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A New Stab at Interactive Fiction

timothy posted more than 7 years ago | from the could-also-use-wrench-in-parlour dept.

141

pamar writes "Dr Dobbs Journal interviews Chris Crawford, the noted game designer, about a new direction for interactive fiction. In the interview, he talks of his new stab at Interactive Fiction, and mentions Storytron, his new company which he hopes will make interactive fiction easier to write, not only for games, but for complex social interactions in general."

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141 comments

Pilot's seat? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16444751)

Here's the question though. Is fiction really ment to be interactive? Or is fiction the journey the author leads you on?

Re:Pilot's seat? (1)

HappySqurriel (1010623) | more than 7 years ago | (#16444813)

Here's the question though. Is fiction really ment to be interactive? Or is fiction the journey the author leads you on?

I would say that fiction is the journey that the author takes you on, but at the same time there is nothing saying that it can not be interactive. I'm not claiming that games are great works of fiction yet, but they are developing methods where the "author" (designers) produce the story and allow the gamer to discover it.

Personally, I think the worst element of story telling in videogames is (probably) the most popular and that is cutscenes. In my opinion it has far more impact to have someone read a journal, or perform a side-quest, in order to reveal more information about the world that the "reader" finds themself in; cutscenes are too passive, and usually are plagued with poor animation and terrible voice acting.

Re:Pilot's seat? (1)

Lorkki (863577) | more than 7 years ago | (#16445367)

I'm not claiming that games are great works of fiction yet, but they are developing methods where the "author" (designers) produce the story and allow the gamer to discover it.

You're perhaps thinking of too recent productions. Interactive fiction [wikipedia.org] is a somewhat more specific term than "fiction and interactivity within games". Since the primary media is text, IF games can at best be just as immersive as traditional literary fiction, and the (perceived) interactivity with items in the game universe can also be very extensive.

Graphics can be a hindrance in the same way, but even in more recent games there have been exceptions; Planescape: Torment [wikipedia.org] immediately comes to mind. The Storytron thing seems to be more like a buzzword vehicle, but if it raises a dialogue about these things, it isn't completely bad.

Re:Pilot's seat? (2, Insightful)

secolactico (519805) | more than 7 years ago | (#16444831)

Here's the question though. Is fiction really ment to be interactive? Or is fiction the journey the author leads you on?

Why can't it be both? When you move from one medium to another, there's always a period of adjustment and sometimes new creative mechanisms and paradigms must be developed. When you try to "migrate" a work of fiction from one medium to another, the results tend to be shoddy, which is why seldom books adapt well to the movie screen and why movies give way to crappy games tie ins.

Now, both books and movies are guided journeys but this only means that new storytelling forms have to be found.

Aren't pen-n-paper rpgs a form of interactive fiction. It might not be for everyone, but I'd call it succesful. Most computer RPG are actually puzzles with a background but if they are done right and the story is engrossing enough, you don't really care.

Re:Pilot's seat? (3, Insightful)

Merovign (557032) | more than 7 years ago | (#16444973)

Fiction is always interactive.

No matter how precise and demanding an author is, the reader always brings understanding, misunderstanding, interpretation, and their own preconceptions to a work.

There are several schools of literary interpretation, which argue and debate and grapple incessantly, and some of which are almost violently hostile to each other, but if you were to ask them WHETHER the written word is interpreted (rather than just received), they would pretty much all look at you like you had three heads.

Look behind you! (1)

XanC (644172) | more than 7 years ago | (#16445199)

...they would pretty much all look at you like you had three heads.

Look behind you! A three-headed monkey!

Re:Pilot's seat? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16445333)

Fiction isn't interactive. Fiction is one or more untrue statements (or other media).

The consumption of fiction is the "interactive" part. But interactive isn't the right word either, there's no action in one direction. I don't change a book when I read it, I just change my perception of it. It's just "active".

This is all semantics, but without properly defined words there's no point in talking.

Re:Pilot's seat? (2, Insightful)

MrTufty (838030) | more than 7 years ago | (#16446011)

I'm with you on this one, interactivity to me suggests a 2-way process.

Books and films don't change depending on your own actions. Games, it could be argued, do - at least to a certain extent. I think it's perfectly possible to create a game which is only just interactive, in the sense that no matter what you do, the same things happen.

Which basically means to me that the best way to create a truly interactive game is to have multiple branching storylines and good AI. Not many games have managed that yet... perhaps that's the next step.

Re:Pilot's seat? (1)

zoeblade (600058) | more than 7 years ago | (#16445141)

Here's the question though. Is fiction really ment to be interactive? Or is fiction the journey the author leads you on?

Maybe it can be either. Some fiction leads you on a set path. Some interactive fiction leads you on that same set path, but makes it appear that you can change it when in reality you can't (so you can discover things in any order you like, and stray beyond the path a bit before being gently nudged back on it later on without realising). Some interactive fiction has multiple endings. Some regular fiction has multiple endings too. (Remember the films Clue or Wayne's World?)

Maybe there's no "right way" of telling a story. Maybe they're all interesting possibilities that should be explored more.

Re:Pilot's seat? (4, Interesting)

lawpoop (604919) | more than 7 years ago | (#16445165)

That's exactly right. Fiction, or a story, is not interactive. Fiction is a retelling *of the past*. It's not what you're doing right now.

A story has three parts. In the first act, we have the status quo, situation normal. A good storyteller might call this the set up. Then, something happens that disturbs the status quo -- something that the protagonist has to deal with. They can't go back to the status quo. In the third act, there is the final confrontation with whatever the obstacle is. After the final confrontation, there is a new equalibrium, a new status quo.

So, if you are having a bad day, you don't know where the story ends. You might get in a car wreck in the morning. You might get fired by your boss in the afternoon for being late. Your wife might leave you in the evening for getting fired and wrecking the car. At any point, you might decide to tell a story about 'the car wreck', 'the firing', or 'my wife leaving me', or you might tell a story about 'my horrible day'. Any one of those events might be the climax or final confrontation of this particular story you are choosing to tell.

You have to decide in advance what events *of the past* are going to be in your story. You have to know the climax of the story in order to build it up properly. This subject is coincidentally the subject of my last journal entry [slashdot.org].

A little confused (1)

Jarjarthejedi (996957) | more than 7 years ago | (#16444757)

I'm a little confused, what exactly is Interactive storytelling? The interview gives very little information, at least skimming it (perhaps it's buries somewhere, but I skimmed and didn't find it) and from what little I've seen it sounds just like an RPG. Am I missing some crucial step or is this guy just building GURPS on a computer?

Re:A little confused (0)

VJ42 (860241) | more than 7 years ago | (#16444805)

Wikipedia is your friend: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Interactive_fiction [wikipedia.org]

Re:A little confused (1)

Jarjarthejedi (996957) | more than 7 years ago | (#16444829)

So it is basicly just an RPG, you tell the computer what you want to do, computer tells you what happens. In that case it's still gonna suffer from the same problems as any other computer game, which are mentioned in another comment, that it won't allow creativity. It's a nice endevour he's on but you can't possibly think of everything.

Re:A little confused (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16444903)

At least its a little better than those 3D games that give you the illusion of freedom while still being often brain-numbingly linear. (Being able to walk around in a room with one exit doesn't empart player freedom - I'm looking at you, Final Fantasy X.) You can't ever think of every possible action, but when adding flexibility to the game takes a day instead of a month, you can bet that a text-based game is going to win on flexibility over a graphics-oriented one.

Re:A little confused (1)

TwilightSentry (956837) | more than 7 years ago | (#16444849)

The basic idea is that some of the story is told, and you then get a choice as to how the story progresses. You then get the plot from this choice which leads to another choice, etc.

For example:
Blah blah blah plot... Oh no! You see a monster! Do you:

'Run Away' or 'Fight It'

On a computer, the program will just be a bunch of IFs and GOTOs; in a book, it usually tells you to turn to a certian page depending on your choice.

Re:A little confused (0)

zlogic (892404) | more than 7 years ago | (#16444879)

My guess is:
"You see a door with lights on it.
If you want to open it, turn to page 42.
If you want to wait, turn to page 13."
These things can be fun, but I hate it when the book has "branching" resulting in 64 unique stories with 16 different endings. If you want to read everything you'll have to do recursive reading while remembering the "branches" you've already read. Makes you feel like a directory-browsing algorithm :-)

Re:A little confused (3, Informative)

PsychosisC (620748) | more than 7 years ago | (#16444957)

It appears that in the article he is using the term "Interactive Storytelling" to mean what is more commonly called "Interactive Fiction [wikipedia.org]".

Basically.. it's text based adventure games. They stopped being commercially produced about 20 years ago. However, due to the ease of creating them, there are many freeware games out there. If you're really interested in seeing what the big deal is about, I'd suggest giving Zork [csd.uwo.ca] a spin -- it has aged rather gracefully.

The article is frustratingly vague, but it basically seems to be about making it easier to produce better interactive fiction. While IF is currently easy to put out, it tends to be pretty bad due to horrid language parsing.

Re:A little confused (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16445057)

Interactive Storytelling is completely different. It's the difference between a story based game (say, Half Life 2) that is interactive (ie, walking around and shooting things) and a game whose STORY is interactive. And "full" Interactive Storytelling isn't just a game with some limited branching like some RPGs have, but have vastly more options that don't really fit into a branching representation.

Re:A little confused (3, Interesting)

Wordplay (54438) | more than 7 years ago | (#16445497)

Sort of. I'm sort of distilling this from his whole "comparisons with existing technologies" riff on the Overview, but here goes:

Interactive Fiction is primarily Fiction--that is, a semi-fixed story. It has multiple detours (and perhaps even multiple endings) based on choices you make, but a start, middle, and finish was envisioned before you got there. The primary craft in Interactive Fiction is to hide that from the player, such that they believe they have a large effect on what's going on. In fact, you've artfully constrained the number of possibilities, via the verb and object list usually, such that they actually have a relatively small effect. With some exceptions, the plot resolution is the primary attraction, providing a carrot to draw you through the interactions. In especially well-crafted ones, the interactions themselves are equally entertaining.

Interactive Storytelling is primarily Interactive, with a largely un-fixed story. You and the computer interact to make the story together (the Storytelling part). The craft in Interactive Storytelling is in defining and weighting the dramatic elements (Actors, Stages, Inclinations, etc.) such that the stories that emerge will be interesting more often than not. The primary attraction is in the spontaneity of the interaction, as well as exploring the range of stories that can emerge from different interactions. To use a science-fiction reference, it's like a very limited version of a Holodeck vacation.

The main problem with any interactive fiction... (3, Interesting)

Channard (693317) | more than 7 years ago | (#16444765)

.. will still be not allowing the player to think out of the box. You're still going to have a finite number of solutions to a problem.

Re:The main problem with any interactive fiction.. (1)

thewiltog (906494) | more than 7 years ago | (#16445005)

So in what type of game is there an infinite number of solutions?

Re:The main problem with any interactive fiction.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16445225)

D&D

Re:The main problem with any interactive fiction.. (2, Interesting)

Wrataxas (745719) | more than 7 years ago | (#16445533)

If the box is big enough, then you don't need to think outside it to have truly interesting experiences. Chris is building a bigger box...

isn't this already out (1)

Jessrond (954908) | more than 7 years ago | (#16444859)

It's called The Movies.

Re:isn't this already out (1)

LindseyJ (983603) | more than 7 years ago | (#16445025)

In The Movies you either create your own static machinima movies from Lionhead's stock models and scenes, or you play a movie studio simulator. Either way, that's not what this article is talking about at all.

Re:isn't this already out (1)

Jessrond (954908) | more than 7 years ago | (#16445957)

The idea is similar though, computer actors telling your story.

Re:isn't this already out (1)

LindseyJ (983603) | more than 7 years ago | (#16446199)

The similarity stops there, the key word in my post being 'static', while this story is about Interactive Fiction. If we were just talking about storytelling, why not mention Flash, or even PowerPoint. I could put together some crazy clipart storytelling with that.

Trolls. (1)

bigattichouse (527527) | more than 7 years ago | (#16444867)

If they can get around the old problem Zork had.. ie, if you did anything other than specifically required - it failed. "attack troll with sword" would get you killed - while "swing sword at troll" worked just fine. Still .. I wonder if I still have some of my Infocom toys around (glow in the dark heart from wishbringer, catalog from Enchanter series, Joo Janta Peril sensistive sunglasses.. I think the Infocom packaging was almost as fun as the games.

Re:Trolls. (1)

SStrungis (629260) | more than 7 years ago | (#16444967)

Lots of different commands would take out the Troll. "attack troll...", "hit troll...", "kill troll..." would all work with either the sword or the knife.

And yes, the packaging rocked on the original games...Maps, giveaways, beautiful gatefold boxen...Those were the days of great gaming.

stimulus-response too limited. (4, Insightful)

headkase (533448) | more than 7 years ago | (#16444889)

There is still the problem of brittleness [consciousentities.com] which this verb based approach WILL suffer from. Each verb represents a concept and unless you allow concepts to overlap (probably using fuzzy logic [wikipedia.org]) you will end up with situations where the mapping of the user input does not match the preprogrammed verbs properly. Basically he's programming points on a line where the computer knows what to do instead of creating a smooth continuum where the computer can compute the probability of what you meant. Then as the number of verbs grow the complexity of the system increases exponentially so you need some sort of culling algorithm (maybe as simple as a list of synonyms) to reduce the choices to something that more closely fits the preprogrammed responses.
People smarter than you and I have been working on open-ended AI for a long time and there's still no solution yet so I wouldn't get my hopes up too high for this program.

How is this different? (4, Insightful)

paintswithcolour (929954) | more than 7 years ago | (#16444891)

How is this different from the Interactive Fiction programming languages that are already out there?

The limitations of these languages have generally always been with the developer not in the chosen language, so I'm a little unclear how this will make inherently more immersive games. I'm not even sure it looks easier to use (this is a little unfair as I'm judging on screenshots), but the language 'Inform' has made leaps forward in this area with a natrual language system. Or designers can use 3rd party GUI tools to assist with construction in many of the IF languages. I'm skeptical of how this will compete with the games developed with other languages and made freely accessiable in the IF archive.

Re:How is this different? (1)

LindseyJ (983603) | more than 7 years ago | (#16445043)

How is this different from the Interactive Fiction programming languages that are already out there?

This one will have better marketing.

Re:How is this different? (2, Informative)

Chris Crawford (1013933) | more than 7 years ago | (#16445669)

The differences between interactive storytelling and interactive fiction are profound. Here are a few indicators:

Interactive storytelling is primarily about interactions with other actors, who can make their own decisions.

The personality modelling in interactive storytelling is much more complicated.

Decision-making in Storytron is numeric, not boolean.

The user interface is linguistic (that's not at all the same as textual!!!)

Re:How is this different? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16449547)

Traditional IF is, or contains, writing. The prose output by Anchorhead, Metamorphoses, Trinity or some other decent piece of IF conveys so much more than just the current state of the simulated world - just like the graphics in ICO or Doom 3 aren't purely informational either. IF is not just writing, of course, and IF prose needs to be clear as well as exciting/beautiful/moody/creepy/..., but I'm pretty sure writing (and setting, and story) matter to most IF authors. Storytron doesn't seem at all uninteresting to me, but I can't see how it could satisfy that need. If I were to use it, it probably wouldn't be for the exact same reasons I might use TADS or Inform. It reminds me of improvisational theatre, not books (but that's just a very early impression).

Seems like most people are missing the point. (5, Interesting)

Wordplay (54438) | more than 7 years ago | (#16445045)

This doesn't compete with Inform, TADS, or any of the narrative languages, at least in a meaningful way. As best I can tell, this approach doesn't even allow for a traditional guided narrative at all.

You have an initial setup (there's your bit of narrative). You have Stages, Verbs, Actors with Inclinations (personality), and Roles (which are sets of reactions).

You, the player, and the Actors can all perform Verbs. Performing a Verb on an Actor causes a reaction, defined by a Role assigned to the Actor. Actors semi-autonomously react, within their Roles, by performing Verbs on you and the other Actors. The Verbs they pick are constrained by the Role, and weighted by the Actor's Inclinations. Actors also choose to wander between Stages according to Inclinations, which increases or decreases the possibility that two actors meet. The important bit is that all of this is cyclic. If I do something to Actor A, Actor A may react by doing something to Actor B, who in turn reacts...etc. Or Actor B may just have -witnessed- what I did to Actor A, and then goes off and gossips to Actor C, who...etc.

So, basically, any story is emergent. You define Actors, Stages, Verbs, Inclinations, and Roles, so as to guide the Storyworld towards a particular type of theme, but from there, you (the architect) don't have very granular control. I suppose you could program an Actor as the MoverAndShaker, whose agenda (through some pretty absolute Inclinations and Roles) is basically to wander through the Storyworld and provoke people in the direction you want.

In any case, note that this type of storytelling can be very successful. Facade works much this way.

It's a really interesting setup. In its current form, I'm not sure how successful it be for game-authoring, if only because the game interface seems to be Actors' talking heads plus a diagrammed language. It's pretty obscure for any sort of casual player. But as a core technology and an authoring system, I think there are terrific possibilities for this. I'd be especially interested in a hybrid between this and traditional guided narrative.

Re:Seems like most people are missing the point. (1)

TapestryDude (631153) | more than 7 years ago | (#16445211)

Yes, that's what I got out of this too, that CC is looking for emergent behavior, and expecting the player to "fill in the gaps" between all those Verbs and Reactions and generate a real story in their head.

However, at some level, I'm pretty dubious. A tool such as Inform 7 [inform-fiction.org] (or TADs, or the other heavy hitters) makes it reasonable to build a narrative that feels spontaneous even if it is not. My gut reaction is that Storytron will have a cursory kind of believability, but when you pressure it a little, it that suspension of disbelief will break down.

By contrast, when I show people what can be done in just a couple of minutes using Inform (and the Inform library, which models the "player world" quite nicely), people immediately think its doing much, much more than it really is, or that I code more than I really do. People want to see storys, which is good for Storyworld, but I think better for Inform.

Re:Seems like most people are missing the point. (1)

Wordplay (54438) | more than 7 years ago | (#16445301)

Yeah. By the same token, trying to program an independent actor in Inform can be a challenge. I think Crawford has a good model for independence with Storytron, which means you can do one hell of an interaction simulator with it. It's just that a story includes a plot, plus actors, and I'm not really seeing how one could define a plot.

Seems like if you could define a timeline for outside events--that is, ones that don't directly result from an Actor's Verb--and then possibly have Verbs (yours and Actors') add or remove things on that timeline, that would be a big step forward. Then events can happen, independent of any one Actor, and everyone (you included) can be affected by them. The timeline becomes the plot.

To be fair, I've only given it the most cursory of looks so far. It's possible you can do some of this stuff. But if so, they're not talking about it in the high-level documentaiton.

Re:Seems like most people are missing the point. (1)

ggy (773554) | more than 7 years ago | (#16449625)

Seems like if you could define a timeline for outside events--that is, ones that don't directly result from an Actor's Verb--and then possibly have Verbs (yours and Actors') add or remove things on that timeline, that would be a big step forward. Then events can happen, independent of any one Actor, and everyone (you included) can be affected by them. The timeline becomes the plot.
I think I have the same impression from Plotpoints [storytron.com] and the Action cycle [storytron.com].
But still, I think it'll require quite a bit of 'out-of-the-box' thinking to actually implement a strong story with this... But as you said, this will be really interesting for independent actors.

Re:Seems like most people are missing the point. (1)

Wordplay (54438) | more than 7 years ago | (#16449769)

Aha. Thanks for pointing that out--I hadn't gotten that far in the documentation (obviously). Sounds like they're already addressing this to whatever extent.

I'm actually looking forward to trying something simple out in this. As I said previously, I think the overall experience is going to be a little strange for the casual game player, but I can see getting a lot of "ooh, neat" out of the emergent behavior.

Re:Seems like most people are missing the point. (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16445441)

Is it possible to have an Actor react based on what another Actor doesn't do, not only to what they do? For example, if one actor doesn't show up at work, or doesn't greet the boss, he might get fired.

And what about acting based on who other Actors are, not just on an Actor's own Inclinations? For example, if Actor A had assaulted Actor B earlier in the game, the developer might want Actor B to avoid Actor A in the future, even though Actor B has no Inclination to avoid other Actors in general.

And what about reacting based on a combination of what Verb was performed on the Actor, along with who performed the Verb? For example, if a composer hears applause when his symphony is performed, he might be satisfied. But if it's being applauded by the King, he might be ecstatic.

Re:Seems like most people are missing the point. (2, Insightful)

grumbel (592662) | more than 7 years ago | (#16445577)

How would that be different from The Sims? From the screenshots it looks like each actor has a ton of varibles that might get influenced when different actors interact and then cause them to do things. This sounds pretty much exactly like The Sims. Maybe it allows different kinds of scenarios or such, not just the puppet house that the Sims provide, but I don't see a fundamentel difference that would turn his stuff magically into 'storytelling' while not The Sims. Sounds kind of like a Sims Construction Kit, but I fail to see how the actors and storys will get any more interesting then in any other sandbox games.

Speaking of Facade, while interesting, its pretty much normal interactive fiction, type in a few words and get a reaction when you hit the right verb. All the reactions are completly pre-scripted and the freedom you have in Facade is still pretty much non-existant, except the normal branching points that you get in most other games as well. The interesting thing in Facade is that the gameworld doesn't wait for the player to interact like in a normal point&click adventure, instead it always progresses, but thats not really something new in terms of storytelling, its more an issue of presentation, The Last Express, Half Life 2 or Fahrenheit do pretty much the same thing.

Re:Seems like most people are missing the point. (1)

Wordplay (54438) | more than 7 years ago | (#16445629)

In Storytron, the stimulus responses can be scripted, and roles can be created such that different Actors respond quite differently. The Sims comparison is valid--I think both have cascading reactions, and go for the some sort of emergence--but this probably involves a somewhat tighter level of control with more possibilities for reactions.

It's been a year or so since I've played Facade, but I thought they had cascading reactions there too...you say something to the husband, he says something back, the wife comments on it, etc. Am I misremembering?

Re:Seems like most people are missing the point. (1)

davidsyes (765062) | more than 7 years ago | (#16447017)

Shhhhh!

But, isn't this similar to the model used by the cosmic aliens who pissed human DNA down to Earth? I think the jury is still out on whether the humans will respect their planet, care for their neighbors, overcome the randomly-injected, hardcoded urge to kill, wage ware, rape, dominate, corrupt, over-tax, over-fee, and otherwise overlook the plight of many of the subjects of the experiment...

Sounds like A.I. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16447893)

The way you explain it, this sounds like a good direction for Artificial Intelligence (or at least behavioural intelligence) within games.

Chris, you d be better off renaming your "tech". Everyone misunderstands it at first glance (and sometimes a first glance is all you get).

Somewhat irritating (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16445131)

Front-page news: yet another pretentious, masturbatory work-product from Chris Crawford, founder and charter member of the "Yeah, but what have you done since 1989?" school of game design.

Buried in Games section: news of the 2006 Interactive Fiction Competition, where real games are available for downloading, playing, and scoring, with a $400 first prize at stake.

Assuming the 2006 Competition follows the usual pattern, many of these IF games will suck. Some will be OK. One or two will be extremely well-done. And one or two may, in the Infocom tradition, be the kind you remember for the rest of your life. What they will all have in common is that they're actual games, not just Crawfordian theoretical sequels to earlier theories.

Re:Somewhat irritating (1)

masterzora (871343) | more than 7 years ago | (#16445267)

Thank you! Had this been the first time I had heard about him and I did the proper Wikipedia research and whatnot, I would have thought he might have something. However, having meeting him being the first time I had heard of him, I know the truth: He is a total hack. He was good in his day, but he should just retire.

yuo Fa1l I7. (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16445169)

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"A New Stab" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16445285)

Leave your Hans Reiser jokes at the door, please.

Interaction is the Enemy of Narrative (5, Insightful)

dforsey (107707) | more than 7 years ago | (#16445393)

The basic problem with interactive fiction is the interactive part... :-)

A player is extremely unlikely to make the choices and take the actions that lead to a compelling story.

They won't make the mistakes that lead to King Lear or Hamlet to their tragic ends.

They won't make the choices that take Luke Skywalker to defeating the death star (not if they have real choices that affect the storyline)

A good story takes the reader through a series of psychological stages resulting from the characters making choices a player is unlikely to make. (they just look up the "right" answer on the net...)

I would be more convinced if Crawford had a single example: mockup, text, an animated video - anything - that demonstrated how a working game would play in a (even a 15-minute) gaming session.

I don't even want a working system at this point - show me a walkthrough so we can get an idea of what game play would be. (it would be nice it that doesn't require the strong AI problem to be solved first as well:-)

Re:Interaction is the Enemy of Narrative (1)

Chris Crawford (1013933) | more than 7 years ago | (#16445843)

Interactivity is the enemy of plot, not narrative. Don't think in terms of a book -- that's a story. Think in terms of Grandpa telling little Annie a bedtime story. If Annie interrupts Grandpa in mid-story and wants the story to go in another direction, you think Grandpa's going to say "Shut up, you brat! You're messing up my carefully prepared plot!!!"

Re:Interaction is the Enemy of Narrative (1)

dforsey (107707) | more than 7 years ago | (#16446435)

If this is your example, you are going to have to solve the strong AI problem to get this to work... :-)

Please point me to something on your website that shows how a game would play out.
If there isn't anything, you'd gain a lot of ground both with critics and with supporters if we had a more conrete idea of what your vision is rather than handwaving. I'd like to see stages - this is what the first implementation will be capable of, and what a more complete system will do. And giving an example of grandpa telling a story is still just handwaving.

If you don't have the bandwidth or money to put together an animation or machima, then do a script of more than a few moments of interaction. I want to be able to look at it and go "yeah, I want to try this" or "it's just talking heads" or whatever.

And interaction is an enemy of narrative... just how good will the story be if the kid interrupts grandpa every other sentence... :-) and this is likely to be the situation your system will find itself.

BTW Thanks for participating in the disussion - much appreciated

Re:Interaction is the Enemy of Narrative (3, Insightful)

Chris Crawford (1013933) | more than 7 years ago | (#16447111)

OK, here's a mockup screenshot of one turn in a game:

http://www.storytron.com/overview/ov_storytron.htm l [storytron.com]

and here's a more detailed explanation of verb-based interaction:

http://www.storytron.com/overview/storyworld/verb_ based_dramatic_interaction.html [storytron.com]

here's a very thorough discussion of the nature of the interface:

http://storytron.com/smf/index.php?topic=21.0 [storytron.com]

We don't have to solve any AI problem because this is not an AI problem; it's an artistic problem and is solved by each storybuilder as per their own artistic sensibilities as expressed in their scripts and verbs.

Re:Interaction is the Enemy of Narrative (1)

dforsey (107707) | more than 7 years ago | (#16448767)


Thanks, I hadn't seen the screen mockup before, but now that I have it looks like a simple job to mockup a complete game segment to show folks exactly why this will be compelling and why choosing your response on the right side isn't just like turning to page 42.

Language is the bane of culture (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16449259)

[From one of the links]
"The main question becomes how to define what makes dramatic sense."

And how well does the idea hold up when it crosses cultural and language lines?

Re:Interaction is the Enemy of Narrative (2, Informative)

Gulthek (12570) | more than 7 years ago | (#16447895)

Play Photopia for a good example of how fiction "on rails" can be extremely compelling.

Re:Interaction is the Enemy of Narrative (1)

dforsey (107707) | more than 7 years ago | (#16448807)



I am arguing that it may have to be on rails to be a compelling story/narrative.

Slashdot comments so far... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16445549)

"You are in a maze of twisty little complications, all alike."

Games Masters (2, Interesting)

munrock (933555) | more than 7 years ago | (#16445595)

Isn't an interactive story basically a 1 player RPG? I mean interactive fiction is basically an RPG but with more depth to the written narrative. Isn't it?

And the thing that keeps tabletop RPGs alive is the games master. or DM or whatever the particular set of rules call him or her. That's your storytron right there: a human mind that can generate new narrative on the fly in response to the 'reader's initiative.

Unless storytron is an AI that can take the best from human GMs, human authors and Game Engines, then it's nothing to write home about. Otherwise, the key to interactive fiction lies in using the existing techniques available ('foldback') in the best way. The same way a good game designer will make the player feel that he's using his initiative when really he's being subtly guided, or in giving the player short bursts of freedom while the overarching story is on rails.

Re:Games Masters (1)

Chris Crawford (1013933) | more than 7 years ago | (#16445711)

RPGs are fundamentally about solving physical problems -- that is to say, obtaining something, killing something, moving something -- there's always a THING in the center of the action. Interactive storytelling is primarily about people -- about interacting with characters. Yes, there are things in Storytron (we call them Props), but they're not that important. The central issue in interactive storytelling is what you do with and to other people. And that "do" part means VERBS -- lots of verbs allowing to interact with actors in lots of different ways.

Games Masters-When VERBS collide. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16446767)

So in other words you haven't solved the strong AI problem, but simulated it through the complex interaction of verbs. Now the hard part is getting a coherent story out of that. Much like getting a conversation out of a room of people all talking at once.

Re:Games Masters-When VERBS collide. (1)

Chris Crawford (1013933) | more than 7 years ago | (#16447187)

There's no need to solve the strong AI problem, because this is not the real world we're simulating. This is a story. It is populated not with people but with characters. Characters aren't supposed to act realistically, they are supposed to act dramatically. What would happen if we solved the strong AI problem for Captain Kirk and one of his crewmen was trapped on a hostile planet? Kirk would say "Screw him, I'm not going to risk the ship for one crewman." Very realistic. Very undramatic. In a real story, Kirk would say, "Even though the odds against saving him are hundreds to one, and even though attempting to save him will put the ship at a very high risk of disaster, I'm going to attempt to save him." And then, by the absolute, inexorable laws of dramatic physics, he'll pull it off. It HAS to be that way -- this is drama, not the real world!

Re:Games Masters (1)

masterzora (871343) | more than 7 years ago | (#16446837)

I'm sorry, but this post shows that you either haven't played very many (tabletop) RPGs or your GM had a physical style. A really good GM will often have a lot of 'people' things. In fact, some of the best campaigns I can think of involve a lot of character interaction, like mediating between two kings or things like that. RPGs are about making a story the way that the players and the GM want it to be. If that involves a lot of physical things, that's what they want. If that's not what they want, it won't. Simple as that.

Re:Games Masters (1)

Chris Crawford (1013933) | more than 7 years ago | (#16447209)

It's true that human-moderated RPGs are able to get some real dramatic interaction in them. But that's because they're human-moderated. As soon as we move to the computer, we lose all that.

Re:Games Masters (1)

masterzora (871343) | more than 7 years ago | (#16450713)

Only by design, however. The only limitations that exist to bringing this sort of thing to computer RPGs are present in your model, too.

Some overall comments (5, Informative)

Chris Crawford (1013933) | more than 7 years ago | (#16445613)

I'm quite surprised at the amount of activity in response to this article; somebody just advised me of it and it appears to be rather busy. Here are some generic responses:

1. First, there are always skeptics and naysayers who have disparaging things to say about the Storytron technology. Some of this is due to the fact that my often harsh criticisms of the games biz have antagonized many people. That's OK -- but I just want to advise other readers that some portion of the negative comments are a response to my comments about the games industry, not a response to the Storytron technology itself.

2. Second, I remind everybody that Storytron technology is exceedingly complex, largely because narrative is exceedingly complex. I have spent years trying to trim it down to the absolute minimum required to do the job, but that absolute minimum is still overwhelming to beginners.

3. I'm always surprised by the comments along the lines of "How does this differ from Technology X?" All I can say in answer to such questions is "read the documentation". Storytron technology is so utterly different from role-playing, MUDs, interactive fiction, and other technologies that it's difficult to know how to begin to answer such a question. It's rather like somebody asking you the difference between a spreadsheet and a word processor. Well, yes, they do both allow you to set fonts. They both allow you to create tables. They both allow you to print out documents. But they are so completely different in form and purpose that it's a waste of time trying to come up with a list of differences. The easiest way to differentiate Storytron from the other stuff is to cite its purpose: to provide genuine, honest-to-gum interactive storytelling. (See next point)

4. A common question (already offered here) is, "What is interactive storytelling, anyway?" If you attempt to answer this question by comparing it to other forms, you get confusion. Interactive storytelling cannot be described as "just like a game, only..." or "kinda like interactive fiction, except..." This approach always yields even more confusion. I haven't spent 14 years re-inventing the wheel -- this thing really is profoundly different from other stuff out there. The closest to it is Facade -- and Andrew Stern and Michael Mateas will be quick to point out the many, many differences between Storytron and Facade.

It's not a story, it's storytelling, and the difference between the two is profound -- and confusing. A story is noun or data; storytelling is verb or process. That's why there's not a plot in it; only stories can have plots. Storytelling does not intrinsically include plot. Think of it this way: the difference between story and storytelling is analogous to the difference between a cake and cooking. A cake can have texture, but cooking doesn't have texture. Texture is a consequence of cooking, but not a component of cooking. In the same way, plot is a consequence of storytelling, but not a component of storytelling.

So what is it? As we have built it, interactive storytelling puts the player in the role of protagonist in a dramatically rich environment, and then permits the player to interact with other actors in a dramatically rich fashion. The size of the verb vocabulary is what makes it so different; Storytron can provide thousands of verbs. No more just picking things up, using them, destroying them, and so forth. Most of the verbs provide interaction with PEOPLE, not THINGS. We already have about 80 verbs (few of which are fleshed out, though) and intend to have hundreds by the time we release the technology.

Anyway, if you want to learn more, go to the website.

Re:Some overall comments (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16445717)


We've gone to the website and there's nothing there but vague promises and even vaguer descriptions that make folk familiar with AI go "haven't we made all these mistakes before?"

Point us to your example of your vision of what a 20 minute gaming looks, feels and plays like.

Don't say it's like Facade or like anything else.

Where's your gold standard to compare with? How do you know when you've succeeded?

Re:Some overall comments (1)

Chris Crawford (1013933) | more than 7 years ago | (#16445795)

Have you actually read the stuff on the website? There's a mountain of material there: the overview, the tutorials, the reference documentation and, above all, the BBS, where we have had extensive discussions on these subjects for months. I know you don't want to wade through all that stuff, but it's where the answers are. I agree, it's not as good as actually playing the thing; for that, we need to get our demo running, and I just yesterday got the demo operational (but really lousy right now). Over the next few days we'll be fleshing out the demo so that when I leave for Europe next week I'll have something nicer to show off there. Unfortunately, the demo won't be made available for download for some months yet (why? three little letters: RMI).

My gold standard comes when the player feels as if he's interacting with an interesting character in a dramatically interesting way. And I'm pretty confident we'll get that.

Re:Some overall comments (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16446545)


Great! If there's all this material you can give us an URL that points us to the gold stand example that's more than 30-seconds of interaction.

I don't want a playable demo.

Re:Some overall comments (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16447099)

I read over the website and started some of the tutorials and I have to say the biggest thing that isn't really clear is, what is it? I'm a professional writer and find the idea of random story development intriguing. I for the life of me can't see the point of Storytron. I'm not trying to be obnoxious I just literally can't figure out what it's even supposed to accomplish. The descriptions are really vague as others have pointed out. If there's anyway to post a demo story that was created maybe it'd answer a lot of questions. I was ready to download it but then I realized I didn't even know what I was downloading so I didn't want to waste my time. The structure of it seems very limited and unless I'm missing a point to make it even somewhat interesting it would require a massive set of varibles. Are we talking AI without the benefit of Artificial Intellegence? That's what it seems to me just looking at what is laid out.

Re:Some overall comments (1)

Chris Crawford (1013933) | more than 7 years ago | (#16447269)

Yep, this is hard for some people to grasp. Until there is a demo available to the public, a certain number of people will react as you have: "I just don't get it." There are other people who do get it. It's really difficult to grasp something that is so utterly different from anything that has come before. If you were to follow some of the discussions on the BBS, you'd see that there are people who really do understand it. We have written vast amounts of material trying to explain it to people, and some people just can't seem to understand. I suggest that you withold judgment and wait for a downloadable demo, which will probably become available early next year.

Re:Some overall comments (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16448653)

This is tantamount to saying people are too stupid to grasp your amazing work.

In my experience as a professor if you can't explain a concept or principle in a straightforward manner you don't really understand that concept or principle.

Vast amounts of crap is still crap. And I don't think you know what you are doing.

Re:Some overall comments (1)

Chris Crawford (1013933) | more than 7 years ago | (#16449063)

No, I am clear that there are some people who understand the technology quite easily. It's just a matter of orientation. I don't expect everybody to get it instantly.

You're right when you note that the inability to explain a concept or principle bespeaks a failure to understand that concept or principle. However, this Storytron stuff is not a concept or principle -- it's a technology. There are actually a lot of concepts and principles that underlie the technology, and I do explain those concepts and principles at some length in various places, such as my book on interactive storytelling.

Show me a game or something! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16449913)

At the moment the stuff on your site isn't very rewarding. Its all too abstract.

I was a big fan of yours back in the day when you wrote games like Eastern Front first and then articles about how you did it after they became successes. In the days before threads or co-routines were popular I remember reading all about how you used vertical blank interrupts to schedule the enemy ai order routine so that the player wouldn't have to wait after giving their orders. Great stuff.

But there's nothing like that here. No example that makes me want to look into how it was done, only to find you did it with storytronics or whatever.

Re:Some overall comments (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16450211)

Chris, you're wrong. I've heard you lecture. At first I wanted to believe, but I can't.

Storytelling is reductionist. You start with many events and you trim them down to a relevant, moving narrative. An approach which does otherwise isn't storytelling, it's simulation. There is authorship involved, but it's indirect; you set up the actors and hope things work out well, but as Facade demonstrates, the illusion is easily broken when it goes beyond the bounds of author expectation. Simulations encompass problems we have not yet resolved - we're basically only satisfactory at most simulations of physical objects, and we can't do simulated musicians or artists or Go players so well yet, so simulated, dramatic, emotionally conflicted story-people seem only to be another technical boondoggle cut from the cloth of AI research - especially given what you've shown of how much effort it takes to make this system work. Authors can't work with technical boondoggles!!

The tools that authors want are not the most "correct" or "potential-holding" ones, but rather the ones that pack the most expressive power within the least effort. Think of guitar power chords - pencil sketches - and the written word, as used in pulps and tabloids. The "cheap" stuff. Can Storytron do cheap stuff? It had better. If it doesn't....few people will use it. No authors, no large body of content, no public interest, no money for you. Someday, the envisioned dream will probably come true. But it will be taken in baby steps.

Crawford (1)

Threni (635302) | more than 7 years ago | (#16445639)

He's been going on and on about how `things better change` in game design for years now, without actually coming up with anything new. If it's linear, then once it's done it's done - no suprises. If it's not, then it'll probably end up being aimless and unexciting. Got any solutions yet, Chris?

Interaction Simulator (1)

Wordplay (54438) | more than 7 years ago | (#16445749)

I wonder if you could use this technology to simulate and predict the responses of small groups in real-life.

Imagine an office-politics simulator. You create Actors for the influential people on your, above your, and immediately adjacent to your team. You probably have some observations about those persons' reactions to different situations and ideas, as well as existing personal dynamics, so translate those into Inclinations and Roles.

Obviously, you wouldn't be able to pitch a completely fleshed out idea or situation against it, but you could probably generalize. For example, for ideas and proposals, an idea could have properties as to whether it's highly technical or not, fully developed or still under review, who thought of it, who participated, stuff like that. Then you toss the idea into the group of Actors, let them Role it out, and see what the end responses are.

Being able to observe that sort of thing in play-by-play, over a series of tests, might actually reveal some interesting things and demystify the whole group influence/leadership process to an extent.

Re:Interaction Simulator (1)

Chris Crawford (1013933) | more than 7 years ago | (#16446083)

It is for precisely this reason that we have been invited to speak at a major conference on corporate training. Yes, it can be done.

Did anyone else (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16446105)

I read the title as:

A New Stab at Interactive Filesystems

Reiser's at it again!

The unfinished sim-phoney (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16446227)

At the core this strikes me as a great idea: create actors and let them wander around interacting with the player and each other. Like a verbal "The Sims." There is a lot of potential here. How do you as the player know what the others are doing when you aren't watching? Can you have a character that sings to himself when alone but when anyone shows up he's quiet?

What bothered me is that it isn't done and they want people to "try it out." Not even the tutorials were finished, and even if they were, there isn't anything to play the game on. Crawford said "look at the board" but there aren't that many comments, spread out every few weeks or so.

It reminds me of another great Dr. Dobbs interactive fiction letdown I had. An article written by David Betz about his new "Drool" adventure writing language that looked fantastic. Oh, it wasn't done yet, but he's working on it. That was back in '93...

Holy Bull. (1)

Doctor O (549663) | more than 7 years ago | (#16446265)

Okay, candy is a tiny subset of food. And cartoons are a tiny subset of video, and comic books are a tiny subset of literature, and computer games are a tiny subset of-- what? That thing doesn't exist yet, but when it does, it's got to be, by analogy, much bigger than computer games.

Computer games are a tiny subset of computer applications. What was his point again?

He's into something, though, with his ideas in general. I play games for about 30 years now and am still looking for that kind of game he's talking about.

The point he'll fail at is that there is no practical balance between the capabilities of his architecture and the usability for non-programmers. You can make something like this powerful or easy to use. But I'll sure as hell take a closer look at his stuff. Getting involved might prove interesting, even if it doesn't pan out in the end.

Re:Holy Bull. (1)

Chris Crawford (1013933) | more than 7 years ago | (#16447309)

No, computer games are a tiny subset of computer entertainment software. Or, they should be. That's the whole point of that extended analogy. And the fact is that right now, computer games are just about 100% of all computer entertainment software -- which means that there's something really huge that is just waiting to happen: computer entertainment software for "The Rest of Us".

Everybody hates Chris (2, Insightful)

oZZoZZ (627043) | more than 7 years ago | (#16446423)

He rambles on about how modern games are just copies of old games, and that everything being done in game design today is irrelevant. No one in the game industry respects him anymore. He's alienated himself from the entire industry by going a different direction and insulting those not on his path. I have no problem with him persuing interactive storytelling, but I have a big problem with him calling all games that aren't interactive stories worthless, or "irrelevant." He did a great thing by creating the GDC, but got kicked out when he started to redefine games as limited to "interactive stories."

Re:Everybody hates Chris (2, Insightful)

Chris Crawford (1013933) | more than 7 years ago | (#16447391)

"Everybody" hates me? Does Ezra Whorton hate me? Sandy Piscator? Johnny Fisher? What kind of scientific study did you do to arrive at this conclusion? ;-)

I'd suggest that your statement would be more accurate if you rephrased it to "Everybody I know hates Chris." And then of course it would be reasonable to ask how many people you know.

There certainly are some people who hold my work in high esteem -- I keep getting paid to speak at all manner of conferences. However, I agree that my caustic remarks about the games biz have alienated a great many of the younger members of the games industry. The older guys are generally more sympathetic to my points, because they've been around the block a few times and recognize that, while my phrasing might be undiplomatic, my basic points are often sound.

And even more interesting is the fact that some people hate me because they don't like my ideas. What does that suggest?

Re:Everybody hates Chris (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16447695)

I keep getting paid to speak at all manner of conferences.

Yeah, you and your contemporary, Ivan Boesky.

Re:Everybody hates Chris (1)

oZZoZZ (627043) | more than 7 years ago | (#16447775)

It's not an issue of people liking your ideas or not, it's an issue of you insulting other people's work to boost your own ideas that people don't like.

Re:Everybody hates Chris (1)

oZZoZZ (627043) | more than 7 years ago | (#16447825)

Also, I clearly don't mean "everybody" in the literal sense. It was a play on Chris Rock's tv show.

Who's he trying to kid? (1)

paulxnuke (624084) | more than 7 years ago | (#16448335)

I confess I didn't bother reading the entire article. There are just too many fatal problems:

Point-and-click programming has failed catastrophically every time it's been tried. My experience (e.g., iShell) taught me that it's too slow and cumbersome for programmers, and still useless for the non-programmers (defined as that vast majority who can't design program logic by any means, graphical or otherwise.) Inform 7 [inform-fiction.org] is a recent attempt by IF authors to help others, NOT by making programming unnecessary, but by attempting to impedance match the Author mindset. (I wish them luck, but recognize that most prospective users (the existing IF community) are competent programmers.)

Storytron's basic idea ("thinking, feeling virtual characters" ) is very similar to a system that died several years ago. I can't remember the name, but IIRC it used facial expressions on talking heads as a clue to computed emotional state; "embarrassingly bad" was one of the kinder descriptions I saw. I suspect it hasn't been forgotten by the rest of the IF community either.

Admittedly a lot of IF, with its "guess the magic phrase" problem, can be very frustrating. Their new interaction language, though, has "excruciating user experience" written all over it. If interaction actually requires reverse-diagramming a sentence by point and click (as the article seemed to suggest), I for one wouldn't bother to even try it.

The required commitment (both of time and intellect) for IF works for the small, passionate and closeknit IF community where no money changes hands; since the initial novelty wore off with Infocom, it hasn't ever worked as a commercial product. This is a fundamental disconnect that no imaginable development system or user UI even starts to address. I see zero hope for their business model.

Re:Who's he trying to kid? (1)

Chris Crawford (1013933) | more than 7 years ago | (#16449117)

The point and click scripting system used in the Erasmatron eight years ago was most certainly NOT a "catastrophic failure" -- the people who actually used the Erasmatron cited it as one of the most enjoyable aspects of the system. There were plenty of other problems with that design, but point-and-click programming was not one of them. And the new generation scripting system that is used in Storytron is even better. You're in the difficult position of asserting that something is impossible when it hasn't really been beaten to death. Moreover, remember that the scripting system in Storytron is not meant to be a general-purpose programming language. It's a narrow-purpose scripting system. It doesn't even have any flow control! So don't be so quick to dismiss what you haven't examined.

Along the same lines, it might be premature of you to dismiss Storytron's basic idea as already having been done when you didn't even bother to read the entire interview, much less any of the documentation on the technology itself.

fiction != storytelling (1, Troll)

Kell_pt (789485) | more than 7 years ago | (#16448635)

Interactive fiction is NOT interactive storytelling. Also present in TFA, which apparently, as usual, noone bothers reading before posting headlines. :=) This is ./ as usual. For the difference, just ask anyone who's played both a computer RPG like any of the Elder Scrolls series or sat by a table late night, playing Vampire the Masquerade, Paranoia, Cyberpunk, Fallen, Kult or Call of Cthulhu. Those people will be able to tell you the difference.

What's the point? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16449869)

I'm kind of lost as to the point of IF technologies.

Are they supposed to help create better games? If so, show me a better game made with IF technologies.

Are they supposed to help create games as good as what we have now in some better way? That is, faster, easier, cheaper, etc? If so, show me a game which was made faster, etc using IF technologies.

Are they supposed to help us create something other than games? I.e. applications with game-like AI engines that have some advantage over other applications? If so, tell me the advantage.

As far as I can tell, the whole IF industry seems itself to be a rather limited IF story in which Technologists come up with Architectures for Others who either see new Possibilities for them or write them off as Recycled AI Bullshit.

Is that it?

I'd appreciate it as well as people could cite modern examples. Telling me all about a wonderful game that people played 20 years ago for lack of anything better that I can't play without some kind of funky emulator is no more convincing then telling me how great the days of magnetic drum storage were and only reinforces negative feelings that the best place for an IF technology may be a museum.

Where is the story in storytelling? (1)

grumbel (592662) | more than 7 years ago | (#16450413)

I browsed through his side, but one thing that puzzles me is: Where is the story in his interactive storytelling? His system works by a bunch of behaviour variables that via some fuzzy logic result in some character behaviour, so far ok, most RPGs or games like The Sims do stuff like that, maybe his system is more complex, more finetuned, whatever. However where is the story in all this? A bunch of characters doing random things doesn't result in an interesting story, it results in a bunch of characters doing random things. This might be fine if you use them in an RPG to simply make a city believable, i.e. use them more or less as 'background noise', but if those are the only things that is happening in the gameworld I fail to see how to get a story from that.

So far I havn't seen anything in his interactive storytelling that would reassemble a AI game master or something similar that manages the overall happenings of the world and thus ensures that the happenings as a whole connect to a larger story, instead of just meaningless random stuff.

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