My final project was a Wekinator controlled narrative game. This started off as a question on how AI can positively impact human life. Recently, I got back into games, and playing well-made games gave me so much joy.
The thought I immediately had when I saw the Wekinator was that it would be fun to play something like Mariocart using the Wekinator. I created a simple controller mapping my position to the player input in game, and opening your mouth as a control. And then I also thought about people with disabilities might find it difficult to enjoy games using traditional control mechanisms. My ambition at the beginning was creating Mariocart prototype for people who cannot use traditional game controllers. Also, using your body is just more fun.
But then, I thought something was missing. From doing my final project in Music 256A, one thing I realised was that I really liked telling stories. Also, I thought that narrative games are the best games to play without using traditional game controllers given how simple they were.
To be completely honest, I found it a bit more difficult to find that compelling narrative. The story that I made in MUSIC256A just came really naturally to me in less than an hour (the protagonist being Rea Song and music being a key for memory retrieval and the Ocarina showing her return to Earth in the final scene) and changed very little from there.
At one point, I thought about using a narrative game I developed for another class, CS377g this quarter. That one was about a McDelivery worker discovering about brain control microchips and a sorcerer enslaving people to peel potatoes, named 'Mr. Zauberkurg'. However, I wanted to tell a different story for this one.
The story came to me fairly last minute as I was struggling with my taxes. I realised that my Individual Tax Identification Number application didn't go through due to a flaw in a document, and I actually received a rejection letter for that on my Birthday last year. I moved and got the letter way later, and was immensely stressed about it. Since I googled so much about it, my LinkedIn started recommending jobs in a startup that uses AI for Tax filing (NOOOOOO, I'd rather be unemployed).
And seeing tax becoming a recurrent theme in the class with Celeste's remarks, Kunwoo's creation etc. I wanted to tell a story about hating tax, but then, I wanted to connect that to other things that I saw in this class. Also, since I'm telling a narrative about one thing that I dread the most, I wanted to balance the negativity out by referencing two things that I'm obsessed about these days, the movie 'Everything Everywhere All At Once' (I cried so much when Ke Huy Quan received the Oscar) and 'What Remains of Edith Finch.' The latter was a game that Kunwoo introduced during a game lecture last year, and I kept hearing about it from others too, and it was one of the greatest masterpieces I've played in my life.
Hence, the story was created. It is about an AI that was created to pass the Turing test, that does the tax well, but then realising tax is boring and things like art and love matter in existence. W-AI-mond was created based on an NLP mechanic based on Waymond Wang's famous line in EEAAO, but then masking technique, something that's really common in NLP. You 'mask' out a few words from each sentence when training the NLP model. The story was going to unfold in the same fashion as What Remains of Edith Finch, which writes sentences on the walls.
In terms of the music used, I was making a reference to Debussy's Etude 1. The C major scale using five fingers is a boring exercise for all students, and he inserts a dissonant note to break free from that boring routine. I used that pattern to create an eerie dystopian feeling throughout the game every time an action was being taken.
The biggest problem that I encountered was that the Wekinator controller crashed Unity when used together as the game became more complicated. So I could not completely run it using a Wekinator controller, and it just took so much more time to run it that way, as the control is more difficult, so I had to frantically add in the keyboard controller a few hours before the presentation.
Overall, I really liked the direction of the story, and enjoyed using Chunity to create another narrative game, but it would have been nice to have the inspiration from the beginning!