Event [0] preview

Im afraid I can’t let you do that Dave


While exploring the floor of EGX Rezzed 2016 we stumbled upon an unexpected gem, a game that actually turned out to be my personal favourite of the entire weekend. The game in question is Event [0] from Ocelot Society a small and relatively new studio based in Paris.

The screen starts a little blurry and a white room comes into focus, I am stood in an airlock and the door won’t open. The only intractable thing in this small confined space is a terminal on one of the walls. So I walk over to the terminal and it comes to life in all it’s 80’s futuristic CRT monitor glory. I’m pretty much sold on Event [0] already, I am a sucker for a bit of retro sci-fi, I must admit.

The first thing I am asked do is create a user, pretty standard for these types of games so I give it my name and a satisfyingly clunky clicking and whirring happens as the screen runs a program creating my user with text filling the screen line by line.

This is my introduction to Kaizen, the ships AI and as it turns out, my only contact on the derelict ship. Kaizen prompts me to ask a question, starting simple I ask “Where am I?” the reply, “You are aboard the Nautilus”. Good start it answered the question I posed pretty efficiently I thought. I want to leave the air lock to I ask for the door to be opened and low and behold the door opens leading me into a sort of departure lounge looking area, a large window looks out into the nothingness of space.

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At the other side of this room is another door which is also locked, I go to the terminal in this room and ask Kaizen to open this door for me and to my surprise he refuses. “The corridor is in a bad state, it would be wiser to stay here where it is safe” is the answer I get. Thinking like I normally would during these situations in games I simply leave the terminal and start to look around the room for something to pry the door open or a maintenance hatch I can sneak through, space ships are of course full of those things. No such luck on the nautilus though. After a while I realise I have to use Kaizen so I go back and take a different approach, I noticed the door had a number so I ask specially for that door to be opened again I get told I cannot go that way.

It was at this moment a member of the dev team came over to me and simply suggested I try to convince Kaizen to let me leave the room. Now I’m not often taken aback in games but after a few more minutes I realised that Event [0] is not your average walking simulator. I start to have a conversation, that’s right an actual conversation, with Kaizen. I ask “why can’t I leave?”, “my function is to keep you safe” is the reply.

I start to ask mundane questions like “What is your purpose?” and “what is the date?” before going back to asking for the door to open, still the answer is no. Remembering that I was trying to convince Kaizen to open the door I changed tact and typed in proper English “please let me through the door” and to my surprise kaizen answered “I’m afraid I cant, its too dangerous” this started a string of text the went from simply commanding that a specific door be opened to me trying to reason with Kaizen and convince him that it was the best thing to do. I told him it was important and that I needed to go through the door and I started to sway him.

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I even tried reverse psychology and each time I talked to Kaizen the more I realised how impressive the game is. To get on his good side I changed the conversation to the rest of the crew and was informed that they were all dead and that I came from Europa-11. After a while I asked what if there was anything Kaizen wanted me to know and he gave me a few things I could for him and then he opened the door for me.

This sort of conversation goes on thoughout the demo I played, and as I got further into the ship the more I spoke to Kaizen and the more impressed I was with the amount of freedom I had to type and ask and converse with it. Once a topic is brought up Kaizen remembers what you are talking about so instead of having to ask specifically where something was or how do I do this and that Kaizen would contextually know what I was referring to from what I was implying and what was going on at that moment in much the same way a human would respond.

It’s actually a little unnerving talking to a video game in that way and seeing how Kaizen reacted to what I was saying with several emotions from happiness to anger and reluctance to help. It reminds me very much of 2001: A Space Odyssey and Alien, largely in part thanks to the retro Sci-Fi aesthetics and I see a lot of Hal in Kaizen, but I cant tell just yet if Kaizen will turn out to be as benevolent as Hal.

Here’s a 14  minute preview of the game so you can see what I am talking about a little bit more.


We spoke to Emmanuel Corno, one of the development team, and he answered a few of our questions here’s what he told us:                                                                                                                                                                              Can you tell us what Event [0] is about?

Emmanuel Corno:

You play someone who has had an accident during a space mission and you are lost in you escape pod. Eventually you find this almost ghost ship, it’s a very old ship as you can tell from the interior it was built in the 80s but 2012 is the future of this game.

G0:

So are we alone on this ship?

EC:

All the crew has disappeared and only the main computer, the AI Kaizen, is left and you have to convince the computer to help bring you back to earth.

G0:

Yeah, I noticed that I was able to speak in plain English to Kaizen which is really impressive, and I didn’t feel like I was being given a generic set options to choose my conversation from, how do you get something that complex to work?

EC:

When we were making the game we wanted to find a new way make a dialogue system work. The thing is generally people ask us how did you code this or that but I think the biggest thing is more the writing part. To make this work you have to let a lot of people play to see how they play and what they ask. At the same time you have to anticipate the player and you have to write in a way that makes sense with a lot of questions. We also have to take into account the conversation that is being had at any point because of course the same question can have different meanings depending on the conversation. We implemented a system which we call the Event System. So each conversation is an event and every time you walk into a room that’s an event so the artificial intelligence will interpret your

G0:

I did notice the more I played how intuitive it all seemed, I didn’t have to be overly specific with what I wanted. I found that I could imply what I wanted and just from being in a room or place Kaizen would answer with pretty much exactly what I wanted to know.

EC:

Exactly, so for example you can learn about a character called Nindi and bringing her up is an event so the next time you talk you only need to ask things like “who is she” and the game will know you are referring to Nindi, instead of the player having to ask “Who is Nindi?”.

G0:

Last few questions then, what’s it coming out on? And when can we play it?

EC:

We have been working on this game for two and a half years or something like that it started as a student project and we went on to form our own company and we have brought in some very skilled people to help us finish the game, and the game will be released at the end of the summer on steam for PC and Mac.

You can find out a little more about Event [0] here and about Ocelot Society here

Let us know in the comments what you think


– Dan P

 

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