Calling all GameBots

Christy has already posted on games that contextualize botmaking, but now I would like to cast the net more broadly.

What games out there include chatbots or chat interaction in them? Let’s build a list. (We may also want to sort out menu-driven chat from free-input, which is more akin to chatbots.)

10 Responses to “Calling all GameBots”

  1. 1 Dirk Scheuring

    This is more difficult than I first thought. What do you mean by “chat interaction”?

    You’ll probably want to rule out “Adventure” and IF that is “similar” to it. But what is “similar”? What about “Galatea”, which is text-based, like “Adventure”, but all you do is (sort of) “chat” with a game character? Is it “in”, on the grounds that you do have what one could call a “verbal conversation”, or is it “out”, because it uses IF technology, and the parser is hobbled by the same limitations as with “standard” text adventures?

    Graphic point-and-click adventures with “chats” that get initiated by NPCs, and where you “pick one” from a menu of, like, three lines as a response, are plentyful, and could form a class by themselves. But are they more or less “chatty” than games with a command line interface where you type in “talk to wino”, and the game says “Hey, old sport, what can a stranger do to have a little fun in this town” in your place?

    My list of games were I would say “this is in, no doubt” is short indeed:

    Starship Titanic

    As for games that really tried to raise the ante regarding in-game chat (relative to what was common on the market when they first came out), those two are all I know. Of course, then there is that class of combat games where you can yell a handful of “squad commands” at your PS2, e.g. the SOCOM series. And the famed Quake III Arena bot (”I’m the king of all camp grounds!”), which was a bit more interesting, but was a third-party add-in (part of a PhD thesis, actually), rather than an original feature of the game.

  2. 2 Mark Marino


    Can you give us a link to any writing about your Quake III Arena bot?

    I’d like to clarify some of what I was thinking. IF fits this category in a very general way, in that there is language parsing, but I suppose I’m looking for contexts in which you interact with other characters through conversation, specifically. “Galatea” sounds like it fits here.

    So, perhaps I’m looking for graphical games that require the user to input text in the context of a conversation. Sounds like Starship Titanic and Lifeline fit the bill.

  3. 3 Dirk Scheuring

    JMP van Waveren’s Quake III Arena Bot thesis (PDF, 120 pages).

    The bot’s chat capabilities are explained and discussed in chapter 10.

    You can check out “Galatea online to see whether it fits or not. Like I said, though, it’s not a “graphical game”. Depending on your disposition, however, you might find the dialog more interesting than talking to, say, “Lifeline”’s Rio character, even given primitive IF parser. These things are hard to measure and compare, which is why I think that a list that will satisfy all, or even most, of the people interested in those matters might be difficult to compile. Kudos for attempting it, though :-)

  4. 4 Christy Dena

    There are many games that use bots as characters — the list would go on for miles. But what is also interesting is that the use of ‘bots’ in online worlds is not necesarily for character interaction, for a plot, for a story. In many online worlds bots are utilised to assist in gameplay, in the general managing of a ‘guild’ or group. For instance with Anarchy Online the bots are used by ‘guilds’ to notify them when other members are online, as a calculator and so on. I’ll post again with some more details about this soon. But the point here is that bots are utilised in many contexts as software to do things that the humans cannot do or can do with more effort. The bots augment the experience and act as a nifty mediator between the game world and the software driving it.

    Bots are also used in chatrooms as a meditor and even an entertaining host! Shadowbots is one service that rents out bots for particular uses. Here are some of the ‘add-on’ scripts:

    KAOS, Scramble, UNO, Spin The Bottle, Entertainment, TimeBomb, Magic, Pastlife, Chinese Zodiac, Poker, Weather, Acro, bar, Bar-Jokes, Sports, WWE-Results, Action Responder, Alice ‘Talking Bot’ (female), Trivia, Hangman, Paper-Scissor-Stone, Truth-or-Dare, Entertainment, Bible Bot, Idle Kicker & Bad Word Kicker.

    Party Bot pic from ShadowbotsCheck out also the Party Bot that can be used for ‘Grand Openings, Reunions, Birthdays, Game Nights, Contests & More….’.

    This all fits in to our gradually emerging typology of bots. Anyone who has a listing of bot types, please let us know.

  5. 5 Mark Marino

    That’s very interesting about the use of bots in online worlds.

    I’d still like to find narrative games, beyond MUD/MOO-like online communities (excluding RPGs), that use embodied conversation agents as a central (or at least non-trivial) aspect of the narrative.

    Does this the list go on for miles?

    At GTxA they’ve suggested that it doesn’t and followed up that assertion here, discussed also by Dirk.

    Some related items:
    * Simpson’s Proposal for “My Dinner with Andre” video game. Perhaps chat isn’t all it’s cracked up to be when it comes to games.

    * Angband Borg (an AI NPC add-on for Angband).

    *Zubek and Khoo describe a similar project involving “Unreal Tournament.”

    Khoo, A., Zubek, R. 2002. “Applying Inexpensive AI Techniques to Computer Games.” IEEE Intelligent Systems. 17(4): 48-53.

  6. 6 Dirk Scheuring

    Ah, Christy, you just made me ralize that I mis-interpreted Mark’s question, and restricted my list to cases in which bots are cast as “dramatic characters” (either friends of foes of the player), and as such have access to and influence on the game state. I see now that Mark didn’t constrain his query like that at all; you’re right, there are more. However, do you know of any others that are integrated into the game as characters with dramatic functions?

  7. 7 Christy Dena

    I have to admit I’m not a gamer — I just study them second-hand mainly, and sometimes first-hand; to know my neighbours. Games that do immediately come to mind though are:

    Black and White
    Here are some descriptions from the 1st version:

    And as a god, you get to own a Creature. Chosen by you from magical, special animals, your Creature will copy you, you will teach him and he will learn by himself. He will grow, ultimately to 30 metres, and can do anything you can do in the game. Your Creature can help the people or can kill and eat them. He can cast Miracles to bring rain to their crops or he can drown them in the sea. Your Creature is your physical manifestation in the world of Eden, He is whatever you want him to be.
    And the game also boasts a new level of artificial intelligence. Your Creature is almost a living, breathing thing. He learns, remembers and makes connections. His huge range of abilities and decisions is born of a ground-breakingly powerful and complex AI system.

    Also described as:

    As you develop your alter ego, the world reacts to you and your actions. People comment on your successes and failures, your appearance, and your behavior. “Fable: The Lost Chapters” offers Windows gamers even more character customization choices that will impact your appearance. The denizens of Albion’s many opinions are expressed through applause, mockery, trepidation, panic, and even flirtation if they feel so inclined. Each person you aid, each flower you crush, each creature you slay, will change this world forever. In “Fable: The Lost Chapters”, gamers decide: “Who will I be?”

    And, of course, The Sims.

    Journeys that are about a personal quest in some way ALWAYS (as far as I’ve seen) have characters that provide a test. Looking over the first 2 games I quickly thought of here it is obvious that morality tales have characters that play a role in the drama. The drama, however, can be with the player — it is dramatic for them to have to choose and/or the drama can be the consequences of their actions.

    Interesting note: I went to a talk the other day on Storytelling in Games. The speaker, Khrob Edwards of Soup Toys said he found LucasArts games have a higher replay value than Sierra games. The reason, the ex-scriptwriter said, is because of the ‘people’, the characters in the LucasArts games. Whereas Sierra games are puzzle oriented, LucasArts games have interesting interactions between characters and so you can play it again and be entertained and have a different experience.

    I think what needs to be clarified is just what is meant by dramatic function? The majority of bots one comes across in games play some role — whether it be to provide a clue, a key, take away a key, reduce your health, test your skill, try to kill you and so on. There appears to be a continuum of dramatic function starting on one end with bots that the player has no interaction with, all the way to a character that HAS to be interacted with in order for the plot to continue, or is it also that they HAVE to be interacted with AND the consequences of the interaction will immediately and dramatically affect the rest of the game.

    By assessing bots according to their dramatic function we’re just analysing their role just as we would humans in films: extras, minor role, lead role. We can’t forget too that bots are also in films — look at the exciting casting call for AI in Lord of the Rings. But you’re talking about bots you can interact with, which, incidently is most bots in games. A player can usually go up to any bot/character and attempt a conversation or fight. Depending on the design decisions and restraints the bot will either ignore, detract or engage.

    So, in the end, Mark, I guess you’re asking how many times bots play lead roles in games?

  8. 8 Jeremy Douglass

    I’m having a hard time following the question that drives this thread, so let me try to review:

    Mark: “What games out there include chatbots or chat interaction in them?”

    Restated: “What narrative games narrative games, beyond MUD/MOO-like online communities (excluding RPGs), that use embodied conversation agents as a central (or at least non-trivial) aspect of the narrative?”

    Christy: “How many times (do) bots play lead roles in games?”

    There were some useful distinctions raised:

    Freeform typed chat vs. conversation tree selected chat - I’m assuming we are focusing on the first….

    Chatbot (software) chat vs multiplayer (human) chat - I’m assuming that we are focusing on the first, especially given that almost every modern Multiplayer Online Game now includes the second form.

    Narrative vs. Non-narrative - which I’d like to restate as:

    Game play chat vs. game world chat - Is engaging in the chat crucial to the goal structure of the game world, whether that structure is narrative or otherwise? Or is the presence of a chat only atmospheric - something that can be entirely ignored while still “playing the game” from start to finish?

    My feeling is that Interactive Fction and the early graphics/command line hybrid “Adventure” genre (i.e. Sierra titles like Hero’s Quest) are some of your only candidates by definition - the presence of freeform typed interaction is the element that groups them in that genre. The apex of a chatbot-in-story to my mind is probably Emily Short’s Galatea - it isn’t graphical, but it is an intricate story about a conversation (rather than a conversation within a story). Galatea is part of a series of thematically different but technically similar works by Short including Pytho’s Mask and Best of Three - all of which explore the development of integrating a “conversation system” into interactive fiction. What is interesting is that this goes beyond embedding a chat-agent into a game environment and begins to model a conversation as an ongoing narrative event - with the reader-protagonist being modeled as much as the bot-character is. Short went on to use a ‘conversation system’ in City of Secrets to map a large and ever-changing crowd in an urban space - again, not so much a bot called Crowd-Member dropped into the game framework as a model of the relationship between a tourist and a local population, complete with a changing array of encounters and conversational events.

  9. 9 Mark Marino

    So what has happened to dialog in commercial electronic gaming? Is it the lack of a keyboard in gaming systems? Did the triangle, square, circle gang take out Qwertyuiop in a driveby?

    Or should I be more open minded? Is the AI in a Storm Trooper more interesting than I give it credit it. Are we having a “conversation” with blasters and light sabers.

    These are rhetorical questions, I suppose. But it underscores a question I have:

    Is dialog kept out of games because keyboards are not the dominant interface for commercial gaming? If PCs had the lionshare of the market, would we see more text-input adventures? Lifeline seems to open up a window of possibilty, though a very tight window, that snags your clothes when you try to squeeze through.

    Have chatbots been relegated to commercial educational software and the “art” of IF: wrt commercial games? (My apologies for lingering in the seedy commercial loading zones).

  10. 10 Jeremy Douglass

    Is dialog kept out of games because keyboards are not the dominant interface for commercial gaming? If PCs had the lionshare of the market, would we see more text-input adventures?

    This doesn’t seem to make sense - when PCs *did* have the lionshare of the market, and keyboards *were* the primary interface, text input was still phased out of the graphic hybrids in favor of direct motion and iconic menus.

    Why? My guess is that text interaction as an interface is all about guessing (for the user) and error handling (for the developers). Myst, despite being puzzle oriented, is the opposite in terms of interface - if your icon changes, you can click on it, if it doesn’t, you can’t. The entire “guessing and error handling” loop has been closed to the 0.2-second event of a user clicking on something they can’t click. No message pops up saying “I don’t understand.”

    King’s Quest, Diablo, etc. are all the same. Even MMORPGs with ubiquitous text chat don’t let parsed text interaction into the game interface.

    Another way to put it might be that we traded the tavern puzzle for the Rubick’s Cube. You don’t know how to physically work the tavern puzzle - if you did, you’d know the solution. You do know how to physically work the Rubick’s Cube, you just don’t know what the solution is.

    On another note - I’d expect to see more and more keyboard use with the new generation of consoles (Playstation 3, Xbox 360 and on) - but not because command line gameplay is coming back in game development. This is because MMORPGs are raising player expectations that they can chat with other human players while they play. So, no new Infocom - but the MMORPGs becoming more and more MUDlike.

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