All posts by mtreanor

New Indiecade Version!

First off, Indiecade was a blast! It was super awesome to be one of the many OUTSTANDING Indiecade finalists.

One of the best parts was being able to show people our BRAND NEW SUPER AWESOME REDESIGNED VERSION OF PROM WEEK! Influenced by some time away from “heavy crunch mode,” and a whole lot of feedback from players and designer friends, we have totally changed how players interact with Prom Week and made new and improved tutorials and levels. And the consensus seems to be that it is WAY BETTER!

If you have played Prom Week before, we definitely recommend you check it out again!

Check it out at Facebook

Or Kongregate

Prom Week’s "Social Exchanges"

To celebrate Prom Week’s release on on Facebook and Kongegrate, we thought we’d share some of the details about what’s going on inside of the heads of Prom Week characters.

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.

 

Prom Week can now be played on Facebook and Kongegrate! Stay tuned for more updates and information!

Prom Week Released on Facebook!

Delve into all the adolescent angst, drama, and scheming of the week before a high school prom in this online game, which uses a sophisticated artificial intelligence system to enable players to shape the social lives of 18 hapless high school students. Find dates for them, break up and make up, forge new friendships, make enemies — it’s up to you to determine whether the Prom will be a magical wonderland of disco ball lights or a nightmare of existential crises!

Play it now!!!

Gameplay and Social Physics

When we started making Prom Week, our mission was to make social interactions truly playable. While games have increasingly gotten better at physical simulation, social interactions in games still tend to be scripted, with most games using dialogue trees of some form. A result of this is that many games end up being about physical conflict, as the physical simulation is the only part of the system dynamic enough to enable interesting gameplay.

Just like physics simulations in puzzle games such as Angry Birds support many emergent solutions to game challenges, we want to support emergent gameplay for social interaction.

Prom Week puts social interaction at the forefront, with the social simulation providing rich and emergent “social physics.” Unlike The Sims, which provides a rich simulation of abstract characters, we want concrete characters, speaking detailed lines of dialog, who have particular likes, dislikes and histories. Also, we want to support both more casual story gameplay, where players manipulate characters to find out what crazy things might happen next, and more strategic gameplay, where players try to accomplish specific goals by manipulating the social environment.

The gameplay involves choosing what social actions characters take with one another. What social actions characters want to take with each other, and how characters responding during these social actions is determined by Prom Week’s social artificial intelligence system. Given a goal, such as making two characters date, and a set of characters, there are innumerable ways to accomplish this goal, all holding true to each character’s personality, social context and history. And the game remembers every action the player takes, with this history influencing character reactions and being brought up in character dialog.

This requires a very rich social simulation. The character’s desires and reactions are determined by over 5,000 social considerations, rules that determine which social actions characters want to do and how they respond to social actions initiated by others. On the simple end, these considerations capture concepts such as being more likely to do something nice to someone if your friends with them. On the complex end, the considerations handle situations like a friend spending a lot of time with someone you’re not friends with, combined with the fact that you’re friend hasn’t spent much time with you lately, causing you to get jealous and making it more likely you’ll  be clingy with your friend. Additionally, the social actions play out with many dialog and effect variations depending on the characters involved and their traits, statuses and histories, using template-based natural language generation to create dialog fitting the situation. And to top it all off, social actions always have lots of repercussions across multiple characters, creating a dynamic social landscape for the player to navigate.

Prom Week is in beta now. Contact us if you want to be part of it! Stayed tuned for more news, stories and demos of Prom Week!