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Fable’s Edward Saatchi, Pete Billington, Frank Carey and Jessica Shamash took to the GamesBeat Summit to talk about The Simulation. It’s a new project for Fable, a new take on AI which is moving away from the studio’s previous projects, like Lucy.
Instead of a single character, powered by AI, The Simulation is meant to be, well, a simulation. It’s an entire world, wholly simulated, which leans from players and grows almost organically. The Simulation’s ultimate goal, aside from being a fun experience, is to realize a full artificial general intelligence.
“With The Simulation, where you’re actually simulating all the elements, and the characters and the world,” said Carey. “You have just opportunity for a lot more storytelling, a lot more interesting events to happen.”
Like a lot of projects in recent years, Fable’s new direction is a direct result of the recent pandemic. At that point the feedback surrounding Lucy suggested users were able to forge a real connection, either to the character or the experience.
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“We had this ability with this new technology,” said Shamash. “Our own technology that we were building in-house, to bring Lucy to people. To further expand on that connection. And so we did that through taking her to other platforms, like having video calls, or Google chats or Zoom.”
This change, taking Lucy from a singular 40 minute virtual reality experience to something which stretches over days, weeks or months led the team toward new issues, and new solutions. Fable realized pretty quickly that Lucy needed to exist beyond the face-to-face interactions. Lucy needed a routine, and a backstory, and a history.
The Simulation is, first and foremost, a tool for users to train AIs. The plural in users there is intentional. Fable believes that many, many users, all training their own versions of AIs, is the way towards an artificial general intelligence.
It’s also a game. It almost has to be, really. By making it a game there’s some meat there for users to sink their teeth into. A way to keep them interested.
“The point of the campaign is to guide the player through creating the best experience possible,” explained Billington. “Best being something that the player measures through their own enjoyment and sense of accomplishment.”
The Simulation is designed to allow players to focus on what interests them. Players might take a macro view if their interest is in the buildings, or the town. Or they might take a very narrow view; a single character within the world. The more a player tweaks and designs, the more they can tweak and design in the future.
It’s an interesting goal, for sure. Ethically it feels the tiniest bit weird. Fable cites Westworld as an inspiration – just the good parts, not the bad. But even that feels a little weird. A Westworld without terrible humans still seems kind of horrific for the simulated people.
A fully realistic, fully simulated world which also allows for players to enter and interact raises a lot of those kinds of questions, too. Is there a point where a simulation is so realistic that a player stops being a player, and is suddenly, say, a terrorist?
Those kinds of questions feel important to me. But thankfully they’re all still theoretical. Answers don’t need to be concrete until we get there, and we aren’t there yet.
But The Simulation wants to be.