March 8, 2004

Some Early Constructive Criticism

by Andrew Stern · , 2:00 am

Robin Hunicke and Rob Zubek, friends of ours and both currently PhD candidates in Northwestern’s Interactive Entertainment Group, recently got a sneak peek at the current build of Facade (which is still a few months away from completion). On her blog, Robin wrote up her reaction and discussions she had with Rob, highlighting the strengths and weaknesses of the project as they perceived them.

Since virtually no one has gotten a chance to play Facade yet, I’m not sure how much the specific points about the project will make sense to readers; but certainly valuable to readers, Robin poses several good and interesting general questions about IF, player feedback, natural language processing, etc.

I’d love to respond to some of the points right now, but I must sleep… just got back to Boston from three days of voice recording with our actors in Chicago. Will write some comments some point soon.

Update: Rob has posted his reactions as well, on his blog, and Robin has posted a short part two to her first post.

One Response to “Some Early Constructive Criticism”

  1. nick Says:

    I perhaps should post on Robin’s blog, but since this discussion is for Andrew & Michael’s sake, I’ll reply to her comments here…

    This leads to the classic Interactive Fiction problem – the actual space of possible interactions is quite small (at least by comparison). I can type a lot before striking upon something that “works”.

    Is this really a problem, classic or otherwise? When I play IF or see other people play IF, it seems to me that about 90% of the things that are typed “work” (are valid commands), and most of the other 10% are typos. However, in IF, you can tell if your action is being understood (but perhaps isn’t effective) or isn’t being understood: >LOOK UNDER BED results in “There is nothing but dust there” whereas >FLIP MATTRESS OVER results in “That’s not a verb I recognize.” In Façade, it may be more difficult to tell which is the case. This may or may not be a problem, as we’re not trying to manipulate and explore the world in the same way as in conventional text-based IF. Another difference: people learn IF conventions by interacting for a while, and this carries over to other IF interactions.

    The coach concept is a good one – Eric Solomon discusses the computer as a coach or “second” in his 1984 Games Programming, but I would guess that the idea hasn’t been very widely explored in this way outside of hint systems and chess programs that dispense advice. However, I don’t think this approach is right as the framework for Façade, and do I think there are many nice things about an interaction that is symmetrical in some ways: I reply in English to what characters tell me in English. Instead of offering a “langauge panel” full of word-buttons as an interface, why not use the interface of language that we are already pretty skilled at using when we interact with people?

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