Thursday, September 11, 2008

Broken Chatroom

I found these screenshots on Mobygames. They are quite funny because they illustrate all the problems of my game, Chatroom.
Okay, not that painful yet. This first screenshot illustrates Luke's inability to recognize common acronyms, specifically conversation starters. This is not a major flaw in the dialog system, because there is a chance that acronyms aren't recognizable to everyone in the population, or that they will die out in another 88 years--though it is highly unlikely.

Okay, now there are some clearly evident problems. The first 3 lines illustrate Luke's inability--whenever I say Luke's inability, I really mean my inability to program a proper, functioning AI--to recognize specific subsets of a conversation topic. For instance, 'sculpture', 'drawing,' and 'painting,' for the art topic. Luke would only recognize the art topic, and perhaps the drawing or painting section of it. That's all.

The second problem here is that MobyGamer is asking 3 questions simultaneously, while Luke only responds to the last question. Every other question asked before in the chain is cut off for the last question asked. Somewhat realistic, but not always practical.

The third problem is that the parser doesn't recognize specific questions about a topic, for instance, art. MobyGamer asks "why didn't art school accept you?" but Luke just gives the generic "CHECK FOR 'ART'" response, where he just talks about art in a general sense.

The fourth and final problem contained in this screenshot is Luke's phrase "I'm not going to do your math" which is a bit random. I had it programmed in so if the player typed any of the following ("+, -, =, *, /") math symbols, Luke would give a generic response about not doing math, because he's not a bot or something. I didn't expect people to use hyphens however in a general sense, like MobyGamer did. And as such, you get this awkward, seemingly random response.

Once again, the awkward hyphen detection causes Luke to talk about math in the fourth line of this screenshot.

Second problem here, the player talks about transportation, to which Luke responds "You kidding me? There are none of those left." This is the transportation response, but it was more intended to be for the keywords, "car," "boat," "plane," etc. As such, it doesn't really make grammatical sense right now.

The last problem is that Luke gives a generic response whenever you mention 'war.' This leads to a repeating of the same response over and over, in slightly different phrasings.

The pain is almost over... last screenshot:
I'll just skip all the awkward replies and go down to the bottom of the chatlog where there is one problem with Luke referring to his age again. This was because the previous line, "so they had us wage war?" contained the keyword "AGE" in the word "WAGE." This led to Luke responding about his age, which was again, totally random.

So, yep, Chatroom is far from perfect. I could probably spend more effort on it, and fix some of these problems, but I'm too lazy and I'm not sure the workload would justify the end means. It also would've helped if I used a parser-based engine, like ADRIFT or Inform, or whatever is out there, instead of a graphically based engine such as AGS.

I still had tons of fun making it, and it seemed to garner a lot of publicity once again, just like La Croix Pan did. The End!

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Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Battlestar Galactica (Season 3)

Season 3 Mini! Reviewยก

Battlestar Galactica is a show about an old man who was in Blade Runner who runs a ship with his son and crew and they have to run away from bad guy robots called Cylons and then at the end of season 2 they decide to settle on a planet instead of finding the long lost colony of Earth but things go haywire because the Cylons find them again and kind of enslave them in occupation but that doesn't make sense because earlier in the season they said they wanted to be peaceful friends with the humans so I don't know what's up with that.

Moving on in a more serious tone, Season 3 starts off with a booming (1 YEAR LATER) subtitle to it. This opens up all the multiple possibilities for character and plot development, new twists, etc. However, I could have done without the not-so-obvious-please-make-it-more-obvious political commentary for the first five or so episodes on New Caprica.

Battlestar Galactica is a character-driven show, as opposed to a more mystery driven-show such as LOST. This means that the character's personalities and motives drive the plot rather than an arbitrary mystery set up on a jungle island. This is all well and good in BSG, except when the character development starts to go in circles. At the beginning of the third season you have this new setup where EVERYTHING has changed from the previous seasons, but then they practically throw most of it away six episodes in and start going in circles with the character relationships so that they are back to season 1 all over again. I was all for the characters developing, changing their relationships, motives, dreams, outlooks on life, etc, but when the characters do it so much that they come full circle into where they were six months ago? I don't know. It seems slightly ridiculous, bordering on absurd.
Also, the characters get even more unbelievable when they forgive a fellow shipmate who stopped the end of the war by not letting the humans kill the Cylons once and for all. It was basically like, the humans were about to launch a nuke into the Cylon death star that would set off a chain-reaction to kill all the baddies in the whole show and end this crusade once and for all, but one little passenger sabotages the torpedo and makes it a dud and the Admiral forgives him and says, who cares we did not want mass genocide anyway, we prefer to fight to the death manly style instead and potentially lose this war because we are humane people.

Despite that, three seasons in, Battlestar Galactica is a show of a much higher quality than LOST and 24. It is consistently better instead of being a roller coaster of good and bad episodes. It actually has real substance and meaning to every episode instead of tantalizing you with the juicy steak of mystery then pulling it away from you until next season. It actually has a story arc instead of recycling the same screenplay every season with the same characters who haven't changed and are still falling susceptible to the same predictable plot twists over and over.

To rank Battlestar Galactica (S3), I wouldn't say it's better than the second season of LOST and it still never reaches the level achieved in the 3-Episode Story Arc "Pegasus" in BSG Season 2. BSG Season 3 doesn't quite top the other contenders in every aspect, all the time, but it is a consistently satisfying and well-made show, and one of the best on television.

BattleStar Galactica :: Season 3: 9.3/10.0

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