As we’ve posted before, Prom Week is a game where the player gets to shape the social lives of 18 highschoolers by controlling what social actions they take with one another. What each character wants to do, and how each character chooses to respond, is determined by over 5,000 social considerations.
Social considerations in Prom Week mirror the ways that characters think in fiction — the facts about the world that influence how they feel about each other. For example, if I am shy, I am going to be less likely to do something outgoing. Or if you’ve been mean to me, I’m going to be less likely to want to be nice to you.
Like real life, any single social consideration isn’t going to completely determine how a character in Prom Week will feel about another character. Social relationships are complicated, and sometimes people are mean to their friends, or feel compelled to flirt with their enemy. Prom Week’s AI system, Comme il Faut, accounts for social considerations to bring this sort of richness to characters’ social feelings.
Come il Faut achieves this through the concept of the “social exchange.” A social exchange encapsulates a social action a character takes with another character (with the intention of changing their relationship) as well as how the other character responds. For example, someone might flirt with someone in order to make them feel romance towards them. A character’s desire to perform a social exchange is determined by social considerations. At any given point, each character has a ranked list of social exchanges that he or she desires to perform (Prom Week has over 40).
Once a player selects a social exchange for a character to perform with another, the second character, the “responder,” decides whether to “accept” or “reject” the intent of the exchange (e.g., someone might reject being asked out on a date, or accept someone’s compliment). Social considerations are also used to determine whether he or she accepts an exchange or not.
Each social exchange is associated with 20+ scenes of templated dialogue. Once the responder’s general response is determined, a scene is selected and instantiated to represent how the social interaction actually takes place (this will the the subject of a future post).
Social exchanges and considerations enable is players to choose from social actions that characters specifically desire to perform and the other characters will respond for specific reasons that respect the character’s personality and social context.
For example, below shows a social exchange where Cassandra tries to spread rumors about Naomi (one of her enemies) but Simon doesn’t believe her because he is better friends with Naomi than Cassandra.