by Peter Rasmussen


Posted by Peter Rasmussen on March 18, 2007

There will be consequences. Façade is a new experiment in interacting with artificial intelligence. At first glance it doesn’t look so hot. They are sort of sprite characters in a living room. But the makers of Façade have assembled the bare essentials to make an experience that has some fascinating aspects. You pick your name out of a list before the “play” starts so they are addressing you directly.

All the potential dialogue is pre recorded so you’re getting a performance not just information in subtitles. The context is that old friends have invited you to a dinner party. Unfortunately the AI is disappointingly slow to react to statements you type in. A truly fluid exchange between human and machine seems to be a way off. Some people have fun mucking it up. They enter saying; “I’ve been stabbed. Call a doctor” and the characters still prattle on offering you a glass of wine and asking your opinion of the decor.

The main thing is that whether you choose to resist the script of the play or go with it, there are consequences. This is a thing only interactive media can do. Given how basic the aesthetic of this experience is it’s surprising how easily it can push your buttons.

I’ve heard it said that only about twenty percent of our communications with other people is in the syntax of the words. The remaining eighty- percent is in things like tone of voice and body language and facial expression and so on. When characters in games get better at responding to the player and high-end graphics and physics are harnessed to deliver realistic manifestations of social interaction, these things will have a powerful effect on the experience in a way that is extremely different to any other story telling medium. Films and books and music each have their ways of transporting us to new worlds. A new transportations system is on the way.

You can download Façade for free from:

A note about downloading. They tell you to use software called “BitTorrent”. It works okay but for some reason it gives absolutely no indication that it’s doing anything or that it’s finished downloading. On my Windows system I resorted to having the folder the file was downloading to open. I refreshed it from time to time to see that the file size had increased. Apart from that the install was fine.


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