Games in Science and Technology

Speech-Controlled Game Demoed at GDC 2009

A Scene from Bot ColonyMontreal-based North Side Inc. introduced a prototype for an innovative speech-controlled adventure game at GDC 2009. Titled Bot Colony, the web-based PC game features real-time Natural Language Processing (NLP) and AI technologies from North Side Inc., making it the first game ever where players can converse freely in English with in-game characters.

The Bot Colony characters, made up of different types of robots, speak using a complex AI program that actively parses a player’s spoken or typed questions in order to respond. In development for six years, the NLP technology works to fully recognize English speech. Simply speaking will result in game characters answering naturally and speaking back to a player in order to ask questions, get clarifications or make comments. Read More...

“When we say Bot Colony will feature unrestricted natural language understanding, we mean it,” said North Side Inc. founder Eugene Joseph in an interview with Gamasutra. “There are no limits on the words that you can use, and as long as your English is correct, we should be able to deal with it.”

Described as a sandbox-style adventure game, Bot Colony will have players solve a mystery with the guidance of highly intelligent robots met on the island. Robots start with a standard amount of knowledge, but will learn new concepts and facts as players interact with them.

North Side Inc. says that the game goes beyond entertainment by potentially helping players improve their English and analytical thinking. The technology could well revolutionize the way adventure and other types of games are made.

“Natural language understanding coupled with truly interactive reasoning and generation has not yet been deployed in videogames in a significant way. In this respect, Bot Colony will define an important technological milestone,” said Joseph.

“We believe that the addition of conversation to video games will revolutionize gameplay, taking it to a new level of immersiveness. Natural language conversation makes video games more accessible,” states the North Side Inc. website. “The ability of a machine to understand a human and his objectives and to formulate a sensible answer has applications in areas such as e-commerce, customer support, and training. We plan to pursue various applications of our technology in the future through partnerships.”

Bot Colony is still in development and is set to be released in stages, with the first targeted for December 2009. It will remain a work in progress “since there is no end to the sophistication that can be achieved in a conversation,” according to Joseph. A free closed beta is planned for the summer of 2009.