Spaceport Alpha

An Audio Adventure Game

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Profile of Ben Ackland Hi there.
I’m Ben Ackland and I’ve embarked upon an adventure, an experiment - can I prototype an immersive audio game using voice and conversational AI that other people want to play?

It’s about 20 years in the future - the 2040s. You are Emerson, a restaurant owner in Hammersmith, London. Your eyesight is deteriorating - you avoid the hectic kitchen these days, spending more of your time in your study. But those eyes - your eyes - hold unique information that simply can’t be lost, and you know it.

Spaceships shuttle to and from the Moon regularly. Your contact is based in the Luna city of Idyia - you only know her as Jayne. You have to reach her before someone else does, but you can’t attempt that journey yourself. So you’re counting on Freddy - your friend’s son - and Alvin - a pocket supercomputer - to make it happen.


What is an Audio Adventure Game?

It’s a cross between an audiobook - a story that you listen to, in a world that you paint in your mind - and a traditional adventure game - a story that you can play, exploring locations, solving puzzles, interacting with characters to fulfil your destiny.

Your voice and thoughts are all that you need.

Why did I start it?

Most importantly: I wanted to do something creative and unique using cutting-edge technology.

  • I’m a software developer by background, but I’ve been a manager and director for many years; it's been great to get back into coding as well as driving this project forwards
  • I loved adventure games when I grew up and I'm often revisiting that world, but don't want to spend more time in front of a screen; voice and audio is an attractive alternative
  • I've a creative, storytelling side to me and I'm excited by the idea of writing my own adventure and sharing it with others
  • I enjoy a good challenge, particularly when I can see a path to overcome it, and I thrive on constant learning and improvement.

Sketched plans of the Spaceport lounge with an example conversation - speech bubbles - alongside it.

What is Voice and Conversational AI?

Modern voice technology allows computers to ‘understand’ what we say / speak (e.g speech recognition and interpretation) and respond with artificial speech that we can understand (e.g. AI voices). Popular examples include: Siri, Alexa, and Google virtual assistants. But this technology - voice as a Human-Computer Interface - has a variety of applications in gaming too.

Check out my Digital Dragons talk from September 2021 if you'd like to learn more:

What am I currently working on?

In order of priority:

  1. Completing the first interactive location - “Spaceport London Heathrow” (LHRX) - which has one key objective, a couple of puzzles, and one interactive conversation
  2. Adding an audio introduction - to set the scene, introduce the characters and controls (i.e. mechanics of voice interaction)
  3. The game currently runs in a local development environment (i.e. on my Mac). To make it possible for others to play test it, addition of a web-audio interface
  4. The speech API I'm using is proprietary and generalised - I'd like to replace it with an Open Source, domain-specific alternative.

If you can help me with this then I'd welcome your contribution! Learn how to get involved.

My vision

This project is a testbed for merging cutting-edge conversational AI and voice technologies into the gaming world - initially, story-led adventure games. I see a future where these technologies are an integral part of mainstream games and our interactive worlds.

Get Involved!
If you'd like to contribute to this project then I'd welcome your support:

  • Replace speech recongition service: integrate a native Open Source speech-to-text engine; compare performance with existing cloud API; if suitable replacement, make the switch; if not, evaluate options further. Interested? Do drop me an email: [email protected]
  • Feedback on the concept: share your thoughts on the idea and story, any good/bad experiences you've had with other voice games etc. Do let me know: [email protected]
  • Playtest the prototype: I'd love for you to give it a try... Sign up using the form below and I'll let you know as soon as this is possible.

Subscribe for updates and to playtest the prototype!

Close your eyes to find your way - space isn't such a lonely place.