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Interactive Storytelling ( 4190.420 Computer Game ). Jehee Lee Seoul National University. Storytelling. Storytelling was a natural, almost inevitable consequence of human evolution Why is storytelling such an important component of culture?

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interactive storytelling 4190 420 computer game

Interactive Storytelling(4190.420Computer Game)

Jehee Lee

Seoul National University

  • Storytelling was a natural, almost inevitable consequence of human evolution
  • Why is storytelling such an important component of culture?
    • Stories are the vehicle by which cultural knowledge is communicated from one generation to the next
  • Why should information be transmitted by stories?
    • The information context pertains to social reasoning and interpersonal behavior
  • Social relation, associative, parallel, pattern-type information is difficult to serialize and communicate
  • Narrative is a reformatter that converts the information to a serial format
  • A story is definitely a linear sequence of events, called plotline
nature of stories
Nature of Stories
  • Strong structure
    • The conventional structure of stories
  • Stories are about people
  • Conflicts and choices keep the story going forward
  • Stories take place on stages, not maps
granularity of stories
Granularity of Stories
  • The story is composed of story granules, such as bits, scenes, and sequences
    • Bits are the shortest
    • Scenes is longer in length. The scene is the shortest unit that can convey the context of an event
    • Bits and scenes combine with each other to form sequences
plot versus interactivity
Plot versus Interactivity
  • Andy Cameron
    • I will argue that there is a central contradiction within the idea of interactive narrative—that narrative form is fundamentally linear and non-interactive. The interactive story implies a form which is not that of narrative…
    • In a narrative, this notion of significance seems inversely defined, since the ability to alter events in the plot actually works to diffuse the significance of the story. If viewers can change characters’ actions with the wave of their hands, why should they care about the story? What indeed then is the story?
plot versus interactivity1
Plot versus Interactivity
  • Andrew Grassner
    • The popularity of the concept of interactive fiction for computer-based stories and games is surprising. Is there anything compelling in our cultural history that suggests people want to participate in received stories? Are there stunning examples of successful interactive fictive experiences that have turned doubting Thomases into true believers? NO.
    • It’s the Myth of Interactivity again – recall that this myth tells us: Interactivity make games better, and a game designer should try to make the experience as richly interactive as possible. … This belief in the universal power of interactivity is what leads people to try to marry interaction and storytelling
choices in interactive storytelling
Choices in Interactive Storytelling
  • A storyworld is composed of closely balanced decisions that can reasonably go either way
  • The storybuilder’s most important task is creating and harmonizing a large set of dramatically significant, closely balanced choices for the player
paring away the boring decisions
Paring away the boring decisions
  • Some important decisions may eliminate a series of subsequent (dramatically unimportant) decisions
  • We may bundle them together as inevitable outcomes
  • For example, the gap between the protagonist dropping his gun and finding himself in the dungeon should be minimized
interesting storyworld
Interesting Storyworld
  • The story builder’s task in interactive storytelling is to envision a dramatic storyworld, not a storyline
  • A storyworld of Arthurian legends
    • A large and varied collection of stories already exists within literature
  • The lineage doesn’t use the storyline of the original comic book
  • If you start with a single dramatic storyline, for example Romeo and Juliet, the single storyline will dominates your thoughts
interesting storyworld1
Interesting Storyworld
  • A storyworld is a much larger creation than a story
  • A single playing of any storyworld generates a single story
    • The player’s path is a linear sequence of events
    • The listener would perceive the player’s experience as a story
game and storytelling
Game and Storytelling
  • Games do not necessarily deliver stories
  • Interactive storytelling and games with stories are close cousins
    • There are a number of successful games with interesting stories
    • Have you ever seen any successful interactive drama?
branching trees
Branching Trees
  • Different plot based on each decision
  • Exponentially increasing number of scenes
  • Very difficult to create many good scenes
bifurcating plotlines
Bifurcating Plotlines
  • The Garden of Forking Paths
    • In Ficciones (1944), Jorge Luis Borges
    • He was interested in bifurcating plotlines, but didn’t want to spend his energy for righting uselessly long stories
foldback schemes
Foldback Schemes
  • It simply folds the storyline back to some predetermined path
  • Lots of choices, but choices don’t really matter
constipated stories
Constipated Stories
  • Lots of choices may be offered
    • One takes you forward
    • Some lead to death
    • Some are side trips
    • Some lead you back
  • Usually artificially limit choices
    • Desert island
    • Boat
    • Spaceship
  • Many things happening, but can only view one at a time
  • Can’t change what happens
  • Been done as a live-action play
linear with puzzles
Linear with Puzzles


  • Open world with puzzles that block your way
  • Puzzles should be solvable from story
  • No real choices in outcome
  • Myst, 7th guest, …
  • Puzzles are sometimes replaced by shooting/action games

Watch Some Video

Solve Puzzle

Watch Some Video

Solve Puzzle


linear with puzzles1
Linear with Puzzles
  • Puzzles should be related to plot
    • 7th guest had puzzles that had nothing to do with story
  • Puzzles should be solved by what is available in the game
  • Game shouldn’t take 4 weeks with 40 minutes of material
open environment
Open Environment
  • The player explores and interacts with world
  • Role playing games
  • Hard to have any plot or drama
a man s love story
A Man’s Love Story
  • Interactive Drama with Live Action Footage
    • Scene-based granularity level
    • No predetermined plotline
    • Many independent scenes
video versus animation
Video versus Animation
  • Live action video
    • Repetition of scenes – obvious & unnatural
    • Takes lots of CD space
    • Easier for long linear scenes
    • More realistic
  • Animation
    • More flexible in action and special effects
    • Easier to splice in extra action
    • Can control detail of characters
smart synthetic characters
Smart Synthetic Characters
  • Should non-player characters in interactive drama be intelligent?
  • Plot-orientated versus character-orientated
    • We may specify all the branches of plotlines, or
    • We may design lots of smart characters with personalities and allow them to interact with each other
  • Characters get smarter, less plotlines should be specified
multi user games
Multi-User Games
  • Solves problem of developing interesting characters
  • Hard to have narratives
  • A massively multi-user game creates a society, in which interesting events happen
  • The interaction among players can make stories
emergent game design


Emergent Game Design
  • Games as Complex Systems

(a lot of slides stolen from a GDC2000 talk by Mahk)






The “State Machine” Model

  • Emergent Complexity (“Emergence”)
    • Properties that cannot be simply inferred from a system’s rules
  • Complex System
    • A system that possesses or exhibits emergent complexity
example conway s game of life
Example: Conway’s Game of Life


  • A grid of cells, each cell is either “alive” or “dead.”
  • Each cell has 8 neighbors.
  • Count each cell’s live neighbors
    • 2 or 3: Stay alive
    • Exactly 3: Become alive

This is called a “Cellular Automaton.”

conway s life is a complex system
Conway’s Life is a Complex System
  • Static Patterns: Block, Honeycomb
  • Dynamic Patterns: Blinker
  • Moving Patterns: Glider
  • Patterns of Patterns: Beehive, Glider Gun

The rules are inadequate to describe the system’s behavior

examples in games
Examples in Games
  • Chess: Attack & Defense, Discovered Check, Knight Fork, etc.
  • Go: Eyes, Life & Death patterns, Tesuji
  • Magic: The Gathering: Card Combos, Deck Archetypes
models of complex games
Models of Complex Games
  • Individual elements are simple
  • Rich interactions
  • Game state has many elements
  • Random initial conditions

Complexity does not mean lots of rules

a brief taxonomy of fun
A Brief Taxonomy of “Fun”
  • Sense
    • Game as sense-pleasure
  • Fantasy
    • Game as make-believe
  • Narrative
    • Game as drama
  • Challenge
    • Game as obstacle course
  • Fellowship
    • Game as social framework
  • Discovery
    • Game as uncharted territory
  • Expression
    • Game as self-discovery
what makes emergent complexity fun
What makes Emergent Complexity “fun?”
  • Discovery
    • The emergent properties of the system form an explorable space
    • More complexity means more space
  • Challenge
    • A game’s emergent properties form its “strategic vocabulary.”
    • New scenarios and obstacles can emerge.
  • Narrative (?)
emergence and narrative
Emergence and Narrative
  • Narrative emerges from game events
    • Complexity gives you infinite monkeys
  • Emergent and Embedded Narratives
    • Emergent narrative occurs as short vignettes
    • Embedded (Authored) narrative works well for major story arcs
perils of emergence
Perils of Emergence
    • Contradictions are common, creating absurd fantasies
    • Simulation reveals flaws & side effects
  • Degenerate strategies
  • Unintended feedback systems.
      • Overly stable
      • Overly unstable