July 5, 2005
The World's First Fully-Realized Interactive Drama is Released as a Freeware Download at InteractiveStory.net
PORTLAND, Oregon, July 5, 2005 - Procedural Arts, an independent studio formed by artificial intelligence researcher/developers Andrew Stern and Michael Mateas, today unveiled the long-awaited Facade, a one-act interactive drama, as a freeware download. Integrating an interdisciplinary set of artistic practices and artificial intelligence technologies, Mateas and Stern have completed a five-year collaboration to engineer a novel architecture for supporting emotional, interactive character behavior and drama-managed story. Within this architecture they 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.
Hailed by The New York Times Arts Section as "the future of video games" (June 7, 2005), in Facade, the player, using their own name and gender, plays 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, they becomes 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 made. By the end of this intense one-act play the player will have changed the course of Grace and Trip's lives - motivating them to re-play the drama to find out how their interaction could make things turn out differently the next time.
"We believe Facade can serve as a prototype for interactive drama, a new genre of character and story-intensive interactive entertainment," said Andrew Stern, co-founder of Procedural Arts and co-creator of the award-winning AI-based virtual pet products Dogz, Catz and Babyz from PF.Magic, which sold 2M+ copies worldwide in the late 1990s. "Innovation like this will only come from small independent studios willing to take design and technology risks, not from large conservative game companies."
Facade is unlike games to date in that the player is able to drive the story through direct, Holodeck-style interactions, including conversing with the characters in natural language, and moving and gesturing freely within the first-person 3D world of Grace and Trip's apartment. And unlike interactive stories to date, in Facade the computer characters actively perform the story without waiting for you to click or enter a command. AI controls Grace and Trip's personality and behavior, including emotive facial expressions, spoken voice and full-body animation. Further, the AI intelligently guides the story based on the player's moment-by-moment interaction and what has happened in the story so far, while still satisfying an overall dramatic arc. An innovative text parser allows the system to avoid the "I don't understand" response all too common in text-adventure interactive fiction.
"By treating artificial intelligence as an artistic medium, and creating story content procedurally instead of using canned cut-scenes, Facade truly breaks away from today's games," said Michael Mateas, co-founder of Procedural Arts and Assistant Professor of Computer Science and Literature, Communication and Culture at the Georgia Institute of Technology. "Procedural content will be a key technology in the next generation of interactive entertainment."
In 2004, an early version of Facade was a finalist at the Independent Games Festival in San Jose, and was exhibited at the prestigious Inter Society for the Electronic Arts (ISEA) festival in Scandinavia. In his latest book on interactive story, veteran game design guru Chris Crawford said, "Facade is without a doubt, the best actual working interactive storyworld yet created."
Facade requires Windows XP/2000/ME, on a computer 1.6 GHz or faster, with 256MB or more of RAM and 1.0GB of hard disk space. A Macintosh version is planned as well.
About Procedural Arts LLC
Procedural Arts LLC is focused on creating highly interactive, emotional, personality-rich characters and stories. Their authoring system, available for licensing for entertainment, training, and marketing applications, includes technologies for lifelike character behavior, robust natural language understanding, conversation (discourse) management, and drama management. To learn more about Procedural Arts, and to freely download the interactive drama Facade, visit www.proceduralarts.com.
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