Sunday, June 22, 2014

Diary Entry #35: Chillin' With iD, the Ghost in My Machine

             For some reason, many people are obsessed with the idea of human interaction with artificial intelligence. As if talking to people alone wasn't enough, we also have to talk to computers with their very own personalities. What would they say? What would they even have to talk about, being stuck in a little computer and all. The entire notion is just quixotic garbage concocted by techno-centric airheads.

             Mel Croucher and his upstart development team, Nu Wave, might have been such airheads, but at least they know how to frame the entire "talk to the AI" thing within an interesting narrative. Instead of making it some uninteresting figure who responds to keywords like Eliza or whatever chatbot, the AI is an ancient entity that happens to be inhabiting your little Spectrum. 

             Considering how old this being is, he has very little to say from the get go. The TRUST meter on the bottom is the first thing I notice. My expert deductive skills tell me that I need this percentage to grow, grow, grow.

             iD starts in a gloomy mood. I'm not entirely sure how important mood is in the game aside from changing the borders color. Regardless of how he feels, iD asks a lot of probing questions. Your name, your favorite color, your favorite or least favorite people, all of them must be revealed to iD so he can trust you more.

             Occasionally, iD will parrot back some of these facts. iD recognizes that Crystal is the closest being I know, while also criticizing my choice for favorite color. 

             After iD states that he feels rotten, I decide to try and cheer him up. 29% trust level is a good enough point to say that you love someone, so I go ahead and drop the love bomb. 

             iD's response totally took me aback. After mostly nonsensical dialogue about iD's emotions and thoughts, I get asked a direct question about a very difficult emotion. People have been thinking, writing, and talking about the nature of love for a long time and will do so for eons. How am I suppose to make a concise statement or quantify something that's so indescribable? Despite how significant and moving this question was, I totally forgot what I said. Something about eating more red meat and kissing people.

             For the longest time, I couldn't figure out how to get iD to make sense. Only a few keywords really illicit any meaningful conversation, severely undercutting any suspension of disbelief. Asking me what love is really threw me off, but asking if my dad is blue really makes the game's seams show.

             My definition of the human race.

             Sometimes, iD will start rambling uncontrollably about all sorts of insane things. Different aspects of iD's past and various emotions all converge at once, complaining about mummies, Napoleon, and Hitler.

             Eventually, I realize the keyword "what" gives the player a very obvious hint. After responding to it, iD goes into great detail explaining the object he possessed. Here, iD regrets being a straw that saved Adolf Hitler from drowning. 

            iD was evidently there for a lot of important events. Too many of them are overtly biblical in nature: the crucifix that Jesus died on, the tablet on which the ten commandments were written, and the fruit from the tree of knowledge. Thankfully, iD was also a doomsday machine that destroyed Atlantis, the bullet that shot Archduke Ferdinand, and some other secular objects as well.

             This hint was very, very stupid.

             For this will be the coin that buys you. Why all the cryptic garbage after I became very good friends with iD? If I thought the ghost or whatever was going to be an asshole, I wouldn't have wasted an hour typing in random keywords for responses. 

             At certain points, iD is a striking experience, forcing you to really think. Most of the time it's an idiotic high-concept piece that doesn't know what to do with a good idea. To be fair, the gimmick is fun, and I love reading iD's psychotic ramblings when he really goes off the deep end, but most of the time, there's just not enough to justify playing it more than once. Seaman's a much better conversationalist.

             One of the things that bothers me is how the game doesn't give the player any freedom. The ultimate objective is to determine where iD was in the past and gain its trust, yet why should I care? Is the fact that it's a ghost in my Spectrum supposed to keep me engaged for an hour plus? Why can't we talk about anything else? If more options were made available to the player, iD could have been something great. Instead, it's a frustrating mess.

             Not sure what to play next. I'm thinking about finishing X-Men Destiny or playing this adventure game I started months ago called Hitchcock. It was weird: all I did the entire game was find dead bodies. That'll probably make for a more amusing blog post, but I don't want to get stuck in a rut playing adventure game after adventure game. We'll see how it turns out.

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