July 5, 2005

Finally, the Curtain Opens on Façade

by Nick Montfort · , 1:12 pm

I am extremely pleased to announce the release of Michael Mateas and Andrew Stern’s Façade!
Grace and Trip in Facade

This long-awaited one-act interactive drama, featuring a 3D environment and voice-acted, AI-driven characters, has been a testbed for research in and development of new discourse-based NLP techniques, a new drama management framework, and new ways of allowing behavior hierarchies to interact. It has been the source of more than a dozen academic publications co-authored by Michael and Andrew, as well as Michael’s Carnegie Mellon University Ph.D. dissertation. A pre-release version of Façade was a finalist in the 2004 Independent Games Festival. Façade is also delightfully entertaining and abundant in its dramatic and artistic merits. It offers a fairly short dramatic experience that is intensive and compelling, and unlike anything else I have seen in video games or other interactive systems. The New York Times called Façade “the future of video games” and one person who has devoted his life to interactive storytelling, Chris Crawford, said the system was “the best actual working interactive storyworld yet created.” You can read the official press release on Façade, read on for more about the release, or skip directly to the the download page on InteractiveStory.net.

The initial release of Façade runs on Windows computers with processors of at least 1.6 GHz. (Andrew and Michael are looking for volunteers to help port Façade to the Mac.) The one-act drama is a product of their studio Procedural Arts and has just been released on the new label Auto Mata, which was started by your favorite bloggers. Façade is available free of charge (and licensed so that you may freely distribute it) and can be obtained from the download page on InteractiveStory.net. From there, you can download the 800MB program via BitTorrent; Andrew and Michael also provide the program on two CDs which are sold at cost, for $14 plus shipping.

Since the program is provided for free and and the CDs set is sold at cost, and because you like schwag, you may also be interested in supporting the creators of this system by purchasing some of the Façade merchandise that is available. The items for sale include the “hint book” Behind the Façade, which Andrew and Michael will email for a donation of only $5; there are also T-shirts, a hat, and other items.

Although we love for you to post comments here, and hope that you will, there will also be a bulletin board set up on InteractiveStory.net for detailed discussions of matters related to Facade. I can’t wait to hear what others think of this piece. Michael and Andrew tell me that they are also eagerly looking forward to people’s feedback about, comments on, and criticism of the first fully-realized prototype interactive drama, Façade.