May 31, 2006

Drama Princess

by Andrew Stern · , 11:17 am

Belgian game design duo Auriea Harvey and Michaël Samyn, aka “Entropy8Zuper!”, creators of 8, have more than one ambitious new projects in the works.

The first is The Endless Forest, a dreamy, non-goal-oriented online world where players embody human-faced deer, beginning alone in the forest but before long encountering other deer avatars, and soaking up the peaceful environment together. They’ve just released Phase Two of the forest, which now allows players to collect “the hidden magic of the forest to cast spells on each other”, altering each other’s appearance. Their artistic goals include exploring new forms of narrative in an online world, presumably emergent narrative.

Especially relevant to GTxA readers is their newest project, Drama Princess, currently in an initial design phase, consisting of an extensive set of essays and discussions in Michael’s development journal (blog): “Research & development of a reusable autonomous character for realtime 3D focused on dramatical impact rather than simulation of natural behaviour”. Starting more from an artist’s perspective than a technologist’s, they explicitly want to avoid creating a realistic looking but “soul-less copy of a human organism“, to avoid implementing the boring parts of real life. Michael is musing on modeling relationships, sympathy and empathy, simplicity vs. complexity, the role of randomness in action selection, and do interactive characters need real minds? (I chimed in on this one). I pointed Michael to the Oz project, a strong influence and technology foundation for Façade; Michael critiques here.

They recently held a roundtable discussion where they evaluated Animal Crossing, the Sims, Black and White and more (the transcript seems truncated, actually). Other posts evaluate various books and authoring systems for interactive character and narrative.

I’ll be staying tuned to their blog (now in the blogroll) to see what design they eventually settle on and begin building.