The Game

For a more visual overview of Bad News, see our gallery.

Winner of the Audience Choice award at the 2016 IndieCade Festival, Bad News is an immersive experience whose story and setting is uniquely generated, for each performance, by a computer simulation.

In the summer of 1979, a resident in a procedurally generated American small town has died alone at home, and a mortician's assistant—the player—is tasked with tracking down and notifying the next of kin.

To do this, the player navigates the richly simulated town to interact with its residents, who are each played live by a professional actor with extensive improvisational experience. Throughout gameplay, an unseen wizard listens in remotely to manage the unfolding experience via live coding and discreet communication with the actor.

Each 45-minute playthrough is designed to showcase the humor, drama, and tragedy of everyday life.

The Team

This is a project by members of the Expressive Intelligence Studio, a research lab at the University of California, Santa Cruz, dedicated to producing new kinds of interactive experiences that are uniquely enabled by advances in artificial intelligence.

Earlier projects by members of the team include Façade, Prom Week, and the CAVE piece Screen.

Bad News was born from lab discussions around the idea of building a novel mixed-reality experience that would combine its team members' diverse backgrounds in procedural content generation, deep simulation, and improvisational acting.