What makes Siboot Unique?
We claim that Siboot is revolutionary. You’d be crazy if you didn’t think, “Yeah… right…show me”
The easiest way to see the revolutionary nature of this game is to think in terms of challenge. Every game challenges you in several dimensions. The four standard dimensions of challenge in games are hand-eye coordination, spatial reasoning, resource management, and puzzle-solving.
Hand-eye coordination is the challenge of the simplest games. You’ve got to press the right button at the right time to succeed. Usually this just takes practice.
Spatial reasoning is the ability to maneuver your way through a complex environment, like a maze or a dungeon. You have to be able to see in your mind’s eye the layout of the area you’re moving through, and figure out the best route based on the positions of the various threats and opportunities. Have you ever noticed that almost every game in the world has some sort of map, either explicit or implicit? That’s because spatial navigation is central to most game designs.
Resource management is the skill of husbanding your assets to get maximum benefit from them. You have only a limited amount of ammo, health, money, armor, or weapons. You have to carefully allocate different resources to different tasks to succeed. Most games have some element of resource management in them.
Finally, puzzle-solving is another common challenge. You face an apparently impossible situation, but if you can guess the correct sequence of oddball actions, you can solve the puzzle.
There are many other possible challenges, but these are the dominant challenges in almost all games. However, there’s one very important challenge that games never address: social reasoning. This is the ability to figure out what’s going on in other people’s minds.
Games never challenge you in this way. Siboot does. That’s the revolutionary difference.
This isn’t easy
We don’t criticize game designers for their failure to include challenges to social reasoning. It’s an immensely difficult problem, which is why Chris Crawford needed more than 20 years of labor to figure it all out — and Chris had already established a reputation as one of the most creative game designers when he started working on the problem. Getting all this working required not one revolutionary new technology, but FIVE. That’s why nobody has cracked the problem before now. Here they are, in order of increasing difficulty.
Revolution #1: Personality modeling
If you want challenges to social reasoning, you need to have artificial people in the game. It’s not good enough to have them look real; they have to act realistically. They need to have interesting personalities. To implement those personalities inside a computer you must create a personality model. Now, psychologists have developed plenty of personality models over the years. The most popular one is called the OCEAN model, and it’s great for psychologists, but it stinks for games, because real people are boring. The people in stories aren’t normal, everyday people; they’re willing to do interesting things that no normal person would do. So personality models for real people don’t work on characters in stories. You need a personality model that helps them behave in interesting ways. And that’s what we’ve developed: a personality model designed for characters in games.
Revolution #2: Faces with feeling
Sure, lots of games show impressively photorealistic faces of their characters. But have you ever noticed how emotionally dead those faces look? We need emotions on those faces, and we have developed the technology to present subtle emotional states on the faces of our characters.
Revolution #3: Narrative engine
We had to design a big program that controls how characters interact. That might sound easy, but there are lots of little ‘gotchas’ in drama that we never notice. It has taken years to get a narrative engine that handles those gotchas.
Revolution #4: Linguistic User Interface
Language is the primary channel for interaction among people. In a movie like Titanic, you don’t see the two lovers wiggling their thumbs at each other like they do in video games; they talk! This is the single biggest obstacle to challenge players’ social reasoning. If you can’t talk to a character, you really can’t have much of an interaction with them. Our linguistic user interface uses a simple langauge we call ‘eeyal’.
Revolution #5: IDE
The creation of these technologies would be meaningless if we didn’t also provide a program to control and manipulate them. Think of it as an editor for specifying all the details that go into a working storyworld. It’s easy to build something like this for programmers. But building one that is accessible to less geeky people is a revolutionary task. Our current version is called the “Storyworld Authoring Tool” — SWAT.
We have solved all these problems; Siboot will be the proof that it all works.