Montreal – October 1, 2013 -- Bot Colony , the first game to use conversational English as the primary way to interact with characters, will enter public Beta Test on November 1, 2013. Kickstarter ( http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/2109642122/bot-colony-now-conversation-is-part-of-the-adventu ) donors will get the first shot at playing the game.
Bot Colony is an episodic sci-fi adventure game in which one plays as a robot cognition specialist investigating the disappearance of prototype robot sensors, and tracking down a spy across an exotic South Pacific island.
While currently video games rely on dialog trees – players clicks canned dialog lines written by someone else – in Bot Colony players use their own words to control the outcome. Language understanding is not limited to commands: players can ask characters questions, state facts or opinions, and clarify what a character said -- and the characters will respond intelligently in most cases. Players can also ask robots to carry out commands and robots will comply, or learn new commands that are not yet part of their repertory. The ability to speak freely with the characters increases the player’s immersion into the game and truly makes the player part of the story.
North Side intends Bot Colony to offer a first-hand experience of realistic verbal communication with intelligent machines, much like the interactions depicted in sci-fi movies like The Space Odyssey, I, Robot or Blade Runner. This interaction is designed to be both challenging and entertaining. The ultra-literal way in which robots understand language is sure to drive home the realization of how much we take for granted in our day to day communication with other people.
“I know everyone claims this, but Bot Colony is truly trailblazing a new way of interacting with games,” Eugene Joseph, CEO of North Side and lead architect, explains. “Every year we see incredible advances in game graphics, sound, physics, etc., but character interaction is still ruled by the pre-defined dialog tree approach we’ve had since the 70’s. The ability for characters in a game to understand what you say and respond in an intelligent way has the potential to change the gaming world.”
Bot Colony is based on North Side’s proprietary natural language understanding (NLU) technology – deep Artificial Intelligence. North Side first started R&D in NLU in 2001. Currently, the software understands English sufficiently well to enable a player to complete game levels, as long as they don’t veer too much off topic. Off topic conversations are also supported – and characters use them as an opportunity to learn new concepts from the player. Reponses by the game’s robotic characters are generated on the fly by parsing the speech of players (or typed text), reasoning on a fact base, AI rules and the 3D environment, and dynamically generating an intelligent reaction. This reaction can be verbal (spoken English), or non-verbal (the character carries out a command, or exhibits a quasi-emotion).
Over 7,000 people from 176 countries have already signed up for the beta test. The studio credits some of this worldwide interest to individuals that want to practice English conversation. Bot Colony can be used by non-native speakers to have the immersive experience of being in an English speaking country without traveling there.
After heavy investments made in R&D and the first two game episodes, North Side is seeking crowd-funding to complete development of the game (targeted at 12 episodes) and to begin efforts towards a planned multiplayer sequel. Crowd-funding will be through the sale of monthly memberships and episodes priced at a reasonable $2.95 and $4.95, respectively, at the close of a Kickstarter campaign starting September 23rd. The first 2,000 people who pledge at the $15 level will receive the Bot Colony eBook, the first two episodes and a month of play time.
ABOUT NORTH SIDE
North Side Inc. is an indie game developer and R&D company based in Montreal, Canada, employing 45 people.