I’m excited to say that as of Friday, I’m Chief Product Officer at Spirit AI. (The company website hasn’t had time to catch up with this yet, I know.)
I’ve been managing Character Engine for a couple of years now; I’ve been on Spirit’s board, and thus increasingly involved in the business side of the company, since the middle of last year. The promotion means that from here on I’ll also be directly involved with Ally, our product for detecting and responding to toxic interactions in online communities.
I am still doing a lot that’s directly tied to interactive narrative. (In fact, I’ve got a couple of blog posts lined up for this month about some of the interactive storytelling implications of Character Engine, for those who are curious about what we’ve been working on all this time.) And both products draw heavily on how we understand language, both its literal meaning and the social implications of words. Spirit employs some awesome talent in data science, natural language processing, and computational linguistics.
Meanwhile, Ally addresses a problem of how to build and protect healthy communities. That’s extremely important, and it’s an area where we need good technology and careful thought about the ethics of what we’re building. (And we’re hiring.)
So this continues to be a compelling job, and I’m working alongside some really terrific people. If you count the time I spent contracting before we had investment money, I’ve been working with Spirit in some capacity for nearly three years now — here’s hoping the next three years are as amazing as the last.
Failbetter Games’ Sunless Skies is out, as of January 31, and I contributed: Carillon, a port in which Devils work to refine the souls that come their way; Sky Barnet, the gateway to the Blue Kingdom; and the Repentant Devil’s officer quest. There was also some nightmare content, a story that you can fall into if your terror grows too great.
I’m going to talk a bit more about those stories; this will be light on any actual specific spoilers, but it will touch on the general lore of Sunless Skies and the Fallen London universe.
Cragne Manor is now available!
Considering the number of authors on this game, it feels possible that every person who is interested in parser-based interactive fiction is already part of this project. But I know there are a few exceptions, so for those who aren’t already familiar:
Cragne Manor was organized by Ryan Veeder and Jenni Polodna as a 20-years-later tribute to Michael Gentry’s classic 1998 Lovecraftian horror game Anchorhead. They put out an open call to the IF community for authors to write one room each — without being able to see each other’s work — and they themselves would stitch the results together.
I think it’s fair to say this succeeded more thoroughly than they anticipated. More than 80 authors created rooms for Cragne Manor — some of them small, atmospheric rooms like mine; others packed with story or constituting ingenious set-piece puzzles; still others brief and elegant vignettes. There are some individual author contributions in Cragne that would make respectable IF Comp entries in their own right. Not only that, but Ryan and Jenni did an epic amount of work, with great ingenuity, to come up with a puzzle structure that would make all of those disparate pieces contribute to a functional, enjoyable gameplay flow.
I haven’t finished it — a reflection partly of my supply of free time, but also the fact that this game is huge. But I can tell you already that if you like parser IF, you want to play this. It’s sometimes scary, sometimes disgusting, sometimes funny, sometimes weird, and sometimes all of those at once — but I’ll let you find the horse for yourself. And somehow all that surreal adds up to something greater than the sum of its parts.
Thanks, Ryan and Jenni. This was really, really fun.
Counterfeit Monkey is now being maintained as an open source, community project, with Petter Sjölund spearheading the effort. Thanks to Petter and the rest of the team, it has just had its latest update with Release 8, available here. This version fixes various bugs discovered since the last release, which came out about a year ago. Thanks to Damien Neil, Dan Brown, Ian Kelly, Lauren Brazier, and Michael Gundlach for reporting bugs! And special thanks to Dannii Willis and Andrew Plotkin.
There’s a link to the complete change log for those who are curious, but a quick summary is below.
Among the most important changes:
- Fixes a hang that would occur on some interpreters when resizing the game window or clicking on the compass rose while being asked to reply yes or no.
- Fixes a bug where the game would use the achievements from the save file rather than the external monkeyac file after restoring, This meant that a save game from a different session, such as from another interpreter or computer, would award you the achievements from that session. Achievements are now properly reloaded from the monkeyac file after a restore.
- Works around a bug where the player could get stuck after showing the pass to the secretary.
- No longer awards achievements upon dying that were meant to be awarded when finishing the game.
- Makes all player input case-insensitive.
- Fixes a bug where restoring a save game from an interpreter without support for graphics would break the map display on an interpreter which supports graphics.
- Adds a massive pug.
Counterfeit Monkey is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 license.
So I released a new game! Here’s its blurb:
You’ve been haunting old Mrs Fagles for decades. Now she’s sold the house, and the new owner’s moved in. Sylvie’s broke, bad at plumbing, and anxious about everything. And with a living, breathing, fretting roommate, how are you supposed to rest in peace?
Drink blood. Set fires. Tell lies. Give advice, loan out a wedding dress, reclaim your true name. Remix your dialogue options to reflect your mood or dig deeper into the topics that interest you.
I mentioned this briefly in yesterday’s link round up, but I wanted to give a little more background on it than a link round up typically allows for.
Restless is a game written for ECTOCOMP, a venerable Halloween-themed IF competition. There are six endings, if you’re counting — though some of those endings mean different things depending on how you get to them.
It’s a purely conversation game. As in a lot of choice-based games, you have up to three options, and you can pick one. But in contrast to the typical dialogue situation, you can do something about it if you don’t like your current menu. Click a mood, and your options will shift to reflect that new attitude. Turn on moods individually or in combinations. Discover conversation topics and you can set your dialogue to explore those too.
Game Over is a radio play I wrote for BBC radio 4, commissioned and script-edited by Judith Kampfner and starring the phenomenal Sarah Elmaleh. It’s a story about trying to write a game about a particular topic, and the tug of different impulses that go into that process, and the ways it’s possible to screw up.
The play is available to listen to online at the moment, though in a few weeks it will become unavailable again.