A recent ACM TechNews e-newsletter cites Facade as an atypical indie game taking advantage of the latest advances in internet bandwidth and artificial intelligence to produce "more complex characters and plots than the typical videogame fight if kicked."
In this free PC game, you find yourself spending an evening with married couple Grace and Trip and soon get "entangled in the high-conflict unraveling of their marriage." Quite like a one-act telenovela that unfolds — depending on what you type in.
To build Facade, the co-inventors have tried to push the boundaries of both gaming and AI, creating emotionally expressive characters who display several different kinds of behavior at once. They've incorporated what they call a "drama manager" to guide the story intelligently based on moment-to-moment interaction among the protagonists and the player, while a "parser" is supposed to understand a wide range of conversational English, sifting out interruptions and distractions.Facade is said to have earned 150,000 downloads since July. It's not, however, the most attractive-looking or reliable game mentionable. But it uses the same ingredients Will Wright needed to make The Sims a large hit. Notably, it had a 50 percent female gaming crowd.
-- A Female Sensibility, Newsweek International
The independent game possibly pushed further than The Sims, focusing on the intense drama contained in a single scene. The next wave for higher gaming engine intelligence? Massive Multiplayer Online Games that let you socialize. Beyond your usual hackenslash parties, a world based on the human condition, the need for money, food, shelter, love.
Does this mean pleasing the female taste in gaming requires a lot more intelligence and maturity? And the embracing of more complex and unpredictable patterns that computer scientists dream of conquering?
Charlotte Suyvenberg, director of global communications for Xbox: "Women gamers are very social, very strategic—they like to work together to solve problems. Most designers stereotype a gamer as a guy who sits ina dorm room or office or basement and plays by himself... But as design and development mature, there are a lot more opportunities to make games more social."It's not too hard to say yes.
Virginia McArthur, Sims producer: "I hate stereotypes, but they're usually male, and they like to create chaos."
Chris Crawford, design guru: "The algorithms at the heart of a first-person shooter are relatively simple. But algorithms for real human emotions are more complex and conditional-"subjunctive", as he puts it: not "if X then Y," but "if X then Y, or Z, or many other possibilities." (Lisp programming! Non-deterministic finite automata!)
Ankarino Lara, director of GameSpot.com. "Female gaming is the last frontier; 2006 is going to be a milestone year."
Can it at least be said that the trend of developing a more complex gaming experience have first come out in games that girls tend to like better, in a higher percentage? Yes, and what does this say about the bias of the gaming industry against women? Or, to be even more gender-sensitive, how this industry regrettably stereotypes males?
It's about time the gaming industry grows up enough, grows confident enough to stop "freezing out half the potential market." Gaming is so big that it cannot possibly be just another one of the boy's toys.