The Story of Facade: The AI-Powered Interactive Drama

The Story of Facade: The AI-Powered Interactive Drama

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Facade is likely one of the most original and novel video games of its sort: a real-time interactive drama the place avid gamers keep in touch without delay with non-player characters in a brief dramatic state of affairs. While over 15 years previous, the sport is likely one of the uncommon circumstances of an educational analysis undertaking that accomplished international standing and recognition. With publicity in mainstream press, award reputation and a cult standing on the web as well-liked YouTubers run shall we performs via its quirky and occassionally awkward drama.

In this AI and Games case find out about, we’re going to check out how Facade works. The years of analysis and construction required to make it occur and the way each and every layer of the video games AI techniques needed to be invented, so as to make it paintings.

About Facade

In Facade avid gamers are invited to the rental of Grace and Trip: a married couple who met courtesy of the participant persona again in school. However, issues aren’t going so smartly of their dating and your coming spherical for beverages that night is the make-or-break second for his or her marriage. You are unwittingly dragged into passive-aggressive mental head video games because the couple lash out at one any other about their spare time activities, their profession alternatives, their households, their intercourse lifestyles and a lot more.

Players have interaction with the couple by way of wandering via their rental and interacting with gadgets and furnishings round the home, or by way of speaking to them without delay. What makes Facade stand proud of such a lot of different video games is that you’re communicate to Grace and Trip by way of typing into the keyboard and the characters interpret your inputs and reply accordingly. They react with elation, marvel, laughter, disgust and even anger as you problem their issues of view, praise them on their selections, ask them about problems they don’t wish to talk about or simply outright insult them.

Ultimately relying in your movements, the sport will lead to certainly one of a number of pre-defined endings. If you lend a hand the couple navigate their problems effectively, their love for one any other is rekindled they usually in a well mannered way ask you to depart. However, like in genuine lifestyles, it is a tough procedure to navigate and will simply slip into one of the vital many unhealthy endings. Players will also be ejected from the home for his or her remedy of the couple or different delinquent behaviour, with Trip forcing you out the door. In reality you’ll also have Trip slam the door for your face on the very starting if you happen to effectively insult him. You will also forget about the drama that awaits and easily flip round and get again within the elevator. However, the remainder unhealthy endings rise up out of your endured discussions with the couple, the place Grace can come to a decision to depart Trip or vice versa, or probably being instructed to depart after not anything is resolved, just for the couple to proceed to bicker and argue after you’ve left the rental.

Facade is well known within the YouTube ‘let’s play’ neighborhood.

Facade holds a different position in recreation AI historical past: a analysis undertaking that accomplished cult standing! A unusual and eclectic recreation that sticks out as one of the vital novel packages of its time. Creating this thrilling and dramatically wealthy setting the place avid gamers can have interaction with and form the tale because it occurs. Resulting within the recreation being downloaded over five million occasions since its unlock in 2005 – and I think that quantity is dire want of an replace. But regardless of its luck, the sport is maximum no doubt extra well-known for when it is going improper due to the company given to the participant. In the previous 10 years Facade has transform notorious inside YouTube and the let’s performs neighborhood, with top profile creators garnering tens of millions upon tens of millions of perspectives for his or her playthroughs of the sport. It’s skill to react – or fail to regulate – to participant behaviour starting from the peerlessly customary to the totally irrational makes for nice comedic fodder. Its cult standing implies that many of us aren’t conscious about its AI analysis origins and understand it purely for the meme fodder it generates. But the sport is however an early bankruptcy within the higher tale of its builders, in the hunt for to create an absolutely interactive drama and the only large step ahead taken in making {that a} truth.

Facade was once advanced by way of two folks: Andrew Stern and Michael Matteas. Before the sport started manufacturing, Stern was once a recreation developer and dressmaker at PF.Magic in San Francisco and had labored on a number of entries of the extremely well-liked Petz sequence. Meanwhile Matteas was once a PhD candidate at Carnegie Mellon University and his early analysis at the moment have been round construction bodily and virtual avatars that expressed some type of intelligence that might construct emotional connections with human customers. Both had been within the concept of self sufficient interactive characters and techniques each and every in their very own method. This resulted in Stern attending AI analysis meetings, and in the long run the pair crossed paths. Their mutual pastime in clever avatars led them to pursue the next move, clever actors and the formation of the interactive drama.

In 1998, rising from a scorching bath at a convention in Snowbird, Utah, Mateas and Stern made up our minds to collaborate. “As Andrew and I talked,” Mateas remembers, “we kind of egged each and every different on to leap as a long way out of the mainstream as imaginable.” They resolved to create a recreation that might put a now not in entrance of each and every conference of as of late’s video-game business. They regarded upon their recreation as a analysis undertaking and figured that construction it could take two years. It took greater than 5. Now they’re beginning on a bigger model, this time a industrial recreation.

“Sex Lies and Videogames”

Jonathan Rauch, Atlantic Unbound, November 2006

Their interest undertaking was once a labour of affection without a finances to talk of and pair labored on it round different initiatives – with Matteas a grad scholar and Stern running self hired. The five years of construction integrated three years spent authoring the drama itself, plus over five hours of recorded discussion for Grace and Trip supplied by way of actors. Despite this herculean effort, the group accomplished most effective round 30% of what they’d at first envisioned. But that was once greater than sufficient to make an affect.

Released totally free on Windows XP in 2005, with a MacOS model in 2006, Facade changed into one of the vital well-known and a success initiatives of its sort. Having prior to now been a finalist on the 2004 Independent Games Festival, the sport subsqeuently received the Grand Jury prize on the Slamdance Independent Games Festival in 2006. With each Stern and Matteas garnering vital publicity with articles written concerning the recreation within the Atlantic, the New York Times and the Guardian. Meanwhile a large number of educational publications in journals, meetings and books were revealed discussing the design, construction and processes in the back of the sport itself. Not to say all of the YouTube walkthroughs, guides and jokes that experience accrued tens of millions of perspectives through the years.

But how does all of it paintings? Well so as to in point of fact perceive what Facade is doing beneath the hood, we’d like to check out plenty of hooked up however distinct parts of the sport.

  • How the sport is structured and designed to succeed in the unique design targets whilst offering fascinating demanding situations for AI to take on.
  • Then we wish to take a look at how AI is hired right through the sport to lend a hand craft the drama, and all of the other subsystems, this contains…
  • A herbal language processing and working out layer for studying and translating the avid gamers inputs from the keyboard.
  • A drama control device that breaks up the tale into dramatic beats, permitting it to modify form and adapt to occasions as they occur.
  • A behaviour language device that permits Grace and Trip to behave as performers within the tale, attaining the dramatic arcs set out by way of drama supervisor and reacting to participant interplay.

How Facade Is Designed

At the time Facade began construction, the theory of interactive story-driven was once nonetheless very a lot in its infancy. While tale branching and interplay techniques already existed within the likes of level and click on journey video games and a few RPGs, Facade sought to succeed in a top degree of company. Where the participant will have a considerable affect on how the tale performs out. Even now in 2020, video games the place avid gamers have an enormous affect at the tale are nonetheless reasonably distinctive. Even sequence lauded for his or her tale telling and persona interactions akin to The Walking Dead or Mass Effect don’t give you the participant with a lot affect over the tale, however quite other paths inside it they may be able to take primarily based upon standards being met.

Facade was once designed with the aim of crafting a character-rich plot that primarily based upon your interactions and conversations with the opposite characters, it could both in an instant or steadily affect how the sport pans out. To do so, the participant is secretly enjoying alongside in different of what are referred to as ‘social video games’. These social video games are particular levels of Facade the place primarily based upon your interactions, they may be able to affect Grace and Trip’s emotions on a specific material, their self-awareness about their underlying issues and their affinity against the participant. Every provocation, grievance or reward discovered inside the herbal language typed in from the keyboard will nudge the characters emotions on each and every matter. All the whilst the sport is tracking the strain between Grace, Tripp and the participant. All of this will affect the tale beats that play out, how a personality responds at a specific time limit and in the long run, which finishing is reached within the drama. It’s necessary to recognise that Grace and Trip are necessarily actors, the place as a substitute of finding out particular degree instructions or cues for a rehearsed play, they’re successfully improvising in real-time as an AI degree director is striking in combination the play in genuine time. However, whilst it’s being improvised at the fly, their performances are all pre-built and are designed to paintings in particular cases. And the underlying problem the 2 actors face is in running in combination in real-time to make sure the ones items are put in combination appropriately and make sure each and every tale beat performs out effectively.

To lend a hand construction this and steadiness out how particular subjects are explored or provoked, each and every playthrough of Facade is damaged up into two primary social video games: the Affinity Game and the Therapy Game. The affinity recreation is the place the device tries to decide whose facet the participant is on. This is if truth be told additionally working any other social recreation inside known as referred to by way of the builders because the ‘Hot Button Game‘. Hence whilst discussing the problems Grace and Trip are going through of their marriage, it may spill over into different extra incendiary subjects akin to their intercourse lifestyles or the chance of divorce. While this is helping the participant acquire extra backstory on each and every persona, if you happen to proceed to push too a long way right into a given subject, it may if truth be told undo the affinity rating you’ve accomplished for a given persona, and they are going to act pissed off consequently.

But the second one segment is the place issues achieve their apex. The ‘Therapy Game’ is the place the participant has affect over whether or not each and every persona reaches self-realisation about their underlying problems. If the avid gamers movements building up the self-realisation meter for that persona, then particular parts will spread. However, right through this phase the sport itself is tracking the meant rigidity between all of the actors within the scene. The state of each and every persona and the strain within the room then affects how the tale performs and the way each and every persona responds within the final mins.

In order to tempo and organize each and every of the social video games inside the meant drama of the tale, Facade coordinates this inside what’s referred to as the Drama Manager. It figures out the place the plot is going according to whats took place and the way the feelings each and every persona is ‘feeling’ (or quite, has recorded) at the moment. In among this, is the Action Behaviour Language ABL, pronounced “ready”, which encodes now not simply the reactions and discussion selected of each and every persona in particular scenarios, but additionally how they place themselves across the room, have interaction with international gadgets and behave in some way that matches what the Drama Manager needs to happen. And finally, there may be your enter because the participant. Facade runs an interpreter in real-time that makes an attempt to select the underlying sentiment of what’s typed by way of the participant, after which makes use of that to steer how the drama supervisor coordinates tale beats – probably including new tale moments, re-writing the plot because it is going – which in the long run influences how the actors reply to you.

The Drama Manager

The Drama Manager – another way referred to as a beat sequencer – comes to a decision which tale beats are performed out in realtime throughout execution. It appears on the present state of the tale and the characters and comes to a decision which unused beats would lend a hand transfer the tale during the meant rigidity arc. Only one beat is lively at any given time and according to what’s going down within the recreation – or quite what you’re doing as you play – it may come to a decision to change or exchange the present beat accordingly. The recreation has 27 primary tale beats, with a number of them used within the first act to arrange the strain, a handful for the number of to be had endings in act three and the remaining being decided on for the core social video games in the midst of the tale. The recreation by no means makes use of all the tale beats in a given playthrough. Hence whilst there are 27 primary beats, the typical playthrough most effective makes use of round 15 in an entire run.

Each beat – just like their inspiration from dramatic concept – is designed to be the smallest narrative collection the sport can run. Each beat is encoded within the recreation as a number of what are referred to as Joint Dialogue Behaviours or JDBs. These are recreation movements that may occur in a selected collection so as to entire the beat. Each beat is written within the ABL language and we’ll get into what they seem like in a minute. But for now simply know that each and every JDB is made out of strains of debate between Grace and Trip in addition to movements for transferring world wide and interacting with gadgets and the participant. These are most often constructed round one subject and most effective final perhaps a couple of seconds each and every. But one beat will also be made out of anyplace from 10 to 100 JDBs. This lets in for complete plot issues to be performed out, akin to Grace’s obssession with redecorating, or Trips makes an attempt to power Grace to experience their Italian vacation. In any case, each and every JDB as soon as carried out with exchange a number of values of the tale state, in addition to the affinity each and every persona has to the participant, the strain of the tale and the way shut each characters are to attaining their self-realisation.

A standard tale beat is written as a number of particular JDBs referred to as Beat Goals. These are the narrative targets that we’d be expecting the sport to play out for this beat according to particular configurations of the characters state. Essentially, each and every beat has written inside it how the tale will have to play out with out the avid gamers involvement. This implies that a personality can carry up a brand new subject or an present subject thats already been lined within the present or earlier tale beat (TRANSITION-IN) after which have the 2 discuss their strains. In many circumstances this gifts scenarios meant to power the participant to reply in-line with the social video games I discussed previous (BODY-GOALS). Plus it the facility to look ahead to the participant to reply (WAIT-GOAL) and the right way to transition out of the tale beat according to the enter (TRANSITION-OUT). Either for the reason that participant didn’t reply to it, or particular behavioural triggers that occur on account of one thing the participant stated.

Now it’s necessary that the construction of those narrative beat targets don’t exchange. Otherwise it runs possibility of breaking the go with the flow of the tale. But the drama supervisor wishes so to interject in order that participant enter will also be answered to. To do that, the device can use a different JDB referred to as a Beat Mix-In. Beat Mix-Ins allow the drama supervisor to modify what long term beat targets are going to be carried out. It can upload a brand new beat objective to handle a selected level made by way of the participant, take away an upcoming beat in order that the tale can exchange course or re-order long term beats in order that subjects that had been covered up for dialogue later are introduced ahead to now.

Normal beat mix-ins most effective exchange what’s going down in that primary tale beat however there could also be the Global Mix-In, which is designed to carry new subjects into the dialog. None of those are without delay associated with the primary tale, and are regarded as ‘satellite tv for pc subjects’, that are in orbit round the primary plot and impartial of the go with the flow of the narrative. These can come with discussing the gadgets in the home, such because the furnishings, Grace’s embellishes, the couple’s wedding ceremony photograph or the view from the rental, to extra refined subjects akin to Grace and Trips intercourse lifestyles or whether or not they’re receiving remedy. Each of those mix-ins upload in complete new discussions that experience 3 tiers of discourse, that are most effective revelaed relying on how a lot you dig into them in some way that the characters responds.

This lets in characters to recognize your behaviour – together with such things as praising and even flirting with them – react in some shape or any other after which get again to the primary tale. The drama supervisor is all the time preserving a reminiscence of what the core storyline is. So when interrupted with a mix-in, it may get again on level. In reality you’ll even interrupt a mix-in with any other mix-in and the sport will sooner or later get you again to the primary narrative. When a major tale beat is interrupted by way of a mix-in, the drama supervisor can come to a decision whether or not to restart the final beat objective it tried, or go back to the place it was once throughout the execution. This is if truth be told treated inside the JDB, the place particular ‘gist issues’ are assigned that claim that after the participant reaches a selected level within the tale, they’ve obviously were given the gist and it may resume the beat objective if interrupted as a result of you realize what the purpose of the dialog is. If the gist level wasn’t reached, or there isn’t one for that beat, then it is going to restart.

As discussed, there are 27 other primary tale beats inside Facade. In order to flesh the ones out and convey them to lifestyles, there are roughly 2500 joint-dialogue behaviours written into the sport. Handling all of the other instructions that the tale can take. Of those 2500 most effective round 66% of them are beat targets and mix-ins, with the round 33% being international mix-in progressions and the general 1% the long-term self sufficient mix-ins.

A Behavior Language (ABL)

So now we understand how Facade builds and maintains its tale during the Drama Manager, how do Grace and Trip inform the tale? As we simply mentioned, the drama supervisor’s joint discussion behaviours are written within the ABL language. A Behaviour Language is according to an present agent beahvioural language known as Hap advanced within the mid 1990s, however the important thing phase is the ABL handles multi-agent coordination and therein lies the nice secret of Facade. Grace and Trip are running in combination to position on a efficiency for the participant and keep in touch between one any other the entire time you’re enjoying.

The beats inside the drama supervisor are all written in ABL as collections of movements to execute. Some of those movements are designed to reply to occasions on the planet, whilst others clear up particular targets given to a personality to finish. Consider the outlet of the sport, the place you knock at the door and wait to be invited into the rental. This is a sequential behaviour for Trip encoded in ABL, the place first he must look ahead to a knock at the door to happen, adopted by way of that he’ll set free a bit sigh, then two subgoals which are then happy: opening the door after which greeting the visitor.

Image from “A Behaviour Language for Story-Based Believable Agents” by way of Matteas and Stern (2004)

ABL movements have stipulations that wish to be met prior to one variation of the selected motion will also be carried out, and results are computed on account of a success of completion. If we believe the OpenDoor behaviour, the nature wishes to seek out the door that was once knocked upon and compute the gap. If they’re shut sufficient, they’ll resolution the door, if now not there’s a fallback behaviour to inform the participant to open it and are available in the home. Subgoals frequently have a couple of option to entire them, therefore you could see Grace and Trip execute the similar behaviour in quite alternative ways between each and every playthrough relying on the place they’re and what’s going down at the moment. Meanwhile as soon as Trip has effectively opened the door and welcomed the visitor, it deletes the truth that there was once a knock at the door from the WME, the Working Memory Element of the nature, which shops all of the wisdom Trip has of the sector at the moment. This is in fact to prevent him attempting to respond to the door once more if you happen to attempted knocking on it.

While Trip inviting you into the home is a unmarried sequential behaviour, a scenario akin to Trip making beverages on the bar whilst Grace argues with him is a joint behaviour (and the crux from which the JDBs within the drama supervisor are constructed from). Grace and Trip secretely synchronise their access into the behaviour and take turns enjoying their phase. Trip will provide you with a drink and can stroll to the bar, proceeding the dialogue and making the beverages if he makes it there. Meanwhile Grace will roll her eyes and interject, making feedback about his cocktail shakers, forcing Trip to argue along with her. Grace and Trip secretely sign to each other what movements they’re going to devote and agree to take part in combination or reject the motion in the event that they’re not able to finish the request. This is all sparsely synchronised and movements can’t be carried out till they agree on whether or not they are going to paintings in combination or now not, therefore you’ll realize they by no means communicate over each and every different. Sometimes movements will pass easily and hit the top of the beat objective as deliberate, whilst others require a large number of fallbacks within the subgoals to succeed in the specified impact. It if truth be told has so much in commonplace with the likes {of professional} wrestling: the place the performers know the top objective they wish to achieve, however how it’s carried out is according to how the sector is configured at the moment they usually adapt to fit.

As I discussed prior to, the Drama Manager has the mix-in behaviours in a position for the right way to deal with the avid gamers inputs on the planet or from the textual content techniques. But how does that get fed into the ABL device? Well each and every behaviour will have handlers in position that let for them to execute quite otherwise relying on how issues are panning out. Like say if you happen to stroll into the rental prior to Trip invitations you in, then he received’t invite you in anymore. Meanwhile if you happen to ask the place Grace is prior to he yells for her, this may occasionally suggested him to transport that motion ahead to be carried out now.

In among all this are particular Cross-Beat Behaviours. While the tale beats are assigning particular joint behaviours as targets to execute, the characters can nonetheless make selections for themselves that span throughout a specific tale beat or into the following one. This is most commonly of use when the characters executing staging requests: that means they’re transferring across the rental for dramatic impact. If you as soon as once more believe the outlet minute whilst you’re invited in, the 2 characters transfer into positions across the rental both in combination or in my opinion according to whats going down and the ones motion movements can occur whilst different discussion behaviours are being carried out.

The Text Systems

The final large component of Facade to speak about is the device for studying within the avid gamers keyboard inputs. This is what’s recognized in Artificial Intelligence as a herbal language processing and working out drawback. And whilst the era in the back of this has made vital strides in more moderen years, with industrial grade voice and textual content reputation era changing into extra not unusual, this was once a serious problem for Facade to check out and conquer 20 years in the past and the ensuing device cuts a number of corners. Which is completely comprehensible given another way it could’ve taken any other 5 years yet to come in combination.

Facade‘s language processing is damaged down into two levels: first it maps textual content to certainly one of round 30 Discourse Acts, recognising the that participant is say criticising or flirting with a selected persona. Once the discourse act is established, it then maps it is a JDB within the drama supervisor and is injected into the sport.

A number of the to be had Discourse Acts lifted from “Natural Language Understanding in Facade: Surface-Text Processing (2004)”

Figuring out the discourse act is completed via a chain of laws, which recognise conventional utterances and statements of customers. There are over 800 laws constructed into Facade, permitting it recognise behaviour starting from greetings, expressions of explicit feelings, confusion, apologies, grievance, reward and a lot more. All of those laws are hand written and are designed to turn into a selected sentence in to a corresponding JDB for the drama supervisor. The laws are frequently moderately complicated, given they wish to differentiate positional info (“that appears nice”) from compliments (“you glance nice”), a couple of info in the similar sentence, double-negatives akin to pronouncing “I’m now not unhealthy”, whilst you if truth be told imply “I’m excellent”. Plus the device can recognise round 1000 idioms normally used within the English language, starting from calling one thing “a work of cake” to telling any person to “hang their tongue”.

The device is designed to assemble down into Jess: a rule engine written in Java. Translating the kind of 800 laws into roughly 6800 Jess laws for runtime execution. And that is however one of the content material bottlenecks Facade suffers from, but it surely’s the person who avid gamers frequently spot first. Given regardless of over 800 laws in position to recognise statements from avid gamers, there are such a large amount of nuances inside the English language which are nonetheless now not effectively captured and will require masses extra laws to effectively seize. What is fascinating that – in what seems to be a stylistic selection by way of the authors – the lets in for a large number of false positives to be accredited, wherein it is going to incorrectly interpret what the participant says to imply one thing else. As discussed in a analysis paper by way of Matteas and Stern revealed in 2004, it was once extra necessary for the device to make some kind of reaction, quite than forget about the customers enter and do not anything in any respect. In addition, the device fails to seize any nuance within the textual content typed and as a substitute focusses at the extra literal parts supplied.

The builders believed that – when performed as meant – the device will have to nonetheless generate a reaction, although that reaction reads the location improper or simply ends up in the characters taking a look puzzled. It’s argued that one of the vital advantages of the state of affairs is that given Grace and Trip are written as upper-middle magnificence, it’s in persona that they don’t in point of fact perceive when folks use slang phrases or shout obscenties in a good method. But in the long run, the authors themselves recognize that the device isn’t tough sufficient to live to tell the tale avid gamers seeking to destroy it. Which has necessarily result in the quite amusing and bizzarre YouTube shall we performs through the years!


It’s been virtually 15 years because the unlock of Facade and Stern and Matteas have long past directly to a large number of different initiatives. With Stern co-founding Playabl Studios, growing a lot of VR and AR packages for the likes of the NBA, the NFL and Hasbro in addition to conversational bots for the likes of Amazon Alexa. Meanwhile Matteas endured his profession in academia, changing into a professor first at Georgia Institute of Technology adopted by way of his present place as a professor of Computational Media on the University of California, Santa Cruz since 2006. As a end result, there was once by no means a follow-up or sequel to Facade. While Stern and Matteas at first sought to provide a follow-up undertaking known as The Party again in 2006, it was once confimed again in 2013 that the pair had been now not running on it.

The immensity of the duty confronted is one thing that can not be understated, be it the collection of herbal language interpreter laws, tale beats, JDBs and a lot more. Not most effective did the overarching techniques need to be advanced to ensure that it to paintings within the first position, however all of this content material was once advanced by way of simply two folks so as to create what’s in the long run a 20 minute revel in. It’s a captivating scorching pot of equipment, techniques, and languages that hasn’t ever in point of fact been reproduced in the similar method. Largely I think on account of the literal years taken to construct it.

But all that stated, Facade is the most important analysis and cultural milestone. A recreation that made left an indelible mark on video video games and AI analysis, developing an revel in this is nonetheless distinctive to these days. While it’s been cited in educational texts for smartly over 10 years now, arguably its largest affect is that folks know what it’s out of doors of the instructional convention circuit. Achieving Mateas and Stern’s imaginative and prescient of making a recreation that sits out of doors of the norms of the video games business and changing into a work of artwork in its personal proper.


  • Natural Language Understanding in Facade: Surface-Text Processing, Michael Mateas & Andrew Stern, Technologies for Interactive Digital Storytelling and Entertainment (2004)
  • A Behaviour Language for Story-Based Believable Agents, Michael Mateas & Andrew Stern (2004)
  • Structuring Content within the Façade Interactive Drama Architecture, Michael Mateas & Andrew Stern, Proceedings of the 2005 AAAI convention on Artificial Intelligence for Interactive Digital Entertainment. (2005)
  • Sex Lies and Videogames, Jonathan Rauch, The Atlantic (2006)
  • Procedural Authorship: A Case-Study of the Interactive Drama Facade, Michael Mateas & Andrew Stern, In Digital Arts and Culture (DAC) (2005)
  • Facade: An Experiment in Building a Fully-Realized Interactive Drama. Michael Mateas & Andrew Stern, Game Developers Conference, San Jose. (2003)

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