Saturday, March 10, 2007

I’ll Have 1000 Glasses of Water, to Go

Jeff Orkin at MIT Media Lab is working on an “indy” PC video game experiment that he plans to enter into the 2008 Independent Games Festival. He calls it The Restaurant Game, and you can try it yourself for free, here:

I’m usually drawn to stuff like this for the sheer creativity quotient, so I downloaded it and gave it a shot a week or so ago. The objective is basically to order a meal at a virtual restaurant, with one player acting as the customer, and the other player acting as a waitress.

My first experience went something like this:

I walked into the virtual restaurant to see the waitress player stacking plates and plates of pie on the counter. Sat down at a random table. Waitress continued stacking pie.

Grabbed a menu from across the room with my powers of telekensis. Asked the waitress if they had any pie. Waitress proceeded to walk over and sit on my table and spin around in a circle.

Got up, walked over to the counter, ate two plates of pie, paid my bill, and left. Waitress was still spinning in circles on the table. Objective complete.

The problem is that the game environment is fairly free-form – you can pick up almost any object in the restaurant, and walk around freely. In such an environment, it’s common amongst us nerds that we’ll proceed to try and do something outside the usual rules or boundaries, since it’s a risk-free virtual world, and we’re inherently curious and mischievous.

Based on reading about this game on various web forums, other peoples’ experiences vary from a very by-the-book dinner experience, to customers ordering 1000 glasses of water, and while the waitress’s back is turned, grabbing the cash register and running out of the room.

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