Chris Crawford on Interactive Storytelling

“Interactivity is everywhere, brandished like a flag particularly where transmedia is concerned. But to what extent are the proposed narratives really interactive? How does one create a truly interactive story? What are the key elements? Pioneer video game designer Chris Crawford examines and explores interactivity, its issues, and its future.”

• INTERACTIVITY is a cyclic process in which the User and Computer alternately Listen, Think, and Speak.

First Law of Software: What does the user do?
– a Verb List of what the software does defines the software.

A more detailed version of this talk in a 2-part video:
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Real-Time Cinematography in Unreal Engine 4

Winner of the SIGGRAPH 2016 Award for Best Real-Time Graphics and Interactivity, this scene based on Ninja Theory’s upcoming game, Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice, was shot, edited and rendered to final quality in minutes, a process that would normally take weeks or months.

This real-time cinematography project was developed by Epic Games, Ninja Theory, Cubic Motion & 3Lateral, with additional support from House of Moves, IKinema, NVIDIA and Technoprops.

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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