I had the pleasure of sitting down for a playthrough of a demo version of Speaking Simulator during PAX Aus. Let me tell you if ever there was a game that was a living, breathing, talking meme in the making, it’s Speaking Simulator. Hello, fellow humans!
Affable Games founder and developer Jed Dawson described Speaking Simulator to me as —
The story of a robot who’s trying to infiltrate human society just by having conversations, like you and I are having now. To do this you need to move the lips and tongue of the robot into the right positions to make the words come out and just get through an easy conversation.
But, because you’re a robot, if you mess up your face will start to explode, which is a little suspicious…
Look, I’ve been trying to pass myself off as a Normal Human Being™ for my entire life with mostly acceptable results, so I felt completely prepared to take on Speaking Simulator.
My task as our robot friend attempting to pass this Turing-Test-by-literal-fire was to get through a conversation with a romantic interest without arousing suspicion. Which, I can assure you, is hard enough when you’re a Normal Human Being™ with an inflammable face. Still, undaunted, I faced the task at hand.
Speaking Simulator has you controlling both the robot’s lip and tongue movements. When I played it, the mouse controlled the lips; how wide I stretched them both vertically and horizontally.
The WASD keys dictated the movements of the tongue, which needed to press (or tongue, if you will) particular buttons placed within the robot’s mouth. You as the robot must perform these actions to achieve the appropriate lip-to-tongue configuration before time runs out, and as accurately as possible.
You don’t want to arouse the suspicion of the object of your affection, who seems impressively unflappable. If it means getting through a conversation intact, who’s to say what’s normal behaviour and what’s not?
However, if you do raise her suspicions high enough on the suspicion meter, your poor robot’s face will perform some amazing contortions and light shows. By the end of my little chat, my robot had one eye bulging out of its socket and a firework spurting out of its nose.
Whilst I found the robot’s lips easy enough to maneuver into place, the tongue was trickier to deal with. Adding to this was the fact that it was fascinating to watch it twisting and turning in the most amusing and horrifying contortions that I, for one, have ever witnessed a tongue perform. Naturally, I found this quite distracting, which directly impacted my performance.
Compounding this distraction was the script. Oh my goodness, how I laughed at the script. It was genuinely funny, poking fun at both the awkwardness of trying to make one’s way through a regular conversation, and at the awkwardness of conversation with a crush.
We’ve all been there. (Right?)
However, the most interesting aspect of Speaking Simulator is the research that the Affable Games team invested into making sure that the mouth, lip, tongue movements presented in the game were realistic.
On top of that, Dawson added that there’s a nice synergy between the deterioration in enunciation and conversation represented by the robot’s facial explosives, and between the social anxiety often felt by many of us during everyday conversations.
In the future, Speaking Simulator will include a greater range of social situations to play for in your robot’s subtle quest for world domination – but judging by the demo, they’ll be an absolute hoot.
Before I sat down to write this article, I did some very serious research of my own, into previously developed sim games. We gamers have seen some top-shelf sims in our time, such as Surgeon Simulator, Goat Simulator, and Untitled Goose Game.
These are delightful, ridiculous games that glory in the absurd and bring delight to our hearts. One might assume that the sim genre has peaked, that it has nowhere left to delve into the ludicrous, and that it will therefore now diminish and go into the West.
But one would be wrong, and Speaking Simulator is here to have its say in the matter.
Awkwardly, and with fireworks.
Many thanks to Jed Dawson and the team at Affable Games for their time, and for the novelty tooth.