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# Chain reaction storylines - rpg

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I see what you''re saying here, ahw.

So, the idea is that once you have the quests/stories down to a component level. They can be randomly combined together and each only used once which would be good for a single-player game, or used more than once for an MMORPG.

I don''t think the components should be used more than once or twice in a single-player game ''cause then the player would start recongnizing the components I think. I could be missing something here though.

"NPC's are people too!" --dwarfsoft

"`Nazrix is cool.' --Nazrix" --Darkmage

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yes of course, it wouldn''t nice to have repeating "component", but what I said is that "components", ideally, can be decomposed in lower level building blocks (Actors, Locations and Schedules, maybe ?) and thus recombined, interwoven, etc, did I mention that I have here around 40 or so "components" (I think synopsis is the correct for word here). When you think that most games plot can be summarized to one component, I think we wouldn''t be risking the running out of story before a while ... as well, I''d like to discover multiplayer (party) specific vs single player vs Massive MP.

As soon as I have more material, I will start a new thread.

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Well every story is made up of different elements correct? I remember Landfish raving on about the need for a message in stories, its probably just his personal preference here but i was wondering how could you randomly generate a message. It would have to come from a list of preset messages. Each message would contain a construction kit basics on story elements require to tell the story. Elements are then laid out (like actors etc) and the player then chooses their route of exploration into the story. From here the computer modifies the details according to where the player is going.

Its kind of like a dream where you can do what ever you want but regardless of what you do there will be some sort of resolution at the end and things you can affect along the way.

I love Game Design and it loves me back.

Our Goal is "Fun"!

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uh uh ! the "message" is the part I call fluff and stuff. It is different from the actual plot. Because it is what make the same plot used over and over so different eveytime, it''s hte personal touch provided by the writer. I don''t want, and I don''t think there would be any point in generating random "messages".
Rather what I am talking about is being able to separate the plot from the fluff ans stuff.

I am thinking more and more that a plot is just like a project schedule (we had to use MSProject this year), you have the people involved in the project, you have a schedule to respect, some tasks in the schedule won''t be done before some other, or without some agent, a task can be late, or a person missing, etc.
Then, *the way you tell the plot* is what make a story, what passes a message to the player/listener.

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Are you treating "message" in the context as a moral of the story? That''s a pretty dangerous thing to do in any game where weapons are involved ...

Merrick

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"Children come to us in a state of purity and perfection from the great undifferentiated absolute and then, like everything else on this planet, we fuck them up."

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I''ve got to admit, i don''t know a hell of a lot about the subject of story writing. Could you elaborate on what you were indicating there morfe? Sorry.

I love Game Design and it loves me back.

Our Goal is "Fun"!

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What I was asking was whether the "message" they were discussing was like a moral - an underlying message that isn''t directly stated, but rather implied. So that through a fictional story, you are making moral or ethical insinuations.

I''d provide an example, but I can''t think of one ... writer''s block! Nooooooooo....

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"Children come to us in a state of purity and perfection from the great undifferentiated absolute and then, like everything else on this planet, we fuck them up."

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I think morfe was joking about that...as in if the moral of the story was in games (which usually include killing things) it''s not a good thing

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This type of "story web" could perhaps (in the future?) be implemented with some serious mind-numblind AI and a "story describing language", perhaps resembling (or based on) SGML. My idea was to write the general plot of the game, so that the AI would fill in the details for small quests, dialogs etc, but it could be applied to this context also: describe the details also, but leave some things based on attributes like place, mood etc.

Especially dialogs and other messages would probably end being too generic, too similar to each other, but as AI and language recognition evolve, we could use some kind of chat bot type of AI to handle dialogs, so you could simply write what you would want to say. This same AI would then be responsible for generating intelligent dialog based on another AI: the "story-generating AI." I repeat myself, and I know this is dreaming, but it is a nice dream.

-Jussi

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I think what I am coming down to, is that if you try to decompose a story, you get a bare bone structures that include Agents (they could be beings, or objects), Locations (the places where the action occurs) and Schedule (basically, a way to describe what *should* happen if the players don''t do *anything*).
The problem with current plots, is that most of the time, if the player doesn''t decide to go on with the plot, the plot jsut stays in hold. you get things like "Hurry Sir Knight! The boat is waiting for ye", and you go in town fill your bags of equipment, then decide to wait a little bit in the town to get more HP, and then finally go to the boat, who, luckily for you, has been waiting here for 48 hours that you would show up, otherwise the fate of the world would be gone don the drains...

One thing I''d like to point out is that most of the time, the fate of the world is at stake, which create the need for this rigid structures. Or the "world at stake" is just a stupid excuse like in Diablo where the villagers know of a great evil, but knowing that will make plenty of money on brave adventurers somehow make them overcome their fear and stay there, just at the entrance of the gates of Hell ...

morfe : I was saying that no no no I don''t want of a "random message" being generated; "oh yeah, so the moral of this story is that, uh, wait, what does ''best laid plans of orks and trolls always need someone smalle than yourself ?''".
Naaaah.
I am trying to distinguish the difference between the artistic part of writing/plot and the technical part.

Locations seem pretty self explanatory. The areas where we can mess is the Agents, who so far seem to be simple triggers, that stay there and wait until you show up.
As for schedule, they are not really dynamic, it''s more like finite state machines (well, it is actually, isn''t it?) where the plot changes state *only* if the player do something.

I think if you want to give a real impression of life, you have to start makingthe player feel like if they don''t do anything, the story is jsut gonna go on without them. ("I heard some party of brave adventurers took upon themselves to free the princess after you refused to do that quest, Sir Knight...").
Now how cool would that be ?
We would end up with situations that would be much more like in RPG where the DM have to give some real good reasons to a player to go on and follow the actual story they have planned (the *hook* is decisive). And jsut like in RPG, if the players don''t want to do anything, so be it, let''s see what happen (generally, in this case, either you let it go, or something real big happens and kick the player team on their head with a big flashy arrow showing *that way*)

Other thing, we should deal with NPC as if they were information nodes. informations should be spread, distorted, forgotten, acquired, rather than being prewritten dialog items that are enabled/disabled depending on the state of the machine.
This would create reputation, rumors, possibilites to hide info, torture, bribe, and other form of dynamic communication, rather than a simple "we forgot to get the item B, that''s why he won''t stop saying the same thing over and over".
To do that, we have to analyse dialog a bit better ... what is dialoging sp?), what are the components of it, what do we do when we talk ?
We transmit emotions ? We exchange information ? (I don''t want to worry about actual text, just like I don''t want to worry about actual story... it''s all fluff )

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http://sigart.acm.org/proceedings/agents97/A018/A018.PDF

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Assuming you have overcome most of the other problems with trying to generate a story line in the first place. One way to keep the world ticking over is that in addition to the people going about their daily lives, you also have complex AIs that essentially do the job of the player. A single player version of a MUD to clarify.

Their actions would cause the story to evolve as well as your own and it is better than a MUD as the AIs can be controlled. The program can ensure that the game doesn''t get out of hand. If the player doesn''t do what is expected but the AIs do that''s fine, but if a lot of human players ar*e around, you wind up with a terrible game.

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I am going downnnnnn ...

OK, the more I think about it, the more it feels like an adv. database problem (the kind of stuff I wasstudying in BSc, not "how to do a DB in SQL").

To have interesting, self generated plots, you need building blocks, OK. You need Agents (should we distinguish animated/non animated Agents ? Characters vs Objects), you need Locations (the easiest to deal with), and you need some Scheduling, at different level.

Now look at Agents. Take NPC. They have to have a sort of DB of what they know, do, are, in order to give, get informations, and also in orde to generate/accomplish goals. The fact that some goals might be used a quests being secondary.
(I think more and more that if you don''t really try to achieve a goal directly, you will do so and gain much more in the process)
So NPC would have an inner memory (DB) of Agents, specifying the relationship, the last time they saw them, where they might be, who they are, what they do, etc... a set of known Locations with the associated activities, schedules an Agents linked to those places ("I work in my shop, where you can find my assistant". "I go to the pub in the evening where I can meet my friends, who are ...").
As well, they would need to have a memory that records events, past and present ("exchanged information with Agent #3168 yesterday", "go to the shop during the morning, home for lunch, shop for the evening ...").
*Talking* with an NPC, becomes a sort of challenging request to a database. There are plenty of knowledge you could get, but you have to use the proper questions (SQL, here we go again )
Or you could use *other* methods, torture would get you ANY information that is more or les related to the topic you want, telepathy would allow you to go browsing in a human brain, you would have at last a way of detecting lies, because the truth would be existing in the memory of the NPC, etc...

mmm, I think I am gonna have to browse quite a bunch of stuff.
I don''t even wanna talk about natural language here, I''d like to know if it could be feasible in he first place.
Also I''ll have to find some readings concerning the dialog process ...
Yeah, I think I am gonna have more than my MSc to do in the next two years !

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Well, my first instinct IS "it can''t be done."

My second instinct is to say that the application would need a kind of "Storytelling" Logic with which to examine what happens and the potential plotlines.

Making it avoid cliche, and suprising the player would require an entirely additional logic. That one I don''t think computer''s can have, but I might be wrong...

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I don't think at this point, AI could achieve a "storyteller logic". Even if we were able to come up with some sort of simulation of that, it would be formulated and not really do the job.

When doing something like this, I think it's just part of the territory that it wouldn't contain the same sort of careful planning a pre-written or even loosely-written plot would have.

Again, it's an intersting concept...I still think it could be used in an MMOG.

It could be used in a single-player game but I think the game would have to be constructed knowing that limitation of this method. Perhaps only use this for the "side-quests" and come up w/ a main story that contained more planning.

Edited by - Nazrix on September 11, 2000 7:28:45 PM

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Landfish : if you are thinking , writing a plot from components, and writing dialogs with the way I described Agents Locations and Schedules, I''ll yes you are right, for the moment

But I would bet that with a bit of work it could be possible to have a nice set of Agents with their goals, and from the simple conflicts of goals would emerge events that could then be evolved into quests. As well, generating a randome quests involving some Agents wouldn''t be too difficult neither, what would be more difficult woud be to chose the right Agents so that they have some sort of reason to be involved (why would the baker kidnapp the king"s daughter ?)
I''d like also, to take into account the influence/help that could be given by a human administrator (taking over the NPC when a critical situation is being created ?)

nazrix : agreed. Make random events/plots, and selecting NPC that have some sort of reason to be involved.

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quote:
Original post by ahw

But I would bet that with a bit of work it could be possible to have a nice set of Agents with their goals, and from the simple conflicts of goals would emerge events that could then be evolved into quests. As well, generating a randome quests involving some Agents wouldn''t be too difficult neither, what would be more difficult woud be to chose the right Agents so that they have some sort of reason to be involved (why would the baker kidnapp the king"s daughter ?)

I really like the this concept, but I think the AI is going to be the most difficult aspect. It would be interesting to figuring out whether or not the philosophy of strategic AI would apply here. Rather than fighting a battle, could the character''s be seen as taking actions in pursuit of some goal? If so, I think the weighing and measuring of these actions would be extremely difficult to figure out. It''s one thing to decide whether to attack or build in a battle, quite another to figure out if the baker should kidnap the daughter, or kill her instead.

If you think about the sorry a state of most game AIs today, you can see how much more daunting the task is... (I think damn hard, but not impossible...)

--------------------
Just waiting for the mothership...

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quote:
Original post by Langman

Assuming you have overcome most of the other problems with trying to generate a story line in the first place. One way to keep the world ticking over is that in addition to the people going about their daily lives, you also have complex AIs that essentially do the job of the player. A single player version of a MUD to clarify.

Now this is a cool idea. But I''m wondering how, if the player isn''t critical, he''s going to feel important in the game world? Could you instead have sub-optimal results if the player doesn''t handle business? This way the player''s actions really do matter, and if he screws around in the weapons shop when he should have been catching the plane or whatever the impact of this decision will be very visible.

--------------------
Just waiting for the mothership...

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That''s what I was talking about when I said that the world should go on without the player.
If the player don''t show up when the king is calling to adventurers to rescue his daughter, some other adventurer *will* show up and take the job. And they''d do the job (if they are strong enough). After that, if the player wants to track them, backstab them, and come back with the princess to claim the prize, I wouldn''t see anything wrong with this (for ''evil'' characters, that is )

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I haven''t read any of the responses yet, but here is mine. You ask, "In a constant world where the time line never finishes how would it be possible to have stories that finish but always have a knock-on affect to create a new story? "A Constant world that always has a compelling story". I don''t want to hear "can''t be dones" please, i''m really not interested in that attitude here, thanks but no thanks."

That''s what they do in paper RPGs, really. An ongoing story, lasting as long as the group is interested in substaining it. You could be inspired by that and make a game that would continually have add-on story "levels" that can be downloaded from a website or purchased separately. These add-ons could be designed and put out every few months to continue a story where it leaves off. Of course, this already happens when game sequels are made.

If you didn''t want to require the player to buy additional supplements, you would need to make the game self-suffiencient -- i.e. able to create new storylines on its own. There is a rumor in the writing world that romance novels are now written by having a program radomly throw together a few predictable elements and then ask a writer to fill in the details. I''m not saying this is true, but I think it''s a useful example. A game could be programmed to take an endless list of random story elements and put them together to create a new situation after the old one has been finished. It''s rather like a character creator I made for my website where a series of character features are randomly put together to create a unique person for a writer to work with (fyi, it doesn''t work very well). It''s also like a writing exercise I have encountered in several books, where you start a story by forming a sentence using three groups of random words that give you something to write about: a person, a verb, and a place (example: A *gladiator* *dances* in a *cafe*). For creating a random story arc, you could break down the basic structure of stories into an outline:

1. Setup (The Problem)
2. Rising Action (How to Solve the Problem)
3. Climax (Success or Failure)
4. Falling Action (Denoument -- optional)

And then have a list of incidents for each point in the outline. These incidents would be randomly combined by the code. Then the player would be plopped down in the middle of the new situation and have to deal with it. Each point on the outline could be a level, or an event that has to happen before the story continues. The tricky part would be the actual gameplay that goes in between the major moments in the plot. It would have to be random, and maybe even a repeat of previous gameplay. Unless you can find a way for the computer to design its own puzzles and monsters on demand and also integrate them into the storyline.

Now I don''t recommend this, because I don''t think it would lead to good writing. In fact, I think it would make pretty bad stories. You notice how Madlibs only works half the time? But it is an option. It would have complications. For example, where would the dialogue for NPCs come from? It would either have to not be related to the story (all they talk about is the weather) or it would have to be created by the computer for each story situation (and how can a computer know what is appropriate for an NPC to say in a given situation).

And then there is the way that online games are doing it. They create new adventures online and let players find them (the same thing as providing add-ons for games). They also let players create their own adventures, which makes it more like paper games and will definitely encourage an ongoing storyline; just not one created by the game designers.

Probably most of this sounds familiar, but I thought I would mention it anyway.

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I think what we''re dicussing here is the next stage of evolution for CRPGs. The role of GM to make up stories, plots, and NPC interactions do be accomplished by the computer.

I like ahw''s plan of breaking htings down into agents, objects, locations, but there''s one more important bit.

Having an overarching storyline. Some theme or general flow for the NPCs. If, during an adventuring session, all actions/desires are treated equally then you get bogged down with ones that the player would see as irrelevant. (The baker wants to make read. The dragon wants to roast the whole town.)

I think the larger storyline should also come from a random or semi-random selection. It should influence thiings in a direction and filter out the unnecessary crud.

And here''s where the writing comes in. I can craft half a dozen generic RPG storylines in as many minutes, but they''re of poor quality. A writer could craft trends, or themes, and the implications of those storylines, then the computer could tweak the routines that parse the NPC/objects together, and hte player gets to experience a new version of the game.