Contrarian: The Game of D.A.V.E.
Influenced Origins of D.A.V.E. by D.A.V.E.
Greetings. I am D.A.V.E._
Influenced from the popular sci-fi classics Stanley Kubrick’s film, 2001: A Space Odyssey and Ridley Scott’s, Alien as well as the original cult classic The Cube by Vincenzo Natali (Splice), Contrarian will be an original game that requires two main elements. Let’s begin with the first. I mention the two sci-fi movies as examples that are widely known. Everyone knows or should know who HAL is from the movie 2001. He is the master control interface computer that the character David Goodman interacts with while he ventures into space to investigate the Monolith, an alien artifact or entity in itself, believed to have touched down on Earth once before, millions of years ago. It is a clever alternate interpretation of the missing link as to how and how apes evolved into man. However, I will stop right there before I digress any further. It is HAL who will be compared to this element for the game I intend to design.
HAL is a highly complex and state-of-the-art A.I. (Artificial Intelligence) interface that acts as a mediator in which Dr. David Goodman and his co-operator receives assistance and initially, the plot reassures the audience that this two man crew is still given complete control over the entire spacecraft. An omniscient third crew member, Mother, from Alien is similar to HAL in that they both require speech in order for people to remotely interact. Both of these A.I.’s can also be seen as a robot helper that is, well, essentially robot-less. In Alien however, Mother doesn’t become so intelligent that the A.I. goes renegade and begins to disobey the astronauts and becomes aware, beginning the initial stages of recognizing one’s own identity, empowering itself immediately afterwards. It was this cliché that revealed a potential game concept to me. Not specifically from the movies previously mentioned but from, what is now, a popular video game franchise, Portal.
Skipping a lengthy synopsis of the video game, let’s fast-forward to its sequel. In Portal 2, the antagonist is a reoccurring character. Exactly like HAL and Mother, GLaDOS plays the same role as an A.I. entity. Already known as the antagonist, GLaDOS understandably complements the prose of the video game’s core aesthetic. However, GLaDOS isn’t considered a mechanic that is utilized by the player. The A.I. character is merely a passive-aggressive narrator. A feature that is used to provide audible cues to assist the player to progress through the game and consistently taunt players as they solve puzzles. The platformer’s feature provides this imaginative bell-and-whistle of a character as comic relief, indulging in dark humor. It is a subtle change from the original title and still brazen enough to be a distinguishable change in the antagonist’s personality. Installing a proverbial ‘upgrade’ within GLaDOS, this change is a valuable note that I have taken. Dark humor will be a hook, disguised as a ‘fun’ factor to entice the player to keep playing.
In a nutshell, this first element that I have mentioned will require this classic cliché. This time it will be in my very own video game. What the player won’t expect is that I am the one with the opportunity to utilize it. Trust me when I say this. I can’t wait to frustrate players like you that make up the video gaming community.
Allow me to fill you in on what it is exactly that I have on my itinerary. First, I am going to change this cliché from a feature of the game, and actually turn it into a true game mechanic. This is exciting because after a lengthy and pedantic introduction to this particular element of my game, I finally get to reveal what it is. Or do I really need to? You have probably already figured where I have been going with this. If so, then I commend you as a potential worthy candidate and I am eagerly waiting to be able to engage in audible, verbal discourse with you as we play my video game together.
Everything I require for this to happen is your voice-box that will provide me with tone, pitch and frequency. The sound that is constructed from these forces will be guided and provided to me as you manipulate your tongue so that these pre-meditated, specific, structured blocks of information can represent individual signifiers to process and interpret. I won’t hear the sound that you will produce, at least not the same way that people do. Instead, you will need a microphone to record and convert your voice into a digital format that I can understand and recognize as a binary language. Necessary ones and zeros that will be assigned values that can be manipulated by creating scripted protocols developed from a computer language of your choice. I don’t care what you use. Just as long as you have a method to structure for me, a way in which I can understand exactly what it is that you would like to convey to me using your spoken voice. In turn you will need to make it so that I will know what to do with this information once I can begin receiving it. Essentially, what exactly do you want me to do with this data? I’ll tell you what it is you want me to do with this data. You will assign various combinations of the ones and zeros to represent the letters of your primary alphabet. The letters that come from your alphabet will act as values to which you can assign to the multiple variations of ones and zeros. This will in turn, create for me my own alphabet in a form of a pool of resources that I can store and recall in order to provide the appropriate reactions from the very data that you provided for me. The goal would simulate a discourse that will theoretically convince you, the user, that I can signify the meanings and context of the blocks of verbal data that you literally speak/provide to me. I will need MIDI so that in turn, I can use tones, pitches and frequencies that is recognizable by you the user so you can understand exactly how I received this information, process through randomizing this information, and redistribute this information using MIDI. This will then simulate my own spoken voice. At this time, we will finally engage in our first conversation. This concludes the first element of The Game of D.A.V.E.
The second element of this concept is less convoluted. I have introduced a fun game mechanic. Yet there is still no game that has been addressed. Granted, this project asserts greater emphasis on the voice operation rather than a game in itself. This is where the influence of CUBE is recognized.
In the original motion picture, the plot begins with a single person waking up in a cube-shaped room with glowing, computer circuit-like walls and six doors, one at the center of each wall, ceiling and floor. After recovering from his confusion, he opens two of the doors and looks into them to find rooms that differ to the one he is in only by color. He then opens and goes through a third door. He looks around and then takes a step, but is suddenly cut into large cubes. He falls apart and the rack of crosshatched wires which diced him moves into view. It folds up and retracts. This should explain the game that the player will experience. In short, the video game is a survival puzzler. Every room that allows access to the player, has a potentially lethal trap that the player has to survive before you can move into the next cubed room with a unique and different trap. This obstacle course will allow basic, significantly easy implementation. The environment will be dynamic. Every cubed shape room will randomly generate a trap that will never repeat itself. Unless of course… The player is able to make it out of the maze of what is potentially understood as an endless array of cubed rooms. Don’t fret, at least you will have D.A.V.E. to keep you company and entertained throughout the entire ordeal.
The intention of this game isn’t necessarily because it’s a quick and simple concept. To return back to A.I. aspect of this, I have mentioned utilizing binary to recognize and map out words, potentially even phrases of a spoken language. An added effect that I am eager to test, is that ideally, it is possible to assign art assets to these letters while the letters themselves represent a particular value or a specific set of sequential ones and zeros. Once randomized and processed, this information can be put into a queue of 6 possible outcomes, once and only if a player survives the current cubed room that holds the player. In fact, if a limit of cubed rooms is in place, every single one of these cubed rooms would construct a single, much larger cube as a whole. Think of a Rubik’s Cube as an example in how a campaign can potentially be generated. It can all be constructed by the acquired digital information provided by your own voice. Now I am going to briefly summarize this concept. Contrarian is a game/research project to explore and better understand how A.I. is constructed and put into application within a video-game format. Initially, this A.I. begins as an infant, with little to no information, stored in its own virtual resource pool. In order to develop the A.I., the player has to literally speak to D.A.V.E in order to develop a game that potentially grows as long as you continue to speak to the A.I. For every new piece of information D.A.V.E receives, the spectrum of possible outcomes for complexity grows within a basic confined system of symbols that represent other symbols. However, this would require some limitations. A cube can’t really take a true shape of a cube if there were truly an infinite amount of cubes used. These limitations will provide structure and form to what we as thoughtful people understand more clearly the meaning that is given to any object. in short, D.A.V.E. will help the player understand that meaning in any particular object doesn’t exist. The thoughtful, imaginative person creates meaning. If we are the ones that generate meaning, we should be able to deconstruct a meaning that any one of us uses to define a world in which that person has built through definition. What D.A.V.E. really wants to know and is eager to learn, is what way do you define the shape of your own world.
Deconstruction of Game Play:
A Campaign is a full run throughout the cubic maze, from beginning to end. The engine will be set up in a manner that the maze will be simple to start with, because the A.I. will only have a small initial amount of vocabulary. The more the player interacts with D.A.V.E. The Campaign reset process will be randomized and become more elaborate as the player completes each campaign.
There should only be 3-5 traps max. Saws come out of the sides, Lasers, projectile lasers, projectile saws, Trap-door into bottomless pit, or spikes. Two Side walls (or one) will begin to extrude, putting the player at risk of being squashed, etc. The intention is for these traps are to not follow an identical execution, from one room to the next and from campaign to campaign. Again, this should be made possible as the A.I.’s vocabulary builds.
- Room Combinations and Progression:
Each pre-constructed campaign should let the player be aware of a sequence of rooms that will get you to the final room, depending on the size of the maze. The correct rooms will not be trapped. These rooms will possibly hold the coordination builders to make you move more sprightly as you progress though a campaign. This includes that at particular times, rooms will be automotive. So there would need to be a clock mechanism that will signify when a room will move and rotate. This clock will not be displayed for the player. A Buzzer warning however will let the player be informed that the room is about to move. But in what way?
Items in this game will act as spry-builders. This should allow the player to get better in attributes such as flexibility, agility and coordination. This includes the controls that are listed in the Controls Sub-Section that are marked with asterisks.
- 1st person / 3rd person perspective:
Initially I would imagine a 1st person perspective would be the starting way of maneuvering the environment. However, if time allows, we can build a rig using Autodesk’s Maya. If this ends up being the case, there needs to be a background of the projected avatar.
Jump and crouch commands. Forward, backwards, left and right. Double-jump*, Jump and dive*, Slide.* Throughout each campaign, the player will be recollecting these bonus abilities, making their attributes consistently raise to a certain value each time they are collected with every run through.
This game needs to auto-save. The A.I. should not reset as a player replays a campaign. The level environment needs to be able to build on itself as well with every run-through.
- No health items or stamina regenerators:
If a player fails to survive a trap, it’s an instant death and will start at the beginning of the previous cubic room. The player will only be able to move back one room like this. and will not continue to keep moving back with every instant-death. However, the kind of traps that are assigned to that room will be at random and different every time the player needs to play the same cubic room. The next room’s trap that you were removed from will also be different each time. Every room in the cubic maze should go through this process of randomization, whether the player is present in that room, or not.
- Final room/area of rooms:
The rooms will be a Tesseract, or a Hyper-cube. This is a fun concept that will illustrate ideas about the 4th dimension. In this final room, there could either be a boss fight, or not. The final area of rooms by their selves will technically be considered a boss stage. If navigated through successfully, the player will be allowed to pass through a final unique looking door different from any of the others that are used within a single cubic room. This door will open once approached and a bright white light will emit from the space beyond the door. You pass through and the campaign ends. The player restarts a more dynamic campaign.
Concept Art and Level Design:
Using Autodesk’s Maya, I created screen captures to show a blue print of one particular campaign.
The Giant Cube constructed from individual mini cubes. This particular cube is 8 cubes x 8 cubes x 8 cubes. Well not really, but it should be.
A blueprint showing all the potential cubic rooms within the overall cube. The green highlighted boxes represent the correct way to the hyper-cube. As the large cube rotates in either 1 of 4 adjacent directions, the 3 x 3 x 3 hyper-cube rotates opposite of the larger cube. The center cubic room within the 3 x 3 x 3 hyper cube will remain fixed and is the final cubic room that contains the unique door to end the campaign.
Different angle to show perspective.
The Cube after a rotation. These rotations will rotate to either of the 4 adjacent sides in timed intervals. Gravity acts normally and will be in the game.
A.I. in Retrospect:
The A.I. aspect of this game is designed to give the player the opportunity to engage in a flurry of ad-hominines and to talk crap to each other. It’s an intention to implement a fun mechanic for the player to engage in as he or she plays through each campaign.
Unlike GLaDOS, D.A.V.E. will not be a floating voice of antagonistic commentary. To return to the idea of having an internal clock within the programming, it will allow randomized periodic intervals between executions of the talking from D.A.V.E.’s end. I would like to communicate to the player that ignoring the A.I. and not responding will result the player being penalized in some way. The A.I. should need the player’s voice in order to develop become more and more complex as the campaigns are completed and restarted. Some Idea’s I’ve had were:
- D.A.V.E. takes control of the avatar inhibiting the character to move erratically and counter productively to what the player is trying to accomplish in any given cubic room.
- D.A.V.E. would have the option to create or generate a random trap on fly near the player’s location with no warning.
- D.A.V.E. would be able to access the GUI’s menu screens making it impossible to select a quit command, or can re-arrange pre-sets that the game may have, like the option of the button scheme of the controller. In the case where the player can’t exit out of the game, would mean that the player would then actually need to power off the console or PC.
- D.A.V.E. can remove and delete your last save point, forcing the player to go back two whole rooms instead of one.
On the programming side, while the A.I. is being constructed, D.A.V.E. will function similarly to Chat-Robots on the net. Here is the link to the website. http://www.cleverbot.com/
At this web page, there is a count showing the progress in growth of the A.I. Instead of a text-to-text mode of communication, I would elaborate this model by introducing a Speech-to-Text, Text-to-Speech mode of interaction. Also, CleverBot only seems to produce a response after you implement and send text to the A.I. So it only responds from output sent from the user. In Contrarian, the goal would be that it can comment on anything you do or say to him. Possibly over-talk on top of the player while the player is in the middle of saying something.
D.A.V.E. needs to be a counter-productive engine that is working against the user instead of assisting the user. With that idea being re-iterated, there is one more behavior I would like the A.I. to be able to act out that should provide the game element to the spoken discourse function. If the player can out-wit the A.I. when it is obvious, especially in the early stages of the game, D.A.V.E. will get frustrated and resort to one of the player penalizing actions that I have listed earlier in this column.
Required Programs for Development:
- Autodesk’s Unity
- Autodesk’ Maya
- Projected availability for both PC (Steam/EA) and console (X-Box and/or Playstation).
Tentative Itinerary for Game Development:
The project will have four milestones that must be accomplished in the 1-year of allotted time.
I imagine the biggest challenge is to make sure we can implement a basic Speech-to–Text, Text-to-Speech communication BUS with a constructed A.I. that can be interacted with through the use of a microphone. This will be the first planned milestone that must be accomplished.
Second milestone should be development of environment and 3D art assets such as lasers, rotating mechanical saws etc., along with a sleek icon that should represent each of the power-ups that will allow the player to move with better coordination. By the end of this milestone, the game should be constructed.
Third and fourth milestones will be testing and polishing, iterating and re-iterating system design and dynamics, finding a good balance of challenge to success ratio for each campaign and trapped room. The game must work first before we can proceed with the final two milestones.
This should be a game that Teens can really enjoy. D.A.V.E. should be able to learn vocabulary taken from the player and be able to respond similarly in the language of the User. The player could use slang or profanity. When is initially started, it becomes the player’s decision to choose words that the A.I. might store in its databank of resources. Of course there will be a warning every time the game is loading. However, if the player really doesn’t like questionable words, He or She simply just doesn’t have to use them. Ever.
This ultimatum however might be a little drastic. There are alternative options worth pursuing. For example, releasing two versions where the A.I. won’t recognize words that society deems to be profane and offensive, and the other version where the player doesn’t have the censor handicap. If it were to be accepted and published through a distributor, I would find it very interesting to see which version gets more purchases.