Interactive Audiobooks: Playing text adventure games with your voice using Google Assistant, Heroku and AWS
I was on a long car ride recently and got to talking about text adventure games. These games, popular in the 1990s and early 2000s, are similar to modern role-playing games but delivered entirely via text.
For example, you can say “look” to look around, and the game will send back a description of the area. I wondered: in the age of podcasts, could these games be re-purposed to play with your voice?
I’ve written some code to try it out. Google Assistant (available on most Android phones by default, on iPhone via the App Store, and on Google Home devices, is the key technology here because it handles transcribing the user’s commands into text we can process and then handles reading aloud the response text from the game.
Try it out yourself! Just tell Google Assistant:
talk to Speak Your Own Adventure
I used Google’s Dialogflow to handle the integration with Google Assistant. One advantage of Dialogflow is that it enables easy integrations with other platforms as well. You can also play games on:
- Facebook — send a message to Speak Your Own Adventure
- Twitter — Tweet @SpeakYourOwnAdv
- Slack — Add the bot
- There’s also a simple web demo.
Check out the source code on GitHub.
Are these games a viable complement to podcasts and audiobooks? Let me know your thoughts!
Update - Some tips I’ve discovered and learned from others:
- You can say “brief” in most games to stop the game from reading descriptions of rooms you’ve already been in.
- You can say “OK Google” and a command while a description is still being read to skip the rest of the description. (If the description is already finished, you don’t need to say “OK Google” first.)
- You can spell out words the Google Assistant is having a hard time understanding.
1/12/2019 update: I’m now using the “dumb” interface for text games that’s supposed to be better designed for chat bots. Games should be faster and should better handle sleeping actions now.