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IRIS Wiki - IS Systems - Facade


Façade was released as a free download in 2005. See the website.

Technical Description

The only published, complete interactive drama, Façade is a reference point for most research done in the field. Façade comprises a 3D story world, intelligent autonomous agents, broad and shallow natural language processing and a drama manager.

The drama manager is based on the notion of beats. Beats are small, interactive scenes (the user can influence their execution) and interruptable (a beat can interrupt another beat, beats can be interwoven). During the interaction, the user seamlessly navigates from beat to beat depending on his actions.

Beats drive the autonomous characters, which react to the user's actions. The behaviour of these characters are programmed with ABL, a specific language particularily suited for joining interactions between two characters.

Beats take preconditions. In particular, they trigger according to the current tension which is regularily updated during the drama, following an Aristotelian arc. This allows low tension beats to happen before high tension beats, which constitues a kind of partial ordering.

As a result, Façade achieves local agency, while at the global level, user's influence is more limited, in favor of a story-arc driven ordering.

Result Description (end user perspective)

Façade is a 20 minute replayable interactive drama.

The user plays a long time friend of a couple in the middle of a marital breakdown. The scene takes place in the couple's upscale apartment during what is supposed to be an evening dinner invitation to catch up. Through moderate character manipulation (movement, direction) and free text dialogue, the user can interact with the couple and attempt to ease the flames of the marital dispute.

Authoring Description

Façade does not offer an authoring environment to modify the story. The functionality of the tool, as well as it's dramatic content were programmed together as a whole. However, internal tools have been developed, such as the ABL languages, to facilitate content entering.

The close link between authoring and programming is defended in (Mateas & Stern 2005) where the Façade authors argue that authors of interactive fiction should necessarily possess programming skills in order to produce effective interactive stories.

Strong Points

Façade is the only/first complete IS system published. The use of NLP, believable agents, immersion in a 3D world, particularly well accomplished agency, all contribute to put Façade in a league of its own. Façade's primary architectural contribution, besides achieving the integration itself, is architectural support for authoring dramatic beats, an architectural level which combines aspects of character and story (Mateas & Stern 2003).


Global agency is limited: User's actions (mainly typed text) have little explicit consequence on future developments of the story.

Although it was not designed with the intention to be an authoring tool, Façade is often cited in IS related articles regarding the closed-ness of the system. Emphasing the importance of an easily authorable system compared to the two years it took to write Façade. However, according to the authors, developing a complete system, forced isues to be addressed that otherwise get ignored or swept under the rug when developing only a piece of an architecture.

Main Publications

  • Mateas, M. & Stern, A. (2003). Integrating Plot, Character and Natural Language Processing in the Interactive Drama Façade. Proceedings of the 1st International Conference on Technologies for Interactive Digital Storytelling and Entertainment (TIDSE) 2003. Darmstadt, Germany.
  • Mateas, M. & Stern, A. (2004). A Behavior Language: Joint Action and Behavioral Idioms. In Predinger, H. and Ishiuka, M. (Eds), Life-like Characters: Tools, Affective Functions and Applications, Springer Verlag.
  • Mateas, M. & Stern, A. (2005). Procedural Authorship: A Case-Study Of the Interactive Drama Façade. Digital Arts and Culture - DAC (Copenhagen).

Full list: http://www.interactivestory.net/#publications

Supporting Narrative Theories

The various dramatic sequences follow well formed Aristotelian arcs.

Computational Model

Managing beats is based on a precondition/postcondition model. Autonomous agents are based on a language specifically developed for Façade called ABL (Mateas & Stern 2003).

Type of interaction

Free text entry for conversation with Grace and Trip, arrow keys for movement around the environment.