynamic relationships between characters. in most current game scripts the characters have very static relationships with maybe one twist somewhere along the way ("I'm Revan?!? wow that changes things almost imperceptibly!)

I sort of doubt that the natural language detection will be good enough for this new game to work, but isn't it time we had some games that take risks?

That's an interesting concept (5, Interesting)

ReformedExCon (897248) | more than 8 years ago | (#12993008)

It is clever in that it uses a "real" AI which does its best to draw the player into the game world. However, it seems like it would suffer from the same type of problems that any AI suffers from, that is it can't understand everything the user types.

It also suffers from cutscene-mania. The game itself is a series of cutscenes that progresses even without user interaction. Though cutscenes have their place in games, building a game around them is a surefire way to limit replayability.

I would love to try the game, personally.

Re:That's an interesting concept (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12994853)

Here's a hint: try playing the game before you comment on it. That way you add to the signal instead of the noise.

Re:That's an interesting concept (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12994992)

Jesus saved me from my past. He can save you as well.

He can save me from your past? Sign me up!

Sounds like fun! (5, Funny)

Trigun (685027) | more than 8 years ago | (#12993032)

The player is cast as a visiting longtime friend of Grace and Trip, a couple in their early thirties, and ends up in a verbal crossfire resulting from their failing marriage.

If the AI is advanced enough, maybe I can seduce Grace, talk her into killing Trip, and then turn her in for the virtual reward!

Re:Sounds like fun! (1)

Tackhead (54550) | more than 8 years ago | (#12993541)

> > The player is cast as a visiting longtime friend of Grace and Trip, a couple in their early thirties, and ends up in a verbal crossfire resulting from their failing marriage.
>
>If the AI is advanced enough, maybe I can seduce Grace, talk her into killing Trip, and then turn her in for the virtual reward!

GRACE, HOW LONG HAVE YOU WANTED TO KILL -9 TRIP?

"Ever since he asked me how it made me feel about our failing marriage. And that he could see why I might ask him that. That's when I knew he was banging that slut ELIZA's keys."

Wrong name (2, Informative)

Rui Lopes (599077) | more than 8 years ago | (#12993048)

It isn't "Facade", it's "Façade".

Re:Wrong name (1, Funny)

Trigun (685027) | more than 8 years ago | (#12993064)

And how would you spell pedantic asshole?

Re:Wrong name (1)

Vo0k (760020) | more than 8 years ago | (#12993121)

S-P-E-DOUBLE L-I-N-G N-A-Z-I.
Don't worry, the game will be a worse one on you.

Re:Wrong name (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12994113)

Well, spelling is important when it limits readability. I would never read that "c" with a "s" sound, but instead with a "k" sound.

That's why alternative pronouncing in OSS projects (GNU, LaTeX, Xine, etc) bothers me so much. If you want it read differently, write it differently!

Re:Wrong name (4, Insightful)

MidnightBrewer (97195) | more than 8 years ago | (#12994233)

Amazingly enough, Oxford's American Dictionary disagrees with you. "Facade" with a "c" is a perfectly legitimate spelling. It always pays to back up your pedantry with research.

Re:Wrong name (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12994568)

Well, I wouldn't know about American spelling...

But the Oxford online dictionary's entry for "façade" only has the alternative spelling in an american quote. So I guess we're talking different languages.

RTFA (1)

The_Wilschon (782534) | more than 8 years ago | (#12995040)

Amazingly enough, the game's authors [interactivestory.net] disagree with you, it is in fact Façade (yes, including the italics and the capital F). It always pays to back up your anti-pedantry pedantry with RTFA.

Re:Wrong name (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12995139)

It's a shame Oxford don't do a Conceptual Dictionary or you could look up the difference between a word and a title.

Re:Wrong name (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12994176)

He is absolutly right. "c" and "ç" a to different
char that arent pronouced the same at all.
changing it for a "c" could even change the meaning
of the word.

+1 funny? what about -1 troll?

Re:Wrong name (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12994825)

pédant

Hi-tech bummer simulator (4, Insightful)

kahei (466208) | more than 8 years ago | (#12993052)


Another attempt to make a 'grown up' computer game by removing the things that make games worth playing (simplified, fun universe that's not like what we do every day and offers clear goal to reach and things to explore) and adding in the things that make life worth escaping from (evenings like the one described in this game, and people called 'Trip').

Now, there are some good technical bits in this game -- it's nice not to be taking turns or picking from a menu. Much more conversation-ey. But as an idea for a game, 'handle an awkward evening in a sparsely furnished apartment' pretty much sucks.

Re:Hi-tech bummer simulator (1)

master_p (608214) | more than 8 years ago | (#12993565)

It may be boring, but imagine the same engine in like Star Trek, for example. Or as an anime-simulation engine. It would be a lot of fun.

What I don't understand though (without having played the game, of course) is how the outcome is predefined and free at the same time...because AI is not real AI if the outcome is predefined, and I really doubt they have true AI as to end up with any random outcome.

Re:Hi-tech bummer simulator (1)

kin_korn_karn (466864) | more than 8 years ago | (#12993931)

This is innovation in gaming. With a few notable exceptions, the single-player mode of character-based games has been getting the shaft ever since Quake I. Since Quake I's multiplayer became such a phenomenon, game companies have been tacking on multiplayer to half-finished games with shitty single-player experiences and shoveling them out the door.

I think it's great that they're trying to develop single-player AI again and that something NEW is happening in the gaming world. I play games to get away from people, not to hang out with them. If I want to socialize, I'll do it in the real world.

Re:Hi-tech bummer simulator (2, Insightful)

Lemmy Caution (8378) | more than 8 years ago | (#12995073)

Sorry, but escapist fantasy itself gets boring. They don't actually call it a game, they call it an interactive drama, and just like, after a while, you get tired of Star Wars and go see an Ibsen play (at least if you develop aesthetically), it is possible to appreciate actual drama, or other situations that aren't "fun."

In fact, the emphasis on "fun" over other types of aesthetic experience is sort of a pathological disorder, in my opinion. The ancient Greeks had a lot more going on that just the comedies, and there's a reason for it.

I mean, maybe it's not your thing. But I really, really wouldn't want to live in a culture where "fun things that offer clear goals" were the end-all of artistic output. It's in ambiguity, tragedy, sadness, and even anxiety that we can use cultural works to grow as people. And the idea that games can join other media, like drama and literature and film, to do that, is great. It seems you want to keep games on the level of "kid's media", even if it's for grown-up kids.

Here we go again.. (5, Funny)

CCelebornn (829849) | more than 8 years ago | (#12993054)

> Slap silly woman
I DO NOT KNOW THE WORD "SLAP"

> Tell silly woman you can keep the dog but that playstation is mine
I CANNOT DO THAT

> Kill woman
YOU ATTACK WOMAN, BUT THE EFFORT IS WASTED. HER DEFENSIVE IS TOO STRONG
WOMAN ATTACKS YOU
WITH ONE WELL PLACED BLOW WOMAN CLEAVES YOUR SKULL
YOU ARE DEAD
YOU HAVE MASTERED 0.0% OF THIS ADVENTURE

NOOOOOO! (5, Insightful)

Vo0k (760020) | more than 8 years ago | (#12993063)

Nothing new. There are hundreds of such games. Everywhere it looks the same.
Player: Hello.
AI: Hi. What brings you here, traveller?
Player: I'm just sightseeing.
AI: Could you rephrase that?
Player: I'm passing by.
AI: Sorry, I don't understand.
Player: Nothing.
AI: uhhh. Sorry?
Player: Please, forget it.
AI: I can't do it.
Player: Where is the weapons shop? [it's across the street]
AI: I don't know where it is.
Player: Who are you?
AI: I'm Thargos, your friendly wizard, thank you.
Player: I'm looking for a quest.
AI: Sorry, I don't know where is quest.
Player: Give me a job.
AI: I'm giving you nothing, you must earn everything by yourself.
Player Goodbye.
AI: Goodbye. By the way, wouldn't you happen to have some spare time to deliver this package to my friend across the city?

Re:NOOOOOO! (1)

Enigma_Man (756516) | more than 8 years ago | (#12993169)

Ultima V, for the C-64, in 1988 had an "AI" with free-flowing conversation that went slightly better than this even :) You could actually talk with random NPCs fairly naturally. Though you could get away with stuff like "food?" or "inn?" if you really wanted to.

-Jesse

Re:NOOOOOO! (4, Insightful)

nomadic (141991) | more than 8 years ago | (#12993924)

Ultima V, for the C-64, in 1988 had an "AI" with free-flowing conversation that went slightly better than this even :) You could actually talk with random NPCs fairly naturally. Though you could get away with stuff like "food?" or "inn?" if you really wanted to.

I miss that sort of thing; a few other games had it, too. But as computer games became mainstream they got dumbed down to appeal to the nintendo-playing mouth breathers who started buying PC games. Ultima 5 had it done well. Ultima 6 had the same system, only they highlighted keywords so you didn't have to guess (fortunately you could turn it off). Ultima 7 went the next step and had preformulated responses you made, and every RPG since then has had the same.

Re:NOOOOOO! (1)

GigsVT (208848) | more than 8 years ago | (#12994666)

It does seem as if we have trouble, as a programming community, leveraging previous advances in natural language AI.

I've played some text adventures on the C64 that were smarter than most of the recent entries in the interactive fiction contests.

With things like WordNet out now, I'd have hoped things would have progressed more than they have.

Meanwhile, at the AI Clinic, bugs are tested. (4, Funny)

dangitman (862676) | more than 8 years ago | (#12993672)

Player: I came here for a good argument.

AI: No you didn't, you came here for an argument.

Player: Well, an argument's not the same as contradiction.

AI: It can be.

Player: No it can't. An argument is a connected series of statements intended to establish a definite proposition.

AI: No it isn't.

Player: Yes it is. It isn't just contradiction.

AI: Look, if I argue with you, I must take up a contrary position.

Player: But it isn't just saying "No it isn't".

AI: Yes it is.

Player: No it isn't, an argument is an intellectual process... contradiction is just the automatic gainsaying of anything the other person says.

AI: No it isn't.

Re:NOOOOOO! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12993869)

Reminds me of my last trip to France.

Oh Boy, SimVirginia Wolfe! (3, Funny)

Nova Express (100383) | more than 8 years ago | (#12993095)

GeorgeBot: Don't toy with me, MarthaBot. I don't remember.
MarthaBot: You laughed your ass off the last time.
1337 H@x0r: God, you old people are really boring! Can't you, like, kill some zombies or something?

Re:Oh Boy, SimVirginia Wolfe! (1)

Vo0k (760020) | more than 8 years ago | (#12993149)

Actually, confronting two chatterbots (and getting them unstuck from the initial "Hi-Hello" loop) can produce some fun and interesting results :)

Re:Oh Boy, SimVirginia Wolfe! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12994359)

hah, that's the first thing I thought of too.

I can get this for free, not that I'd want to (2, Insightful)

ScentCone (795499) | more than 8 years ago | (#12993122)

I mean, I can't personally fly an F-16 or kill aliens, so that's fun to do in 3D on my computer, with or without natural language interfaces (though the more the merrier).

But get tangled up in the verbal sniping between two people in a failing marriage? That's what visiting the in-laws is for. And not only is it in 3D, the personal safety options are turned off, and the frying pans feel completely real.

First impressions (5, Informative)

PIPBoy3000 (619296) | more than 8 years ago | (#12993163)

Well, no one here appears to have downloaded and installed Facade. Thanks to Evil Avatar [evilavatar.com], I picked this one up over night and just installed it.

First off, make sure you have a 1.6 Ghz machine. It's not just a recommendation - the install won't work if you don't meet that requirement. And the install is very long as you might expect.

This is a very audio game. If you're deaf, I'm not sure it's even possible to play. The first really odd thing is that the characters call me verbally by my real name. It's "Adam", which isn't too uncommon, but strange nonetheless. I suspect they have a hundred or so common names they've recorded.

The controls are weird - a combination of keyboard arrows, typing, and the mouse. There's also some limited manipulation of objects (e.g. picking up the phone and throwing it around). You can also hug and comfort the two people with a click of the mouse.

The main interface, however, is the keyboard. You'll do a lot of typing, trying to guess what the magic keys and phrases are.

I haven't finished it. Heck, I feel I've barely scratched the surface. Even though it's in a single room, the illusion of open interaction with two humans is pretty good. Well, enough Slashdotting. Time to play a bit more.

Prior art? (1)

British (51765) | more than 8 years ago | (#12993482)

This is a very audio game. If you're deaf, I'm not sure it's even possible to play.

I'm glad to see Gerry Todd's(of SCTV fame) "Audiogames" is now a reality in 2005.

Re:First impressions (5, Informative)

PIPBoy3000 (619296) | more than 8 years ago | (#12993483)

Okay. I've finished my first play-through. It took about twenty minutes. Some of it is fairly clunky. Some of it is extremely compelling.

I restarted after my first posting and noticed some differences right away. The first time the phone rang. The second time it didn't. I ended up kissing Grace when we met and she seemed more positive afterwards (I have that effect on women).

Emotionally the game is great. You get a ringside view of the emotional train wreck of these two people's marriage. You can guide their conversation, take sides, and watch them reveal painful secrets.

Being a fast typist helps as you regularly need to type out long strings of text. Moving around is awkward with the mouse and arrows, but fortunately you don't need to move around much. Your decisions are remembered and the actors will comment on the previous things you've done. The 800 MB download makes perfect sense now as there must be hours of sound files to cover every contingency.

This seems like the sort of game that would strongly appeal to women. It's very free-form and is exclusively about social interactions. The only catch is that I'd imagine it's extremely labor intensive to create something like this. The writing, voice acting, and tracking all the branch points seems a daunting task.

Still, I can see how people herald this as the future of gaming. It would be amazing if you could hit this level of character interaction in ordinary games.

Re:First impressions (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12994168)

...would strongly appeal to women. It's very free-form and is exclusively about social interactions.
Nice to know that even in the 21st century, gender-based stereotyping is still alive and well. You insensitive clod.

Re:First impressions (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12994451)

The Sims was very popular with women. A stereotype MAY be generally true. You overreacting clod.

Re:First impressions (2, Funny)

uberdave (526529) | more than 8 years ago | (#12994488)

I ended up kissing Grace when we met and she seemed more positive afterwards (I have that effect on women).

I have that effect on fanasy women as well. [grin]

Re:First impressions (1)

wormbin (537051) | more than 8 years ago | (#12995147)

Another FYI: It doesn't seem to work on Windows 98. The installer claims to want Windows ME or better.

Is it possible to run the installer under WINE?

Emergent behaviour and AI (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12993215)

This sort of thing is not so much revolutionary as evolutionary, we will see more and more of this.
I design levels for game called Operation Flashpoint. It's a sophisticated shooter. Back in the days of Unreal and Halflife I used to code bots too, but they pretty much found their way around the map by pathnodes, and had limited, fixed views of things, like how much they 'hate' their enemies. The level of sophistication with flashpoint bots takes it to a whole new world. I add my own AI routines giving bots the ability to spot and exploit opportunities, or be afraid, make them courageous or cowardly depending on what they see and hear, etc... Each of the bots in operation flashpoint can be written as a single self navigating object, in user definable script. This is the interesting thing... Once you give AIs in excess of 8 or 10
parameters, have a few different ones, make those parameters loosely codependent and hook them into 10 or so environmental rules, throw in a handful of random events, now you have a chaotic
scenario that NEVER plays the same way twice.
You lost all deterministic control. How do you debug a non-deterministic program? Of course its not really non deterministic, it just might as well be. My missions are always where the player plays a small, non-pivotal role (well actually the task is try and find a pivotal opportunity to change the course of the 'war') that rarely influences the great, highly unpredictable battle ensuing.

As someone who undertands concurrent programming I still find it amazing what happens inside my little reality model with only a few tens of bots
walking about, coding the scripts for a complex level is possibly one of the most challenging programming excercises you can imagine (which is why its fun) trying to influence events in a reality whose parameter space is vast. You have to reason probabalistically, and no excercise will do more for your ability to craft exception handlers, or exercise your 'but what if...?' brain parts.

Re:Emergent behaviour and AI (2, Informative)

DingerX (847589) | more than 8 years ago | (#12993585)

Well, OFP, IIRC, uses a combination of stateful AI and (within that) some sort of neural net system to run their bots.
It looks like Facade is using a complicated expert system: there is a story to tell, and your behaviour will "trip" certain triggers.

Both systems have their limitations: NN-based stuff is dependent on the inputs given. OFP Bots, for example, "learned" back in the days of development. And their information on visible is a combination of what the person is doing (crawling makes them less visible than running), and where they are (concealment is preferable to cover). On the other hand, "being shot at" is not an input (it does however initiate a state change -- from "AWARE" to "COMBAT"). The result is that the AI does some things that work pretty well against other bots with the same inputs: they run across an open field, then crawl on their belly in the middle: "Disappearing" to the eyes of the enemy bots, but presenting a tasty target for humans. Anyway, coding OFP missions is like herding cats a lot of the time: the AI has its own mind of doing things, and it's not always tactically sound.

On the other hand, the Expert System approach ends up being canned: you do actions to change states, and your range of action is limited to what the developers thought up. Hence Facade: it looks sophisticated as hell, and I'll download it and check it out, but it sounds like a superfancy Eliza.

Oh and for a good assault, lay in some artillery, send two squads to the target on "SEARCH AND DESTROY" and have a reserve squad set on "GUARD" (so they close with the enemy when the others make contact).

Re:Emergent behaviour and AI (1)

dubl-u (51156) | more than 8 years ago | (#12994735)

it sounds like a superfancy Eliza

Hey, don't knock it. There are a number of elected politicians and talk show hosts that appear to be superfancy Elizas, and they are raking in the bucks.

I don't get it... (2, Interesting)

autophile (640621) | more than 8 years ago | (#12993318)

So they put all this time and effort into AI-powered interactive fiction. And then they go and make it a story about fighting about a failed marriage. Do you think the developers had some issues here?

--Rob

Plot? (2, Funny)

slapout (93640) | more than 8 years ago | (#12993350)

and ends up in a verbal crossfire resulting from their failing marriage

Oh yeah. THAT sounds like fun!
(Maybe they'll rename this game "The Jerry Springer Experience")

Facade is people! (1)

dangitman (862676) | more than 8 years ago | (#12993566)

Given the average human being on the planet, and their rather crippled forms of social and verbal interaction, why would I want to interact with something that acts like a realistic person?

Re:Facade is people! (1)

Spy der Mann (805235) | more than 8 years ago | (#12994714)

Given the average human being on the planet, and their rather crippled forms of social and verbal interaction, why would I want to interact with something that acts like a realistic person?

  1. To sharpen your geek skills in getting a REAL date?
  2. To try to understand women better?
  3. To fulfill your fantasy of Yuna kissing Tidus more early in the game?

Remember! This is a *PROTOTYPE*. I bet than in 20 or 30 years, AI is going to be much more advanced than now. By that time, games will be able to:

  • Synchronize voice and images with the words beng spoken
  • Characters speaking a calculated (not scripted) dialogue
  • Characters showing their *emotions* in their facial expressions
  • Characters possibly screwing up a situation, which leads to even more interesting drama
  • With advances in simulation hardware, physics-realistic events and textures, environment, etc.


Now mix that with different types of games:
  • Date-sims (w00t)
  • RPG's
  • Action adventures


Obviously, you need a little more imagination to see how games could improve with interactive drama. But I see nothing wrong with the idea.

Game Name (2, Informative)

Spez (566714) | more than 8 years ago | (#12993597)

The name of the game is "Façade", which is a french word that means "frontage" or "facing"

Re:Game Name (1)

dubl-u (51156) | more than 8 years ago | (#12994711)

The name of the game is "Façade", which is a french word that means "frontage" or "facing"

Yes, just like the artist formerly known as Prince's name is that goddamn symbol.

The word canyon was originally spelled cañon, naive was spelled naïve, and the thing with your employment history started out as a résumé. When we adopt a word into English, English orthography becomes acceptable. The game authors are welcome to try to be all stylishly faux-continental, but the rest of us are equally welcome to ignore them.

"Programming hassle"? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12993680)

I'm no genius, obviously, so I guess I'd like to know what kind of "programming hassle" makes them require installation to the C: drive. (From the help section [interactivestory.net] of their web site.)

I mean, don't you just need to set a registry key (or something) with the base installation directory? What are they doing that needs hardcoded full directory paths? I'd like to try the game, but apparently I'm not going to because I don't use C: for applications, just the OS. (And it doesn't have 1GB free anyway.)

Technical Problems... (1)

imsabbel (611519) | more than 8 years ago | (#12993729)

The whole thing feels like it was created in flash...
Takes ages to start (on a A64 with 1GB RAM), looks like a flash video, gives no option where to install (i didnt even find a entry in \program files, no idea where it went), and now as i try to kick out the crap, its spends over 5 minutes "configuring the uninstaller"...
No matter how smart the idea may be, the conversation into a computer program sucks.

Er, hasn't this been done before (2, Interesting)

Shawn Parr (712602) | more than 8 years ago | (#12993989)

And not just the Infocom text adventures either.

Anyone else remember Starship Titanic by Digital Village, Douglas Adam's game company?

3d rendered characters (which looked much better IMHO that the pictures for this game) that used a system called Spookitalk so that you could type in what to say to the characters and they could pretty intelligently attempt to reply.

I haven't played this game yet, but I did play ST and enjoyed it. Hopefully this takes that concept of AI and expands it farther as if you have played ST for a while you eventually can figure out what kind of responses you will get from the different characters.

My point being that this concept is not nearly new at all, even with the audio element which is what people seem to be claiming is different.

Mod parent up (1)

theolein (316044) | more than 8 years ago | (#12994670)

Starship Titanic had one of the funniest text engines ever, and Douglas Adams was on the development team. The only thing I can of think against it today is that so many people have atrocious spelling due to their heavy reliance on spelling checkers etc.

The future of . . . (1)

geekwithsoul (860466) | more than 8 years ago | (#12994086)

the "Lifetime" Channel. Just cast the voices of some spunky-but-sweet actress and sensitive-but-tough actor from bad '80s TV shows and watch bored housefraus from across the country line up to play this dreck.

Good drama on relies on more than dialogue, it relies on a total acting performance from the actors, and the state of 3D graphics is simply not advanced enough. Add into that a viewing experience not dissimiliar to a TV show, and think how boring it would be to be using the same camera angle the whole time.

seen it before (1)

argStyopa (232550) | more than 8 years ago | (#12994195)

DM: There is an elf in front of you."
P2: "Whoa!"
Player 3: "That's me, right?"
DM: "He's wearing a brown tunic, and he has grey hair, and blue eyes..."
P3: "No I don't, I have grey eyes!"
DM: "Let me see that sheet..."
P3: "W... well, the sheet says I have blue eyes, but I decided I want grey eyes!"
DM: "Whatever... ok, look, you guys can talk to each other now."
P2: (pause)"Hello."
P3: (pause)"Hello."
P2: "I am Galstaff, sorcerer of light!"
P3: "Then how come you had to cast magic missile?"
(laughter)

Reminds me of Sentient... (1)

wikthemighty (524325) | more than 8 years ago | (#12994624)


Anyone else remember the PC/PS game Sentient? [the-underdogs.org] It seems very similar to what this game is trying to achieve, and it did it in 1997 (and it will run on a PlayStation!) It's dialog engine was a little wierd, but I found it very enjoyable.

must be a biiiig file (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12994731)

800 MB torrent? That's funny, I've never seen a torrent file bigger than a few kilobytes.

(sarcasm)

i need to talk to you... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12995096)

why are you talking to me?
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