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Monday, August 29, 2011

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Arcadia Codesmith

Storytelling is tricky in an interactive format. Either you guide the player along on rails to experience your narrative, you keep the rails but add side tracks for variety, or you toss the baby out with the bathwater and let the players roam freely and construct their own narratives (some of which will never amount to anything more than bash-rinse-repeat).

I think the gold ring is to give the players great freedom of action, but to allow narrative hooks and elements to form themselves around the players' actions and preferences. In this way, the storyline becomes a true collaboration between the designer and the player, and each player's experience is unique and customized.

If you've ever played a tabletop RPG where the players get totally sidetracked on the way to the objective and the DM improvises a story on the fly, you know just what I mean.

Computers aren't great at improvising. Yet. But I believe its within the bounds of possibility with current technology to take our first steps in that direction.

Matt

I can't dig it up right now, but there's a neat essay from Harvey Smith written shortly after he shipped Deus Ex. He talks about all the exciting places to go next with games.

But then, DXHR comes out, and it's stood still. I understand why they're content to do that, especially with a new team on a beloved (and difficult) IP.

Two notes:
* There are many games that do a better job of immersive storytelling, IMO. Do you mean interactive storytelling? Some of the linear narrative games are still reasonably immersive, if not interactive on a story level at all.

* Interactive storytelling is really hard, and nobody's made much progress on it. I think user-gen story games have done a bit (Dwarf Fortress etc.), and... anyone else?

Tateru Nino

Immersive storytelling isn't hard. Most storytelling is immersive. Interactive storytelling, though, is considerably more difficult - the user can make it exponentially difficult.

Personally, I thought DXHR's immersive storytelling was excellent, though its interactive storytelling was merely 'adequate'.

Arcadia Codesmith

For the most part, we're still doing interactive storytelling with "if-then" branches in a tree structure. If you're scripting every branch and every sub branch and every sub-sub branch... yes, it gets to an impossible number of permutations long before it reaches a satifactory number of steps for a fulfilling story.

Consequently, many narratives with this sort of structure have branches that loop back into the main narrative. You can take path A or path B, but they both lead to room C for the climatic boss battle.

What I'm looking for is a storyline that branches dynamically while maintaining some sense of narrative cohesion. In essence, the server makes up the story as it goes along, combining parameters, characters, situations and settings supplied by the artists and writers.

I would love, love, love to prototype something like this in Second Life... if the programming support was more robust, if those NPC agents are flexible enough, if there was dynamic instancing and if the price structure for real estate weren't prohibitively expensive.

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Wagner James Au
Wagner James "Hamlet" Au
Dutchie Evergreen Slideshow 29112021
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