Interactive storytelling for multiple media
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Interactive Storytelling for Multiple Media. Tools and Limitations Dallas Dickinson November 1, 2006 Austin Community College. Who I Am and Why You Should Care. Dallas Dickinson, Director of Production, Caliber Games Educated as a playwright Wrote/produced children ’ s theatre for Disney

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Interactive storytelling for multiple media

Interactive Storytelling for Multiple Media

Tools and Limitations

Dallas Dickinson

November 1, 2006

Austin Community College


Who i am and why you should care

Who I Am and Why You Should Care

  • Dallas Dickinson, Director of Production, Caliber Games

  • Educated as a playwright

  • Wrote/produced children’s theatre for Disney

  • Wrote/produced several film shorts

  • Designed/produced lots of casual games for Sony Online

  • Produced MMOGs Planetside and Star Wars Galaxies

  • All of these are VERY DIFFERENT media for a writer to tackle


Some storytelling forms

Some Storytelling Forms

  • Oral (yay,Homer!)

  • Theatrical, aka Oral Plus Props (yay, Greeks!)

  • Various written forms, from the Novel to the Short Story to the Poem

    • No feedback, except from editors

  • Radio, aka Oral Plus Sound FX

  • Film and TV

    • Also very little feedback, but at least multi-episode TV shows can react, slowly, to the audience

  • Interactive (Computers are the future!)


So what about these computor games

So What About These “Computor” Games?

  • Single player games have one set of challenges

  • Multiplayer games have others

  • Is the goal to “make it feel like a movie?”

  • Or is the goal something else entirely?

  • Can we teach through story in games?

  • What about world domination?


History of storytelling in computer games

History of Storytelling in Computer Games

  • 1966: ELIZA

    • First Interactive Fiction (loosely defined)

    • Turing Test!

    • User-Generated Content = Holy Grail

  • 1975: Colossal Cave Adventure

    • First text adventure game

  • 1977: Zork

    • Refined the genre, added a significant storyline (both a history and a plot for the game)

  • 1978: Essex MUD

    • First multi-user dungeon, precursor to today’s MMOGs


History of storytelling in computer games1

History of Storytelling in Computer Games

  • 1981: Ms. Pac-Man

    • Cut scenes!, kind of

  • 1981: Ultima I

    • One of the first RPGs

    • Standard “Hero’s Journey” backstory and plot

  • 1983: Planetfall

    • Floyd’s sacrifice = real empathy

  • 1984: King’s Quest

    • 3rd person narrative


History of storytelling in computer games2

History of Storytelling in Computer Games

  • 1987: Maniac Mansion

    • LucasArts knows a thing or two about story

    • Multiple character choices and endings

    • Lots of Cut Scenes

  • 1991: Wing Commander II

    • Extensive Cut Scenes and real Voice Actors

  • 1992: Alone in the Dark

    • Superfine cinematic music

  • 1993: Myst

    • Detailed (approaching photorealistic) world

    • Goal is explicitly “to figure out the story”


History of storytelling in computer games3

History of Storytelling in Computer Games

  • 1995: Command and Conquer

    • Extensive voice-over

  • 1996: Resident Evil

    • In-engine cut scenes

    • Survival/horror genre (Alone in the Dark came first)

  • 1997: Ultima Online

    • One of the first MMOGs

    • User-generated content still = Holy Grail


History of storytelling in computer games4

History of Storytelling in Computer Games

  • 1998: Half-Life

    • Tight narrative in a FPS

    • Linear, string-of-pearls structure

    • Extensive use of cut-scenes

    • Lots of foreshadowing

  • 1998: Baldur’s Gate

    • Generally linear storyline (string-of-pearls) but with extensive side-quests and flavor stories

    • Gives the impression of a deeper world

  • 2000: The Sims

    • Create-your-own-story hits the mainstream


History of storytelling in computer games5

History of Storytelling in Computer Games

  • 2001: Max Payne

    • Playable flashbacks/dreams

    • Bullet-time is both a feature and a storytelling tool

  • 2001: GTA III

    • Same as Baldur’s Gate, but more refined and with hookers

  • 2004: Doom 3

    • Best use of environment/mood/lighting yet

  • 2004: Everquest 2

    • Full VO in an MMOG - yikes!

  • 2004: World of Warcraft

    • Extensive story-based quests with scripted emotion animations


Some storytelling tools

Some Storytelling Tools

  • Action

  • Character

  • Conflict

  • Conversation

  • Exposition

  • Emotion

  • Environment

  • Foreshadowing

  • Focus

  • Genre

  • History

  • Mood

  • Point of View

  • Setting

  • Subplots

  • Tone


What makes interactive storytelling different

What Makes Interactive Storytelling Different?

  • Branching

    • Choices

    • “Bushiness”

  • Feedback (what the audience does/says)

  • AI Behavior

  • Mutable or Unpredictable Player Goals

  • This all adds up to…


Authors giving up control

Authors Giving Up Control

  • So how do you tell a compelling story without keeping control?

    • Let players create their own stories?

    • Give up control at points, but eventually return to the string-of pearls?

    • Create extensive AI systems that can react to a HUGE variety of feedback actions?

    • Other ideas?


This is even harder in an mmog

This is Even Harder in an MMOG

  • Multiple players/audience members

    • Whose story is it?

  • Griefers

    • If they can disrupt a story, they will

  • More loss of control

    • What is the player looking at?

    • No flashbacks, no slo-mo, no pause button


So what can we do

So What Can We Do?

  • Try desperately to control the story

    • Many online games do this with lots of “Private Instanced” content

    • It’s easier in single-player games

  • Create games where story isn’t just the glue sticking objective-based gameplay sections together

    • What about games where the only point is to interact emotionally with characters?

  • Is the goal to Be Like the Movies, or Not?


Some people who are working on the problem

Some People Who Are Working On the Problem

  • Chris Crawford and “Storytron”

    • http://www.storytron.com/

  • Online Alchemy and “Dynemotion”

    • http://www.onlinealchemy.com/AITech.asp

  • Scott McCloud “The Story Machine”

    • http://www.scottmccloud.com/inventions/machine/machine.html


And the producer shows up to make people sad

And the Producer Shows Up to Make People Sad

  • Voiceover and Cut-scenes are expensive

    • Both in terms of dollars and time

    • However, we *think* that we understand how they work

  • The more complex and “unpredictable” your story is, the harder it is to test

    • Not just for bugs, but for Fun and Quality

  • The reason we follow the Movie mentality is that we know it works

    • Business is ruled by fear and uncertainty

    • Some crazy person is going to have to pull a Will Wright and build a new kind of game


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