Mark - this is really interesting. I haven’t gotten a chance to try it, but a few observations:
It sounds like, in addition to the normal difficulty of using a restricted vocabulary parser, you add the possibility of being misunderstood while speaking syntactically correct commands. From looking at a few reviews, it seems like this commonly happens when there are similarly named objects nearby… or while speaking to quickly, as in this review:
The combat basically requires you to ferret out the monsters’ weak points in order to dispose of them, which is done by targeting specific parts of their anatomy… The voice recognition simply doesn’t react fast enough, which will likely inspire you to shout your commands quickly. This, of course, doesn’t make it any easier for the game to understand what you’re saying, which just exacerbates the problem. Simply put, LifeLine tries to do too much with a clunky combat system, and it will regularly leave you quite flustered.
Mixing real-time combat with complex input or a complex interface does lead to input error - and the normal solution (make it turn based) doesn’t work with survival-horror / adventure genre.
My thought would be, why not make the extreme limitations of the interface part of the story?
- Communication is the plot theme. You are aften prevented with purposefully ambiguous objects, and have to disambiguate clearly. When presented with a large red button and a small red button, you need to tell Rio to “push the large button” - if you say “push the red button” she will always push the wrong one, with negative results.
- Mishearing is a plot point. I can’t give a good example without knowing the game vocabulary, but say there are two close nouns like “door” and “spore” - at a crucial moment, you instruct Rio to shoot the alien pod, and she instead shoots her escape route (always, by design) triggering a cut-scene of catastrophy and furthering the plot. Later she argues at you that you gave her bad advice…
- Trust is a game mechanic. A subset of misrecognized commands might lose you trust points - you need to be careful to get these things right. For example, a “look behind you” command during combat warns her of attack from the rear. Every time you miss one, Rio loses faith in you - and as she stops listening to your advice (or turns your earpiece off, a la Speaker for the Dead), the possibilities or dangers change. Of course, you can win back trust. This is a motivation to pick your commands carefully and get them right the first time.
- Calmness is a game mechanic. In combat, Rio shoots straight if you speak slowly and calmly to her with clear enunciation. The choppier the recognition gets and the faster you pile on commands, the more she starts to panic, wants to run, etc. You can’t just push her around like a doll - you need to project a sense of serene control to help her keep a grip. Although the algorithm might be as simple as measuring x commands registered per second, in general it creates a dynamic which asks the speaker to role-play speaking, rather than pushing the limits of the interface.]]>