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A New Stab at Interactive Fiction 141

Posted by timothy
from the could-also-use-wrench-in-parlour dept.
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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A New Stab at Interactive Fiction

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  • Quite a... (Score:5, Funny)

    by GillBates0 (664202) on Sunday October 15, 2006 @02:03PM (#16444725) Homepage Journal
    Quite a creative venture, but who knows how it'll end.
  • Pilot's seat? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 15, 2006 @02:06PM (#16444751)
    Here's the question though. Is fiction really ment to be interactive? Or is fiction the journey the author leads you on?
    • 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
      • by Lorkki (863577)

        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 als

      • I like youor thinking, please go and make some games ;) text only games, or games in which the characters just talk through text, or the story is driven through journals etc, have a lot more potential for expansion. Though these days it's not that difficult to just record your own voice acting, and do character animation etc, but it's still much quicker to expand a game via text. I'd rather have a game with lots of potential for expansion, than a well acted and animated one that I can only play once.. for e
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by secolactico (519805)
      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
    • Re:Pilot's seat? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Merovign (557032) on Sunday October 15, 2006 @02:48PM (#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.
      • ...they would pretty much all look at you like you had three heads.

        Look behind you! A three-headed monkey!

    • by zoeblade (600058)

      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. So

    • Re:Pilot's seat? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by lawpoop (604919) on Sunday October 15, 2006 @03:19PM (#16445165) Homepage Journal
      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].
    • Uh, it's both. You watch movies and you play video games, don't you?
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Cruise_WD (410599)
      "Interactive Fiction" implies that you become, to some degree, the author of the fiction.

      Chris Crawford on his site defines interaction as a conversation - each party in the conversation rotates through three stages: listening to another, processing the information and formulating a reply, and then conveying that reply back.

      Currently, computer games are appalling at listening to the player, and pretty mediocre at forumlating a reply. "Facade" (http://www.interactivestory.net/ [interactivestory.net]) is an excellent example of how
  • 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?
    • by VJ42 (860241)
      Wikipedia is your friend: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Interactive_fiction [wikipedia.org]
      • 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.
    • 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: (Score:3, Informative)

      by PsychosisC (620748)

      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 basi

      • Re:A little confused (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Wordplay (54438) <geo@snarksoft.com> on Sunday October 15, 2006 @04:03PM (#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.
  • by Channard (693317) on Sunday October 15, 2006 @02:09PM (#16444765) Journal
    .. 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.
  • by brndn (998670)
    if you would like to reply with a common internet phrase turn to page 206 if you think you should close the browser window turn to page 142
  • It's called The Movies.
    • by LindseyJ (983603)
      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.
      • by Jessrond (954908)
        The idea is similar though, computer actors telling your story.
        • by LindseyJ (983603)
          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.
  • 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.
    • by SStrungis (629260)
      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.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Dmala (752610)
      You should check out some more modern games. The form has come a long way in the almost 30 years since Zork.

      http://www.brasslantern.org/ [brasslantern.org]
      http://www.ifcomp.org [ifcomp.org]
  • by headkase (533448) on Sunday October 15, 2006 @02:31PM (#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.
  • by paintswithcolour (929954) on Sunday October 15, 2006 @02:31PM (#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.

    • by LindseyJ (983603)
      How is this different from the Interactive Fiction programming languages that are already out there?

      This one will have better marketing.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      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!!!)
  • by Wordplay (54438) <geo@snarksoft.com> on Sunday October 15, 2006 @02:58PM (#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.
    • 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, i

      • by Wordplay (54438)
        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'
        • by ggy (773554)

          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

          • by Wordplay (54438)
            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: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      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 ab
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by grumbel (592662)

      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 K

      • by Wordplay (54438)
        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 wif
    • by davidsyes (765062)
      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...
  • Somewhat irritating (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 15, 2006 @03:13PM (#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.
    • 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.
    • by creimer (824291)
      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.

      I had the same thought while reading the article on the train this morning.
  • by dforsey (107707) on Sunday October 15, 2006 @03:50PM (#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:-)

    • 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!!!"
      • by dforsey (107707)
        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 t
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Gulthek (12570)
      Play Photopia for a good example of how fiction "on rails" can be extremely compelling.
      • by dforsey (107707)


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

        • by Gulthek (12570)
          Then play Galatea for an example of how compelling completely interactive fiction can be. In Galatea you can discover the true nature of Galatea's animation, fall in love with her, even talk her into suicide, or just ignore the game and leave it. There are literally dozens of endings and story branches, who's to say which is the "real" one?
          • by dforsey (107707)

            I'll give it a try, but the starting page talks about reaching an end in a few minute - please tell me that's not so.
            Branching systems suffer from combinatorial explosions and a few minutes is practical but sustained games are difficult without choke points.

            I've been playing IF since the original adventure on a pdp-11/25 in 1978? and no longer get kicks from simple complexity :-) (i.e. just from the fact that there is branching). Will give it a shot after work today.
            • by Gulthek (12570)
              Unfortunately it is so. Complexity does not breed game length. But it's fascinating while it lasts.
    • by Shadowlore (10860)
      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.


      You've not watched the news, have you?


      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)


      Yes they will. Remember they have no real risk to themselves. Thus they are more likely to do things they would not do "in the real world" . This is
  • Games Masters (Score:2, Interesting)

    by munrock (933555)
    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 Engi
    • 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 i
      • 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 wo
        • 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.
          • Only by design, however. The only limitations that exist to bringing this sort of thing to computer RPGs are present in your model, too.
            • Your statement is predicated upon the assumption that you grasp the model. I have written many times that we believe it takes about three months of full-time effort for somebody to really understand the technology. You've had less than 24 hours. Perhaps you are making a hasty judgement?
              • I assure you that, unless there has been a large change in design from when you described it to me a year ago, I have had plenty of time to consider it.
  • by Chris Crawford (1013933) on Sunday October 15, 2006 @04:19PM (#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.

  • 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?
  • 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
    • 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.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    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, the
    • To answer your question, "How do you as the player know what the others are doing when you aren't watching?":

      They tell you. There's a whole (and quite complex) system for how people know about events and decide whether and how to tell others about events. (There's even a means to record how strongly they believe in the truth of a reported event.) I disabled the system a few months ago because I want to get this thing out quickly and there's a tricky problem in the presentation of the events, but the basic

  • 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 talk

    • 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".
      • by Doctor O (549663)
        Chris, your reply is well appreciated. Sorry I'm that late.

        I meant 'computer applications' as in 'uses for computers', not as in 'programs'. Computer entertainment software is a tiny subset of what you can do with computers and I think you assign too much meaning to computer-based entertainment. Seeing your CV, I can let you get away with it. ;)

        I disagree that games are 100% of computer entertainment. If I let my iTunes run with a nice visual plug-in in the background when some friends visit, it definitely
  • by oZZoZZ (627043) on Sunday October 15, 2006 @05:43PM (#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: (Score:2, Insightful)

      "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 ab

      • by oZZoZZ (627043)
        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.
        • by oZZoZZ (627043)
          Also, I clearly don't mean "everybody" in the literal sense. It was a play on Chris Rock's tv show.
      • Hey, leave me out of this one, bro'. Seriously. The restraining order is still in effect, you know.
  • 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
    • 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 r
  • 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.
    • by Kell_pt (789485)
      Funny to get my first Troll moderation by stating what I believe are facts. Maybe it's a distinction that noone really cares for, the one between fiction and storytelling. There is a lot of interactive fiction in games, even books that let you choose some actions to take. But there is a huge difference between taking a role in a story, being an actor... or taking part in shaping the story itself, because it would not exist otherwise.
  • 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 doi
    • The answer to your question is complex. No, this technology will not yield stories just like those in the books. The experience will be more meandering. But neither will it be random. We have an Actor called Fate whose job it is to keep the story moving along. We have PlotPoints that assess the progress of the story at regular intervals. There's a lot of stuff there to handle these problems. That doesn't mean that they are solved, but it definitely is in there.
  • Once upon a time...

I took a fish head to the movies and I didn't have to pay. -- Fish Heads, Saturday Night Live, 1977.

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