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Narrative interpolation


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#21 Oluseyi   Staff Emeritus   -  Reputation: 1678

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Posted 21 January 2002 - 09:44 AM

Symphonic:

You are a genius! You have fully comprehended the objective, and you have also taken the words right out of my mouth to respond to JSwing (and probably phrased them better than I could have). Thank you!

Writers write specifically to convey a particular sequence of developments, instances that propel the reader/plot/central figure towards a specific conclusion. Their insights, while valuable in general, are virtually completely unapplicable in this arena. Here, we are trying to make all plot decisions the responsibility of the user/reader. We want the user to decide what dramatic (or not) courses of action to pursue, which environments to explore and which to breeze through. We want to give them total flexibility.

Over the course of the next 3 months, we''ll be developing our ideas constantly, and I''ll probably be working on a text-based implementation that generates scenes in the form of screenplays. I think that''s the most reasonable and efficient way to pursue this ideal at this point in time, as graphics tends to clutter the objective. Hopefully this thread will remain a source of criticism, discussion, insight and analysis.

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Thanks to Kylotan for the idea!


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#22 Kylotan   Moderators   -  Reputation: 3338

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Posted 21 January 2002 - 10:36 AM

Well, maybe my last post showed that I don''t really understand Does someone want to explain this in layman''s terms? I still don''t see at all how you can generate a storyline from what a player does. Are you saying it searches for some sort of correlation between past events and information seeded into the world to try and find something that resembles a story, and then elaborates on it by placing other information into the world? I think it all just seems a little too abstract to me right now

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#23 Oluseyi   Staff Emeritus   -  Reputation: 1678

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Posted 21 January 2002 - 11:06 AM

quote:
Original post by Kylotan
Are you saying it searches for some sort of correlation between past events and information seeded into the world to try and find something that resembles a story, and then elaborates on it by placing other information into the world?

Exactly.

Let''s say we have an environment - a world, so to speak. We also have a basic premise - the battle of good versus evil (in fact, to make it simpler, let''s use a familiar environment: Star Wars). The Empire is encroaching on the freedoms of all and intends to conquer the universe and rule with an iron fist. You are a young Rebel fighter named Luke Skywalker.

In a conventional game, you are faced with a series of tasks to complete in order to advance along the story. In this situation, however, we say that you can choose to be "disillusioned" are leave the Rebels. Heck, you could return to being some form of shepherd laboring away in insignificance under the oppression of the Empire. Most people wouldn''t do this, and many would ask why we would even include such an option. Well, if such flexibility is built in, then there''s virtually no limit to the number of interesting things people might be able to do. The story that results may be "There was once a farmer who was able to breed the perfect sheep. He won first prize at the national sheep convention, and his wife''s pies were voted ''Best Of Show''."

Insignificant? Within the context of games, yes. Within the context of literature and interactive narrative (which is where this idea starts out), not by a long shot. To apply the techniques we are interested in developing to games, restrictions may be reintroduced (to at least give the player an incentive to progress). Natural disaster, the evil coming to you, etc.

Retuning to out Star Wars example, we could choose to join the Dark Side with Daddy and, as the two most powerful Jedi, rule the universe with iron fists. Flexible (because you know that no matter how "flexibly" designed a Star Wars game is, they''ll never give you that option).

I have to reiterate that the ideas are not being developed for games per se but may find future application to games.

Now where does the "generating a story" part come in? Since the objective is to create interactive narratives (ie, stories), we want the system to be able to extract pertinent information from user actions (serialized as "plot nodes", which encapsulate data about what happened where, when, how, why and to/by whom) and then compose textual paragraphs that would be entertaining for a human to read.

One cool games-specific application I can already think of is "lore". Say you''re an knight-errant in a medieval game (say an "MMORPG"). Well, other people should be able to hear about your exploits through messengers, bards, notices, etc. How would all that info be generated? Narrative interpolation.

I hope I''ve shed some light on the issue; I usually value your insights so I want to be sure you understand clearly.

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Thanks to Kylotan for the idea!


#24 Infinisearch   Members   -  Reputation: 318

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Posted 21 January 2002 - 11:47 AM

We''ve discussed "Event Nodes" but what about "Drama/Plot Nodes", points of interest in a world or of a players interest as defined by choices made in event nodes. Think about it, when u start reading a book or playing a game u enter a new universe and know nothing about it. As u read/play you learn thing about this universe and make assumptions on the things around u based on HOW U percieve things. The Plot nodes are basically pre-defined and dynamically generated plots/sub-plots. Using them we can "adjust" the narration/world accordingly so that the user has a more interesting experience tailored to them. Look at the implied power, if the person shows interest in an abandoned house, u can dynamically generate a suspense or mystery Drama node. Then u can encapsulate that Drama node in a bigger plot weaving a large scale story. In fact the climax of the narative can be the end of interaction and leave the program to create the ending based on the information that was noted as it goes along. Oh and it seems to me "Relationship Nodes" will be necessary as well.

---------------------------------------------------------------
If you have ever watch Akira, there was something i didn''t notice until it was pointed out when i bought the Special edition DVD and watched the Production Report.

"Really, any of the characters could be the star of the film."
"There really isn''t a main character."
"It''s sort of like a large theatrical production in that way."
"I wanted to put it together something more along the lines...of idle ramblings on Neo Tokyo itself."

Just found it interesting and somewhat relevent to the topic...

-potential energy is easily made kinetic-

#25 Oluseyi   Staff Emeritus   -  Reputation: 1678

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Posted 21 January 2002 - 12:05 PM

quote:
Original post by Infinisearch
We've discussed "Event Nodes" but what about "Drama/Plot Nodes", points of interest in a world or of a players interest as defined by choices made in event nodes...

Very good points. The current problem is first specifying the problem domain. We need to be able to determine what defines a plot node, what information it needs to encapsulate and how that information would be employed to generate the storyline and dramatic arc.

quote:
Look at the implied power, if the person shows interest in an abandoned house, u can dynamically generate a suspense or mystery Drama node. Then u can encapsulate that Drama node in a bigger plot weaving a large scale story. In fact the climax of the narative can be the end of interaction and leave the program to create the ending based on the information that was noted as it goes along.

Brilliant extrapolation! That's the goal - to allow the program generate appropriate endings based on user actions, objectives, etc.

quote:
Oh and it seems to me "Relationship Nodes" will be necessary as well.

In preliminary discussions, my class partner and I have noted that relationship nodes would be an inefficient mechanism. Much better is to use some form of "relational database" which maps the connections between various characters/objects. This would lead to a huge amount of data, so we would need an implementation that rapidly localized the database, keeping only relevant records in memory and compressing all others to file.

quote:
If you have ever watch Akira, there was something i didn't notice until it was pointed out when i bought the Special edition DVD and watched the Production Report.
"Really, any of the characters could be the star of the film."
"There really isn't a main character."
"It's sort of like a large theatrical production in that way."
"I wanted to put it together something more along the lines...of idle ramblings on Neo Tokyo itself."


Hmm. I've watched Akira several times, and while there is some truth to the above, there remains no doubt in my mind that the stars of the films are Tetsuo and Kaneda. The movie is a musing on the effects of tremendous power bestowed almost instantaneously - without the preparation and conditioning for responsibility. Note that Tetsuo turned against Kaneda, his protector and friend - partly out of the curruption of power (Lord Albert: "Power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely") and partly out of fear (unusual situation, great pain, noone to turn to).

Neo Tokyo was just an environment for the film, but Akira remains one of the great philosophical animes. See also Ghost in the Shell. (Which reminds me, I need to watch more anime. )

[Edit:] Formatting.

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Thanks to Kylotan for the idea!


Edited by - Oluseyi on January 21, 2002 7:10:29 PM

#26 Kylotan   Moderators   -  Reputation: 3338

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Posted 21 January 2002 - 02:15 PM

Quick question:
Is the system designed to generate an interesting story for the player to participate in?
Or is the system designed to generate an interesting story about what the player has done?

Different posts seem to imply one or the other, and I''m not sure which.

Now, the main post.

quote:
Original post by Oluseyi
In a conventional game, you are faced with a series of tasks to complete in order to advance along the story. In this situation, however, we say that you can choose to be "disillusioned" are leave the Rebels. Heck, you could return to being some form of shepherd laboring away in insignificance under the oppression of the Empire.
...
Insignificant? Within the context of games, yes. Within the context of literature and interactive narrative (which is where this idea starts out), not by a long shot.

Hmm. If you take the broad definition of game (ie. something that people play) then interactive narrative is a game, no? Much like SimCity is considered a game, although some people like to say that it''s more accurate to term it a ''toy''. I would say that interactive narrative is essentially a game or toy, even if it had other applications. (Anyone familiar with the Fighting Fantasy or Lone Wolf books? I suppose they are interactive narrative, to a point.)

I''m going to ignore player motivation, and whether the product is a game or a toy, and whether the player lacks true goals or not. I''ll assume that the player does want to play with this system for some reason, and leave the "but is it fun?" aspect for another time.

quote:
Now where does the "generating a story" part come in? Since the objective is to create interactive narratives (ie, stories), we want the system to be able to extract pertinent information from user actions (serialized as "plot nodes", which encapsulate data about what happened where, when, how, why and to/by whom) and then compose textual paragraphs that would be entertaining for a human to read.

Of course, this is a 2 part process: firstly converting user actions (events, perhaps) to an internal representation, ie. your plot nodes, and secondly expressing that plot node in terms of entertaining narrative.

The second part is flexible. If I (now) understand it correctly, there''s no reason it has to be text; it could be any representation you like, such as seeding the world database with related ideas for the player to follow up.

It''s the first part that bothers me. How would you classify and represent these user actions or events? This would be hard in a game, and potentially impossible in a normal story. (Although, as with tabletop roleplaying, it is possible for the ingenious gamesmaster to classify any player action into one of several categories usually, so maybe human intervention would help there.)

Then you have these story nodes that pre-exist, but the player''s story is based upon which nodes they visit and the order they visit them in... the path, as it were. Any idea how this path will translate into the story, or are you hoping that is what this research will work out? Maybe this article would be one starting point: it gives some classification of different ''dramatic'' situations, including the actors and several variations on the theme. These (or something similar) could perhaps be used to categorise a user''s action into one of these nodes, thus determining the path?

Just yell if I am missing the point again here


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#27 Infinisearch   Members   -  Reputation: 318

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Posted 21 January 2002 - 04:49 PM

Kylotan:
"Is the system designed to generate an interesting story for the player to participate in?
Or is the system designed to generate an interesting story about what the player has done?"

There are two applications to the technology, Interactive narrative as in Oluseyi''s class and Video Games. Answering both questions at once for both games and narrative seems to be:
Participate based on what the player has done/feels... and record the story of the player, at least how I understand it. The participation in the narrative would be diminished of course, which leads me to a question I have for u Oluseyi, in the context of the interactive narrative how do u intend to pose options to the reader/user in terms of what they want to do/feel?
Another question one I have been thinking about is, to define the problem domain as u put it... How does it end, when to decide its over? (especially with the interactive narrative application) One, death the easy one. But with no definition of sucess or failure the hardest part would be to end the story. Especially if the player/reader shows no interest in "exciting" plots. Even though exciting is subjective the user and we track the users'' patterns, how do u know the player isn''t waiting for something? In your sheep herding example, how do u know that the player is happy? How long do wait till u say wow this reader is content being a sheep herder? Harder still is the fact that in a narative it would be much more difficult to stick a non-intrusive test in the narrative, to see whether or not the player felt a sense of plot climax or resolution.
-----------------------------------------------------------

I think Tetsuo''s heart was corrupted way before he attained any kind of power, the power just gave him the courage to act on his heart. Oh and those were quotes from the creator of Akira, he was saying how he made the animation like one issue of the comic book. Where as in the comic book he could build up over multiple issues. Seen Ghost in the Shell, but nothing compares to good ol'' Fist of the North Star.

-potential energy is easily made kinetic-

#28 Symphonic   Members   -  Reputation: 313

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Posted 21 January 2002 - 05:18 PM

quote:
Original post by Oluseyi
You are a genius! You have fully comprehended the objective, and you have also taken the words right out of my mouth to respond to JSwing (and probably phrased them better than I could have). Thank you!
Thank you, though I wish you hadn''t said that, it will affect my thinking.
quote:
Over the course of the next 3 months, we''ll be developing our ideas constantly, and I''ll probably be working on a text-based implementation that generates scenes in the form of screenplays. I think that''s the most reasonable and efficient way to pursue this ideal at this point in time, as graphics tends to clutter the objective. Hopefully this thread will remain a source of criticism, discussion, insight and analysis.
Is this reffering to the course your taking in school or to a personal project for which I might offer my meager thoughts and abilities?

To address a more important train of thought:
quote:
Original post by Kylotan
Is the system designed to generate an interesting story for the player to participate in?
Or is the system designed to generate an interesting story about what the player has done?
I am certain that the latter is true, as I said in my previous post the former is an equivalent to generating random maps
quote:
Of course, this is a 2 part process: firstly converting user actions (events, perhaps) to an internal representation, ie. your plot nodes, and secondly expressing that plot node in terms of entertaining narrative.

The second part is flexible. If I (now) understand it correctly, there''s no reason it has to be text; it could be any representation you like, such as seeding the world database with related ideas for the player to follow up.
agreed, and if it were to be done in a computer-game setting, it would be desireable for the story generator to generate scripting-language code for the game as it (the story-generator) interpreted the actions of the player.
quote:
It''s the first part that bothers me. How would you classify and represent these user actions or events? This would be hard in a game, and potentially impossible in a normal story. (Although, as with tabletop roleplaying, it is possible for the ingenious gamesmaster to classify any player action into one of several categories usually, so maybe human intervention would help there.)

Just yell if I am missing the point again here
Not missing the point at all, but I will defer this question to Oluseyi with the following contribution: I would most like to see an implementation in which what we choose to call nodes, are not predetermined by the game at world creation. So when maps are generated and creatures, NPCs, object annotations, etc. are created, the nodes that will at some point accompany them are not yet generated.

Instead, the story-generator should create nodes on the fly, linked to objects that it ''expects'' the player to attempt (at some point) to interact with.

Example: The game has just been initiated, and the game created a node at the weapon store of the local town of the PC which makes reference to the buying of a weapon.

Fred (PC) has just bought a sword at a local store. The game detects the triggering of the node and creates linked nodes for the following:
1) The townsfolk: if Fred kills one of them, the town will not be happy about it, unless he does it in such a way that no-one finds out.
2) The lord: if Fred communicates with him, he will offer the player a quest to go do, (accepting this quest will make a few new related nodes in the caverns near the town).
3) Out of town: if Fred runs off into the forest, the townsfolk will start talking about it, he may later hear that they thought he went off to kill a terrible monster that''s been plaquing the lands.

The predictable advantage of this system is that an object oriented implementation can be used, which links nodes in a heirarchical graph system. When a node is activated, the game system runs through the nodes it has to see if any removals or updates need to be made, and then it creates new ones that may be linked to the current development. This means that there will never be a large number of active nodes at any time, so there will not be a massive set of tables to run through every time the player does something (anything really).

It is important to me that the game ''makes up'' the greater scheme of the world beforehand, but still allows the player to take it on (or not) in any manner imaginable.

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#29 Symphonic   Members   -  Reputation: 313

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Posted 21 January 2002 - 05:27 PM

quote:
Original post by Kylotan
...Is the system designed to generate an interesting story for the player to participate in?...
Sorry, I just realised this does not fall under my example, ignore what I said before, this is an applicable use of the system as I envision it.


#30 Oluseyi   Staff Emeritus   -  Reputation: 1678

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Posted 21 January 2002 - 07:04 PM

quote:
Original post by Kylotan
Is the system designed to generate an interesting story for the player to participate in?
Or is the system designed to generate an interesting story about what the player has done?

To a large extent, both. The consequences of actions can often give rise to new situations, which can provide new choices for the user.

Let me outline the objective as currently defined (and please keep in mind that my/our ideas from the class are not absolute; many in this thread have raised the level of discussion and made critical contributions): to provide the user with a context and basic premise, then to generate a consistent world based on the actions of the user as well as external events. Narrative becomes important because the player will need to learn of the actions of NPCs, and vice versa. So while the primary area of discussion (in the class) is the "narrative arts"/interactive fiction, the principles are directly applicable to games.

Furthermore, returning to an earlier example, if the player eschews saving the world in favor of shepherding, then the system will be able to generate events for the user to respond to (natural disasters, lions and bears attacking the flock, etc) as well as generate stories about how the user heroically fought that bear hand-to-hand, or died at the fangs of a skulking wolf.
quote:
Original post by Symphonic
Is this reffering to the course your taking in school or to a personal project for which I might offer my meager thoughts and abilities?

Primarily the course, though my class partner and I will be trying to make certain applications and extensions on our own time (between all the other things we do).

quote:
I would most like to see an implementation in which what we choose to call nodes, are not predetermined by the game at world creation. So when maps are generated and creatures, NPCs, object annotations, etc. are created, the nodes that will at some point accompany them are not yet generated.

As implied in my paragraph preceding, the game would create dramatic events - plot nodes - pertinent to the user''s current course of actions, as well as generate an "external" narrative about the user''s explots. For games, the first is by far the more interesting, but the second is useful as well.

quote:
The predictable advantage of this system is that an object oriented implementation can be used, which links nodes in a heirarchical graph system. When a node is activated, the game system runs through the nodes it has to see if any removals or updates need to be made, and then it creates new ones that may be linked to the current development. This means that there will never be a large number of active nodes at any time, so there will not be a massive set of tables to run through every time the player does something (anything really).

This is pretty much exactly how I visualize the system as it currently stands. If we go back to the first post, I spoke about hierarchical connections between nodes (which were spatially distributed in a graph that had both uni- and bidirectional links/vectors).

quote:
It is important to me that the game ''makes up'' the greater scheme of the world beforehand, but still allows the player to take it on (or not) in any manner imaginable.

This is a good point. We want the rules of the world to be specified independently of the game events (though perhaps modifiable by events in the game), and only the basic premise (and all necessary actors) to preexist. These characters will be simulated independently of whatever the user does, meaning the world will continue to advance in a consistent manner. Everything else will be dynamically created according to the user''s actions/choices. We may throw in specific locations/situations designed to lead to certain outcomes - in other words, a very flexible and dynamic system.

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Thanks to Kylotan for the idea!


#31 Crydee   Members   -  Reputation: 122

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Posted 21 January 2002 - 08:53 PM

I''ve been following this with a lot of interest but relatively little understanding. But I think I now get the picture. At the start:

The player (PC) creates a character. Can he choose skills etc ?

PC then goes to opening screen which would presumably have to be some sort of hall / school / vehicle etc..

Assume this is a school game. PC has four (say) choices:
Go to maths class
Go to gym
Go to yard
Play truant

Whichever choice is made then a first story node opens. Let''s say PC goes to the gym. He then has choices of playing a game of basketball, getting into a conversation with the gym teacher etc... Each of these in turn lead to different nodes.

Just looking at it like this it seems to me that a game like this would have to have literally hundreds of separate stories all pre-programmed to an extent. The only way out it seems is if the story nodes are circular. For example I go to the gym, have a game of basketball after which the gym teacher tells me to go to maths class so I play truant. After playing truant for a bit Dad catches me an I''m sent back to school to do the maths class (sigh )

My question is, what do you see as the limits here?










#32 JSwing   Members   -  Reputation: 122

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Posted 21 January 2002 - 09:40 PM

superpig: Thank you for the better example.

Symphonic:
quote:

In constructing a storyline for purposes of static, linear entertainment (such as a book or movie) it is indeed very true that a major thematic plot-arc should formulate the ''nodes'' of plot progression, however, this is (in as much as my personal experience has demonstrated) not how life works, and in creating this structure, our colleagues endeavor to move computer games more towards a reflection of what life and experience itself may offer us in terms of shaping our reality around our actions.



I agree completely that dramatic stories and real life work differently. But if the goal is to produce dramatic stories, then I suggest the focus should be on modeling dramatic stories, not modeling real life.


Oluseyi:
Now I''m getting confused too. What it first sounded like is the user plays a game and the machine somehow picks up the highlights and translates that into a story.

But then the latest post seems to say you want a pre-existing major storyline which the player can choose to participate in or not (star wars). And if the player does not choose to participate, then the game will still generate some things to do (farming challenges).

This doesn''t seem to be able to generate dynamic story arcs. Or more likely, I''m missing something.



#33 Oluseyi   Staff Emeritus   -  Reputation: 1678

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Posted 22 January 2002 - 01:10 AM

quote:
Original post by JSwing
I''m getting confused too. What it first sounded like is the user plays a game and the machine somehow picks up the highlights and translates that into a story.

This is one level of application, and it can be implemented to feed back into the game. For example, say you''re a knight and you go off questing and finally kill a dragon. Well, the news will travel and bards and minstrels will begin to sing your praises (imagine walking into a tavern somewhere and hearing a bard sing (badly) about your feats of valor, greatly exaggerated). It would also serve as a neat way of providing a recap (I can''t think of a genre that requires this other than sports, but the technology is perfect for the interactive fiction genre).

quote:
But then the latest post seems to say you want a pre-existing major storyline which the player can choose to participate in or not (star wars). And if the player does not choose to participate, then the game will still generate some things to do (farming challenges).

This doesn''t seem to be able to generate dynamic story arcs. Or more likely, I''m missing something.

This is the more games-related application, I suppose. I mean, very few developers would want to expend numerous man-hours creating vast vistas of terrain for the user to explore - and then have the user go off and farm throughout on a tiny patch of land. So this would be a way for the user to be drawn into more exploration, more dramatic events and to provide a model of consistency. For example, if you''ve ever read The RPG Cliches Game, you will probably be aware of how much stuff in the game is dependent on the user. If there''s a burning house/village, it will never finish burning until the user is done with it; then, it will suddenly burn/explode/collapse with the user escaping in the nick of time (in an event to tack drama on rather than make it integral).

With this system, the user could be trapped inside (there would be another way), could be inside the house when it collapses (you''d "miraculously" be under a slab of concrete which protected you from the fire, and be rescued by fire fighters the next day) or could even be outside when the house burnt - without the requisite item. What then? Well, either the item was fire proof, so it would survive (but if you don''t get there in time it might be found by emergency services and you''d then have to figure out a way to get it from them ) or it would burn (say, an important document) and you''d have to find another means of obtaining the information it contained. All these alternate story paths would only be possible if the system could respond to event and plit nodes and create alternatives dynamically yet consistent with the existing narrative/storyline.

I hope that clears things up.

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Thanks to Kylotan for the idea!


#34 Oluseyi   Staff Emeritus   -  Reputation: 1678

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Posted 22 January 2002 - 01:49 AM

quote:
Original post by Crydee
The player (PC) creates a character. Can he choose skills etc ?

These are game-specific questions that are left to each game''s design crew. We''re more about creating a generally applicable methodology irrespective of genre. For example, this system could be used in sports games (commentary), in RTS games (reports from the battlefront), etc.

quote:
Assume this is a school game. PC has four (say) choices:
Go to maths class
Go to gym
Go to yard
Play truant

Actually, the way I see it would be more like this:
You are a new student at City High; today is your first day. In your right hand is a schedule, and it says you have math in 5 minuts in room 309. The door to your left says "105, Principal". The next door down the hall reads "107". You spot the stairs further down the hall, on the right.

Now the player could choose to go to the stairs, climb upstairs and find room 309 for math, or they could ignore the stairs and decide to look around - maybe end up in the cafeteria. As you move into the caf, the system would spawn the people who should logically be there at that time. If you decide to interact with them, then you''ve opened up that particular story node for exploration. If you change your mind and go back to math class, well, now you''re late. The teacher may ask for an explanation (you could say "I''m new, had a little trouble finding my way around." Of course the class may laugh at that - especially if the building layout is simple - but it''ll get you off the hook), giving rise to a dramatic situation - another story node. Because you came late, the teacher may develop an idea that you''re not a serious student, and so on.

quote:
Just looking at it like this it seems to me that a game like this would have to have literally hundreds of separate stories all pre-programmed to an extent.

With the way I''ve outlined it above, you''d see that it wouldn''t necessarily be so. NPCs could have personalities, motives and specific pieces of information (which may or may not be useful), which will drive them to interact with you based on how you interact with them - which gives rise to the story.

quote:
My question is, what do you see as the limits here?

Hopefully, I''ve been able to clarify the situation for you so you can see that the system would actually remove limitations rather than impose them.

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#35 Oluseyi   Staff Emeritus   -  Reputation: 1678

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Posted 24 January 2002 - 09:01 AM

I just thought this would be a useful reference (for those who haven''t read it); I plan to pass it on to my professor as well. Kylotan posted the link in a thread on the Game Writing forum:
I have no words & I must design

What I find most useful is the clarification that games are not stories - stories are inherently linear while games are not. Firmly embedding this notion in our minds will free us to think more creatively about narrative interpolation.

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Thanks to Kylotan for the idea!


#36 Tacit   Members   -  Reputation: 122

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Posted 24 January 2002 - 09:20 AM

Stories are not inherently linear...just the stories that we''ve been reading and writing for the past thousands of years. Or, perhaps I should say that stories while inherently linear in structure are not limited to being linear. Or at least, this is what I believe.

The oldest story in the English language (well, it''s in Old English but it still counts) is Beowulf. Beowulf comes to us from the Anglo-Saxons, who for the longest time had an oral storytelling tradition. The skop was the bard or poet in their society, prized for their ability to create elaborate stories expounding on the martial prowess of a tribe''s greatest warriors. Beowulf is a story that comes from this tradition, and centuries after it was told (and retold, and retold, and therefore changed in the process), it was committed to parchment and frozen forever. Still, even as late as a few years ago Seamus Heany (a famous poet) retranslated it, and therefore *reinterpreted* it. Retelling and reinterpretation are not beyond the medium of storytelling. In fact, this kind of reinterpretation is what gives us modern tales like those of King Arthur and Robin Hood, for example.

If a static medium like the written form can offer so much versatiity, certainly a computer game can offer some too? Surely we haven''t explored all the different ways in which stories can be told.

This is of course just my opinion, more of a belief actually, but so is what the author of ''I have no words and I must design'' is sharing with you in his article. There is no fundamental ''truth'' that says games are not stories. They''re just not stories in the very limited sense that most people consider them in.

R.

#37 Infinisearch   Members   -  Reputation: 318

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Posted 24 January 2002 - 09:57 AM

I''m not comparing movies to books but movies tell stories. Even if they are in a different medium and can convey information to its ''audience'' in a variety of ways as compared to books, in the terms of linearity they are similar. Has anyone ever seen the movie "Go" or "Memento". In each pieces of the movie are linear but as a whole the movie is not linear but do tell one story. If I remember right in ''Go'' there were three linear stories, shown in a row and the three stories intertwined so at the end you had a big story which your mind put together. In ''Memento'' the whole movie is done backwards. Small linear patches in ''forward time'' that were presented backwards. (Don''t watch the movie unless u are in the mood to keep your brain in a thinking mode) Something I''m not sure of is are plot twists considered linear? Have you seen ''Wild Things'' or ''The Game''? They are both linear in time yes, but not in what you think is going on. Is linearity in a story only considered on the level of time? The reason i brought this up is because in the case of an interactive narrative or a game using an interactive plot system, you can easily be non-linear on a plot level.

-potential energy is easily made kinetic-

#38 Oluseyi   Staff Emeritus   -  Reputation: 1678

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Posted 24 January 2002 - 11:35 AM

quote:
Original post by Tacit
Stories are not inherently linear...just the stories that we''ve been reading and writing for the past thousands of years. Or, perhaps I should say that stories while inherently linear in structure are not limited to being linear. Or at least, this is what I believe.

I think we''d do well to distinguish between what I''d like to call "linear" and "static" media.

Static media cannot be changed. They are set in stone, and any attempt at significant reinterpretation would violate the fundamental "truth" or content that is in the medium. Examples include histories and works such as the Bible. Their inverse is, of course, dynamic media. Most media can be considered dynamic at some level, and I think your Beowulf example is an instance of media "dynamicism." Note, however, that in order to reinterpret the work (and therefore give us a dynamic variant), Heany first had to experience/absorb it in linear and relatively static fashion.

Linear media progress from one notion to another, independent of the user/audience. They may contain unexpected twists and turns, but those are built into the medium. Most of our media are linear - all recorded forms, at least. Live performance, on the other hand, is a non-linear medium because the performers can interact with and influence the audience, and vice versa. While some media may present occurences out of sequence - Memento, Go and other excellent examples given by Infinisearch - the final story is still linear in terms of user interaction.

When I use the term non-linear, I speak of the type of dynamicism introduced with games, where the user''s choices and preferences completely alter the outcome and thus the experience. Imagine if you could stimulate the main character in an action movie: make the right choices and you fulfill the objective; make the wrong ones and your movie ends significantly earlier than other people in the "theatre."

Not a great example ("Hey! I paid $7.50 for this!")

There was a science fiction short story about dream theatres and personal dream machines, in which users experienced "dreams" (more like idyllic fantasies) concocted by people deemed to have natural skill (it was a direct neural interface). The key part was that since the interface was direct, the user''s tastes and preference would "color" the dream and customize it to have greater impact on the user.

The full definition of this paradigm has not been agreed on; it is a continuing search to discover what works and what doesn''t, where interactivity adds to "non-linearity" and where it detracts from it. Even the vocabulary of discussion is not finalized. We merely compare, contrast and discuss the ideas and ideals of the many here. I do not presume to be some sort of authority, or even to have the final say within the limited scope of this thread. I aim simply to stimulate thought and creativity, and hopefully to get to play/experience some of your innovative products!

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Thanks to Kylotan for the idea!


#39 Tacit   Members   -  Reputation: 122

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Posted 24 January 2002 - 12:08 PM

Very good points Oluseyi and well said. What I meant to emphasize in my previous post was that in many cases the ''authoring'' process occurs through the experience of whoever is interpreting the events outlined in the story. This is an idea I think has potential with respect to interactive media. Also, approaching storytelling in games with what we''ve learned from traditional media (such as writing novels) won''t lead us where we need to go. We have to adapt our tools and knowledge to embrace the unique storytelling possibilities of the interactive medium potentially offered by games.

#40 Oluseyi   Staff Emeritus   -  Reputation: 1678

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Posted 24 January 2002 - 01:21 PM

quote:
Original post by Tacit
Very good points Oluseyi and well said.

Thank you.
quote:
What I meant to emphasize in my previous post was that in many cases the ''authoring'' process occurs through the experience of whoever is interpreting the events outlined in the story. This is an idea I think has potential with respect to interactive media. Also, approaching storytelling in games with what we''ve learned from traditional media (such as writing novels) won''t lead us where we need to go. We have to adapt our tools and knowledge to embrace the unique storytelling possibilities of the interactive medium potentially offered by games.

I couldn''t have put it better myself. While we can learn much from existing media, interactive storytelling/media are new forms of narrative and entertainment, and we will need to develop tools, techniques and language appropriate to them.

[ GDNet Start Here | GDNet FAQ | MS RTFM | STL | Google ]
Thanks to Kylotan for the idea!





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