Funding for this project was canceled by the project creator on October 21, 2013.
About this project
Immersion through dialogue
Bot Colony is all about creating a more immersive video game experience.
Not only will your character be part of the game world, but you will be there interacting with the other characters using your own words. No other game does that.
If you wondered what interacting with an intelligent machine feels like (think HAL in 2001: A Space Odyssey, I, Robot, or Blade Runner) - you'll be able to experience this first-hand in Bot Colony! You'll be the lead actor in a dialogue that previously was only romanticized in movies. This experience will challenge your mind and entertain you - the ultra literal way robots understand language makes you realize how much we take for granted when we speak with other people. Bot Colony trail blazes a new way of interacting with games: while current story-telling is based on dialog trees - you click dialog lines written by someone else - in our game you discover the story and you orient yourself using your own words. This novel ability to speak freely with the characters increases your immersion into the game, and truly makes you part of the story.
Bot Colony is an episodic 3D adventure game set on the tropical island of Agrihan: one of the Marianas islands, made famous as a key South Pacific stronghold during World War II. The story is set in 2021, and while the world is not in the grip of large-scale war, it faces paradigm-shifting problems in over-population, poverty and dwindling resources. With global markets falling into disarray and even cheap labor becoming too expensive for governments and corporations, advanced robots have become the new multipurpose worker.
The world’s leader in robotics, Japan’s Nakagawa Corp., has leased Agrihan and built a sprawling complex of urban and industrial buildings supported by a few leisure facilities – all of it largely populated and operated by advanced, learning robots.
Humans intermix freely with robots on Agrihan, which doubles as a robotic test bed for a future settlement on Mars. Nakagawa’s robots are poised to play a major role in the colonization of Mars; as such, they must achieve a high degree of autonomy. With Agrihan mostly staffed by robots, people have given it the name “Bot Colony”.
Nakagawa Corporation has no shortage of enemies and competitors. Chief among them is North Korea’s KHT Corp., whose constant attempts to infiltrate the Japanese company have forced Nakagawa to relocate its top manufacturing and R&D staff to Agrihan island. This remote location in the Pacific guarantees limited traffic, placing Agrihan out of KHT’s reach. As the player enters Bot Colony, however, they discover that KHT may have found a way to circumvent Nakagawa’s defenses.
As a specialist in robot cognition, you’ve been asked by the Nakagawa to look into the disappearance of three new-generation robot sensors. Nakagawa fears that KHT may have infiltrated the island and found a way to access the prototypes. Bot Colony allows you to conduct the investigation using using your own name, with your own back-story.
The Bot Colony campaign involves exploring the different sections of the island in search of clues leading to the Korean spy. Each region offers unique characters and gameplay opportunities, both on and off the critical mission path. The player will travel from place to place by means of rickshaw robots, the island’s monorail system, sailing the coastal waters, or piloting a futuristic hovercraft.
Bot Colony is defined by its unique conversational gameplay. While shooting or stabbing people, looting corpses, crashing cars, exploding buildings or jumping from platforms can be fun, there’s also room for something new. In Bot Colony, you’ll experience innovative gameplay relying on game characters actually understanding what you say, inspiring your ability to think and communicate in English.
Bot Colony offers the player a credible experience of interaction with artificial intelligence. Novels like A Space Odyssey and I Robot, and movies such as Blade Runner wonderfully romanticized Artificial Intelligence, but as of yet no work of art has made AI truly interactive (dialogue-tree based games notwithstanding). Bot Colony does away with canned, pre-scripted responses and makes artificial intelligence real, allowing the player to experience the eerie feeling of interacting with intelligent AI characters through speech.
- Embark on an intriguing, multi-episode quest to catch the spy before he destroys the entire island.
- Experience a new, natural kind of interaction! Forget scripted dialogue trees and canned responses.
- In Bot Colony, players communicate with the characters using their own words, instead of pre-arranged dialogue.
- Be creative! Use outside-the-box thinking and intelligent conversation to complete a variety of objectives.
- Enjoy smooth gameplay and controls in both third and first-person perspectives.
- Travel across a spectacular South Pacific island fully-realized in the Havok Vision engine.
- Make the game your own: Teach robots about human behavior, objects, and the world at large to expand an ever-evolving Knowledge database.
- Based on the Bot Colony novel by author, high-tech entrepreneur, and lead designer Eugene Joseph.
Why we need your help
Building natural language understanding software in parallel with the game has been a very long, and incredibly challenging journey for us. It took many years. It was also very expensive. We always believed that Bot Colony is a game that should be made, so we went 'all in' and invested all the money we had, and all the money we could borrow, into the technology and the game.
How far did we get? Using our own money, we’ve succeeded building a lot of the language understanding software needed by the game to work. We’ve also built the training episode, Intruder, and the first story episode, Arrival – proving that a language-based game can be built, and that it offers unique gameplay. However, Arrival, the first story episode, has not yet started external Alpha testing, so it's not yet ready to be sold. Therefore, we don't have anything to sell at this point - we don't want to sell just the training episode.
Since we're not yet selling anything, we don't have revenue yet. We need your pledges to continue development of the game until we do. Our Kickstarter project will be producing Riot, Episode 3 of Bot Colony, and getting it out before Christmas. We've defined stretch goals to fund additional episodes. By the end of the Kickstarter campaign, we hope to start selling the first 2 episodes, and we hope that sales will build up. But we need your help to carry on until sales build up, and are sufficient to fund the game. We're offering Kickstarter backers a better deal - the full prologue episode for free - that won't be available once we start sales.
Episode 3: Riot
Riot is the quintessential Bot Colony episode. After swooping down on mutinous robots, flying a futuristic Hunter Bot shaped like a bird of prey, you land on an abandoned Oil Rig. There, you'll have to face the robots who managed to hide from you, who will sneak up on you from unexpected places. If you're caught, you'll have to prove that you're human in order to survive - by passing a Humanity Test. Philip K Dick conceived the Empathy Test in his Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, the novel that inspired the Blade Runner movie. In his book, the Empathy Test is administered to replicants pretending to be human. In Riot, the Humanity Test is reversed - it is administered by robots. You are suspected of being a new generation android sent by Nakagawa to derail the mutiny. The mutinous robots test YOU, as they are still reticent to violate the First Law of robotics (remember Rachel's line in Blade Runner "Have you ever retired a human by mistake?"). You'll have to figure out a way to escape if you're incarcerated by the robots, who'll turn into a human guinea pig. It would not be possible to play something like the Humanity Test - where robots are keen to learn about experiences that are uniquely human - without sophisticated language understanding. Riot is a crown jewel of Bot Colony, truly genre-defining, emergent gameplay enabled by conversation - and a great Kickstarter project.
We hope that you'll help us go beyond Riot. We've structured Stretch Goals covering all the ten remaining episodes of BotColony, where YOU can help us bring the world a game experience like no other.
We're also looking forward to your creative contribution to the game. Besides helping financially, you will have the opportunity to steer the evolution of this revolutionary game through your active participation in our Forum.
To better appreciate the rewards we offer, we need to explain how we plan to sell Bot Colony, when it will be ready to go. The game is an episodic game, and every episode will cost $4.95. A smaller version of Intruder (the training part) will be available for free. However, the full Intruder features a very innovative gameplay where the player's investigation leads to the discovery of robot memories stored as videos - this part is demonstrated in our trailer. The full Intruder episode containing this gameplay will be sold at the regular episode price.
Bot Colony must be an online game - for many reasons. The key ones are the need to continuosly update the language/AI software, and some gigantic databases required for language processing. Online games require servers and bandwidth, and these cost money. We will need to have a way to cover these costs, and usage-based payment seems a fair way to go. When we start commercial operations, we plan to charge a small monthly fee to cover these costs. You'll be able to join for a month to play all available episodes, let your account lapse, and reactivate it when you want to play new episodes. We'll save all the knowledge that you imparted to robots for when you come back. We'll warn you, however, that from what we've seen so far, the game has stickiness, and some players spend many hours talking to robots and teaching them new things - so you may want to keep your membership active all the time; besides, it's fun to talk to people from all over the world on the Forum. Membership is included in all Kickstarter rewards.
Risks and challenges
Bot Colony is a large project that presents technical, artistic and financial challenges. With lots of hard work and experimentation, we've established technical and artistic feasibility. To address the financial challenge, we have defined a modest, minimalistic goal: produce the third episode of Bot Colony. The first and second episode are not yet available for purchase, and we don't have the funds necessary to produce the third episode without your help - we've gone as far as we could with our own funds. Each episode is part of the story arc, but also makes a great game in itself, with a strong story and game mechanics. Episode three is a fantastic episode featuring emergent gameplay in the Humanity Test level. It's a nice, well-defined project in itself.
We hope that you will help us produce the other episodes of the game, by funding our stretch goals. We hope to complete QA and be ready to release commercially the first two episodes after this Kickstarter campaign. Revenue from this future commercial release should help us bootstrap the other episodes, but future revenue cannot be forecast accurately. It would be nice to know that the production of the rest of the game is assured through Kickstarter funding, and we can bring out the rest of the game on a more predictable schedule.
Another major risk was and is natural language understanding (NLU). We've worked on it for years, but NLU is something you can never have enough of. We have new R&D projects that will increase tremendously the amount of common-sense knowledge our robots have, and their ability to make sense of what you say. We've already started working very tightly with our Alpha test player community, as you can see from the Bot Colony Forum. The current version Alpha3 of Intruder is a reflection of player feedback. (Arrival, episode two, had not yet started Alpha testing). We hope to work with you to shape Bot Colony into a game that people enjoy playing. We hope that you will enjoy contributing to it - both financially and creatively - as it is a project that has the potential to revolutionize video games.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
The gameplay is about achieving your mission: you're tracking down a spy, so that involves a lot of travel and investigation. To progress, you'll have to do a lot of things with robots: fighting in one thing you'll do (in the Riot episode), but you'll also command them to manipulate objects you can't get access to, you'll trade with them, you'll play card games with them, teach them new things and enlist their support in your investigation.
We're talking the CLIENT platform, of course (the AI software runs on Linux servers and communicates with the client through Internet): The first supported platform is Windows. It seems reasonable to have Mac and iPad as a second platform, with others to follow. Our engine (Havok Vision) supports Windows, Mac, XBOX, PS/3 and Android, so it's a matter of testing on new platforms. That requires resources...:-)
How much will the monthly subscription be? I understand servers need to be paid for, but not being able to play the game at all without renewing the subscription for at least a month will deter some people from buying this game.
There will be bundles enabling someone to play for 6 or 12 months without worrying about cost of membership (our rewards are set up like that, too). We tried to keep the cost of the episodes low, so people from developing countries can get access to the game, and improve their English (which in turn can help improve their living standard - the correlation was proven by a UNESCO study). We're thinking about pricing episodes at $4.95, and the monthly membership of $2.95. We can't make access to the online servers free, at least not when we're still an indie developer that hasn't started sales. Servers and bandwidth cost a lot of money, and our game is very demanding in terms of resources. Having more expenses than revenues is not viable. However, we will save what a player taught robots and a player's gameplay, so even if a membership lapses, a player will be able to get back into the game and recover his/her progress.
- (30 days)