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Future Directions in Interactive Fiction. CS 370 Computer Game Design Spring 2003 Ken Forbus. Overview. Where is interactive fiction now? Where is interactive fiction going? Bates’ Oz Project Crawford’s Erasmatazz Hayes-Roth’s Virtual Theater Perlin’s Improv project

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future directions in interactive fiction

Future Directions in Interactive Fiction

CS 370 Computer Game Design

Spring 2003

Ken Forbus

  • Where is interactive fiction now?
  • Where is interactive fiction going?
    • Bates’ Oz Project
    • Crawford’s Erasmatazz
    • Hayes-Roth’s Virtual Theater
    • Perlin’s Improv project
    • ICT’s use of drama in training
    • Marc Cavazza’s interactive soap operas
recall our model of game design
Recall our model of game design
  • Story: How you want the player to think of the game. Its plot and activities, expressed in terms of the imagined world
  • Model: The rules and laws of the imagined world as instantiated in the game. What kinds of things there are in it (ontology), its physics and sociology.
  • Implementation: The software that implements the model and whose execution provides the player’s experience.
sources of immersion aka time warp factor
Sources of Immersion(aka “Time warp factor”)
  • Engaging imagined world
    • Exciting/intriguing story line, events
  • Engaging modeled world
    • Great descriptions (text or graphics)
    • Charming details (e.g., chain vomiting in Theme Park)
  • Avoiding discrepancies between modeled and imagined world
    • Can’t do “obvious” action
    • Actions have unrealistic consequences
  • Key design issue: Richness/Discrepancy tradeoff
text based interactive fiction
Text-based interactive fiction
  • Driving force: Implementation choice of text descriptions and commands as interface
  • Minimal model: Discrete locations, actions, time, and events.
    • Inform provides rich modeling language, but doesn’t have floating point!
  • Richer models are possible but rare
    • e.g., Infocom’s Border Zone synched game time to real time
    • Continuous change may be poor match for interface
evolution in graphics helps drive evolution of interactive fiction
Evolution in graphics helps drive evolution of interactive fiction
  • More 2D graphics
    • Mouse-hunt games
  • More video intense
    • More cut scenes
    • Player as steering video stream
  • More 3D graphics/animation modeling
    • Exploiting stunning rise in 3D rendering hardware
    • Limitations:
      • Modeling requires substantially more resources
      • NPC actions/movements tightly scripted
new direction adding intelligence
New direction: Adding Intelligence
  • Graphics will continue to evolve
    • Provides richer canvas for the imagined world
    • Richer canvas rapid increase in complexity of authoring
  • Revolutionary changes are coming from AI technology
    • Richer models of characters
    • Richer models of social interactions
    • Ability to embed author’s intent into structure of the world
    • Richer world infrastructures higher immersion experiences
oz project cmu
Oz Project (CMU)


  • Goal: Creation of interactive drama
  • Requires
    • Believable Agents
    • Drama Managers







believable agents
Believable Agents
  • Things (hardware or software) that act alive
  • For stories, serve as other characters in plot
  • Also finding uses in
    • Educational software (guides, e.g., Lester’s work at UNC)
    • Computer interfaces more generally
what is needed for storytelling
What is needed for storytelling?
  • Personality
    • What makes someone unique
  • Emotion
    • Exhibiting their own, and responding to others appropriately
  • Self-motivation
    • Their own drives and goals help govern their behavior
  • Social relationships
    • Consistent and evolving interactions with others over time
  • Change
    • They learn and grow, consistent with their personality
  • Broadly capable
    • Can carry out a rich variety of behaviors in pursuit of their goals in an interactive environment
intelligence and believability
Intelligence and believability
  • Must be smarter than today’s NPCs
    • avoid brittleness
  • Don’t have to be brilliant
  • Don’t even have to be human-level intelligence
    • Space of interactions only has to support needs of the story


example edge of intention
Example: Edge of Intention
  • Simple, 3D animated world
  • The Woggles
    • move by bouncing from place to place.
    • have “body language”, expressing emotions by changing shape
    • have social relationships
    • engage in social behavior
  • The player’s avatar is also a woggle
  • By interacting with woggles, you find out about their social structure.No plot, but very engaging behaviors
    • Personalities of woggles become quickly clear
    • Threaten one, its friend intervenes to try and scare you off
    • Join or start games of follow the leader
drama management
Drama management
  • Authoring involves creating a dramatic arc
    • Fixed in traditional fiction
    • Various branching structures possible in interactive fiction
  • Problem: How to tell a great story while giving player freedom?
    • Complexity of possible branching in rich worlds quickly makes authoring unmanageable
    • Usual solutions of sharply limiting world or player restrictive
storytelling as search
Storytelling as Search
  • Consider a story as a sequence of scenes
    • Scene = significant event/turning in the plot
    • Lots of variability in how a scene plays out
  • Scenes and relationships between them form a space of possible plots
    • Relationships that must hold between scenes structure the space
    • Some relationships inviolable
      • e.g., establishing prerequisite
    • Some can be varied
      • e.g., establishing motivation for an action before or after the action itself
drama manager
Drama Manager
  • Given:
    • Evaluation function that rates sequences of scenes
    • Methods for affecting the game
  • Ensure:
    • The sequence of scenes a player experiences corresponds to a good story

Where player

is now

Choice of next scene

determined by

dramatic potential of

possible futures

drama management as metagaming
Drama management as metagaming
  • Drama Manager in effect is playing a game
    • Presumably non-adversarial
    • Ideally, the player doesn’t know that it is there
  • “Moves” for the Drama Manager
    • Changing behavior of NPCs
    • Random events in the world
    • Acts of God
crawford s erasmatazz
Crawford’s Erasmatazz
  • Interactive storytelling = you interact with characters in an authored world
    • Menu-based interaction
  • Player focus is on interacting with NPCs rather than physical actions
  • Overall story scripted by author, but no drama manager
  • Interesting part is modeling
    • Moods: Anger, arousal, joy, fear
    • 21 personality traits (e.g., integrity, timidity, …)
hayes roth s virtual theater project
Hayes-Roth’s Virtual Theater Project
  • Uses AI blackboard technology as implementation for characters
  • Simple numerical personality models
  • Examples
    • Kids tell stories by giving puppets high-level instructions
    • Agents as social facilitators in shared enviornments (Erin the bartender)
perlin s improv project
Perlin’s Improv project
  • Uses layered architecture inspired by robotics, animal research to provide high-level animation capabilities
  • Animator specifies high-level actions and moods, the model of the character does the rest
institute for creative technologies
Institute for Creative Technologies
  • USC + Paramount, funded by US Army
  • Goal: Make highly immersive training systems
  • Methods range from high-end VR to board games
  • Storytelling viewed as critical
  • One research goal: Virtual humans
    • Human-like sensing of the game world, for realistic reactions to things around them
    • Natural language dialogue, to be able to take complex orders and to explain why they interpreted them the way that they did.
example mission rehearsal exercise
Example: Mission Rehearsal Exercise
  • The scenario
    • You are a company commander
    • Something bad happens on your way to an action
  • The gaming hardware
    • Multiple wall-sized projectors, synched
    • Theater-sized rumble pack
    • Lots of servers in the back room
  • AI characters with models of
    • NL dialogue
    • Emotions
    • Sensory apparatus
example full spectrum command
Example: Full Spectrum Command
  • The scenario
    • You command a light infantry company
    • Urban setting
  • The gaming hardware
    • High-end PC
interactive storytelling
Interactive Storytelling
  • Marc Cavazza’s group at University of Teesside
  • Create dynamic narratives
    • The drama unfolds as you watch
    • You can intervene in various ways, and the action changes accordingly
  • Ideas
    • Use hierarchical task networks (HTNs) to generate characters plans, and replan dynamically as the world changes.
    • Use speech to nudge the characters