Category Archives: Nonlinear Storytelling

Believable Agents and Interactive Drama

Believable agents are autonomous agents that exhibit rich personalities. Interactive dramas take place in virtual worlds inhabited by characters (believable agents) with whom an audience interacts. In the course of this interaction, the audience experiences a story (lives a plot arc). This report presents the research philosophy behind the Oz Project, a research group at CMU that has spent the last ten years studying believable agents and interactive drama….

For believable agents, personality is king. A character may be smart or dumb, well adapted to its environment or poorly adapted. But regardless of how “smart” a character is at dealing with their environment, everything they do, they do in their own personal style. On the other hand, the focus in AI is on competence. For classical AI, this has often meant competence at complex reasoning and problem solving. For behavioral AI, this has often meant moving around in complex environments without getting stepped on, falling off a ledge, or stuck behind obstacles….

The What-If Machine – WhIM Project

WhIM is an acronym for What-If Machine, a three-year research project studying the potential of computer generated fiction. The site has a series of whitepapers that explore many aspects of creative writing, including the development of compelling character arcs, generating dynamic stories around a given topic, and even motivational slogans and poetry. The theories involve machine-learning and the analysis of vast literature libraries, to invent interesting, influential stories that resonate with three-dimensional characters struggling with internal conflicts, and  story arcs built to illustrate characters’ motivated changes.

It’s heady stuff! I’m still getting through it. The researchers generally acknowledge that self-evaluation is in its infancy, as computers have no idea whether their generated plots are at all compelling, much less coherent. A white paper on generating a single-sentence ad slogan was able to serve a tossed salad of poetic buzzwords but nothing close to grammatically-correct language – generations of machine-learning will only make this better. Another paper suggests a system whereby characters evolve, transitioning through the conflicts of seemingly contradictory traits. An arc from “good to bad” for instance, or “loser to hero”, means a character already has elements of both traits which are tested or strengthened based on story events.

Already we have games with branching narratives and non-player characters (NPC) that are influenced by, and react to, the player’s choices – even the actions of other NPC, but nothing close to a completely computer-generated story. That said, the white papers are a treasure of research ideas.
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Designing game narrative (link)

The game designers at hitboxteam have written an essay on why all cutscenes are bad.


How do you tell a great story with a game? The answer lies not in the plot and dialogue, but in the very structure of the game design itself. In this article, we talk about why storytelling needs to revolve around the interactive nature of the medium. Come and learn how to identify great game narrative, and to understand the importance of interactive – rather than cinematic – storytelling.

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