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A New Stab at Interactive Fiction 141

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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  • Re:A little confused (Score:3, Informative)

    by PsychosisC ( 620748 ) on Sunday October 15, 2006 @02:44PM (#16444957)

    It appears that in the article he is using the term "Interactive Storytelling" to mean what is more commonly called "Interactive Fiction []".

    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 [] a spin -- it has aged rather gracefully.

    The article is frustratingly vague, but it basically seems to be about making it easier to produce better interactive fiction. While IF is currently easy to put out, it tends to be pretty bad due to horrid language parsing.

  • 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.
  • 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.

  • by Chris Crawford ( 1013933 ) on Sunday October 15, 2006 @04:26PM (#16445669)
    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 Gulthek ( 12570 ) on Sunday October 15, 2006 @08:48PM (#16447895) Homepage Journal
    Play Photopia for a good example of how fiction "on rails" can be extremely compelling.

"If it's not loud, it doesn't work!" -- Blank Reg, from "Max Headroom"