Façade (video game)

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Splash screen
Developer(s)Procedural Arts[a]
Publisher(s)Procedural Arts
  • Michael Mateas
  • Andrew Stern
  • Billy Gomberg
  • Matt Ganucheau
  • Jim Doran
  • Aaron Acosta
  • Leo Caruso
Platform(s)Windows, Mac OS X
  • Windows
  • July 5, 2005
  • Mac OS X
  • August 15, 2006
Genre(s)Interactive drama, interactive fiction, social simulation

Façade is an artificial intelligence-based interactive story created in 2005 by Michael Mateas and Andrew Stern. Upon release, the game received attention from mainstream news publications for its innovative design, and prompted speculation about the potential use of artificial intelligence in video games. Following release, Façade has received a generally positive reception, with praise directed at its technical innovation and wide cultural appeal, particularly in online streaming, and mixed views directed to the verisimilitude of its representation of interpersonal interaction.


Screenshot of Façade's first-person gameplay

Façade puts the player in the role of a close friend of Trip and Grace, a couple who recently invited the player to their New York City apartment for cocktails. This pleasant gathering, however, is somewhat damaged by the domestic confrontation between Grace and Trip upon the player's entry. Using 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 uses voice acting and a 3D environment, as well as natural language processing and other 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.

Most playthroughs end with either Trip and Grace managing an initial reconciliation and telling the player they need to be alone, or being so offended by the player that Trip forcibly removes them 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 the player is 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. The engine does have some quirks, however; for example, saying the word "melon" at any time will result in the player being kicked out immediately, due to the slang term referring to a woman’s breast, despite other meanings not used in a vulgar way.


Façade was developed by Michael Mateas and Andrew Stern. Prior to development, Mateas was a doctoral student at the Carnegie Mellon School of Computer Science, and Stern was a programmer and designer on the virtual pet video game series Petz.[2] Mateas and Stern met presenting at a series of conferences on the intersection of artificial intelligence and interactive entertainment, and began initial work in 1998 on a long-term "interactive drama piece" and "commercial product prototype".[3] In 2000, Mateas and Stern formally commenced a full-time collaborative project to "build an interactive story world integrating believable agents and interactive plot", with a plan to create a game around a "domestic drama in which a married couple has invited a player over for dinner."[4] To develop organic and believable character behaviors, Mateas and Stern developed a complex programming framework described as 'a behavior language' to program and organize the expressions of multiple characters as 'believable agents'.[5] Façade was released for Windows in July 2005 as a free download from the developer's web site.

Following the release of Façade, Mateas and Stern planned to create a follow-up project titled The Party. Building on the design of Façade, The Party was planned to feature around the plot of being invited a dinner party, in which gameplay would be expanded to accommodate ten characters, greater environmental interaction, and more mature complex narrative beats, including sex and violence.[2] Intended as a commercial product, Stern noted that The Party required investment to fund a small team of designers and programmers necessary to create the game's artificial intelligence.[6] In 2013, Mateas confirmed that development on The Party had ceased to pursue other projects.[7]


Façade received contemporary praise from mainstream publications as an example of the burgeoning potential of artificial intelligence in the design of video games.[8] Describing the title as "the future of videogames...where games are driven as strongly by characters as combat", the New York Times praised the game's use of "advanced artificial intelligence techniques...to change (the characters') emotional state in fairly complicated ways".[9] Newsweek praised the game's potential to "take character to a new depth" and design games "about people's lives" that would appeal to broader audiences, including women.[10] NBC News suggested Façade "could represent a new step in gaming" to "evoke complex emotions" in interactive entertainment,[11] and noted that "how (the game) attempts to meet the challenges of artificial intelligence has relevance for gaming in the future".[12] Describing the game as "one of the most important games ever created, possibly the most important game of the last ten years", Game Developer praised the "revolutionary" and "technically ambitious" design of the game, noting its innovative experimentation with natural language processing and generation, emotional modelling, facial expressions and body language, stating "Façade is important for what it tries to do and what it shows that we can do with this amazing medium".[13]


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.

Retrospective reception[edit]

Retrospective assessments of Façade have recognized the game's technical achievement in its application of artificial intelligence and popular appeal. Describing the game as an "important research and cultural milestone", Games Developer identified Façade as project that made an "indelible mark on video games" due to the uniqueness and complexity of its design of artificial intelligence.[14] Similarly, The Guardian cited Façade as an "interesting" milestone and "fascinating experiment" in the advancement of emotional artificial intelligence.[15] The game was also recognized to have attracted mainstream attention, unusual for an independent video game at the time. Rock Paper Shotgun noted the game "was cutting edge enough to warrant scientific papers being written about it, but playable and interesting enough to be spread around the games world".[16] PC Gamer noted that the game's enduring influence arose from a "strange second coming as an internet meme", with its widespread use in let's play and streaming videos.[17] Similarly, Game Developer noted "arguably its biggest impact is that people know what it is outside of the academic conference circuit".[14]

However, several retrospective reviews have expressed mixed views on Façade's execution as a simulation of interpersonal interaction, with Rock Paper Shotgun observing that the subsequent influence of the game on the broader industry had been largely overstated.[16] PC Gamer noted that "if you play Façade as it was intended...their AI system holds up remarkably well", praising the character reactions to player inputs, although noting the game's "reliance on genuine interaction...makes it ripe for abuse".[17] Describing the game as "an experiment rather than a finished game", Chris Dahlen, writing for 1001 Video Games You Must Play Before You Die, noted "the graphics are basic, and the parser's not perfect; Grace and Trip often react to a suggestion they don't recognize with an awkward stare or look of horror."[18] The Stanford Daily critiqued the writing and characterization in Façade as "lazy" and "unfinished" depiction of an interpersonal conflict, noting the "irredeemable" characters, the tendency of the writing to "wholly victimize Grace", and the "limited due diligence you can have in your sleuthing before they force you to tell them what to do."[19]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Ported to Mac OS X by Ryan C. Gordon of icculus.org.[1]


  1. ^ Park, Eddie (August 15, 2006). "Façade 'interactive story' released for Mac OS X". Macworld. Archived from the original on October 18, 2006. Retrieved April 28, 2024.
  2. ^ a b Rauch, Jonathan (November 2006). "Sex, Lies and Videogames". The Atlantic. Retrieved August 10, 2023.
  3. ^ Harger, Brenda Bakker (2006). "Behind Façade: An Interview with Andrew Stern and Michael Mateas" (PDF). ELMCIP. Retrieved August 10, 2023.
  4. ^ Mateas, Michael; Stern, Andrew (2000). Towards Integrating Plot and Character for Interactive Drama (PDF). American Association for Artificial Intelligence. Retrieved August 10, 2023.
  5. ^ Mateas, Michael; Stern, Andrew (2002). "A Behavior Language for Story-based Believable Agents" (PDF). In Forbus, Ken; Seif, Magy El-Nasr (eds.). Working Notes of Artificial Intelligence and Interactive Entertainment. AAAI Spring Symposium. AAAI Press.
  6. ^ "Type What You Feel". Games for Windows. No. 6. May 2007. pp. 32–34. Archived from the original on May 17, 2007. Retrieved August 11, 2023.
  7. ^ Mateas, Michael [@mmateas] (December 3, 2013). "Yes, Andrew Stern and I made facade. Not working on the party, but other research projects in the works" (Tweet). Archived from the original on June 5, 2019. Retrieved December 7, 2013 – via Twitter.
  8. ^ "When looks are no longer enough". The Economist. June 10, 2006. Retrieved August 10, 2023.
  9. ^ Schiesel, Seth (June 7, 2005). "Redefining the Power of the Gamer". New York Times. Retrieved August 10, 2023.
  10. ^ Dicket, Christopher (October 16, 2005). "A Female Sensibility". Newsweek. Retrieved August 8, 2023.
  11. ^ Loftus, Tom (January 31, 2004). "Bringing emotions to video games". NBC News. Retrieved August 10, 2023.
  12. ^ Loftus, Tom (October 12, 2005). "Going beyond the gaming ghetto". NBC News. Retrieved August 10, 2023.
  13. ^ Adams, Ernest (July 28, 2005). "The Designer's Notebook: You Must Play Façade, Now!". Game Developer. Retrieved August 11, 2023.
  14. ^ a b Thompson, Tommy (April 23, 2020). "The Story of Facade: The AI-Powered Interactive Drama". Game Developer. Retrieved August 10, 2023.
  15. ^ Stuart, Keith (October 12, 2016). "Video games where people matter? The strange future of emotional AI". The Guardian. Retrieved August 10, 2018.
  16. ^ a b Cook, Michael (February 13, 2015). "Electric Dreams, Part 1: The Lost Future Of AI". Rock Paper Shotgun. Retrieved August 10, 2023.
  17. ^ a b Winkie, Luke (April 16, 2020). "Years later, Façade's groundbreaking AI lives on through bad YouTube jokes". PC Gamer. Retrieved August 10, 2023.
  18. ^ Dahlen, Chris (2010). "Façade". In Mott, Tony (ed.). 1001 Games You Must Play Before You Die (2 ed.). Quintessence. ISBN 978-1-84403-681-3.
  19. ^ Fukunaga, Julie (April 5, 2020). "Revisiting love in the age of social distancing: 2005's 'Facade'". The Stanford Daily. Retrieved August 11, 2023.

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