Machine Yearning

Narrative & Content Designer (2018)

Machine Yearning was completed during the Austin VR Jam that I participated in November of 2018. For this jam, we wanted to explore a little bit further outside the realm of known input. We decided on an experience that would respond based on voice recognition input systems. We wanted to make a fun game on the recently released HP Intel Mixed Reality Headset. I operated as the narrative and content designer, fleshing out the "emotionally unstable" IoT machines you would be speaking to in-world, and writing the script for the natural language processing system (Amazon Alexa's NLU) the objects would utilize in order to respond back to you.

 

CONTENT DESIGN

Mockups & Concepts

We decided early on in the game jam that we wanted to develop on the HP Windows Mixed Reality headset and integrate voice input. We quickly came to the conclusion that it would be really enjoyable to have a game where you get to relinquish all the pent-up energy we have towards inanimate machines not working - by making them talk back!

I collaborated with a couple of the engineers in how the structure of the apartment would operate as we wanted it to be one environment, for ease of creation and also to constrict the user to interacting solely with the objects in this small room.

I collaborated closely with the artist and meme generator, Saam Pahlavan to flesh out these animate machines and give them personalities.

We decided on five household objects:

  • An anxious coffee pot that the user has to calm down toget it to work  

  • A shy roomba that the user has to convince everything is okay to get it to work

  • A sad toaster that the user has to show admiration for to get it to work

  • A stoner record player that the user has to prove themselves cool enough to get it to work

  • An angry toilet that the user has to curse at to get it to work

 

COFFEE MACHINE AKA "CAROL"

Character and Dialogue Design

The coffee machine as a personality was naturally way too hyped up on caffiene. Carol was anxious and a hot mess, and the user had to be able to calm her down in order to get her to work.


I decided that since Carol was so stressed out I'd give her a mild stutter as well in her vocal communication back to the user.

DYbAge.png

Example of Carol's
Success State Dialogue

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CoffeePot-Narrative.png

I sketched out a quick system for interaction basis for each machine. Here you can see the system for Carol. I wanted to make sure that basics were covered such as greetings and questions, but also that attempting to use a previous success state for an alternate machine would render a unique alternate response.


For Carol in particular, because I made her stutter I had to program the system to phonetically sound out each character.  Stutter does not natively exist in the NLP we were using, but it was super fun to play around with it!
it!

Here you can see the system I coded to intake all potential options the user could say to the object including basic greetings, and the unique response it would give.

 

ROOMBA AKA "DERBY"

Character and Dialogue Design

The roomba as a personality was incredibly shy and stuck under the bed. Derby had been stepped on too many times, and the user had to be able to convince them not to be frightened in order to get them to work.

 

I decided that since Derby was so shy out I'd give them a whisper at times as well in vocal communication back to the user.

fW0n1l.png

Example of Derby's
Success State Dialogue

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Roomba_Narrative.png

I sketched out a quick system for interaction basis for each machine. Here you can see the system for Derby. I wanted to make sure that basics were covered such as greetings and questions, but also that attempting to use a previous success state for an alternate machine would render a unique alternate response.

For Derby, I tried  out a couple things to make them appear softer. I ended up utilizing a specific whisper functionality that allowed some of their phrases to appear to be whispered to the end-user.

Here you can see the system I coded to intake all potential options the user could say to the object including basic greetings, and the unique response it would give.

 

TOASTER AKA "TONY"

Character and Dialogue Design

The toaster as a personality was lonely and sad. Tony was convinced he was a single-use appliance, and the user had to show affection in order to get him to work.

In terms of playtesting, Tony was probably the most relatable character as everyone had an immediate reaction of sympathy to the things he would say.

C5Zd+k.png

Example of Tony's
Success State Dialogue

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Toaster_Narrative.png

I sketched out a quick system for interaction basis for each machine. Here you can see the system for Tony. I wanted to make sure that basics were covered such as greetings and questions, but also that attempting to use a previous success state for an alternate machine would render a unique alternate response.

For Tony, I didn't do too  much exploration into how he said content but focused in on fleshing out personality through the phrases themselves. Most of the content focusing in on his lack of confidence, existential dread, and loneliness.

Here you can see the system I coded to intake all potential options the user could say to the object including basic greetings, and the unique response it would give.

 

RECORD PLAYER AKA "EDDY"

Character and Dialogue Design

The record player as a personality was a stoned-out hippie who thought he was cooler than you. Eddy knew all the good jams, and the user had to be able to convince him that they were better than him in order to get them to work.

 

Eddy had a chill vibe to him and often made pop culture references to bands and content.

Gus9YB.png

Example of Eddy's
Success State Dialogue

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RecordP_Narrative.png

I sketched out a quick system for interaction basis for each machine. Here you can see the system for Eddy. I wanted to make sure that basics were covered such as greetings and questions, but also that attempting to use a previous success state for an alternate machine would render a unique alternate response.
 

My favorite interaction during demo time  was when an individual was talking with Eddy and his response mentioning a band reference. The user responded, "I'm sorry I don't know any Radiohead!"

It was beautiful.

Here you can see the system I coded to intake all potential options the user could say to the object including basic greetings, and the unique response it would give.

 

TOILET AKA "JOHN"

Character and Dialogue Design

The toilet as a personality was rude. John had seen the darker side of humanity one too many times, and the user had to put him in line in order to get him back to work.

 

Since John had been created specifically because for the sake of puns, we gave him a pretty liberal amount of curse words to sling at the end-user.

Example of John's
Success State Dialogue

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Toilet_Narrative.png

I sketched out a quick system for interaction basis for each machine. Here you can see the system for John. I wanted to make sure that basics were covered such as greetings and questions, but also that attempting to use a previous success state for an alternate machine would render a unique alternate response.

Surprisingly for John, his success state was hit the most frequently. He had an incredibly large vocabulary of curse words that he would sling at the end-user and they were more than happy to say them right back.

Here you can see the system I coded to intake all potential options the user could say to the object including basic greetings, and the unique response it would give.

 

POSTMORTEM

Lessons Learned

This project showcased to me the challenge of narrative design for unique characters and utilizing alternative input systems. The biggest takeaway I had from completing this project was how important it is to have fun with what you make, not everything has to be incredibly serious and oftentimes the most enjoyable projects come from the most ridiculous of ideas.

 
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