Sunday, October 16, 2005
"...a one-act interactive drama..."
Reading the GuardianUnlimited's GamesBlog, I came accross this article; http://blogs.guardian.co.uk/games/archives/2005/10/13/new_blood_for_the_next_generation.html.
It talks about Facade, a so-called 'one-act interactive drama' whereby the player engages with a virtual married couple while they argue in their apartment. A simple premise, but one that really engages you in a unique experience. The intro from the website gives a clear overview of the ideas behind it:
"Façade is an artificial intelligence-based art/research experiment in electronic narrative – an attempt to move beyond traditional branching or hyper-linked narrative to create a fully-realized, one-act interactive drama. Integrating an interdisciplinary set of artistic practices and artificial intelligence technologies, we have completed a five year collaboration to engineer a novel architecture for supporting emotional, interactive character behavior and drama-managed plot. Within this architecture we have built a dramatically interesting, real-time 3D virtual world inhabited by computer-controlled characters, in which the player experiences a story from a first-person perspective."
Playing through it a few times, I was impressed to see the variations in the dialogue, emotions, body language and narrative that the player can have influence over. Interacting with the world is done through typing what you wish to say and also through a cursor which acts as your virtual hand. Knowing what to say to a virtual couple that are suppossed to be friends of yours is a little tricky on the first play through but once you've seen it through once you'll definately go back to see how even slight changes in your behaviour can affect the action. The situation you are placed in is teetering on the edge of disaster from the start; approaching Trip and Grace's (the said couple) apartment door, you overhear the the usual bickerings of a couple who aren't ready for their guests yet, immediately giving you that familiar feeling of arkwardness. They also try to hide their emotions for your sake, although much of what you say and do affects how long they can keep that up. The game is very clever at making you feel like a real part of a situation, mostly due to the great characterisation of the couple. They are prone to the pitfalls of human emotion to the degree that you will want to be careful about what you say to them as they often twist your words, take great offence or become upset. They are a touchy couple with big problems and making them happy is a genuine challenge, one that I have not succeeded in (yet). Saying something that you don't think will get a response will often suprise you; provided you are not completely irreverrant the game seems to have a very wide semantic field within the context of the couple's life - I became agitated with their arguing and flippantly remarked that perhaps therapy would be a good idea for them and was suprised at the conversational thread that followed. After a couple of run throughs I decided to see what would happen if I played through as a different persona other than myself; I became Mel, their very suggestive female friend, who had obviously come round for more than a drink and a chat. A bit rude and extreme I know, but I wanted to really test the range of reactions and emotions that the couple were capable of. I am pleased to say that that time the couple were very unified in their embarrassment and asked me nicely to leave. Very entertaining!
For anyone who wants to try this out, visit their website at http://www.interactivestory.net/. I suggest downloading it from the Legal Torrents link - the game is 800MB - and the http:// links I tried to get it from timed out before the download was finished. It's well worth it!
Tuesday, October 04, 2005
Cough, splutter etc
I don't know whether it was my flu-like symptoms making me delerious, but I got to thinking, is there any way that technology might be able to help me out? Pondering this over a strepsil and a cup of hot water, I remembered; NHS Direct. I've just finished diagnosing myself and it turns out that I should "...stop whining and blow my nose." Ok, so I'm not ill enough to warrant use of this service, but it could make the difference between somebody not acting upon symptoms they were unsure about.
The service itself is pretty basic: choose where on your body the problem is from a diagram and answer a series of questions to help you better understand what is wrong. If your questions result in an answer that is deemed 'serious' enough, it will advise you to call the NHS Direct phone service for more comprehensive advice. The only problems I can see with regard to this being an interactive service is that it is too embeded within the website; it feels cluttered and slightly distracting. You are able to click on many links that would take you away from the diagnosis proceedure, which some how seems to lessen the experience. Perhaps if it were a standalone page or Flash file, a more involving and clean looking experience could be created.
Click 'Self Help Guide' to get to the diagnosis bit