Chet Faliszek left Valve last year after 12 years, with the last few spent evangelizing virtual reality via the company’s SteamVR platform. He took six months off and then took a job as creative director at Bossa Studios.
At London-based Bossa, Faliszek believes he can use artificial intelligence not only to add to a game, but to fundamentally change the way of telling stories and narratives in games. (This kind of topic that merges tech and games is what we’ll talk about at our GamesBeat Summit coming up April 9-10 in Berkeley, California.)
He is using this approach in a new action game with cooperative multiplayer play. His work is early still, and so he isn’t ready to start talking about the kind of game he is building. But he gave a talk at the DICE Summit, the elite gaming event in Las Vegas last week, and I interviewed him about it.
“One way to think about it is, there’s the world, and it’s a living world. The AIs in the world are doing their thing, regardless of you,” said Faliszek. “When you go into that world and do your thing and interact with them, some of those interactions will cause the opportunity for story to exist. There are really simple ones. I use the example of, you can steal a faction’s supplies. An hour later, when you see that faction coming over the hill to attack you, you know what’s going on.”
Here’s an edited transcript of our interview.
GamesBeat: How was your decompression after Valve?
Chet Faliszek: It was nice. I shipped a lot of games, shipped hardware, and did a lot of things at Valve. But yeah, I had never taken that much time off. Taking six months off was fun. I went from 300 to 500 emails a day to 10.
GamesBeat: How did you view your time there? Did you feel like it was time to move on for any reason?
Faliszek: I learned so much and grew so much at Valve. Absolutely nothing negative or bad. It was just, after 12 years, some things happen where you want to make some changes in your life, and that was one of them. I still, not too long ago, just suggested that someone go to work at Valve and introduced them. There’s no animosity with those guys. They’re doing cool stuff.
GamesBeat: Do you strongly remember any accomplishments related to SteamVR?
Faliszek: Definitely, that was fun. I’d never gotten to do something like that before. Valve is a great place where, if you want to go off and apply yourself, you get to do some weird, crazy, fun things. That Wednesday morning of GDC where it was first announced was one of the best moments, as good as any game launch. Just seeing all the reaction, all the coverage and surprise, seeing the devs I’d worked with to that point come out and people loving the stuff they were playing. It was great.
GamesBeat: It was a very small team, right?
Faliszek: Valve tends to have smaller teams than you would think doing a lot of stuff. It’s kind of amazing that way.
GamesBeat: How did you think about where to wind up?
Faliszek: I knew the Bossa guys for a long time. We’ve always been friends. I was having thoughts of changing up and mixing up what I was doing. I was looking and talking with everyone. One of the great things about the last three years is I got to visit every studio, big or small, and see how they worked. It was a lot of experience. The Bossa guys really jelled with me and the risks I wanted to take. I wanted to do something different and strange, but understandable.
One of my goals was to get different perspectives in life and work with a company outside the U.S. I don’t speak a foreign language, so England is a pretty good place to go.
GamesBeat: What’s the message you wanted to get across in your talk?
Faliszek: With this group of people in particular, I wanted to lay out what we’re trying to do with — we say “story and AI,” but it’s a different kind of story. Games aren’t movies or book. They’re their own thing. So what kind of story can you tell, giving the player agency? How do you approach that? In front of this group, I wanted to raise the challenges we have in trying to do that. Seeing if there are other people struggling with this, other wanting to talk about it, other people who have solutions for us.
One of the things that impressed me so much about all the VR stuff was, you could introduce two VR devs to each other, and they would never act as if they were in competition. They’d always try to work together. They knew they were going through a problem together, something new, and they were very sharing and open about what they were doing.
As we approach this, I’m not pretending we’re the only people doing what we’re doing. It’s weird to call this new, because other people are trying this. There are various versions of what we’re trying to do. It’s good to talk to those people and get that out. I want to let people know what we’re doing, what we’re trying to achieve. Are we wrong? Is there a better way to achieve this? There are already prototypes of stuff we’ve done. We’ve learned some things. We’re improving stuff every day. But still, there are unanswered questions.