This work-in-progress is a combination game and tool which seeks to assist users in creating and sharing their own works of narrative. In it, players place characters in a sequence of comic strip like panels to create a story. By leveraging the social physics of the Ensemble Engine (see below), actions taken between characters in earlier panels will have rippling consequences throughout the story. Since players have access to any panel at any time, changing earlier panels can render later panels incoherent. Rather than forbidding this behavior, the game encourages such experimentation, splitting the world into a parallel timeline, revealing ‘what might have been.’ which the user can then choose to work on simultaneously. In addition to creating stories, the game has hooks into the Ensemble Engine itself, allowing players to dynamically change the social rules of the system in real time, if they so choose. Drama Management capabilities detect the kind of story the user is creating, and offers suggestions based on what it determines to be most narratively satisfying. The goal for this tool is to give players the ability to create stories of which they are proud; it’s playful nature is meant to combat the ‘blank canvas’ problem that can make starting creative pursuits in the first place so difficult. A writing buddy who lives in your computer.
The Ensemble Engine, like it’s predecessor Comme il Faut (CiF) before it, is a social AI system. It allows users to specify rules and actions that govern social behavior in storyworlds. Also like CiF, it has support for ‘social physics,’ enabling actions of characters to indirectly give rise to new social state. It’s design was directly inspired by CiF, and the lessons learned while creating that first system. As such, the Ensemble Engine enables the authoring of more fine-tuned rules and character actions, and is completely domain agnostic. Moreover, the Ensemble Engine comes bundled with an authoring tool to enable players to author the social rules that make up the world. I was on the Ensemble Engine team from the beginning, using my expert knowledge of CiF–gained from both developing it and using it–to help drive the design of this next generation of social AI.
Bad News is a project that directly combines two of my passions: social simulation and improvisational theatre. Based off of the Talk of the Town framework by James Ryan and Adam Summerville, a game of Bad News begins by simulating over a hundred years of history of a fictional small town. During this simulation, the townsfolk grow up, get jobs, get married, have kids, and more based on models of personality and actual historical census data. All the while, they are propagating information about their beliefs of the world; as they interact with each other, they share their mental models of their fellow townsfolk, such as what they look like or where they work.
Prom Week is a social simulation game being developed at the University of California at Santa Cruz. In Prom Week the player shapes the lives of a group of high school students in the most dramatic week of their high school career. Using our sophisticated social artificial intelligence system, Comme il Faut, Prom Week is able to combine the dynamic simulation of games like the Sims with the detailed characters and dialog of story driven games.
IMMERSE is a project funded under the DARPA Strategic Social Interaction Modules program. The goal of the project is to produce a game-based training environment that teaches players “good stranger” techniques, via practicing the skills necessary to have successful social interactions in unfamiliar languages and contexts. As the game simulates being placed in a culture with which the player has little experience, the primary means of interacting with the system is through full body movements such as waving and bowing. Speech recognition detects the tenor and cadence of the player’s voice, to determine how calm or agitated they are, if not their actual words. The end result is a system which teaches players how to quickly recognize and navigate the social norms in high-consequence, unfamiliar environments, giving them tools to deescalate high-pressure situations. To drive it’s autonomous characters and accommodate for dynamic behavior from the user, IMMERSE utilizes both the reactive planner ABL, pioneered in Façade, and takes inspiration from the metaphors of the social simulation system Comme il Faut, the foundation of Prom Week.