This is my response to Façade, Storytron and Far Cry 2; the problem with structured narrative versus interactivity. You want some sort of narrative structure that seems meaningful to people, but it also has to be interactive. Those two things always fight against each other. [Ex-Maxis programmer] Chris Hecker says the problem won’t be solved until we have stronger AI, essentially running the drama manager for us. Until it’s smart enough to recognize that you did something intelligent that we weren’t expecting, and it even fits into the story, and here the story reacts to you. But what if there was a human on the other side pulling all the levers for you? One person is the drama manager running everything for you, the man behind the curtain making everything happen. Whatever the other player does you react.
I knew right away this wouldn’t work in 3D, there are too many variables, too many degrees of freedom. It also has to be turn-based or it’s never going to work. I built this really comprehensive interface for the controller to control every aspect of the world very quickly, searching through stacks of resources. Each person has 30 seconds to move so it's got to be able to react to what that person did. If they punch somebody it's got to be able to edit the sprite quickly and add blood and a bubble that says “Ow”.
Is this a kind of stop-gap approach until AI technology eventually becomes good enough, or do you feel like AI will never really be as good as we want it to be?
The big thing is asking why we want big computers to do these things for us. We have this fantasy about sitting alone with our computers, for some reason. I don’t know why we do, but we have this obsession in game culture.
The insight here is that running a drama manager is just as interesting as playing the resulting drama. You have to be on your toes, you’re thinking about what’s going to happen next, you’re planning everything out, you’ve got this idea in your head about where the story’s going to go, and then the player does something you weren’t expecting and you’ve got to figure out a way to wrap it around them. It’s like this really tense, almost athletic performance.
It’s also a content creation tool. So far I’ve just put some seed content in there for one little story world, which is inside my house in New Mexico with my wife and two kids. There are four characters; all the objects are from our house. The story I’ve been telling with it is about my wife. It’s a true story that happened when we lived in Potsdam, of her having a really bad asthma attack. She got to the point where she realised she was going to stop breathing, her inhalers weren’t working and she was going to need to go to the hospital. This was before our second kid was born. She got a ride from our neighbour to the emergency room. I had to wake our kid up and put him in the sling and then walk him down to the hospital. Of course on the walk to the hospital we had no way to get in touch with my wife. We’re walking in the dark on a cold night and it’s like, she could be dead when we get there.
There is no single-player mode. It is easiest to play over a local network. Have a friend over and plug in two laptops, or play over local WiFi. It can be played remotely over the Internet, but one player will probably need to fiddle with his or her router settings. Instructions for remote Internet play are included.
« Older A hen in Shrewsbury, England takes a litter of pup... | Jeff Heard, from the Renaissan... Newer »
This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments
Buy a Shirt