Dark Forest: Reborn - nextgen romance and adventure oriented interactive fiction game featuring NPCs that support natural language dialogs [WIP]


#1

Hello!

I am a software developer and I want to share with you some of my ideas about interactive fiction. Why do I do these strange things here if my game is not connected with ChoiceScript? Well, I analyzed ChoiceScript long time ago, but this great tool wasn’t suitable for my project. I even started to write my own ChoiceScript tutorial with syntax highlighter for notepad++ ;). I also analyzed Twine, Inform and other frameworks and finally decided that I must write my own engine to create my perfect interactive fiction game.

The main thing that I noticed during my research is that interactive fiction community is actually very small. Our world contains tons of AAA-shooters, 2d platformers with pixelart, minecraft clones and even visual novels, but it’s so hard to find a good classic interactive fiction game! Interactive fiction developer/writer is such a rare case in modern gamedev…And then I found ChoiceScript community and it was like ‘Wow, I was wrong. IF community is not dead!’

So, below is my concept of Dark Forest: Reborn game with several pre-alpha footages. I’ll add more soon here and in our blog!
If you are familiar with games like Make It Good or Galatea, basic mechanics will not be new for you.

What do you think?


Dark Forest: Reborn - Escape from the last underground citadel of devastated Earth and find your new world where you will save, romance, trick, betray or even kill people…using magic of words in this immersive text-based roleplaying game!

Key features of Dark Forest: Reborn

1. NPCs that support natural language interactions and relationship modeling using a modern chatbot’s AI core.

This simply means that in our game you will interact with cool characters using phrases like ‘Hello!’, ‘How are you?’ ‘I am your friend, you can trust me!’, ‘Do you prefer human meat or maybe I should bring some fruits?’

You will test your perception, charisma and conversational skills! Based on your words and actions, our characters will decide if you are nice person or not. If not, watchout!

2. Choices and real consequences. The game won’t tell you how to play.

3. Nonlinear and replayable game world that adapts to your personality.

Do or say an evil thing and the world around you will look (or even become) evil.

You will be able to do a lot of bad things in Dark Forest: Reborn I must add. We will follow the traditions of oldschool roleplaying games in this aspect, Fallout 2 in particular.

4. Real-time combat system with a bit of gore and awesome finishing moves.

5. Game setting inspired by Arcanum and old fallouts in the style of Andre Norton and Stephen King’s fantasy novels.

Plot

Distant future. Humanity is doomed. Earth is dying. You are imprisoned in a sealed citadel deep underground. Old machines give you everything you need to live. You spend your time trudging through the citadel and researching its chambers. You have almost accepted your lonely fate, when a tragic accident changes everything.

It appears that a group of brilliant Earth scientists were living in this citadel before you, until the day they all mysteriously disappeared. They left behind, however, a monstrous ancient device that gives you a second chance, a way of once again reaching the world outside.

The world of Dark Forest: Reborn is full of ancient swamps, poisonous hills and abandoned strongholds of fallen civilizations. During your journey you will face strangers, and change their fates forever. Some of them will curse you. Some of them will be ready to give their lives for you. After your adventure you will be judged, and the fate of every character and the world of Dark Forest: Reborn itself will be revealed.

Characters

Dark Forest: Reborn mixes classic text adventure / interactive fiction game mechanics with the mechanics of interactions with NPCs via natural language dialogs. For example, in location ‘House of Cannibals’ you may find daughter of the Cannibals, Qara, 21 y/o slender black-haired girl with tired face who lives with her family in the depths of the forest. Your main task will be to escape the House of Cannibals. Qara’s motives are not clear at all so it’s up to you to choose your way of completing the quest: you can try to capture her and force her to help you, you can try to gain her trust and ask for help or just ignore her and escape the House of Cannibals on your own. Everything depends on your personality, kindness, cruelness or even madness.

Maybe Qara doesn’t like her family and wants to escape the House of Cannibals too? Or maybe she just wants to eat your entire body alone? She definetly prefers red wine so maybe your fate is just to become a part of her dinner…or maybe this girl will be your best friend.

Test your perception, charisma and conversational skills and find out the truth!

No no, this type of ‘flirting’ with NPCs like Qara is not okay. You will learn it after the meeting with her family.

This style is more suitable.

Combat system

The world of Dark Forest: Reborn is cruel. You will face local conflicts with highwaymen, clashes of criminal groups and even war. Every event in the game tests your abilities. Will you be able to stay Human?

Your forces are carving towards the centre of enemy army through the infinite waves of mad savages. They surge forward and it seems their strength is infinite. Your rusty sword is the only weapon you have.

What will you do?

  • You can try to run away.
  • You can join friendly forces in their attack.
  • You can try to hide.
  • You can cry and ask for help.
  • You can just wait and do nothing.

Every choice will give you additional choices. Your main task is to survive, but it is a really difficult task in the world where your allies are dead and the battle is lost. Let’s try to help?

As you can see, you have freedom. Do you want to hit his head using your sword? No problem. His arm? Left or right leg? Strike his torso? Yes! If you are strong enough, you can even finish him with a single fatal blow.

Not enough strength? Try to use words or even so called ‘green magic’, a gift from high-tech civilization.

You should be fast. The world of Dark Forest: Reborn is a living world - your opponent will not wait for your actions and words, he will keep fighting and hitting you until your death.

Will you be able to protect your allies? Will you save your friends, or maybe your decision will be to kill yet another enemy general? If you show yourself as a good warrior, you will gain reputation that will help you in your future adventures.

Concept arts

Ye, I think that interactive fiction developers have concept arts too.

System requirements and release date

Too early for this information. One thing is clear - Dark Forest: Reborn will run only on the most powerful graphics controller you have - your imagination.

Who we are

One software developer experienced in gamedev and natural language processing aka DarkForestCrow – at your service, two writers, one native English speaker/writer will be hired soon.

We are friendly, our NPCs are not.

Questions to you

Would you like to play such game? Maybe participate in beta test? Are you interested in games that allow you to build complex relationships / romances with characters? I think it’s not easy to implement interactions with characters using ChoiceScript, do you know any examples of ChoiceScript games that allow you to ‘have’ relationships with NPCs? I would like to play them!

I’ll post our development updates here if you don’t mind. Feel free to comment or find me here where you can subscribe and receive important news about Dark Forest: Reborn project and future beta tests 1/2 times per month. We have our twitter too. I’ll be happy to get your feedback, mates!


#2

Wow! Great ambition, here’s hoping for great execution.


#3

Peoples pushing what already exist to its limit is one of my favorite thing. I wish you a lot of luck with your project and if it is to be put on the market I will definitly buy it.


#4

Something occurs to me, having glanced through your blog: How do you plan to differentiate speech from commands? That is to say: what if I wanted to tell somebody “look around”? Maybe you should make the player use quotation marks for dialog, or make them say “say” first, or both or something else, for clarity. And what if there are multiple characters around? Would you specify with a character name before the colon, like “Galatea: What’s crack-a-lackin’?” Or is there a more natural-language way?


#5

This looks very well thought out.

I’m particularly interested in your exploration of chatbots - a really hard thing to pull off and maintain immersion.

I wonder how on earth you proof read all the chabot dialogue? Surely there are hundreds of iterations?

Best of luck


#6

Thank you a lot, man, such feedback as yours gives us strength to continue our work!
I’ll try not to lose your contact in case of DF: Reborn news/release, you also can go to DF: Reborn blog, subscribe thing will appear after a few seconds (expect 1/2 emails per month as max).


#7

@Chwoka

That’s a very smart question and it’s a really complex problem!

The thing is, it depends on the context (state, game zone, level), like in real world when you talk with real people.

  • Sometimes there is nothing important in the world around you so you just talk with NPC and every replic except a few important keywords goes to this NPC’s ‘mind’.
  • Sometimes you need to get character’s attention saying something like ‘Hey, Qara?’ In this case your example ‘look around’ will give you a description of your protagonist’s world view. But if you say ‘Qara, look around’, she will understand that you are talking with her. You also just can say ‘Hey/Hello, Qara’ and after that she will respond to your replics so you can just say ‘Look around’. She has special answers to ‘regular IF’ input replics :wink:
  • Sometimes it’s possible to differentiate replics automatically simply analyzing it’s content.

If you process these cases with NLP, you have pretty flexible (and intuitive, we hope) system of interactions.

@Charles_Parkes

Thanks a lot!

Yes, I agree, it’s a hard task - to create a character that behaves not like stupid robot. In case of ‘choice based’ IF you have no such problems since you simply can’t interract with characters, like when you are reading a book. But when you do (like in DF: Reborn), stuff gets serious.

Modern chatbots are still very simple and unnatural, sometimes primitive things. But, if you use these systems to improve and increase flexibility of replics/conditions/characters that are already written by writers, you can have pretty interesting results. Even if you use only basic functionality of natural language processing algorithms (parsing, for example), your game improves drastically.

I hope we will have an opportunity to demonstrate it.

And, about proof read :slight_smile: Yeah, man, I’ll just say our first prototype of NPC contained 1030 associations with 6 templates of replics each. Assuming replics contained up to 10 words, we had 60000 words per NPC :slight_smile: But it was a prototype for really complex character.


#8

Mini-update #1, our #screenshotsaturday for those who dreamed about opportunities to verbally abuse poor NPCs.

The world of Dark Forest: Reborn is truly dark. You will be able to join the dark side, but be ready to pay the price.


#9

I would certainly help test!


#10

Great, I hope it will be possible and I’ll put you in our contacts list if you don’t mind.


#11

Sounds like a plan man!


#12

Yes! I’d love to beta test. This sounds amazing.


#13

Thank you! The more such words we hear, the more power we have :wink:
// I’ll send you a personal message.


#14

Would love to beta test. Literally just made an account to get in on this stuff hahaha


#15

@Majere
Ha-ha! We’re bringing new audience, that’s awesome. I am full of gratitude.
I will send you a personal message.

// Friends, don’t expect updates too soon, we are on the early development stage.


#16

I’m really not a fan of the casual sexism, especially your choice to include sections with that sexism on these forum, as an example of the best your game has to offer.


#17

@FairyGodfeather
Thank’s for the feedback!
Can you give me some examples of things that look like sexism so we will polish that / rework, please?


#18

I would like to beta test pl0x.


#19

You’d a graphic that said Qara looked like a slut.


#20

Well, I agree, that was too harsh.

Actually, the key point of that gif was to demonstrate that in DF:R player can choose different roleplays - even the roleplay of being complete bastard. Game has punishments for such kind of players. It wasn’t about sexism.
You should also know that we have same footages / replics for male NPCs if that’s important and we are moving to more NOIR-like descriptions of environment and characters in case of negative karma gameplay as you can see on our first screenshot.

Thanks!