As someone motivated by and fixated on achievement, William Barrington Pheloung has always sought to push boundaries. When it comes to making games, he is inspired not only by creating new themes and content, but also finding ways to enhance the control of the game and input. The nature of the game development scene is one that changes and innovates rapidly so finding uncharted terrain is a bit harder than it sounds, but William has found his challenge in adding emotional intelligence to gaming.
SYNC is the result of the discovery, hard work, and effort that he, Yihao Zhu, and others put forth.
The initial version of SYNC was a tablet game. Its drive was to keeping in sync with internal beat, or rhythm to world. I was impressed that he really knew what he was doing and had such a great vision for the game. William became involved, bringing in a writer, designer, and other team members to build out the product. Assembling the team to put Yihao Zhu’s vision for an empathy driven narrative into action was a unique opportunity. Given that William’s background is in developing hardcore strategic gameplay experiences, making an emotionally driven visual novel was a new experience. At first, the team had trouble reconciling Yihao’s unique vision with their own backgrounds. But after everyone got together and really shared ideas on his vision, they were able to come together and make something unique.
In the early process of discovering what they wanted to achieve and how they wanted to implement the gaming features, they found Affectiva’s emotion recognition technology and basically dropped the whole initial concept to re-build it around the emotional intelligence capability component. William found the SDK easy to use, and liked the level of control it gave developers.
William’s contributions to SYNC were a natural, given his background in artificial intelligence and game development. He graduated magna cum laude in 2016 from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute with a dual major in computer science and games, and simulations arts and sciences. What excites him most is emerging opportunities for more social experiences with in AI in gaming. One can imagine the implications of a story line intended provoke hostility from an player with a straight face, or spark a laugh or a smile. With Emotion AI, the possibilities for enhancing gaming experiences are endless.
So what’s William’s advice for budding app developers? “The biggest advice I have is to start out with small concept, iterate on that and get as much outside feedback as early on as possible. A strong centralized vision is great, but it isn’t always the best when it’s not distributed to the rest of your team. The best thing you can do is to mess around and get right into the hands of users to test.”