Robert Zubek


The Breakup Conversation -  new test release 11/11/04

This software is a parody of a breakup conversation. Imagine you've been dating someone for a few weeks, but it's not really working out - so you decided you're going to break up with them over IM. The role of your clingy soon-to-be-ex is played by the computer.

Quick links:

Sample conversation log -
Alice is the human player, Bob is the computer

System: IM connection established.
Bob:    hi honey
Bob:    so, what was it you said
Bob:    about us having problems?
Alice:  hey bob
Alice:  yeah about that
Bob:    why are you saying this
Alice:  you see, it's kinda difficult
Bob:    you don't want to tell me much
Alice:  look, i just don't think we're right for each othe
Bob:    i can't believe this
Bob:    what does that even mean?
Bob:    i bet it's because i still live with my parents huh?
Bob:    you don't like that i'm living at home
Alice:  that i'm not happy bob
Bob:    isn't that true
Bob:    well
Bob:    i can't believe you're doing this to me
Alice:  no that's not it
Bob:    it's not that?
Alice:  no
Bob:    can you really do this just like that
Alice:  it's not you
Bob:    i don't believe this
Alice:  i'm sorry
Bob:    no it's me
Bob:    where did this come from
Alice:  no bob
Bob:    won't you talk to me
Bob:    maybe i'm a loser
Alice:  oh don't be like that
Bob:    what does that even mean?
Bob:    i bet it's because i don't have a job huh?
Bob:    you don't like that i'm unemployed
Bob:    don't you
Bob:    but anyway
Alice:  well
Bob:    you do loathe me
Alice:  i don't!
Bob:    i don't think i deserve this
Alice:  look
Bob:    look, i'm really sorry
Bob:    do you care that i actually love you
Alice:  do you, though?
Bob:    i do
Alice:  oh god
Alice:  i'm sorry bob
Bob:    look, i'm sorry
Bob:    do you care that i love you
Alice:  you may think you love me
Bob:    don't you love me?
Alice:  well
Bob:    i'm really sorry
Bob:    but i love you
Alice:  i don't think you do
Bob:    i really do
Alice:  i don't believe you
Bob:    how can you do that to me
Alice:  i'm sorry but i don't believe you
Bob:    :P
Alice:  it's only been two weeks you know
Bob:    you do despise me
Alice:  oh don't be so melodramatic
Bob:    where did this come from
Bob:    is your mind made up?
Alice:  well
Bob:    you don't want to tell me anything
Bob:    look, i'm sorry
Bob:    can you give me a second chance?
Bob:    i really thought you cared about our relationship
Alice:  no
Bob:    looks like i was wrong about you
Bob:    why won't you tell me what happened
Bob:    i bet it's because i stay at home
Bob:    you hate that i'm lazy
Bob:    isn't that true
Alice:  i told you already
Bob:    anyway
Alice:  i don't think you're lazy
Bob:    i don't think i deserve being treated like this
Alice:  but you could get a job
Bob:    how could you do this just like that
Bob:    see that? you're being cruel to me
Alice:  i'm not!
Bob:    uh
Bob:    i suppose i'm a naive loser
Bob:    i see your mind is really made up?
Alice:  i'm sorry bob
Bob:    fine
Bob:    let's not talk about this right now
Bob:    you should sleep on it
Bob:    just please, call me tomorrow?
Bob:    please???
System: Connection closed.
System: Shutting down. Bye!

Timestamp: Tue Aug 31 10:35:05 2004

Version 1.0 / 2004.17.8 / compiled on GLORY


About the Project

The project is a demo of my new interaction technology. It's not a "game" in the traditional sense, since it's not designed to be strategic - rather, it's like the Sims, in being more of an open-ended toy. It lets you explore the breakup space, and play with a number of different reasoning and guilt-evoking interactions accomplished via conversation.

(For veteran gamers, an important stylistic note about the demo: unlike strategic games, this sim is most fun when you play along with it, rather than against it. :)

The engine consists of numerous hierarchical interaction spaces corresponding to the different protocols that people engage in such contexts. By manipulating all the different spaces at the same time, the system carries a redundant, multi-level representation of the conversation at hand. This tracks where the conversation is going, across multiple utterances - and lets the system switch between different reasoning and guilting protocols as needed.

The resulting representation introduces both temporal structure to the interaction, and mechanisms for soft failure at the edge of competence. At the same time, the system's implementation is not much more expensive than a simple Eliza.


Project Status

The current release is a test release - somewhere between an late alpha and a beta: the engine works, but I'm still authoring content and knowledge. I will be adding more elements in the future releases, including:

  • Broader palette of generic "interaction acts" (e.g. trust maneuvers, blame maneuvers, etc.)
  • More possible reasons and relationship elements to talk about
  • Additional handlers for out-of-band communication (out of character, tricking, etc.)

The Breakup Conversation is the first demo of the technology. With some luck, a different demo will be available this winter. Around the same time I plan to release the source code - I'm currently cleaning up the code and writing tutorials for how to use the engine. But this will take a couple of months.

Detailed system description is also being written. Eventually it will become a chapter in the dissertation - but if you'd like to see early drafts, please email me.



This software requires Microsoft Windows, and 10MB of disk space.

If you have a recent machine (Windows XP/2000), just download this installer file (1.7MB).

For older Windows systems, download all the files from this folder, then run setup.exe and follow the instructions - it will update your system as appropriate and install the sim.

And finally, if you don't have a Windows box, you can always just come by my office to play it. :)


If you'd like to forward this page to your friends, I'd appreciate that! You can use this link to send a quick email. Just please don't distribute the setup files - I'd like to use this web site as the central repository, for new versions and bug fixes.

- Rob