Façade

facade

Façade is a 2005 artificial-intelligence-based interactive story created by Michael Mateas and Andrew Stern, and exhibited at several international art shows. Façade puts the player in the role of a close friend of Grace and Trip, a couple who invited you over for cocktails.

This pleasant gathering, however, is somewhat damaged by the clear domestic confrontation between your hosts. Making full use of the incorporated language processing software, the game allows the player to type sentences to ‘speak’ with the couple, either supporting them through their troubles, driving them farther apart, or being thrown out of the apartment.

Incorporating elements of both video gaming and drama, Façade takes advantage of voice acting and a 3-D environment, as well as natural language processing and other advanced artificial intelligence routines, to provide a robust interactive fiction experience. The player can take an active role in the conversation, pushing the topic one way or another, as in an interactive stage-play. These stage-plays are stored as script text files which can be read after the game is finished. The game is celebrated for its ability to provide a close simulation of human interaction, albeit with flat-shaded 3D graphics and pre-recorded sound clips. The game is noted because the progression of conversation between the two characters Grace and Trip is rarely entirely the same, although it does cover the same major themes of dispassion, art and marriage.

Most playthroughs end with either Grace and Trip managing an initial reconciliation and telling the player they need to be alone, or being so offended by the player that Trip forcibly removes him or her from the apartment. However, with active intervention, it is possible to inspire the two to rediscover their love for one another, or to push one to leave the other – sometimes admitting a past affair, one of many events decided at random at game-start. Because much of the game is designed to simulate ‘on-the-fly’ reactions to the player’s or other characters’ actions, and because the scenario features a random series of events (such as what conversational topics are bought up, what drinks Trip wants to serve, whether either Grace or Trip have been adulterous, etc.) the game has a certain amount of replay value.

The parser through which the player communicates to the actors is also notable for its ability to recognise and accept a large number of complex commands and respond to them adequately. Many questions can be fully parsed by the game engine and the actors can respond in a variety of ways dependent on their mood, random fluctuations, and the player’s past actions. For example, in one game, Grace may respond favorably to the statement ‘I love your decorations,’ while in another context she may believe you are being condescending to her. Although not every statement made by the player will be successfully parsed, often the game engine will pull related information and integrate it using the built-in voice acting clips. As such, proper spelling and grammar is almost always required for optimal player experience. The Player can also manage to instantly get themselves thrown out of the apartment by either typing in ‘LIES!’ at the very beginning as Trip greets them, or for some reason, repeatably mentioning ‘Maria’ or ‘Melons.’

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