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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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