Sign in to follow this  

Interactive Storytelling vs Video Games

This topic is 4196 days old which is more than the 365 day threshold we allow for new replies. Please post a new topic.

If you intended to correct an error in the post then please contact us.

Recommended Posts

This is a good read: http://gamasutra.com/features/20060612/murdey_01.shtml It's an interview with a game designer... I found this interesting
Quote:
the games industry is never going to go away. People are going to be buying these things for this foreseeable future. I just don't think that they will occupy the central position that they now enjoy. I think that there will be other types of interactive entertainment that come from a completely different direction, appeal to completely different markets, and ultimately end up becoming much more prominent.
His interactive storytelling project is: http://www.storytron.com
Quote:
Different Approaches in the Quest for Interactive Storytelling There have been three main approaches to creating interactive storytelling technology: the unsuccessful “Branching Narrative” and “Narrative Game”, and Storytronics. Branching Narrative - Lots of Story, Little Interactivity This began as a technique for creating semi-interactive storytelling using good old paper books - a Branching Narrative book would be read like a normal novel, except it was written in second person, as in “you go, you see, you hear”, it had very short chapters, and at the end of each chapter one was given several choices for advancing the plot, each of which meant skipping to a different chapter as a continuation of the last one. A Branching Narrative can thus be described as a flow chart where each node is a chapter, and the nodes flowing from it are the alternative chapters offered to the reader to advance the plot to. The computer adaptations of this technique changed it little - the earlier adaptations, called “Interactive Fiction”, contained a larger, more complex and coherent flowchart, more text, and, usually, a myriad of puzzles which must be solved by the reader before the story advances. Later adaptations replaced textual representations with video scenes, but otherwise made no changes to the basic scheme. This method suffered from two major drawbacks: first, many of the choices offered to the reader lead to an uninteresting story; one that was cut too short, ran too long, repeated itself or made no sense. Second, this method imposed severe restrictions on the player’s freedom of choice. There is no practical way to construct a flow chart large enough to give the reader true control - such a flowchart would require literally billions of nodes, linked together in an astoundingly complex logical structure. Instead, Branching Narratives usually give one the feeling of choosing “the lesser of two evils” between two options, because one is not allowed to do what one really wants to. Furthermore, many such narratives employ a technique called “foldback”, where two or more options lead to the same practical result. Narrative Games - Lots of Interactivity, Little Story There have been many computer games which claimed to provide the experience of interactive storytelling. While computer games are, of course, interactive, there has yet to appear one which provided interactive storytelling. The reason for this is quite simple - the interaction in computer games is not of a narrative nature. One interacts with guns, alien monsters, tanks and spaceships, but one does not interact with thinking, feeling interactive depictions of dramatic characters. Further, this interaction deals with things that are exterior to storytelling. For example, in a computer game it is very important where, exactly, one places one’s person, but in stories this is so irrelevant that it is rarely even mentioned. What storytelling some computer games do have is tacked onto this completely story-less interaction - either as cinematic cut scenes, text that pops up during gameplay, or, in the best of them, as what is called “in-game cinematics”, where a non-interactive narrative scene is played out by the same on-screen characters which appear during the interactive gameplay. Sometimes this tacked-on storytelling is of the Branching Narrative sort, but it remains an unsuccessful interactive storytelling experience tacked onto an interactive experience with no storytelling. Storytronics - Lots of Both Story and Interactivity Even though Storytronics has the strengths of both the previously described methods, and the weaknesses of neither, it is not "the best of both worlds" - it is a radically new paradigm that redefines everything. The basic concept in Storytronics is that interactive storytelling is first an interactive experience - that is, it is not an experience where the player's main role is to read text or watch footage, sometimes getting the attractive opportunity to "choose the lesser of two evils". It is an experience where the player has volition, and is at liberty not merely to choose between narrative possibilities, but to behave in whichever way he or she likes, thus freely directing the course of the drama. The computer-controlled characters, likewise, behave according to their unique personalities, reacting dynamically to the player's behavior. This is made possible using the concept of the Verb. Storytronics uses Verbs to define what may happen in interactive storytelling. Each Verb represents one possible dramatic action, like a kiss, a demand, or an advice. Once a Verb has been defined, it may be used indefinitely. For example, once a single Verb Kiss is defined, any character will be able to kiss any other. Depending on the context and the Adverb used, this kiss could also mean several different things, from a friendly greeting to a statement of reverence to a passionate lovemaking, or even a murderous act (think Judas). When more than a thousand Verbs are used together, the richness of possible behaviors stretches across horizons. When each Verb also defines what kinds of consequences it has and what reactions it may warrant, these possibilities can be organized into complex cause-and-effect relationships that allow the interaction to maintain a coherent and narrative form, no matter how adventurous the player's behavior.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
To attack the mummy with the sceptre, turn to page 43.

To run the other direction, turn to page 38.


In my experience, games which try to split the difference between a branching narrative and a free-form experience (what he calls "narrative games") end up just alternating between them. "Go do all the side quests you want, then when you're fed up with not getting anywhere plot-wise, do the one and only thing to advance the story." I wonder if his idea of allowing the user to choose between "dramatically important" decisions will end up like this. Don't get me wrong: His system design is interesting, and it's just this side of possible that he's figured out how to do it right. But I'll believe it when I see it.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I was at the talk when Chris Crawford said the Games Industry is dead. I originally became interested in the industry because of Chris Crawford on Game Design (a fantastic read by the way).

However, I now believe Chris Crawford is blind to the realities of the industry. There is innovation everywhere these days, just look at some of the games being developed on gamedev! The number of games being created that are innovative in some facet or another is astounding.

Now I know the argument can be made that there is nothing groundbreaking, or truly innovative coming out now or in the past few years, but here's the thing. We, as an art form, are young; younger than any other artform by years and years. Did painting ever endure 10 year spans of little or no innovation? Has music ever been stagnant for a period of years or even centuries? I believe so. In comparison, we are the most innovative art form on the history of the planet. Within a 20 year span, the state of both the art and the industry has transformed dramatically, to the point that someone involved with it 20 years ago, may not recognize it today (Chris Crawford).

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Crawford is a brilliant jackass. I was also there during the rant, and was one of the few in the audience that wasn't mad, but instead laughing my ass off. I was just watching for the red laser dot to appear on his forehead :)

Interactive Storytelling is a fascinating idea, and will certainly replace cut scenes and linear stories as the dominant form of storytelling in games. Crawford's problem is that he's convinced that it will take place as the dominant form of games, which is ludicrous and arrogant bullshit.


I was appalled, for example, at the recent GDC. I looked over the games at the Independent Games Festival and they all looked completely derivative to me. Just copies of the same ideas being recycled.

My game was one of those games at IGF up for Innovation in Game Design. I agree with him that the game was "just a beat-em-up", as Braid (the winner) was "just a platformer" and Darwinia was "just a RTS".

What Crawford either doesn't understand or won't admit is that not every game can break entirely new ground (he should have been listening during Jonathan Blows rant), not every game can create an entirely new experience, and not every game should. A small innovation, coupled with great game design, can create an entirely new experience. Braid may have been "just a platformer", but the time manipulation made it feel completely new. Darwinia, the gesture system. Rumble Box, the stacking mechanic.

If he expects people to make one game of each genre and then move on to something else, the genre will never be great, because the first one is a test, and then other designers refine the idea. Wolfenstein was not in any way better than Half Life 2, and we never would have had Half Life 2 if it weren't for Wolfenstein. Sometimes, small innovations will make a game feel completely new.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Quote:
Original post by JBourrie
Crawford is a brilliant jackass. I was also there during the rant, and was one of the few in the audience that wasn't mad, but instead laughing my ass off. I was just watching for the red laser dot to appear on his forehead :)

The industry needs jackasses. I agree that genres grow and innovate incrementally, but most of that innovation is in the form of control and representation rather than actual gameplay. "Nothing new under the sun" is a complaint, but it's also a challenge. Jackasses like Crawford really do help push the industry.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Quote:
Original post by Sneftel
Quote:
Original post by JBourrie
Crawford is a brilliant jackass. I was also there during the rant, and was one of the few in the audience that wasn't mad, but instead laughing my ass off. I was just watching for the red laser dot to appear on his forehead :)

The industry needs jackasses. I agree that genres grow and innovate incrementally, but most of that innovation is in the form of control and representation rather than actual gameplay. "Nothing new under the sun" is a complaint, but it's also a challenge. Jackasses like Crawford really do help push the industry.


Absolutely true. Crawford is a necessary evil. And innovating in presentation is the lowest type of innovation on the scale (since it is in no way interactive). People use examples like Katamari and Spore to show innovation, though I want to go one step further...

Crawford himself has said: Games are Interactivity. With this in mind, aren't innovations in controls, new gameplay mechanics which enhance the end-users interactivity, and improved interfaces a good place to look when coming up with ways to innovate? Does every game have to be a Katamari/Spore level experience to be innovative?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
It's nothing to worry about. Innovation will exist regardless of someone being a jackass. I personally hope that no big company continues to innovate. It would mean there would be a bigger market for me to hit with my more innovative games.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Long post warning...

Quote:
Original post by Morpheoz
This is a good read: http://gamasutra.com/features/20060612/murdey_01.shtml It's an interview with a game designer...

Chris Crawford is a game designer like Ronald Reagan is president.
Quote:
His interactive storytelling project is: http://www.storytron.com

You do realize that Crawford's been working on Storytron (and its predecessor Erasmatron) for over two decades and still has little to show for it?

Quote:
Original post by JBourrie
Absolutely true. Crawford is a necessary evil.

Meh. The game industry has plenty of ranters, iconoclasts, and head-in-the-clouds theorists, many of whom are more engaging and/or insightful than Crawford. (Many of whom are also less egotistical and full-of-merde than Crawford.)

Quote:
Chris Crawford wrote:
Storytronics - Lots of Both Story and Interactivity

Even though Storytronics has the strengths of both the previously described methods, and the weaknesses of neither, it is not "the best of both worlds" - it is a radically new paradigm that redefines everything.

And light beer has all the flavor and none of the carbs of regular beer...
Diet soda has all the flavor and none of the calories...
Light cigarrettes have all the flavor and none of the tar...
Quote:

The basic concept in Storytronics is that interactive storytelling is first an interactive experience - that is, it is not an experience where the player's main role is to read text or watch footage, sometimes getting the attractive opportunity to "choose the lesser of two evils". It is an experience where the player has volition, and is at liberty not merely to choose between narrative possibilities, but to behave in whichever way he or she likes, thus freely directing the course of the drama. The computer-controlled characters, likewise, behave according to their unique personalities, reacting dynamically to the player's behavior.

Yeah, and while Crawford was busy writing and theorizing, Bethesda Softworks, Peter Molyneux, and others were actually trying to make it happen.
Games Industry: 1 - Chris Crawford: 0
Meanwhile, Crawford's acolytes have been busy reinventing the wheel.
Quote:

Feasibility aside, complete realistic freedom pretty much guarantees that the player will either do things which make no narrative sense, or do things which do make sense only to find that they aren't working because he or she isn't getting the proper response. It also guarantees that the player will have to make a lot of tedious decisions - choosing which flowers to pick or what turns to take isn't exactly the most dramatic dilemma.

Next thing you know, he's going to tell us the sky is blue.
Quote:

The solution is to only give the player dramatic freedom - that is, only allow him or her to do things that make dramatic sense, and only require him or her to make dramatically important decisions. This paradigm views a story not as a realistic recounting of occurrences like Red Riding Hood's footsteps, but as a more abstract chain of dramatic events, Red Riding Hood's whole journey being one such event.

Weeeee. This is revolutionary how?
Quote:

But, using Verb-based dramatic interaction, it's easy to ensure that a Verb can only happen when it is dramatically appropriate. In a Storyworld, Verbs are arranged into a "Verbweb". The Verbweb defines, for each Verb, which Verbs can succeed it in the story. Here's a simple Verbweb:

Oooh lookee, he's just reinvented the Choose-your-own-adventure book.
Quote:

It's easy to confuse the Verbweb with Branching Narrative. A Branching Narrative is also a "web" of dramatic occurrences, but the superficial similarity belies a different essence. A Storytronics Verb is not a specific occurrence in the storyworld - it is a general possibility, which can be realized an unlimited number of times within the storyworld by any Actor, in any number of different contexts and at any number of different times. Each such specific occurrence is called an Event. Because Verbs are reusable, the variety of narratives which can be created by stringing Events is incredible. The nodes in a Branching Narrative are in fact not general Verbs, but hard-coded Events. They are almost completely context-specific, and thus there is a relatively small number of different ways to combine them.

It's easy to confuse a nectarine with a pear. A pear is also a Prunus Persicus but the genetic similarity belies a different essence. The smooth skin and more delicate flesh produces an entirely different texture - vastly superior to the plebian peach.
Quote:

A second difference is in the decision-making - in a Branching Narrative, the non-human characters don't make any decisions. The human makes decisions by choosing which node to move to, and the non-humans' behavior is pre-determined in each node. This makes it impossible to guarantee a large number of interesting and coherent characters. The best novelists spend years carefully counterpointing the behaviors of a dozen main characters - it's a tough enough job without having to account for the thousands of different paths the Protagonist could choose in interactive storytelling. In Storytronics, the computer-controlled Actors each make their own decisions in real time according to the personalities the storybuilder gives them. This guarantees each individual Actor's dramatic integrity, and, together with a good Verbweb, it ensures the sum of these Actors' behaviors will be an interesting, well-structured narrative.

Translation: I'm too lazy to actually script a coherent chain of events, so I'm going to pray that the computer can take these specific parameters and make SOMETHING dramatic and compelling out of it. I've also never heard of Sid Meier (or others who make similar games).
Quote:

Verbs are the driving force of a storyworld. Each Verb is a dramatic principle that represents one action that any Actor can do during the story, whether it is the player's Actor or a computer-controlled one. Therefore, a storyworld's collection of Verbs defines everything that Actors can do in it. Swat comes complete with a large dictionary of Verbs covering the spectrum of dramatic behavior.

Considering his education as a physicist, I would think Crawford knows it's bad form to redefine words that already have an accepted scientific meaning (and yes, Linguistics IS a science), especially when there's already a perfectly acceptable word that already has the meaning you want: Action.
Quote:

The most famous example of Options is in Hamlet - right at the beginning, the poor sap gets the Role DismayedSonOfMurderedKing. He has only two Verbs to choose from as reactions - ToBe and NotToBe - although along the way he CruellyJilts his lover and StealthilyKills his uncle.

The "To be or not to be" speech occurs in Hamlet III.i, which is nowhere near the beginning of the play. What he did to Ophelia is more of a "spurn" than a "jilt". And there's nothing stealthy about impaling someone on a rapier and pouring a chalice of poison down his throat in front of a crown of nobles.
Quote:

By the way, the long soliloquy that follows is really the result of the slow processing speeds of 16th century storytelling engines - with Storytronics ™, he could have made the decision in nanoseconds, presenting us with a whooping 37.23% increase in dramatic efficiency! Just kidding, Storytronics is all about the drama in making decisions. It's simply that, like the cinema, it concentrates more on presenting the behavior chosen, not the decision making process.

Wheeeeeeee, I can do Marketing-Speak!! I'm soooo cool!!!! Aren't I? AREN'T I?!
Quote:

The next step is choosing your theme. The theme is the message you wish your storyworld to convey (some theorists call it the story's "dominant"). It's true that in traditional storytelling a good artist rarely starts with deciding on a theme - that just flows naturally out of his or her subconscious as the story is woven. In interactive storytelling, however, the need to communicate your vision to the computer means that you have to be more reflexive than other artists - that, perhaps, is the greatest challenge of this field.

Translation: "Interactive storytelling" isn't about making art, it's about being didactic.
Quote:

The theme can't be too narrow. For example, the theme "Adultery is a bad thing" is too narrow. To support this theme, all we need is to tell a story of the spouse who rejects temptation and lives happily ever after. Not only would this not be an interesting story, it would also not allow the player any room for volition, because there would be only one right way to play it out. Apart from that, this would also be a manifestly false depiction of adultery, because if it were that simple nobody would ever do it, agonize over it, fantasize about it, or, indeed, tell stories about it.

Looks like maybe Crawford’s problem is he’s just not a good storyteller. That story doesn’t support that theme, it supports the theme of "fidelity is good." To support "Adultery is a bad thing," you tell the story of a spouse who succumbs to temptation and comes to a tragic end as a result. (And I’m sure NOBODY’S ever written THAT story before...) Any college playwriting instructor (to say nothing of the tons of writing books you can get at Borders) could’ve told you that, Chris...
Quote:

A good theme, like a good story, and like any interesting facet of the human condition, is about a collision of desires.

Nope, it’s about wanting something (the Desire) and not being able to get it (the Obstacles). Time to pay that playwriting instructor again...
Quote:

Along those lines, a better theme might be: "Adultery represents a collision between marital duty and sexual desire".

That’s not a theme, that’s a tautology.
Quote:

The best place to start is to imagine all the possible resolutions for said conflict:

It might also help to imagine what the player might learn from each resolution:
Quote:

Sexual satisfaction, happy marriage retained at price of self-delusion.

"Small price to pay... Adultery is FUN!"
Quote:

Sexual satisfaction, secrecy maintained, slight tinge on marriage.

"Hey, I CAN get away with it!"
Quote:

Sexual satisfaction, but marriage undergoes painful crisis that makes it stronger.

"I had some fun sex AND my marriage got stronger... Adultery ROCKS!"
Quote:

Strict fidelity, but sexual resentment destroys marriage.

"Marriage Sucks!"
Quote:

Strict fidelity followed by counter-affair by spouse.

"Marriage Sucks hard!!!" (By the way, don’t you have to actually HAVE an affair for your spouse to have a COUNTER-affair?)
Quote:

Strict fidelity, rewards from grateful spouse.

"Yay marriage!" (Restarts game) "I wonder what happens if..."

Quote:

Towards that end, we try to imagine all the interesting dramatic moments that can exist between a beginning and each of the endings, moments where it's unclear what path to take, and where each decision has negative repercussions in accordance with our theme. There are a lot of possibilities. As for the adulterous affair, we can imagine fantasizing about illicit affairs, serious eye contact, dancing together, private but nonsexual meetings, being together in the presence of a bed, flirtation, dalliance, getting-to-know-you, exploratory behaviors, preliminary behaviors, greater intimacy and actual adultery. There should also be some dramatic situations depicting the sexual frustration that drives the player toward adultery. These cover the player's relationship with his or her spouse, its daily grind and boredom, its lack of passion. These develop even as the potential affair brews.

Do everything a conventional storywriter does, but skip the last part where you build a coherent chain of events, because that’s what the computer’s for.

Storyworlds. What failed writers have been making for centuries without even knowing it.™
Quote:

Storytronics answers this challenge with Deikto - a miniature language designed specifically for interactive storytelling.

Just what the world needs... "games" where you "interact" with the computer by using a "language" designed by someone who doesn’t know the first thing about language.
Quote:

Deikto is small enough for the computer characters to be fluent in, precise enough that the player can always understand what is happening, intuitive enough that any person can learn it with ease, and versatile enough to express any dramatic occurrence possible in a given storyworld.

Whoa, I just had a Loglan flashback, with shades of Esperanto...
Quote:

Here's an Example:

Oh look, it’s a modified parse tree. Color me not-particularly-impressed.

OK, I admit it, Chris Crawford has ONE redeeming feature: he’s delightfully fun to fisk.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Ooooh, I thought this sounded a bit like Chris Crawford's work. I haven't been keeping up with where he's up to recently.

I feel that the problem with Chris Crawford commenting on today's game industry is that he's been working on his storytelling system for so long (what is it, 15 years now?!) and so jaded about game development he sees nothing but interactive storytelling as the innovative wave of the future. For example, dismissing the potential of the new controller of the Wii for innovation just out of hand like that. I do think he has a point that there's a general lack of innovation in the game industry, but it is nowhere near as bad as he seems. In fact, some companies (such as Nintendo) do even seem to be following his "Hollywood" strategy for risk in game development - Nintendo seems to release a WarioWare or Nintendogs game for every Mario iteration they churn own.

I am also highly skeptical of how well his system will work, because from what I have read it does not sound that different in essense from standard character A.I. systems used in games and A.I. research for the last decade or so. From what I remember, it's a lot like a literary variant of the Sims character A.I. The problem is that these techniques invariably take exponential effort to create based on the depth or length of the simulation. This means I suspect is isn't that hard to make a dozen or so verbs for a ten minute story, but a twenty minute story will take twice as much work, 30 minutes four times as much, and by the time you want to make a full movie length story, your head asplode from the workload. I strongly suspect the the solution to interactive storytelling is going to stem more from the game industry than from pure academic research.

But I do hope I'm wrong, and his system does work brilliantly, because I'd really like to see proper interactive storytelling on a computer. But until I see it, I'll remain a skeptic.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest Anonymous Poster
I dunno, these same 'interactive storytelling' people brought us the FMV game fad.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Quote:
We, as an art form, are young; younger than any other artform by years and years. Did painting ever endure 10 year spans of little or no innovation? Has music ever been stagnant for a period of years or even centuries? I believe so. In comparison, we are the most innovative art form on the history of the planet. Within a 20 year span, the state of both the art and the industry has transformed dramatically, to the point that someone involved with it 20 years ago, may not recognize it today


a correction:

Humans have been playing games sense the dawn of our species. Games have had thousands of years to evolve. and thanks to that evolution we now have board games, card games, sports, and even video games...and sorry, but video games are not very innovative...Counter Strike and like games can trace thier design roots to "cops and robbers", "Cowboys and Indians" and other childhood playground games...Every established video game genre is like that, able to trace its roots to some other established game form...But that isn't a bad thing.


Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Ok, haveing read further...I think Chris needs to get out more, do some people watching, absorb the richness not only of written and spoken language...but of body language, subtley, motivations, and the other aspects of human communication...especialy if he wants that adultry game...

first rule of seduction: it aint what you say, but how you say it.

And limiting both players and non-player characters to this focused and limited Deikto language just aint going to cut it.

I mean really...Flirting at its core is nothing more than teaseing. Walk up to any woman in a bar and say "You might want to wear a hat next time you come in here during a bad hair day"

Say that with all the seriousness of a bouncer ordering a bar patrion to leave and you may end up with her drink thrown in your face...but say it with a hint of playfull delight and she may flirt right back at you.

Such is the way the world works. And its doubtfull Deikto has the capacity to communicate such differences.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I think Crawford's got some good ideas for interactive storytelling buried somewhere in that mess, but maybe it's time for him to just scrap everything and start over with a clear head. When Erasmatron started a while ago, it seemed like it was an interesting theory... but lately, the site seems more like the ravings of a mad scientist. I think Crawford might be overthinking his system far too much.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Interesting concepts on their merits alone. Chris Crawford asside, the title is a bit of a misnomer - apparently, "Interactive Storytelling" is more interactive storybuilding - you don't tell the player the story, the world evolves around the player. It's like a sim city for stories embedded in your generic action/adventure/rpg/whatever game.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Quote:
Original post by Nytehauq
Interesting concepts on their merits alone. Chris Crawford asside, the title is a bit of a misnomer - apparently, "Interactive Storytelling" is more interactive storybuilding - you don't tell the player the story, the world evolves around the player. It's like a sim city for stories embedded in your generic action/adventure/rpg/whatever game.


Well, that would be the "reasonable" way to look at it. But Crawford is convinced that all action/adventure/rpg/whatever genres are soon going to die, as will the whole concept of "games" in general, to be completely replaced by "Interactive Storytelling Simulations", with Crawford himself standing as a shining god at the center of this brave new world, surrounded by sexy lingerie models and piles of gold coins. Well... ok, he doesn't actually mention the models or gold; I just assumed it was implied ;)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

This topic is 4196 days old which is more than the 365 day threshold we allow for new replies. Please post a new topic.

If you intended to correct an error in the post then please contact us.

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

Sign in to follow this