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About the Story
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, the authors undertook a five year collaboration to engineer a novel architecture for supporting emotional, interactive character behavior and drama-managed plot. You, the player, using your own name and gender, play the character of a longtime friend of Grace and Trip, an attractive and materially successful couple in their early thirties. During an evening get-together at their apartment that quickly turns ugly, you become entangled in the high-conflict dissolution of Grace and Trip's marriage. No one is safe as the accusations fly, sides are taken and irreversible decisions are forced to be made. By the end of this intense one-act play you will have changed the course of Grace and Trip's lives, motivating you to re-play the drama to find out how your interaction could make things turn out differently the next time.
The New York Times
Redefining the Power of the Gamer
As Grace and Trip retreated to opposite sides of the living room, sniping about old grievances, Walter appealed to the couple's loyalties, trying valiantly to This is the future of video games. In their modern riff on "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" Walter was the only human. Grace and Trip were virtual characters powered by advanced artificial intelligence techniques, which allowed them to change their emotional state in fairly complicated ways in response to the conversational English being typed in by the human player.
It was one version of the future here this past week at the first Artificial Intelligence and Interactive Digital Entertainment conference. It is a future where games are driven as strongly by characters as combat, where games are as much soap opera as shooting gallery and as much free-form construction set as destruction arena. The apartment drama, a 15-minute interactive story called "Facade" that is scheduled to be released free next month (interactivestory.net), was one of the demonstrations offered to the roughly 120 game makers and academic computer experts who attended.
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Sex, Lies, and Videogames
It took me no more than a couple of minutes to see that Façade would be different. Grace and Trip, a married couple and old friends of mine, invite me over. He’s blond, she’s brunette, they seem to be in their thirties. As I arrive, I hear them arguing behind the door. After I knock, I’m cordially admitted by Trip into a small, sparsely furnished apartment with a view of towering apartment blocks glowing against a night sky.
Typing “Hi, Grace, you look great,” I begin chatting with the couple. They try to draw me into their simmering argument, nudging me to take sides. I can say anything I like; there are no rules. I can be sullen and unresponsive (that got me kicked out of their apartment), or I can talk nonsense, but in most of my visits I try to behave like an improv actor, picking up on their lines and shooting back cues of my own—agreeing with one, criticizing the other, flirting with either or both. No two plays are identical. In a typical game, however, Grace and Trip will argue with each other, one may flatter me while the other questions my friendship, and the tension between them will build until feelings are raw and the story reaches a revelation or a breaking point.
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Number of Reviews: 2
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This game is a mess. And it was always a mess. It was an awkward and ill-fitting blend of real-time first-person navigation and parser interaction. We'd known since Sierra abandoned AGI that real-time exploration and parsers make poor companions, and Façade's parser wasn't even very good. It had an artificially tiny length limit, a weirdly ugly font more closely associated with dubiously marked and curious-smelling overseas shipping cartons than with the paperdoll aesthetic of the game, and did not deliver the heavily hyped conversational experience. (Notably, the keywording was so broad that it's infamously possible to auto-lose the game with a single innocuous noun.)
The replayability and emotional exploration are supposed to be the point, but the designers stuck us with an unlikable and unsympathetic pair. Why bother when the most satisfying emotional resolution is to simply not go through that depressing apartment door?
Not all milestones represent happy stops on a journey, so this game can be regarded as a milestone without actually recommending it. Where it shines is with the top-notch voicework of the principal players and a nod to the game engine which does a good job stitching together player names and spoken passages on demand. It's such a rich vein of material that a quirky musician has been able to stitch together five (and counting!) full-length dance albums featuring Grace (and to a lesser extent Trip, usually as the target of her musical rants.)
I'd recommend a (NSFW) listen to any of "Grace's" bootleg dance albums (especially the first three) above any struggle to get Façade running on a modern system.
This is a responsive AI chatbot with a built-in plotline. If you've ever used Cleverbot or ELIZA, this is one of those, but it's made with the purpose of telling an interactive story. Gameplay resembles "Galatea" and other conversational IF.
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