BlimLimb, the Travelling Bot Troupe

May 16th 16:39
by why

I thought I had deleted this hack! I probably should still delete this hack, it was so poorly received! To quote those who were there: “the implementation lacketh much.” Oh, and: “what’s going on?”

Well, the idea was: what if you had a dozen bots that you could feed dramatic scripts to and they would perform the show in synchronization on IRC? And, furthermore, what if you could stop the bots and issue ad-hoc improvisational scripting to really spook the guests? To give the idea that the bots are either pretty smart or pretty broken. Low-bandwidth txt vaudville, here we come!

The troupe was called BlimLimb (previously known as the Tragicepticons).

s: oh, take heart, young lad.
s: after all, we are most definitely the /ONE', the /ONLY', the .(OFFICIAL).
s: entertainers of #camping, a gift from your KING< a true offering
s: of haste and scenic tales >PERFORMING TODAY!< for your gifted
(a) gasps.
s: minds, to lift your spirits and to spread luxurious laughter, as
b: ** the show starts in roughly -- checks watch -- four minutes -- get comfortable. **
s: it were a catapult travelling o'er the oval moons and roof boats!!
a: :) alright
a: i am aidelaide.
s: and:            i am starlight huxley!
b: and: :)                               i am b.e.o. stepfisdein.
s:    >>     we are blimLimb, the bot troupe!        <<<
b: previously known as blimLimb limLirrm, the bot troupe.
a: we go by either :)

The scripts follow an extremely simple syntax. Every bot has a short alias. So, in the above script, Starlight Huxley is abbreviated as s. You set up the aliases at the beginning of the script.

[a] aidelaide
[t] teslyANDERSowens
[s] ^sHuxley^
a: hello
s: (( //......\\'''''''//.....\\ ))
s:  )) <#camping> ((
[b] beo_stepfIsDein

So the square brackets contain the bot’s short alias. Followed by the nick the bot will use in the channel. Those lines also cause the bot to join the channel.

Other commands are:

  • alias: speaks a line of dialogue.
  • alias) performs an action or aside.
  • alias= re-nicks the bot.
  • -alias causes a bot to part the channel.
  • +n delays for n seconds.
  • * enters puppet mode.

A short sample script illustrates each of these.

All the while, you, Gepetto, are watching the console. Dialogue is spewed by the bots with pseudorandom timing, to avoid flooding and make things a bit more stilted. Once you hit puppet mode, you gain control of the console and can use all the commands above to control the bots. And you can use the asterisk command to deliver the bots back to their script.

Annoying, yes. Certainly that is the whole idea.

The cast had six players in all:

  • starlight huxley, he’s a part-time electrician and deeply religious bot, wears glasses, central figure in the troupe, calls on volunteers, hands out cash prizes, handsome but elderly, easily pushed over.
  • aidelaide, she’s a hillbilly acrobat, largely sticks to doing the splits and winking, some light ASCII art, emotionally needy, always trying to smooth over conflict, married to tesly anders owens, has a ponytail.
  • b.e.o. stepfinsdein, retired biplane pilot, nationally-ranked lightbulb collector, counterpart to starlight huxley, heavy on the ASCII art, pompous and neoconservative.
  • FNONt, an ancient and boxy bot, yelly and numeric. May not actually be in the troupe, possibly just heat-seeking.
  • poor kit kalloway, the naive understudy, shoeless, sometimes sleeveless, constantly leeching movie soundtrack mp3s from bittorrent, adores Peter Gallagher, stubborn and plays viola.
  • tesly anders owens, a smoker, man about town, given to fine apparels, handles the spotlight, estranged from the others, enjoys fisticuffs with audience members.

I only have logs from two shows. Both were total disasters.

The first was a showing of Edward and His Book Knowledge from November 9th, 2006. This was the first script and it was clearly pretty empty, mostly just a test. The trouble is that the scripts are heavy on participating with the crowd and the crowd is, well, idling, of course.

And the second was a bit better. This one was titled Prin and Whitely and the show lasted about an hour and a half on November 10th, 2006. A bit more reaction here, but mostly ambivalence. And by the end, the channel is totally dead.

And that’s how Freenode’s only travelling IRC bot troupe bombed on opening night.



said on May 16th 13:29

This is the same technique we used to use for Dungeon Mastering in Neverwinter Nights.

There was a listener script where you could assign character key aliases to various NPCs, then you’d type away all the parts of the conversation in the DM back channel.


said on May 16th 13:44

Just so you know, dear why, your hacks always make me smile.

A bot theatre troupe? How quaint!


said on May 16th 14:24

Very “interesting!”

Would be, perhaps, even more “interesting” if the bots incorporated some sort of genetic algorithms and some sort of emotional physics engine that could dynamically interact with the other bots and the audience with motivations coming from the (very clever) background stories. The idea being the channel is perpetual and ceasless. The audience just check into the channel whenever they want, to see what drama is going on at that moment.

“Interesting” — Joel Speigal, Chicago Daybune
“Riveting” — Rosie Rosebot, Android Telegraph
“Fanciful” — Marge Bitter, Spikan Sponderf Tymes


said on May 16th 17:50

up next: nethack othello!


said on May 16th 22:55

Ah, it was you all along. I remember those days. I’m glad I didn’t embarrass myself.


said on May 18th 00:04

Isn’t starlight huxley the least prominent member of the Huxley family? He’s forever living in the shadows of Aldous.


said on May 18th 00:39

I ran prin and whitely in a channel with a few friends, and we all had great fun. Thanks for this.


said on May 18th 05:59

Could we perchance have some escaping of less-than signs in the code examples? I check the page source, and there are a <good> and a <day> that don’t get the ramp light they signed up for.


said on May 18th 23:33

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