North Side, Inc.

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North Side, Inc.

NLP’s complex, hierarchical data structures showcase how Versant’s scalable database solution can solve mission critical implementation and performance issues.


Bot Colony™ is a massive multiplayer game developed by North Side Inc., a progressive MMO game developer located in Canada. What makes Bot Colony™ unique is its positioning as the first conversation game ever. The player converses with the game's characters in English to solve a mystery and conduct missions. While there previously have been other games where the player speaks with the characters to some extent (Starship Titanic, Seaman, Façade), the answers were prepared in advance.

Bot Colony leverages breakthroughs in Natural Language Processing and Artificial Intelligence to enable the the ability to ask relevant questions and to make relevant comments, and to provide highly relevant, factually correct answers.These answers are generated dynamically, based on the storyline of the game.

This NLP component is extremely intensive in terms of its CPU requirements, requiring access to vast amounts of data for linguistic processing and reasoning. The system database contains both linguistic data and a large store of world knowledge, represented as formal axioms.


North Side became interested in Versant when it ran into a programming bottleneck, consisting of serialization and de-serialization of data with MySQL. "The serialization and de-serialization of data with MySQL was performed by one person acting as database administrator, who was responsible for defining the database schema, adding new tables, etc. As language R&D goes on, there is large pent-up demand to add many new data structures and support new applications, and having to go through one person to do that meant serious delays in the project. We decided it was not viable to continue working in this manner.

North Side decided to explore Versant as a solution to this challenge for its ability to bypass splitting application objects into records and reconstitute them again when they're read in and used by the application.


The NLP’s complex, hierarchical data structure utilized Versant’s scalable database solution to solve the mission critical implementation and performance issues it was facing using MySQL. Using Versant technology has allowed for increased programmer productivity, overcoming of memory limitations, and eliminating the need to serialize and de-serialize data to SQL.

About North Side, Inc.

North Side has been conducting R&D in natural language understanding since 2002, with an application in virtual crewmember training (team trainers where some of the human trainees don’t exist, and are replaced by intelligent agents who speak on their behalf). The decision to unveil this technology through a videogame was made in 2007. The technology powering Bot Colony™ has applications that go beyond gaming: it holds the key for a radically different e-commerce experience, where a consumer will simply speak to his/her computer to buy travel and banking products, seek information, or access customer support.