Facade 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. Facade was publicly released as a freeware download / cd-rom in July 2005.
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.
This work is unlike hypertext narrative or interactive fiction to date in that the computer characters actively perform the story without waiting for you to click on a link or enter a command.
Interaction is seamless as you converse in natural language and move and gesture freely within the first-person 3D world of Grace and Trip's apartment. AI controls Grace and Trip's personality and behavior, including emotive facial expressions, spoken voice and full-body animation. Furthermore, the AI intelligently chooses the next story "beat" based on your moment-by-moment interaction, what story beats have happened so far, and the need to satisfy 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.
The process of building Facade has involved three major research efforts: designing ways to deconstruct a dramatic narrative into a hierarchy of story and behavior pieces; engineering an AI system to reconstruct a real-time dramatic performance from those pieces that integrates the player's moment-by-moment interactions; and understanding how to write an engaging, compelling story within this new organizational framework.
Along the way we have learned hard lessons about what works and what doesn't in the design and engineering of interactive stories, and developed a deeper understanding of what it will require to create even more generative story systems in the future.
There are great hopes this project will attract enough attention to facilitate the birth of a new game genre.