Hidden inside one of Event’s chunky CRT terminals is an event log in which two crewmembers of the Nautilus space yacht discuss living with an Artificial Intelligence. One of the crew mentions being lonely on account of having nobody but a stupid AI to talk to. The other remarks that an AI doesn’t have to be intelligent to be good company, it only needs to appear human.
It’s an astute self-observation by developers Ocelot Society, and gets to the nub of why Event succeeds where so many other games fail. In gaming, AI isn’t so much about actual intelligence as it is creating a convincing illusion of intelligence, which is often achieved through means other than algorithms and machine learning. Scripting, environment design, even animations can all contribute to a convincing game AI. Event understands the importance of presentation alongside system design. As such, even when the game stumbles on a mechanical level, the game’s narrative is such that it always feels like you’re talking to something that wants to talk back.
I know I’m getting a little ahead of myself. But the point is, if you’re in any way interested in games that experiment with AI techniques, you’ll probably want to investigate this clever little title.
Right, the rundown. Event places you in the spacesuit of a lone survivor of a disaster aboard a space station that ultimately has little significance in the game’s actual story. Drifting helplessly in your escape pod, you’re eventually picked up by the space yacht Nautilus. Once aboard, you discover that the only active presence on the ship is an AI computer named Kaizen, who requests that you destroy the ship’s singularity drive, after which he promises to take you back to Earth.
In effect, Event is a walking simulator, albeit one with far less walking than we’ve become accustomed to. Indeed, the bulk of your time is spent at one of those aforementioned CRT terminals interacting with Kaizen, as you try to tease out from the computer the mystery of what happened to the crew and why exactly the Singularity Drive needs to be destroyed.
Achieving this requires a combination of old fashioned puzzle solving and search-based sleuthing reminiscent of the brilliant Her Story. Kaizen is exacting in his responses. For example, the very first thing I asked the AI was, 'Where am I?' and he responded with, 'This is the Airlock 1'. Getting the information you want or need out of Kaizen requires you to be specific with your questions, asking him to elaborate when he provides a vague answer.
Sometimes when you encounter a puzzle, such as how to bypass a retinal scanner to open a door, Kaizen will only be able to advise rather than help, and you’ll have to look elsewhere for the solution or hack directly into his memory banks. Other times, solutions will reveal themselves simply through chatting with the AI.