Façade (interactive story)
|Release date(s)||5 July 2005|
|Genre(s)||Interactive drama, interactive fiction|
|Distribution||Digital distribution, CD-ROM|
Façade is an artificial-intelligence-based interactive story created by Michael Mateas, Andrew Stern and John Grieve. It was the winner of the Grand Jury Prize at the 2006 Slamdance Independent Games Festival and has been exhibited at several international art shows. In 2010, it was included as one of the titles in the book 1001 Video Games You Must Play Before You Die.
Façade puts the player in the role of a close friend of Grace and Trip, a couple who recently invited the player to their home for cocktails. This pleasant gathering, however, is somewhat damaged by the clear domestic confrontation between Grace and Trip upon the player's entry. Making full use of the incorporated language processing software, Façade allows the player to type sentences to "speak" with the couple, either supporting them through their troubles, driving them farther apart, or being thrown out of the apartment.
Incorporating elements of both interactivity and drama, Façade takes advantage of voice acting and a 3-D environment, as well as natural language processing and other advanced artificial intelligence routines, to provide a robust interactive fiction experience. The player can take an active role in the conversation, pushing the topic one way or another, as in an interactive stage-play. These stage-plays are stored as script text files which can be read after the player has finished.
Façade was released for PC in July 2005, as a free download from the InteractiveStory.net web site.
Most playthroughs end with either Grace and Trip managing an initial reconciliation and telling the player they need to be alone, or being so offended by the player that Trip forcibly removes him or her from the apartment. However, with active intervention, it is possible to inspire the two to rediscover their love for one another, or to push one to leave the other - sometimes admitting a past affair, one of many events decided at random when play begins.
Because much of it is designed to simulate 'on-the-fly' reactions to the player's or other characters' actions, and because the scenario features a random series of events (such as what conversational topics are brought up, what drinks Trip wants to serve,etc.) it possesses a certain amount of replay value.
The parser through which the player communicates to the actors is also notable for its ability to recognize and accept a large number of complex commands and respond to them adequately. Many questions can be fully parsed by the engine and the actors can respond in a variety of ways dependent on their mood, random fluctuations, and the player's past actions. For example, in one scenario, Grace may respond favorably to the statement 'I love your decorations.', while in another context she may believe you are being condescending to her. Although not every statement made by the player will be successfully parsed, often the engine will pull related information and integrate it using the built-in voice acting clips. As such, proper spelling and grammar is almost always required for optimal player experience.
Awards and recognition
Façade won the Grand Jury Prize at the 2006 Slamdance Independent Games Festival; an early, incomplete version was a finalist at the 2004 Independent Games Festival. It has been exhibited at several international art shows including ISEA 2004 and Game/Play 2006, and was the subject of a feature article in both The Atlantic Monthly in November 2006  and Games for Windows: The Official Magazine in May 2007 
It is celebrated for its ability to provide a close simulation of human interaction, albeit with flat-shaded 3D graphics and pre-recorded sound clips. Façade is also noted because the progression of conversation between the two characters Grace and Trip is rarely entirely the same, although it does cover the same major themes of dispassion, art and marriage.
Although the original installation file was extremely large even for broadband users (around 800 megabytes), it was included on several game magazine coverdisks, helping to bring it to the eyes of a greater number of gamers and other interested parties. In February 2006, a 167-megabyte version 1.1 was released, featuring better audio compression, as well as a version for the Macintosh.
Façade has received a mixed reception: as technology and possibility it is widely considered a major advance in interactive drama, while on how enjoyable it is to play, opinions are more divided. Some find that when successful, it is very effective drama, while others find the drama to be a weak point. The open-ended narrative, with many possible outcomes, is most compared to Galatea by Emily Short. Some players have not taken the plot seriously and have instead manipulated the AI, to cause humorous reaction videos. A large number of YouTube Let's Plays are of players causing shenanigans to Trip and Grace (usually resulting in them getting kicked out of the apartment).
- Mott, Tony (2010). 1001 Video Games You Must Play Before You Die. London: Quintessence Editions Ltd. p. 615. ISBN 978-1-74173-076-0.
- "Sex, Lies and Videogames", by Jonathan Rauch in The Atlantic Monthly, November 2006
- Michael Mateas (3 December 2013). "Michael Mateas' Twitter". Retrieved 7 December 2013.
- "Type What You Feel", by Evan Shamoon in Games for Windows: The Official Magazine, May 2007
- See Montfort and Murray for contrasting opinion
- Montfort and Murray both make this comparison.