Don’t Forget About Façade
If you’re into experimental games, I’m guessing you probably haven’t, actually (forgotten about Façade). It’s a game designed by Michael Mateas and Andrew Stern in 2005 that employed a procedural story system that could semi-organically build a three-act narrative around the actions of a player.
I say don’t forget about it because I don’t see much discussion of it any more among the blogs I follow, but I do think it is still one of (if not the) best gamestory/cyberdrama/interactive fiction projects out there when it comes to a certain kind of responsive AI that builds story on the fly. It makes many compromises to enhance that effect — three and only three characters, two of which are AI, two (OK, technically three) small rooms in which to act, and a pre-made narrative setup that heavily constrains reasonable actions, plus a fairly limited 3D engine — but it still provides a credible environment in which a player interested in exploring the possibility space Façade provides can replay the story in several different ways, with a range of emotional outcomes.
What is the successor to Façade? We’ve been talking a bit about Heavy Rain in my Games and Culture class, and that seems like it could be a contender. But (not having yet fully completed it but hearing the criticism’s of folks like Michael Abbott) I’m not so sure. What ever happened to the XBox Kinect game where you’d interact with a boy and the AI would read your facial expressions? Wasn’t that pulled for some reason? (UPDATE: Wikipedia indicates the game, Milo, was halted, but the tech may be incorporated into another notable narrative-game hybrid title, Fable: The Journey).
So I’m left wondering what project will push beyond Façade to take 3D interactive storytelling to the next stage in its development.